Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #711: Open Road Gets The Ball Rolling

Open Road, the distributor started by theater chains AMC & Regal, is now filling their executive suites in preparation for their grand opening.

I wish them luck, they're going to need it. Film distribution is a tough business, and the studios and their conglomerated parents aren't going to be lending any helping hands. In fact, they will probably do whatever they can to hinder this project, because they don't take well to any competition.

Now I've offered advice to independent film companies, and potential distributors before. (Feel free to search through the archives for them.) But if there's one thing I love, it's flogging a dead horse, so here's some more advice.

1. READ THE SCRIPTS. I honestly didn't think this would be necessary, but apparently, a lot of people just don't read the damn scripts anymore. Now I know a lot of deals would be with people with films already in the can, but it's inevitable that you will eventually get involved in films before they're made, it's the nature of the beast. Please read what you're getting into before you jump in head first.

2. THE K.I.S.S. PRINCIPLE. That means that you must KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID! The fashionable strategy when setting up a film company is to make things as complicated and convoluted as possible. That might be fine and dandy like sour candy when you're already a massive multimedia, multi-variant, multifarious, mega-conglomerate with more divisions than Zhukov, but when you're an independent distributor, it's more harm than good.

Remember the troubles of David Bergstein and his ThinkFilm debacle. The last thing you want are news media reports like this one about courts having business documents unsealed, then resealed, sparking all sorts of unpleasant talk that can only serve to make you look bad, whether you deserve it or not.

Such things always spring from unnecessary business complications whether you are actually guilty of doing anything wrong or not. If things are kept simple, then there are fewer things to screw everything up, and a lot fewer things you can get blamed for.

3. MAKE FRIENDS. I know I say this all the time, but bear with me. Theatrical releases are all well and good, but there are other markets. Chief among them are the forms of home video and television that have the same need for better product, in both quantity and quality, as the theater chains that are forced to become distributors. To crack that market you need friends. I'm talking NetFlix and independent cable channels and local broadcast stations. They're getting jerked around by the big studios too, both in terms of money, product, and these silly games with release windows. Develop partnerships, based on mutual enrichment over one-sided exploitation. Then you can create a new business model that can outperform the clanking wasteful, behemoth otherwise known as the major studios.

I hope someone finds this helpful.

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