Posted by Valentina Valentini on May 25, 2012 at 11:33 am
What happens after Sundance? We always hear about the ones who take home the awards and films that get acquired by Fox Searchlight or Sony Pictures Classics or one of the other few indie-friendly studios. If your film doesn’t get picked up though, what happens next?
I like to think of myself as an objective journalist. Really, what kind of journalist would I be if I weren’t objective? So whether you see the below as a shameless plug or as objective journalism, that’s your opinion. My opinion – my objective opinion – is that I Am Not a Hipster is a spectacular film, the kind that could perhaps have an afterlife similar to Donnie Darko, which didn’t receive wide distribution (via Newmarket Films) until three years after its premiere at Sundance in 2001.
“Maybe we’re trying to redefine how you become a cult classic,” says the film’s producer Ron Najor, a first-time feature producer. “Not deliberately, but maybe because of social networking programs like Kickstarter and Facebook you don’t need a studio to make your movie a cult classic.”
When the Hipster family – including all first-time feature filmmakers, director Destin Daniel Cretton, DP Brett Pawlak, and singer-songwriter Joel P. West – and also actual family members of Cretton’s, arrived at Sundance in January, it was a dream come true.
“We’d hit the movie lottery, as one of my friends put it,” says Najor. “Going to Sundance was one of the best experiences of my life. In all honesty, it was everything I think a filmmaker could hope for – having our screenings sold out and getting great press.”
In true modest fashion, Najor and Cretton say they were thrilled to even be screening and in competition at Sundance. And they tried not to let the hype of peers they met and press that peppered them with attention get to their heads. Of course they would have liked to sell to Fox Searchlight. What indie team wouldn’t? But that would have been icing on the Hipster crew’s cake – and their cake was pretty good on its own.
“I do believe you get these false hopes in your head,” Najor admits. “Just because of people talking up the fact that you got in. Once there, we did get a lot of feedback from potential buyers, some of it a little hard to hear. Like the fact that we didn’t have a love story, we didn’t have sex, we didn’t have violence, and we didn’t have a star. One distributor told me that because of lacking these components we basically broke every rule they normally sell on.”
Sad, but true. Even understandable, no? To the distributors, it’s a business. They have their formula of how to buy and sell and if you are not giving them the things that they’re used to selling, then its more work than they’d care to put in. They have a slew of other titles that they don’t have to do that with, so why would they? It wouldn’t be a great business model.
So what happens when you don’t sell and you don’t win? What happens post-Sundance?
After getting on quite a few ‘Best of Sundance’ lists, including Rolling Stone and Huffington Post, Najor and his team were invited to other prestigious festivals, like Seattle, Cleveland International and Nashville. They kept going to the fests and people kept seeing the movie and giving them great feedback.
“We kept getting this positive reinforcement,” recalls Najor. “When you get out of Sundance and you don’t get picked up, you question whether it was just Sundance that liked you and the rest of the world doesn’t really care. But that wasn’t the case with us. Everywhere else people kept coming up to us and saying how much they enjoyed the film and asking when it was coming out.”
Cretton and Najor felt that was the push they needed to start a distribution campaign on their own. They felt that they should distribute the film in the same spirit that it was made: pure independence.
Today, with Hulu and Netflix, if you can raise a little bit of money to cover the entry-level fees, you can get your film out there in a big way. Ten years ago that just wasn’t possible on such a budget. Hipster is asking for $27,500 on their Kickstarter campaign. For an average independent film it can cost anywhere from $20,000 -$50,000 in distribution costs to deliver the movie to an outlet.
These costs include, but are not limited to Errors & Omissions Insurance at about $3-7K, Cable VOD (OnDemand) at about a $5-6K fee to get it to all the different cable outlets, M&D track dubs so it can play internationally at about $5K, DVDs and Blu-Rays at another $7K. It certainly does add up, doesn’t it?
“Kickstarter has become a way for indie filmmakers to retain control of their movie and try to do the best they can with raising money, but also getting exposure for the film,” says Najor. “Ultimately, Destin and I know that the odds are against us in terms of making any large amounts of money. Our goal at this point is more about getting seen, because that will help everyone’s career. This is a calling card film.”
If the Hipster crew can’t make their $27,500 goal (of which they have approximately $14,500 as of yesterday) they don’t see a penny. That’s a scary prospect for someone putting the whole afterlife of the film in one bucket. But their friends and colleagues have seemed to be rallying, kicking that bucket into a slow swing at least.
But even I am nervous for them. And maybe that is what will bring them to home plate. Burning this mentality of having a specific goal to get to is a motivator. Especially if the project is good and really worth supporting, having the knowledge that if you don’t rally and bring people together to help, no one comes out on top.
“I think everyone gets a little concerned in the homestretch,” Najor explains. “It becomes more of a community outreach. It helps motivate a group of people to get excited and come together to help us reach our goal. And it’s been really hard, honestly, asking our friends and peers for support. No one’s a trust fund baby who’s going to bale us out…unfortunately for us.”
To watch their clever campaign video, link HERE.
To watch a trailer of the film, link HERE.
Add to your Netflix list if you’re interested in seeing it.