Case Study on Self-Releasing 'Detropia': "Filmmakers need to be better businesspeople"

by Anne Thompson
October 6, 2012 7:51 PM
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"Detropia." Sundance

Did they know how much they needed? No. They guessed. "We were afraid to ask for more," admits Ewing. "We asked for $60,000 and needed $90,000. An angel came in with $20,000. You get what you ask for."

They commandeered six interns, who sent out a "Detropia" newsletter and email blast to the email lists they've been building ever since 2006's "Jesus Camp." "We kept track of every item of press," says Ewing. "You've got to be smart and organized or forget about it. We're trying new stuff. Even if Sony Pictures Classics was with us we'd be working our ass off. The nature of independent cinema is that distributors have limited budgets for P & A. It's hard to get butts in seats. There's a lot of stuff in the ether fighting for attention, people wanting to get home to watch 'True Blood.'"

With theater booker Michael Tuchman they rolled the movie (on DCPs, no prints) slowly to 35 cities--they landed an opening September 7 at New York's IFC Center, hometown Detroit premiere on September 14, Bay Area September 28, Los Angeles, October 5--some bookings were limited runs, some open, from two to five days. Boston's Coolidge booked the film for five days; The Goodrich Theater Chain took the films in little towns in the midwest, for one or two nights only with a Skype Q & A. "How great that people in little towns can see this," says Ewing.

This way the filmmakers own their own VOD and DVD rights. For the first time they collaborated on those releases (January 2013) with NuVideo through the Sundance Artists program.

Ewing still doesn't know if they did the right thing. "It was not about the money," she says. "We made an artistic movie close to my heart. We took more ownership. It continues to be creative. I'll never know if the others would have done better."

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  • tom bernard | October 10, 2012 4:06 AMReply

    since these ladies aren't making any money why do people keep backing them?

    they aint so hot.

    just able to borrow from friends.

  • Justin Murphy | October 6, 2012 10:54 PMReply

    I know exactly how that feels, I write, edit, and publish my own books on Amazon Kindle. While I can't relate to them on the financing end, I have to promote/market my own material as well. And it's a crapshoot, because in most cases you won't be getting a lot of readers. But the experience is still worthwhile.

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