Saturday, April 03, 2010

Some More Real Numbers

We got our producer's report for the movie Millennium Crisis -- for our North American deal. Unfortunately, our distributor kinda took a bath on the picture. We feel bad for them.

This report is for July through December of 2009. The movie originally came out in what? 2006? 2007? I don't remember.

Our gross sales were $80.31 in this recent period. But the returns and fees were $84.48.

Yikes! It was more expensive for the movie to be available than not. At least in this 6-month period. And although we wouldn't be expecting to be making any money, we weren't expecting to continue to "lose" money (at least on paper -- we don't actually owe any money, we just aren't going to be seeing any checks coming our way.)

And this is for a picture with a star -- the immortal Ted Raimi.

Of course, the movie came out a couple years ago and we've known that we've already seen all the money we'll see from it. Our company got $10K upfront (which is now a total win for an indy producer, but at the time was on the low side.) But we way overspent in time and money on the picture. I forget exactly how much we spent and since it's not in a spreadsheet right in front of me I won't conjecture. I think that with overseas sales we just about broke even cash-wise. I think in the US we only sold 500 units.

Which brings me to this New York Times article from last week. "Sweat Equity, the Movie." It's about an art-house movie which was made for $15,000, paid actors $100/day, did a bunch of film festivals, and got a $40,000 advance from IFC.

I don't believe a single number quoted in the article. Well, maybe one.

The SAG contract, back in the olden days, allowed $225 for three days. I don't think it does anymore. But it also used to insist on getting a theatrical showing before being bought by TV or home video (which was just absurd) -- glad to see SAG dropped that silliness. But remember you have to pay like regular ol' payroll (no 1099'ing) which means you should probably think more like $122/day in cost per performer when you include the employer's share of taxes and accounting fees/payroll service fees.

Oh and note that SAG doesn't enforce any kind of prevailing wage here -- they only insist that SAG actors on the picture be paid, not other actors. Back in the day when I actually thought it was a good idea to blow a few thousand dollars on paying actors rather than, say, actually making deliverables, I just gave everyone the same rate.*

Anyway --

Now, it's very very difficult to actually deliver a motion picture for distribution for $15,000. We can do it but that's because lucky for us I'm able to create DM&E mixes in my studio. I suspect the $15,000 number is a bit made-up and has to do with how much it cost to put the picture "in the can" as they say.

What $15,000 certainly doesn't cover is getting the picture to all those film festivals. Normally that's fairly prohibitive -- even for an art-house picture.

And if they had to create a film print, well that's going to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $30K to $50K.

But what I'm really interested in knowing the details about is this $40,000 "advance" the producers got from IFC. That sounds to me to be off by a factor of... what? 20? Since when is the IFC paying forty K on a picture it can pick up for a couple thousand? Something smells... fishy here.

Sure, it's a fluff article. There's no real due diligence involved. And hey, I'd love it if art-house pictures without names can get $40K upfront from distributors. Just not if they have to four-wall their own theatrical release with it (the article is very vague about the picture screening in theaters in LA and San Francisco -- is that in IFC theaters?). Perhaps the $40K is the marketing budget the IFC committed to. Who knows?

*We still give actors the same rate, which is nothing. Up-front at least. If we break $50K we'll start paying. We'll change this policy just as soon as we can break $50K in revenue to the producer a couple times in a row. At $100K we'll even be able to pay for locations. Somebody gimme a hundred thou for a movie.


Kangas said...

The last SAG sample contract they gave me(with the packet)--which was about 3 years ago--still had the theatrical release stipulation, but that just meant you had to show it 1 screen(so, as long as you premiered it at a cinema, you met the requirement).

What format do you deliver your flicks to the distributor on now?

Andrew Bellware said...

They must have just changed the theatrical requirement a year or so ago. They must have been wondering why the genre folks were refusing to sign SAG contracts even on $150K shows.

We typically deliver on HD with stereo English and stereo M&E. We beg and plead with our distributors to take a hard drive with a multichannel audio Quicktime movie. Sometimes, complaining all the way, they go for it.

Kangas said...

Ah. Just wondering. Last movie I delivered on Digibeta, which cost me some money since I don't own a deck.

I'm hoping I can just throw the movie on a portable hard drive and ship it this time around.

Andrew Bellware said...

The way it went on Clonehunter is that for overseas we could deliver on HD -- letterboxed. That was the first time we haven't had to deliver full 1.33:1 pan-and-scans. Whew, that was a relief.

For North America they want an HD master for the nine dollars and ninety-eight cents we might make for VOD. But I expect the actual DVD's will be made from the "hard drive master". We'll see.