The precarious state of independent film

John August has written some pretty popular movies, including Go, Charlie’s Angels, Tim Burton’s Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Corpse Bride. So what happened when his directorial debut, The Nines, bowed at Sundance in 2007?

In this blog post on August’s site, he lays out the extremely scary state of distribution for indie films. And he hints that indies need to come up with a new and vastly different distribution model than the big studios have for big studio films:

The odds of getting your scrappy indie in front of paying audiences are pretty low, and the odds of really making money at it are subterranean.

But I stand by my earlier observation that there’s a lot of success to be found in that high failure rate. The Nines didn’t make a big splash, but it has a fair number of super-fans, including some filmmakers and critics. It has led to new opportunities for me and its stars, and a solid credit for the folks who worked on it.

….

My advice? You should make an indie film to make a film. Period. Artistic and commercial success don’t correlate well, and at the moment, only the former is remotely within your control.

How does this rather doom-and-gloom news pertain to The Fair Trade? Well, we are embarking on a new and vastly different distribution model for The Fair Trade in Fall 2008, with a new partnership between FilmBaby, Ryko Distribution, and Warner Elektra Atlantic. Watch this blog and the official site for details in the coming weeks. But, let’s be perfectly clear: distribution is an uphill battle, a battle that takes lots of money and legwork.

But it’s not about the money for us. Sure, we would love to make enough money to finance the next movie, but it’s more about getting this powerful story of Tamara and Anti-Body and grief and growth and fair trade out to as many people as need to hear it.

We’re going to try and get this movie out to as many people as possible. And it is possible, even with our tiny team and a tiny budget. We have a good story, and some really great partners that believe in the movie as much as we do (more on that later). And remember Gideon? David and Goliath? Lisa Simpson?


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