From its inception, the founding principle of this blog has been transparency. Initially, that was an easier banner to uphold given that there was less at stake. Once the details of financing the film became real (as did the business of selling the film), I felt compelled to withhold certain details of the filmmaking process.
The truth is, transparency is a fine line to walk. It's also subjective. At the end of the day, we are selling a product and the secret is in the sauce. To show the audience how you did the trick will inevitably ruin the trick. However, an argument can be made that giving away the secret is also a form of self-promotion. After all Edward Burns sites the minuscule budgets of his films as the main selling point in many instances. Hey, it gets me watching them.
Here's the logic behind my withholding information: If the world knew how much we spent on the film, it would affect how they judged the film. If a buyer knew what we would need in order to recoup the cost for the film, that might affect their offer. If a festival knew of our prior rejections, then they might view the film as a consolation prize. Lastly, if the world saw me sweat as a filmmaker, would they deem me cool enough to give me another shot?
Now that the film has been released, I feel comfortable sharing all of the nitty gritty, afraid-to-ask, and afraid-to-answer details. Here goes...
What was the budget?
$100,000. Kickstarter, as you know, yielded $50k minus their commission (4.5%). Then there was another $50k from a private investor, and then some extra personal funds to see us through post-production. Over the two years since principle photography, odds and ends expenses have probably added up, but I never felt the sting enough to add those costs to the official budget. The key here was that Kickstarter allowed us to begin shooting. The investment money only came through after the first week of production. The idea was that for a $50k investment, you'd get $100k worth of movie.
Did you guys submit to Sundance?
Of course! Though prematurely. With an extension granted to us, we submitted an extremely rough cut of Blumenthal that was nowhere near ready. Would waiting a year have made a difference? Probably not, but who cares. There is Sundance and there is everyone else. When you see a film premiere at any other festival besides Sundance, that usually means they were rejected by Sundance. That doesn't mean they are any better or worse, it just means that Sundance is the party to which everyone wants to be invited. Did Santa Barbara see us as a consolation prize? Hell no! They got a killer world premiere that garnered awesome press.
How did you land distribution?
GoDigital didn't see the film at Santa Barbara. That fest is not really a marketplace per se, just press friendly. The film was sent to GoDigital by three different people, all unbeknownst to me. That confluence of recommendations turned them on to the film and ultimately got us connected. It took almost six months after our World Premiere to get things going distribution-wise. The actual release was over a year after Santa Barbara.
How much did they buy the film for?
They didn't buy the film. They acquired the rights to distribute it domestically in return for a percentage of gross receipts. There was no major advance or anything exciting, just a committed team of people working together with a common goal. If viewers buy the film, everyone makes money. On the theatrical front, GoDigital fronted the money to four-wall the film in NYC (put it into the theatre) while we matched that expense on PR.
Has this movie done anything for your career?
When you dream of your first movie launching your career, you think of crazy stories like El Mariachi, Goodwill Hunting, and even Beasts of the Southern Wild (written by the awesome Lucy Alibar). That didn't happen for me. I finished shooting Blumenthal, moved to Los Angeles, and nothing happened. Festivals rejected early cuts of the film. I started writing other scripts of my own in the meantime. Finally, we got into the first festival to which we sent the final cut.
Blumenthal has done everything for my career. First, it has made me a better filmmaker, writer, actor, producer, etc. But in terms of career, everything I ever do from this point forward will have a direct line to Blumenthal. This movie led to my first industry collaborations, my first literary manager, my first literary agents, my second literary agents, my first paid writing work, my first major studio pitches, international festival contacts, and (most importantly) proof that when I say I'm going to do something, I will do it.
That last part is paramount. It's not just about convincing other people that you mean business, but about convincing yourself. In a line of work that is rife with self-doubt, being resolute is critical.
Have I left anything out?