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in Filmmaking
on Oct 9, 2009

I received the following note from a filmmaker who is witnessing the shrinking of what was once a reliable niche — the low-to-no budget gay film.

Hey Scott–

LOVE your editor’s note “from the future”. I follow your twitter already– just had to write you to react to this piece.

Right now, I’m typing in an Atlanta hotel room and tonight my movie, PORNOGRAPHY, is closing the Atlanta LGBT film festival. I flew from the Portland LGBT a few days ago, and tomorrow I’m in Tampa at that fest. (I’m missing our closing night of Dallas OUTTAKES tonight.)

I’ve been going through negotiations for distribution for the past several months (since we premiered at NewFest in June).

Luckily, it looks like we have decent options due to good reviews, lots of fest bookings and a well-viewed trailer on YouTube, but many of my fellow gay filmmakers don’t have great options, or their deals are at best anemic.

I think that for gay features, if you can’t make money on a movie that cost under $200K and it’s one of the four or five films that gets programmed at all the big fests (NYC, SF, LA, Philly, Chicago, Washington DC, etc), you quickly run into a situation when no little gay movie can make its money back, practically ever.

Does this mean no more little gay movies? Or only gay movies financed by rich people willing to part with a couple hundred thou?

I think your take on the future of indie film distribution is basically correct. But the flip side is indie filmmakers are going to have to start becoming distributors — maintaining and continuing to sell the movie as months and years go by — in order to just break even (or likelier, minimizing the debt). And the hope is that in the end, quality will win out, and the better (better-made) movies will rise up and develop followings. But that’s a hope. I’ve seen a couple of great gay features that may get almost no distribution in North America at all.

I’ve never wanted to do anything but make movies, and this is a spectacularly scary time to be a filmmaker — exciting as well, of course. I think it’s getting clear that we need to know as much about making customized USB flash drives with H264 versions of our movies on it as we do about the ins and outs of the HVX200 or the latest Final Cut rev.

We’re going to have to get distribution and marketing teams just as technical and expensive as our production teams. We have to get savvier, and above all, make better movies. Because in ten years, nobody’s going to remember That Dreadful Sundance Movie With The Star. They’ll remember the next POISON though — a movie if made today, would not stand a chance in hell of getting into Sundance in 2010. But it’ll catch on from word of mouth, a screening on IFC or LOGO, Netflix reviews, and… a well-viewed trailer on YouTube.

(I wouldn’t be an indie filmmaker if I didn’t share this, but here’s my trailer:

Love the direction you’re going in with Filmmaker. Please keep it up!


David Kittredge
Triple Fire Productions

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