A self financed film release

January 6, 2014
posted by sheric

It means the production is PAYING to market and release their own film. It doesn’t mean those involved in production are working all by themselves like DIY (Do It Yourself) has come to be understood. And it doesn’t mean DIWO (Do It With Others) because that sounds a bit like everyone is working together for free or back end revenue. Self financing means your production has budgeted money to pay for the marketing and release of the film which could include working with vendors outside of the production or hiring experts to come on board early in the production process to help conceptualize and prepare for the eventual release of the film.

It is the same concept as preparing a production budget to pay all involved in the physical making of the film; the legal help, the post facilities, the equipment rentals, the cast, the crew, permits, location rentals, catering, transportation, accommodation, insurance, music licensing. Most all of these are expected costs to making a film. There is no dispute that these are required line items in a production budget. Making a film is expensive! Even spending $50,000 for production is a lot compared to what most filmmakers have in their personal savings accounts. Please don’t spend your savings account.

self financed budget

It is a costly mistake to think that these are the only line items in a budget for film financing. In fact, there is almost no point in incurring the cost of making a film if there is no budget and concrete plan as to how it will be released. Fewer and fewer films are bought by a distributor for a price that will recoup a higher production budget, even low six figures. This path used to be the tried and true method for release, but it is just not true anymore.  Even if a film does get picked up, it is likely that the marketing costs and fees to distribute the film will eat up any back end revenue due to the production by the series of entities used to release a film (exhibitor, digital platform, online retailer, in store retailer, distributor, sales agent). The whole chain takes their expenses and fees FIRST.

Of course, it should be said that it is especially difficult to fully recoup the cost of making and releasing a film that is self financed. While I have encountered and worked with films that have managed to recoup the cost of their self financed marketing and distribution for a theatrical release (which helped propel their ancillary sales), I have not encountered any that have even come close to recouping the production budget during that phase of distribution, not to mention profited by it. Crowdfunding either the production budget or the marketing and distribution budget, from donors who do not expect recoupment, would go a long way to bringing a production into the black. However, crowdfunding is NOT for everyone.

Let’s dispel the myth that distribution is 1) assumed to be handled by some other entity that will put in their money to do it; 2) assumed to be an endeavor performed with no money by the production on its own; or 3) assumed that “collaborators” will be found who will offer their services, connections and expertise for no money upfront in exchange for back end revenue.

Budget for your self financed film release!







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