SMonologue # 8
Via @SteveLilley “17 years ago, you help create indie film. Now, you’re creating it all over again”
You’re very kind, but I’m just reaching back to an old model from Hollywood’s glory days: we’re taking our show on the road.
Gone With the Wind (which this movie certainly ain’t) didn’t open on 2600 screens; it opened on one – and played there for awhile, then packed up and moved to another screen in another city to play there for awhile. We’re compressing that process, of course – doing only one screening per night on the tour; but it’s their idea, not mine.
The highlight of my night last night was talking to Bob Weinstein at the party after the screening. As @TheJonGordon and I explained our plan, Bob said…
“You’re four-walling. That’s what me and Harvey did in the beginning.”
To which I said “That’s why we call it The Harvey Boys.”
Then, in true Bob fashion, he instantly did the math on our Radio City Music Hall premiere to tell us we could have the highest per screen average ever (Bob saw the flick this morning and we spoke again. He loved it; said really nice things about me as a director. Then, in true Bob fashion, he added “If it were mine, I’d tell you take 10 minutes out.”).
It was awesome. It was like being recognized as an adult by your Dad.
But taking our show on the road isn’t even a new idea for me: I’ve taken almost all of my movies on the road for promotional tours. Only difference is, this time around, we’re charging for tickets. And if that price is too high for you, don’t worry: you’ll be able to see the flick for a lot less less ten months from now, on October 19th.
But with this tour, our aim is to get financially whole. I want to use actual, recognizable math on our little $4 million dollar flick. Once we clear $4 million (off the tours, the merch, and the ViewAskew Garage Sale), we’re able to give our investors their money back. So long as we don’t spend on marketing at all, every penny after that $4 million budget recoup becomes profit.
No more of this “The movie cost $4 million to make but needs to earn $50 million at the box office to break even.” That always bugged me: I’d go out of my way to make flicks for as little as possible, then watch folks spend more to market them. But that’s how the business works: everybody does that. It is the standard. And I’ve done it, too; for nine films now.
But after doing it the same way nine times, you start to think about how you’d do it differently: is it possible to sell a flick without spending any of that money?
With a budget so low, why not try? Shit, just to change it up a bit.
For years, bloggers told me I was tired for doing so many Askewniverse flicks. You hear that enough, it sinks in. No artist wants to be called tired, y’know? So with only one flick left that I want to make, I figure why not gamble a bit. Because, like I said: if this works out the way we’re hoping, we’ll have a model we can use with not only Hit Somebody, but any SModcast Pictures we make after it – which would be your flicks, not mine.
I’ve told my stories in film already and I get to tell way more inventive stories every week on all the SModcast Network shows. But I love being involved with flicks, so I figure “Why not help other cats get their flicks out there?” If we can build SModcast Pictures into a brand – the way Harvey & Bob made the Miramax name stand for a specific kind of film – then it can become a kind of no-budget service label for flicks we feel fit our ethos or can’t find love elsewhere in the world. Indie flicks need special handling, and what we’re doing with Red State is simply special-handling it ourselves.
And, yes – I’m aware there’s lots of bile for me and the flick in the blogosphere right now. But there was lots of bile for me in the blogosphere last week, too. And last year. And the year before that. That was never gonna change. But here’s what I’ve spent the night and morning reading instead: the Twitter feed – where there’s been so much enthusiasm and youthful exuberance and zeal for the idea of self distribution, I’ll be honest… I’ve rolled a couple tears.
I’ll tell you what I’ll never forget about Sundance 2011: as I left the stage last night, a couple twenty-something dudes followed along in the hallway, saying they dug the flick. Then, one of them nearly knocked me dead when he said, with all the earnestness and passion of indie film incarnate…
“You can do this.”
And normally I’d say I was just stoned, but since I was THC-free that day, I tell you this not from a stoner, “Heeeeyyy, maaaann…”-free association, but as something that – in that brief moment – was about as real as raincoats: that kid was a thinner, better-looking, more-pussy-getting version of me, circa ’94. And 1994 didn’t say “You fucking idiot! Do what everyone else does and sell your flick and spend to open it!” 1994 kinda said “Skate, fucker…” knowing full-well that if I pull this off, it’s gonna be easier for him to get his flicks out there.
That moment meant the world to me; I’ll take it to my grave.
I was telling @JenSchwalbach this morning: it’s almost as if, seventeen years ago, I came to this same place, and two roads diverged in a yellow wood.
Cliche, I know – just lemme finish.
So I chose a path that made all the difference. And seventeen years later, this festival, universe, God… they all blessed (or possibly cursed) me with the chance of a lifetime: take the OTHER road instead – just to see what happens. And nobody can fault me for doing so, because a) I’m doing it incredibly financially responsibly, b) I’m not asking for help from anyone but the cats who wanna either see this flick or see this model work, and c) I did it as entertainingly as possible.
For years, I’ve read “He’s no filmmaker.” Turns out they were right: I’m more of an entertainer. And any entertainer worth their salt goes out on the road with their art.
There was a Tweet last night that called SModcast Pictures and the Red State Tour “punk rock filmmaking”. I loved that (I co-opted Jello Biafra‘s “Don’t hate the media; become the media” for our Red Statement). But what I dug most about the sentiment?
It made me feel like I was twenty three again.
Folks can write what they like, but as an artist, I’m cosmically (or comically) invigorated and full of piss and vinegar. That’s where bold art comes from. They bitched at me for being complacent or for making something as sappy and mainstream as Jersey Girl. Everything about Red State is the opposite of that… and they’re still bitching. And if this was still 1994, and the only way I could find out what people thought of what we did/are doing was by reading reviews or articles, I’d feel bummed that there wasn’t more support from a media that bitches about lameness/sameness all the time.
But it’s 2011 – and via @Twitter, I can instantly find out how the people who wanna come see the flick or support the cause actually feel. And I can’t thank you all enough for what I’ve read on this feed all night and today.
And I apologize to every Tweeter over the course of the last few months who ever Tweeted “Why don’t you just distribute it yourself?” It was so hard to not respond with “THAT’S THE PLAN, BITCHES!”
And you know how hard it is for me to keep my trap shut about anything…
But four days into shooting, @TheJonGordon and I had a serious talk about taking Red State out ourselves; the possibility of building and building, instead of building and selling. Our point was this: we were having so much fun answering to no one, creating the life of the film every day, not following a traditional structure. And I’ll be honest: fun’s hard to come by in this business, because it is a business. There’s lots of money at play. People tend to get brutally serious about shit that doesn’t matter. Original ideas get curbed in favor of the tried and true. As risky as folks are with millions of dollars, the risk usually doesn’t extend to the flicks, and why should it: there’s safety and financial security or prosperity in the familiar.
@TheJonGordon and I were both kinda at wit’s end with the rigidity of the old way, but Red State brought back the fun. Everything about the way we’re doing things forces us to be more creative, and it feels awesome just to be doing the same thing differently for a change. It’s reinvigorated us. Just as when Rooster stabs the horse in the leg in True Grit, Red State is making us run like we’ve never run before. And as someone who wants to be an artist, it’s just the shot in the ass (or the jab in the leg) that I needed. I’m INDIE again – maybe for the first time, even. It’s frightening and thrilling. My heart’s been racing all weekend. I feel alive! Young! Punk Rock! I feel like Bill Murray at the end of Scrooged.
There’s a Taoist proverb that’s been rolling around my head since we pulled into Sundance and it kind of sums up this weekend for me…
To be great is to go on.
To go on is to go far.
To go far is to return.
Well, I’ve now returned… and I’m ready to do it all over again.
I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t finish with some whoring: if you wanna help us out, all the info is at http://coopersdell.com/