HEARTACHE, CREDIT CARD
DEBT, FAKE INDIES & SPITE
Anger management, Morning-style
SCREEN ON THE SUNDANCE CHANNEL
Where I can rent or buy
are in a world of seemingly limitless opportunities to have
entertainment delivered to us: 1000 channels on the cable box; 30
cinemas under one roof; video stores on every corner; and more film
festivals than even I can obsessive-compulsively keep track of. But, for producers of truly
independent film, there is very little good news in all of this.
unsung villain in all of this is Blockbuster Video. Because
Blockbuster has made it their mandate that they won't shelve an NC-17
film, and when you have a company that takes up 85 percent of the
video business, maybe more, it's tough. Every distributor who's
looking to the ancillary market to make more money or make up what the
film didn't make theatrically, has to take that into consideration."
Kevin Smith (discussing Dogma) 1
lies and videotape was like the first time you had sex. Everybody since then has been
trying to recreate the moment, but it was an aberration."
Tom Bernard 1
Fiction's success] "...became a problem for non-genre,
character-driven stuff...slow-moving tales with no violence and no
big stars...and than kind of put an end to the dream that we had in
the early '90's."
- Allison Anders
commitment to meticulously engineered mediocrity suggests that the
American movie industry, in its timid, defensive attempts not to
alienate the audience, is doing just that."
- A.O. Scott, The New York
recently e-mailed a representative of Arts Alliance America to find out how
they did in positioning EvenHand with video/DVD retailers. Here is his
February 04, 2004 10:28 AM
Subject: RE: EvenHand Distribution
lack of recognizable cast and no box-office hurt the filmís chances
at getting placed in a lot of venues. Most retailers are not bringing
in titles that did not play theatrically unless they are full on genre
films (horror, heavy duty action) or cast driven. Over the past
four-five months the direct to video business has been seriously hurt
by the rise in sales of DVDís. This has shrunk the open to buy for
films like yours. We are suffering because of it on other titles as
well. It is a fundamental change in the buying habits of the buyers.
This has changed the way we acquire films as well. When we opened last
Jan. we truly felt we would be able to do a fair amount of business
releasing smaller films that we believed in. Evenhand was one of them.
A film titled Charlotte Sometimes was another. Neither film worked in
the marketplace. We are currently looking at our acquisition
strategies to determine if we can continue to release films like
Evenhand and be profitable at the same time. The majors are not
supporting product like this and we had hoped that we could fill that
void. We are still searching for a way to do that.
I know this is not anything you want to hear but Iíve always felt that
the truth is the best way. Itís not a pretty picture but an accurate
one. If you want to discuss this further Iíd be more than happy to
sit with you over a lunch or cup of coffee.
lot of really quality films can never get mainstream distribution. Those
films left on the table can't find a way to reach theatrical audiences
with the current economic model."
Ira Deutchman, partner, Emerging Pictures (discussing his digital
films have become difficult to market, junk easy to market, and at the
end of the year everyone scratches their head and wonders why they
cannot come up with a 10-best list."
Russell Smith, producer of Ripley's Game starring John Malkovitch
(discussing the circumstances of the film going directly to DVD in the
Here's my reply:
for your very candid response. I am painfully aware that EvenHand is
a film that suffered because of the vagaries of the marketplace. We
didn't get a theatrical release for many of the same reasons that
you cite as reasons for the film not getting picked up by the major
video retailers. I received many very complimentary e-mails from
theatrical distributors telling me how much they loved the film and
in the same paragraph telling me that there was no way they could
release it. I had hoped that we could overcome those very real
marketing concerns in the video world, but obviously the same forces
are governing how those retailers do business. I'm just pleased that
we managed to slip through a window of opportunity at Hart Sharp.
Evelyn and your team did a great job on the DVD presentation,
graphics and extras.
became clear while I was shopping EvenHand around that if I am lucky
enough to make another film, it will have to have stars in it to
have a chance of being successful. I would not have done anything
differently on EvenHand, but I can't afford to make another film
go to Cannes and Venice and see amazing small films, and we rack our
brains - how can we take these on and make money? At the end of the day
we don't, because we have to make a financial decision."
Ruth Vitale, co-president of Paramount Classics
What is the future of truly independent films? By the
modifier "truly," I mean to exclude films like Shakespeare
in Love, which while it is called independent, was made with stars
and the backing of a major studio. Anyone with the wherewithal to make a
film with known actors and a $5 million+ budget has achieved something
admirable, but the result can only be called "independent" by
a disingenuous and somewhat cynical definition of the word. But, my
point is not to present an embittered criticism of films that I, in
fact, admire and enjoy. Rather, I ask you to ponder how films like EvenHand
can continue to be made. I know it won't be me making another film that
way. Frankly, there's too little reward in it.
I got to be the boss and make all the creative decisions without some
studio business school graduate breathing down my neck. And, yes, I worked
harder and had
more fun than I've ever had on a film set. And there's no doubt that I
will always remember the whole experience with great pride and
satisfaction. And it's not really about the money. Far more important is
having my film seen by a wider audience. The only way that
could have happened was through a theatrical release or if it had been picked up by the
major video retailers.
will always be films without stars that are championed by distributors
and embraced by the public, but for every micro-budgeted gem that finds
a theatrical deal, there is a film that gets distribution for reasons
related directly to the presence of stars or a clear demographic appeal.
On the flip side, there are indie films out there that deserve yet never
get a theatrical release because they lack an obvious marketing hook.
"People do get rich making movies; more often than not,
theyíre the wrong people"
Louis Menand, The New Yorker
evaluating a film, the first question a distributor asks is ďHow can
we market this film?Ē The burning question isnít whether the critics
will like it, or how many prizes itís won, but ďHow the hell are we
going to put fannies in seats and make our money back?Ē It would be naÔve
to suggest that stars donít help.
Having said that, the performances
of Bill Sage and Bill Dawes are excellent in EvenHand and I want
to emphasize that I am thrilled that they are in my film. I cast
them both because I recognized their talents and have no regrets about
having done so. If I had my way, I would only cast unknowns; I just
donít think it is a pragmatic choice going forward.
EvenHand a film that deserved a theatrical release? I will not
presume to answer that question; some people thought it
did, others disagreed. I also hope this entry is not misinterpreted as an exercise
in blaming anyone for the disposition of my film. I am proud to have
premiered the film on the Sundance Channel and to have had a terrific
video/DVD release with Hart Sharp Video.
rewards the winners - Soderberg, Tarantino, the Andersons, Payne,
Russell, and so on - and they will insist, as does [Christine] Vachon,
that good filmmakers always rise to the top, dismissing those that
don't as losers or whiners or hacks. But the new rules of the indie
game are weighted heavily toward box office success, with promising or
even brilliant but uncommercial films failing to get picked up for
distribution, witness the fate that befell L.I.E and The
Peter Biskind, Down and Dirty Pictures
I do believe, however, that if
you're a fan of independent film, you are going to find it more and more
difficult to see provocative, non-genre films with no stars. When idealistic companies
like Arts Alliance America discover that their business models have no validity, they
will do the only thing they can do: change. For every Hart Sharp that stops
distributing indie films, there will be fewer independent films released.
And when the diversity of entertainment is diminished, we all lose.
And don't be fooled into
thinking that people burning their own DVDs and self-distributing them on
the net is the answer. Without the publicity machine that the big boys
have at their disposal, no one ever hears about those films. There's too much
noise being generated about the scores of studio movies being released
every five seconds and too much attention lavished on the big stars that populate
films of all sizes (just look at the Sundance Film Festival catalogue for
any of the last few years and see who's starring in the indies now). The
other self-releasing option, Four-walling, is still a possibility in
select markets, but it's nearly impossible in major markets like New York
or L.A.; and everywhere you butt up
against the same problem: getting lost in a sea of "Starsky &
Hutch" swill -- posters, TV spots, bus shelter ads and Letterman
interviews (Ben Stiller was on last night).
can you do about this dire situation? A short-term solution springs to
mind: get a pizza and rent or buy EvenHand.
Script, quoted from Eugene Hernandez's indieWIRE
blog (May 3, 2006):
At a Tribeca Film Fest panel last night, Steven Soderbergh
had a few intriguing comments that didn't quite make it into
indieWIRE article about the event...
One comment echoed a sometimes unpopular sentiment that I often share
with filmmakers. "I donít know of many secret, great
movies," Soderbergh said, later citing "Tarnation"
as a true success story and a personal favorite. "If you make a
great movie and somebody sees it, they tell somebody else."
Post Script, quoted from a journalist (N.Y. Times) and friend (September 7, 2006):
I think Stephen Soderberg's early success has made him delusional.
I don't think film is any different from any other field where the
real secret to success rests less on talent than on marketing.
When I was writing on wines,
I ran into a bunch of wine-makers who failed not because they didn't
know how to make a good bottle of wine (some of their stuff was amazing),
but because they assumed that success would result from their wine-making
skills. Every one of them said that they wished they had realized early
on that success in wines results largely from a good label and marketing
team, not good taste.
by Peter Biskind in Down and Dirty Pictures.
also read Anthony Kaufman's excellent article Ghost
of the Machine, in the Village Voice 5/25/02
Here's some information on where you can
am also more than happy to do for other police departments what
we did for San Antonio's Bexar County widows and orphan's fund,
the 100 Club. We made a print available for two benefit screenings
that raised more than $6000. If you want to discuss doing something
similar for your department, shoot me an e-mail.
don't forget to visit the EvenHand
Store. We offer EvenHand posters, T-shirts and SLPD shoulder
patches, as well as the insanely popular "FAT COP" tank top.
EvenHand listing on the
Internet Movie Database has started getting votes. If you have seen
the film, please take a minute and
register your vote there. Thanks
to all who have left great reviews on the IMDb site! Here's a link:
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