Les Deliverables

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Blumenthal has officially closed its deal for distribution. We are beyond thrilled... and that is all I'm allowed to tell you for now. An official press release will come out in the new year at which point I can give you all the nitty gritty details of the cutting-edge distribution company that we are partnering with and the nature of the deal itself. So for now, forget I even said (typed) any of that. The important thing is that you will ALL be able to see the film!

Any indie filmmaker probably thinks that the closing of a distribution deal for his or her film is the point at which they can finally sit back, put their feet up, and give a sigh of relief that it wasn't all for nothing. Not the case.

The moment after the terms of a distribution deal are finalized, an indie film producer is sent a document from the distribution company. On the document is a list of DELIVERABLES. Deliverables are all of the materials that must be delivered to the distributor upon execution of the agreement so that they can perform their duties. Deliverables are also the final obstacle in the life of an independent film. The reason that it's an obstacle is that it forces a filmmaker/producer to confront any corners that may have been previously cut just to get the film done and save as much money  as possible.

A perfect (and common) example of what I'm talking about is the issue of music rights. Sometimes, a filmmaker will put a popular song in the movie with an idea to pay for the rights to that music once the movie sells. Now, this assumes that the film is being sold with some sort of advance or minimum guarantee that would afford the producers money to pay for it. But, even in such a case, the distribution deal would be contingent upon the film having rights to the music in the first place. Not only is there the issue of coming up with the money, but what if the rights to the music aren't available? Then that awesome song that makes the climax of the film so great is all gone. That's a hypothetical here, but stuff like that happens all the time.

For those of you who are curious what sort of deliverables are required for a distributor, here is some of what's on the list:

1. Video Content: Video assets must be original dimensions and frame rates from production. Accepted tape or digital delivery formats include:

  • Tape Delivery: HDCAM, HDCAM SR, Digital Betacam
  • Digital Delivery: Container: QuickTime.mov or AVI, Codec: ProRes HQ or Cineform, Standard: NTSC, PAL, or HD

2. Audio: Must deliver 5.1 surround and M&E track if created 5.1 audio should include L, R, C, LFE, Ls, Rs channels.

3. Trailers/Preview Clip: One (1) trailer, or a generated two-minute preview clip delivered. Must be the same aspect ratio as the associated feature.

5. PUBLICITY / PROMOTIONAL / CREATIVE

  • POSTER/KEY ART: One (1) layered poster Photoshop (.psd) or Illustrator (.ai) image 150dpi minimum, One (1) flat (single layer) 2143x3000 (jpg, tiff) image 150dpi minimum. Flat image must not contain release date, credit block, DVD logo, film rating, website, and/or promotional tagging (but OK on layered file).
  • COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY: Twenty (20) or more different production digital photos depicting key scenes in the Picture and/or behind-the-scenes with members of the cast appearing therein. The photography shall be delivered digitally in the highest resolution format possible (preferably 300dpi). Necessary for service specific promotions.

6. CLOSED CAPTIONS / SUBTITLES:

  • SUBTITLES: One (1) subtitle file in .SRT or SAMI/.SMI file formats that conform to Picture time code.
  • CLOSED CAPTIONS: One (1) caption file in .SCC (Scenarist) or .ASC (Cheetah ASCII) - must conform to Picture.

7. LEGAL DOCUMENTS:

  • PRODUCER’S ERRORS & OMISSIONS (E&O) INSURANCE
  • CHAIN OF TITLE DOCUMENTATION
  • MUSIC CUE SHEETS

8. INTERNATIONAL DISTRIBUTION: 

  • M&E Audio Tracks - Used for dubbing content in different languages.
  • Written Script
  • Textless movie file. Used to add credits in alternate languages
  • Subtitles or Dubs required on a territory specific basis.

Like any other small indie film, we have a couple of snags on the delivery list (though nothing like the music scenario above). For our part the only real issue will be dealing with the closed captioning, which we may or may not end up letting the distributor handle and recoup the cost. C'est la vie...

All the exciting details of our distribution deal to come!

Almost There

805995a1db68caf1cd47d35f5ff0c5b49589b66b-1359352311 Where to start? There is so much to tell, I'm going to break this up into two posts.  Part One starts now...

Remember all that drama with our DCP (digital film print)? Well it arrived on Friday, just enough time to make sure everything worked for our Sunday screening. Altogether now, "NOT SO FAST!"

At approximately 10PM last night (Saturday) just as I was settling in for an early night, I received an email from the Santa Barbara festival director. It read:

"Just got word that the DCP for BLUMENTHAL is not working.  Not a KDM issue.  We received it yesterday afternoon.  It is scheduled to screen tomorrow at 2pm, theater 4."

Ouch. I'd love to say that we all sprang into action, but that would be false. Ryan and Garrett sprang into action while I, Mr. Director, curled into a fetal position on my bed and tried my hardest to hide from the angry film gods.  Garrett ran to the theatre to confirm that this was not a practical joke, while Ryan desperately called everyone at the post-production house in NY, where the DCP was made. Keep in mind that it was 1AM in New York on a Sunday, and everyone was either asleep or drunk or both. Naturally, no one was answering their phone. Eventually, after confirming the problem with the DCP at the theater, Ryan managed to get someone in NY who got someone else who got someone else who eventually woke up someone else who could begin to trouble-shoot his problem.

After an all-nighter, Garrett and Ryan managed to get someone to get someone in NY uploading the movie file (HUGE) to their Burbank location beginning at 6AM Pacific Time. The plan was to get the file to Burbank, make a new DCP (yeah, our third one) and courier the thing up to the theatre by 12:30PM so the projectionist could load the film into the system. Fingers crossed, everybody nauseous.

As we all waited by the phone, at 10AM we got the update that the file has been downloaded to Burbank and that a new DCP would be ready in an hour, putting us at 11AM. Enter E. McCabe Walsh. This young man and old friend of Garrett's answered the Red Phone in his bat cave, and came to the rescue. There was no way we would trust a random courier after all this. McCabe, fresh from a Saturday night on the town in LA threw on some flip-flops, hopped into his car and headed for Burbank. From there, he strapped our new DCP into the passenger seat (seatbelt and all) and drove like a madman up Highway 101.

Meanwhile in Santa Barbara, we were pacing outside the theater, handing out guest tickets to family and friends who had no idea that they might be watching Blumenthal off of a DVD of which 20% has messed up audio. Then, McCabe arrived at the curb blasting "Ride Like the Wind" by Christopher Cross. It was 12:20pm. A line for our movie, BLUMENTHAL, was already long and steady outside.

After handing the drive to the projectionist, he told us "I can't promise this will load in time." Apoplectic us, we walked down to the theater lobby and waited. "What a fatalist," I said. "Don't listen to him," said Garrett. "He's from Jersey."

Then we  stood in silence and waited and I took this photo of two exhausted men.

Stress

Not So Fast

FastCheapGoodMy last post ended with a cute "not so fast". Now, all I can think is how not cute it was for me to end with those words. If none of this makes sense, please read the previous entry here. Yesterday, the guys in NYC screened our newly minted DCP in a super sweet screening room in Soho. Immediately after the screening, I received a phone call from co-producer Ryan Young. "Give me good news" instead of my usual hello. I was terrified that something might be wrong with the print. "It went great," Ryan said. "It looks great and sounds great."

"Great!"

"There was just one thing. In the climax of the movie, there's a sound issue."

"That's awful."

"It's not awful, you just can't hear the dialogue."

"So it's awful."

"No. Well. Just that part. Yeah."

"Can we fix it?"

"Sure. For about a thousand bucks."

"$#!%."

I've talked about the golden triangle of filmmaking before, right? Fast, Cheap, and Good.  The only rule of the triangle is that you can only have two of these things at a time. If it's cheap and good, it takes a long time. If it's fast and cheap, it probably won't be good. you get the idea.

We are now in a position where we are one week away from our premiere on the other side of the country. We have to go back into the mixing theater, tweak the sound mix on the HDCAM SR, get the HDCAM SR to another post-house where they will create a new DCP, view it, and overnight it to Santa Barbara. We are in desperate need of Fast and Good. That means cheap is out of the question.

I shouldn't complain too much. It's not that expensive in the grand scheme of filmmaking, but for our movie, Garrett said it well: "That's like a whole day of shooting!"

There's no one to blame here. Well there is, but dammit I'm only human. I signed off on something and missed a part. It's done. It's over. I scrounged together some change and we're getting it done. In fact, it'll all work out for the best, because  it gives me an opportunity to tweak a few other minor spots I had in mind. After this, that's it though. I hope. Josh, Alex, and Ryan will tweak the mix on Monday, the DCP will be made Tuesday and Wednesday, and Santa Barbara will receive it on Thursday in time for their opening night on Friday.

There is no room for another "not so fast". We need fast now more than everFast and Good!

Technical Difficulties

cinemaIt wouldn't be an indie film and it certainly wouldn't be this movie if there weren't a few minor hiccups as we inch forward towards our premiere. For those of you curious as to what sort of tiny details can suck up a whole weekend of work keep reading. Back in September when we "finished" the film, we laid the final picture and audio onto an HDCAM SR. An HDCAM SR is basically a super high-resolution digital video tape from which all subsequent screeners (DVD, Blu-ray, etc) are reproduced. Naturally, that should mean we were ready to go once we received an invite from a festival. Not so fast...

For Santa Barbara, we could have easily and seamlessly created an HDCAM from the original and screened it there, but sadly that would have meant that we'd only be able to screen in stereo audio. Basically, it would have sounded like a really loud TV. We don't want that. Especially, as Josh Berger and post team went to such great lengths to do a Dolby 5.1 sound mix (which sounds like a movie should, in surround sound). To screen in Dolby, we would have to create a DCP. Now, a DCP is a  is a collection of digital files used to store and project a movie at a high quality of picture and sound. Easy shmeezy right? Not so fast...

DCP

Getting together a DCP is expensive. It is a drive with a proprietary key that permits a projectionist to show the film. Making that takes knowhow, which means a serious post-production house must do it, which means that takes money, which means we are $#!& out of luck.

Enter Jesse Ozeri. Hustler extraordinaire. As Ryan and Garrett called everyone on both coasts to get the lowest quote possible, Jesse called everyone on both coasts  scraping together some funds (Kickstarter-style). In the end, everyone came through! Not so fast...

As a favor for some free services, we promised a certain company a logo in the final credits. That's fairly easy to drop in there, but apparently not free. Ultimately, it's getting done and it's getting paid for and no one is going into debt...that much.

The DCP should be ready to review on Friday with a screening at Deluxe post house in NYC. Everyone but me will be there, which is probably for the best because I'm sure I'd find some issue with it and create more trouble than it's worth. After the screening, it will be shipped off to the festival and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Not so fast...

Sales and Press for Independent Films like Blumenthal

ethanbike Within hours of being notified of our acceptance into Santa Barbara Film Fest, phones were ringing and emails were...emailing? Aside from all the logistic and technical preparations of getting the film printed and ready for screening, the two main discussions of the week are Publicity and Sales Representation. For the uninitiated, here is a brief film-related definition of each :

Publicist - The main job of a film publicist is, well, publicity. More specifically, they work to generate attention and interest in the film through advertising to the target audience and promoting the film to the industry and local and national media. A publicist (ideally) can fill the theater seats with people who will help spread the word through the media (critics, industry executives, etc.)

Sales Representative - Also known as a sales agent, these guys are responsible for facilitating and negotiating the sales of distribution rights. They also work hard to fill the seats with relevant people, but their main function is to sell the film to distributors across all platforms (theatrical, DVD, VOD, etc) and all territories, both domestic and foreign.

Depending on who you  ask, people feel differently about which of these two relationships is more important when attending a festival. Some say both are equally important, and some DIY folks believe that indie filmmakers should do their own publicity (like blogging!). I've had  little experience with either publicists or sales reps, so I'll be interested to see how things go. Either way, these relationships will continue after the festival as Blumenthal makes its way through the circuit. With that in mind, all that matters is that the individual with either of these titles is passionate about the film. Funny, in a meeting this morning a producer pointed out that the same things that brings on good people to shoot, produce, or act in your film are the same traits you need in the people who promote it. The person best equipped to sell the movie is the person who truly believes in it.

Meetings abound, phone calls to make, and emails to...email?

 

 

 

Blumenthal World Premiere - Santa Barbara International Film Festival

SBIFF I am pleased to report that Blumenthal will have its world premiere during the opening weekend of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival! You can see the official press release here and read more about the festival here. We are all super crazy awesome excited about it. Although we had submitted a rough cut of the film to some festivals last year, this is the first festival that had received our final cut since finishing the film this past fall. This also marks the very beginning of the festival season, so we are off to a terrific start.

I owe the world an apology for such an epic gap in between blog posts, but much of what transpired the past several months has been waiting, waiting, and more waiting for festival technical polishes to finish and festival responses to come in. (Would you have read a blog post about waiting?)  I suppose if I still lived in NY where the film was being finished, things might have moved a bit faster, but oh well. Here we are!

There are a million billion things to do between now and the end of January when we premiere, so I will keep you all updated fairly regularly. This is the beginning of a whole new chapter in the filmmaking process: getting the film out there. Most of our immediate concerns are press related such as posters, post-cards, websites, trailer release, and sales reps. Each one of these things deserves their own blog post, so I'll aim for that.

In the spirit of making up for lost time, here is a look at a poster for the film that did not make the cut. The general consensus was that people might think the film was a cartoon of weird looking people. Actually...now that I've typed that it might make a good tag line! Let us know what you think.

The little poster that didn't.