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in Filmmaking
on Jul 31, 2008

I’m late to the linkfest on this one, but I just caught up with John Anderson’s piece in The New York Times on self-distributing indie films. It’s positioned as a trend piece, and the hook is this week’s release of Randall Miller’s Bottle Shock, which the filmmaker is getting in theaters himself with the help of Freestyle Releasing and former Picturehouse exec Dennis O’Conner. Filmmakers, of course, have been self-distributing for years — the difference now is that the specialty distribution circuit seems like such a bleak place that fewer are questioning the decision to do so.

What I found good and succinct in Anderson’s piece are these paragraphs, which lay out the kind of effort Miller is expending on his film. Anderson makes clear that today’s self-distribution involves a lot more than just four-walling a theater, buying a tiny Times ad, and hoping the crowds will show up.

To help navigate the sometimes treacherous world of film distribution, Mr. Miller and Ms. Savin hired Dennis O’Connor, a former top marketing executive at Picturehouse, to serve as a consultant. Freestyle Releasing of Los Angeles has been engaged, for an upfront fee and a small percentage of the gross, to handle the physical distribution of the movie (moving prints, booking theaters, etc.). And the publicity on the film is being orchestrated by Mr. Miller, Ms. Savin and Mr. O’Connor, with others enlisted by Mr. O’Connor from among the ranks of distribution veterans.

For the possibly lucrative DVD market, “Bottle Shock” has separate deals with Fox Home Entertainment and the all-important Netflix, both of which have helped in the marketing (which ensures them a better return later). Mr. Miller also negotiated his own deals with airlines and with advertising outlets, and has worked out his own price for prints. Most significant, he raised most of the money for filmmaking and prints and advertising through private investors.

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