Tuesday, February 24, 2009

New Yorker Closes Doors. Let's Keep Ours Open!

The indie world is in a tizzy right now over the closing of longstanding indie distributor New Yorker. It's a sad day when a company like New Yorker shuts its doors. To think that they made it through decades (43 years to be exact) of perilous times only to meet its demise in a time when society needs access to auteur filmmaking more than ever. IndieWire has a great article here on the whole gut-wrenching story. 

Talk about rubbing salt in all our wounds after we dig ourselves in this hole by foolishly overextending on home loans and allowing Wall Street to play Monopoly with our money. A side effect of all of this play time is the loss of the treasures like New Yorker. I can only hope we all have learned from our mistakes. I'm certainly learning as I struggle to stay alive myself! 

The days of knowingly overextending ourselves in the hopes that we will figure it out in the future are gone. This is true for us in the indie film world. We can't greenlight films in the hopes that we will make our money back. We need to "know" as much as we possibly can that we can make the money back or we will all end up with our doors closed. 

How do we do that? Research and work. We can't "guess" that our audience will like the film and want to see it. We need to find out before we even make the film who our audience is and will they want to see this film. We need to cast the film with our audience's interests in mind. We need to create a budget and cut it in half. We need to market our stories as soon as we have them. Basically, we need to do everything we can at the earliest stage possible to ensure our doors stay open! 


Anonymous said...

Its true and sad..the creative aspects need to wait before you get the practical stuff sorted out nowadays!

Phantom of Pulp said...

Jane, I just found your blog, and I like it a lot.

I was also saddened by the closure of New Yorker. One less indie distributor shrinks the market just that little bit more, and is one less force of nature pushing films into the mainstream.

There is often a fascinating gulf between one's passion for a subject and what the market is buying. Your mentioning researching who the audience is for your movie sounds completely practical, but it's often ignored because passion trumps reality.

Creating a budget and cutting it in half? I like that. Many budgets tend to be wishful thinking scenarios, often fattened up when money lurks on the horizon.

Just recently, I was speaking to someone who liked a script I wrote and "offered" to raise finance for it. I told them what I thought I could make the film for. Around $4 million. They took this on board. A couple of weeks later, they called me with news that they'd met an interested investor. The next thing she said to me: "Why don't we increase the budget to $6 million?"

I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new, but this is typical, isn't it? A budget increase, despite the fact that all they'd had was "interest" from a money guy (which, in real terms, meant nothing).

My approach is to set a budget that is conservatively recoupable. I don't like to treat investors as people with wheelbarrows of money. Most "interested" investors disappear, anyway. It's the few and rare who are there 'til the end.

As you say, we must keep the doors open and exploit our projects at the earliest stage. In a way, it's like creating a movement, a wave that builds momentum.