Thursday, November 09, 2006

DIY workbook project & a Best Buy promotion

As the release for HEAD TRAUMA rolls along I wanted to make two announcements.

Our Best Buy promo has been doing very well. It ends in three days. If we can close out strongly, it will send a positive message that smaller films deserve shelf space. And most importantly that they can support national promotions.

The performance of the HEAD TRAUMA / LAST BROADCAST promotion could go a long way to helping smaller films make it into Best Buy. Getting into retail outlets as big as Best Buy is very difficult but this promotion is proving that with the proper in-store promotion "truly independent" films can compete and even out perform certain studio titles.

So please help us to spread the word - cause in the end it could help all of us. Tell people to make their way to Best Buy or they can order online by clicking here.

I've been working on a DIY book and I've decided to make it a free online resource. The concept is part of a "social opensource info experiment" called the workbook project. It's a simple concept, the workbook is meant to be spread and edited. Meaning that content creators can add their own info, war stories, advice etc. Since the workbook is a wiki that can be saved to the desktop and edited, we're hoping that it can become a resource that is always growing.

I've included extensive info about:

  • Putting together a 17 city theatrical release
  • Building a fan base and creating buzz
  • Clearance and Delivery issues
  • A look at actual contracts
  • Getting your work into retail and rental outlets
  • Making a TV deal
  • How to deal with world sales
  • and much much more

The workbook will launch later this year but if you're interested and want to get an advance copy sign up at

Here's a brief example of one section that details how I bootstrapped a 17 city theatrical release.

DIY THEATRICAL - part 1 of 12

The thing I find most interesting after having gone through the first couple windows of release is how broken the system is. Now I know you're probably saying no shit but I think we're at a very interesting crossroads. When something is damaged it provides new opportunities but the difficult part is identifying them. Often it seems that going in a totally different direction is an answer OR you can work the current system to your advantage. For example a theatrical release with no cash, no distributor, no booker and no publicist seems insane - and it is in the sense that it's an insane amount of work BUT it is possible.

I took on a hybrid model with the release of my newest film HEAD TRAUMA. Had a world premiere at the LA Film Fest and used it as a springboard to a platform release for HT. In other words used it to announce the project and a few weeks after was in theaters across the country. The biggest driving force for a compressed release was to maximize my limited resources and push all the press and word of mouth towards monetizing the movie. I hit 17 screens across the country by doing a bootstrapped release.

I called a number of bookers / service companies to help me with my theatrical release. I quickly discovered that there was NO way that I could afford it. So I decided to create my own model that would require little to no seed money. Here's how I released my newest feature HEAD TRAUMA on 17 screens across the country.

Here's the breakdown:

Travel, lodging and some food was offset with speaking engagements at various universities and film societies. This also provided free transportation and free meals. I ended up making about $4,500 in speaking fees.

I took $1,200 from a pre-theatrical speaking engagement and applied it towards making 27 x 40 posters. I knew from past experience that posters provide a great profit margin. I got them made for a $1.40 each and then sold them for 10 to 15 dollars. To date I've sold about 300 posters and pulled in about $3,500

When it came to the screenings I found sponsors for a number of weekly city paper ads for the cities that I felt need some extra promotion. And the rest of the promotion was done via social networking sites and my mailing list / fan base from my first film. I targeted independent theaters and cold called BUT I had a pitch ready - one that explained who my audience was and how I intended to reach them. I struck a favored nations deal with all the theaters - a 50/50 split because I didn't have the cash to four wall. And I did all my own press for the release.

The main goal for the theatrical was to help with DVD sales into retail and rental outlets. My hope was to use the theatrical release as hook for a national story, to get reviews and to prevent HT from being ghettoized as a straight to video release.

Well I got a ton of press, a lot of reviews and I ended up grossing close to 15,000 dollars. I took about half of my cut of the box office and put it into online advertising for the DVD release. I also worked out deals for a number of print ads in horror publications like Rue Morgue and Fangoria.

And so far so good - the DVD just hit retail and rental outlets nationwide. In fact this coming weekend Best Buy will be doing a special national promotion. The movie can be found at Barns & Noble, Borders, Circuit City in addition to other retail outlets. Its on Netfilx and in certain Hollywood Video and Blockbuster locations. It is also in independent video stores and can be found on various online outlets such as Amazon etc.

So for me theatrical made sense, I actually made some money AND I still own the rights to my work.


Sujewa [Blog Admin] said...

lots of excellent info on this post lance, thanks. good luck with the best buy thing, will see what i can do to help. mentioned this post @ my blog diy filmmaker.

who do you reccomend for dvd replication?

- sujewa

Annie Frisbie said...

Great post on a great blog--thanks for starting this, Sujewa! Gave it a shout out today: