I went to a film the other day in NYC that was released as close to the models of distributor-less films as I’ve seen. It’s exactly the kind of release that Ted Hope talks about on his TrulyFreeFilm blog. It was called I CAN SEE YOU. I’m not going to talk about the quality of the film, but it got a good review in the New York Times, which is how I first saw it. But it’s an art horror film and Fangoria mentioned it (and I think was involved in it somehow) and it was on a few blogs. I was looking for something different to see and this fit the bill.
Now, this kind of film has a built-in audience. There are horror fans everywhere who are craving something that is real horror. A horror connoisseur looks at Saw, or remade crap, and thinks the world is coming to an end. They long for the home-grown days of the 70’s where low-budgets ruled and the films weren’t just scary but they were good. This was the audience I expected, and I was not disappointed. They filled up the theater, although it was opening night and there was a lot of cast and crew.
So, I read about it in the Times. I bought my ticket online, which was done through some service that was professional enough. It was playing one show a night, for a week, at a bar that has a theater in the basement in the East Village. I’d say it seats about 100+ people. Ten bucks each, plus a fee for the tix service, which I think was a buck fifty. At the same time, they sold DVD’s of the film on their website – available the week after – for about 20 bucks.
I would guess that this film cost somewhere between 20,000 and 50,000 dollars, but it looked like it could have cost less. I don’t think anyone got paid. They probably bought food for everyone. There was a couple of special f/x, so the materials of that cost something even if no one got paid for making them. I didn’t see any costumes or make up. The art direction was next to zero. The cameras were hand-held, or occasionally on a tripod, but it was Video with a capital V – it looked like it was shot on a home video camera from 1988.
Now a film like this has a limited appeal, but as far as a release goes, these guys did everything right. I’m still puzzled as to how they got that review in the Times – and a good review at that. But I still don’t see how they’re going to make their money back.
There’s a crowd like that in every city in America and they could take that film on the road and sell out a couple shows just on that built-in audience, but how much are they going to get back on their expenses of doing that? And then, with the cost of the film? 100 seats X 10 dollars = a thousand dollars. They still have the expenses of publicizing and everything else, like the theater costs. If they can sell out 25 shows and sell 2500 DVD’s, I think, maybe, they would start to make their budget back, but honestly, I don’t see it happening. And even if it did, it’s a fuck of a lot of work to put into making hardly any money, even if your goal is just to make another movie. There’s a lot of people working for free here, all the way down the line.
So, is this the future of film? It’s definitely one future.