Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sean Paul Murphy, Writer
Sean Paul Murphy, Writer

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The Encounter" Premiere Video Blog

Here's Jamie Nieto's video blog from the Greater Boston Film Festival.*  Jamie is one of the stars of "The Encounter," and "Jerusalem Countdown," which was also premiering at the festival.  Aside from being an actor, and a genuinely nice guy, Jamie is also an Olympic high jumper, who was recently ranked fourth in the world.

Jamie is also up for the role of Roberto Clemente in an upcoming biopic of the baseball player.  Soon I'll be able to say I knew him when.

*Remember folks, the best way to get me to link to your video blog is to say something nice about me in it.  Works every time.

"The Encounter" Premieres

Trust me, there was just a huge line of
people waiting to see the film.

It takes a lot of work by a lot of people to make a feature-length motion picture.  Oftentimes, there are passionate disputes concerning various creative decisions.  However, at least for myself, all that noise melts away when you finally see the film play in the theater for the first time.

"The Encounter" premiered at the Greater Boston Film Festival.  It was a friendly audience that happily received each screening of the film with a great deal of enthusiasm.  They laughed and cried at all the right places, and pretended not to notice the continuity errors -- which will be corrected.  It was a blast, particularly since five of the six leads came to Boston for the premiere.  Since neither my co-writer, Timothy Ratajczak, or myself could attend the shoot in California, this was my first chance to meet the members of the cast in person whom I felt I already got to know during the long months of post-production and the now ubiquitous Facebook.  (Now I joke that I only attend premieres to get pictures with the actors for Facebook.  Then again, maybe that isn't a joke.)

In the months to come, I will probably devote a few blogs to the various joys and sorrows I endured during the making of "The Encounter," but right now I will simply remember the premiere with warmth, and the great time I had with everyone.  My only regret was that neither Timothy or my lovely wife Deborah could come along.

If you want to see my pictures, better sign up on Facebook.

"The Encounter" will be officially released in 2011.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Money, Money, Money, Money.... MONEY!

Well, folks, I wish I could say that the success of your film is dependent upon your brilliant script, your daring direction, your stunning cinematography or your heartfelt performances.  Of course, your shot at success is much greater if all those things are true, but, in the end, it comes down to money.

Money for two things:

A name actor.

And advertising.

You need the money for a name actor to attract the interest of a distributor who will actually spend money promoting your film.  Without that, you're dead.

It is much easier to get a film distributed than it is to actually make money on a film.

I know what you're thinking.  What about "Paranormal Activity?"  What about "The Blair Witch Project?"  They didn't have name actors and they each made a fortune.  True, but those films were anomalies.  For each low-budget film that sees the inside of a commercial theater, there are literally thousands of others that failed.  And, keep in mind that PA and TBWP both made their millions after the studios spent millions on advertising and promotion.  Yeah, you say, but I can get on the internet and get a buzz going.  Really?  I don't think so.  Everyday, the internet gets bigger and bigger.  There's so much to see.  There's so many distractions.  What's going to point people to your movie's webpage?  Plastering links to your trailer all over the place simply isn't going to cut it.  If someone has managed to return a profit on a film with a six-figure budget using only the internet for promotion and sales, please contact me and teach me how you did it. 

It takes money to go viral.

The major studios don't spend tens of millions of dollars promoting films because they have money to burn.  They spend the money because if they don't, people won't show up at the theaters or buy the DVDs.

And most independent filmmakers don't include any marketing money in their budgets.  Most of them don't even allocate enough money to go on the festival circuit.

My thoughts on the value of advertising have evolved over the years.

Initially, it frightened me when a distributor promised (or threatened) to spend x-amount of money promoting your film.  My first thought was:  The film is going to have to earn all of that additional money back before I get a penny in royalties.  Plus, it is definitely true that some distributors shamelessly pad those expenses in order to cheat filmmakers out of their profits.  Time and time again, I have heard filmmaker friends complain how they feel they will never reach that constantly rising break-even point.  And they probably never will. 

However, unless a distributor spends money on advertising you will not sell enough copies to warrant any royalties anyway.  As a filmmaker, you are caught between a rock and a hard place.  If you don't spend the money, you never make any money.  If you do spend the money, you go deeper and deeper into the hole.  So what do you do?  You've got to hope your distributor spends the money.

Discretion prevents me from discussing any details, but I've seen the facts in black and white.  I've seen quarterly reports that clearly revealed that relationship between sales and promotion money spend.    One quarter a film sells 40,000 DVDs.  (Those are good numbers for a low-budget indy.)  The next quarter they pull the advertising and it sells 4,000.  That's the difference between being a full-time filmmaker and staying with your day job.

Do you think Walmart or Kmart or Best Buy are going to stock your film if you don't have any advertising dollars behind you?  You'll be lucky to get in the discount bin.

And, trust me, Blockbuster and NetFlix will want to know how many ad dollars you have allocated per unit they purchase.  If you don't have any, bye, bye.

When a distributor expresses interest in your film, let one of your first questions be:  How much money are you going to spend promoting it?

If it's a lot, you might be in trouble.

If it's not a lot, you're definitely in trouble.