get into Sundance. I decided to scan the letter and post it
here. Feel free to insert your name and print out a copy for
yourself. (You'd have saved the $45) I figure if I collect enough
of these things, I can make the ultimate screen saver and desktop
wallpaper for indie filmmakers.
Also got shut out
at the 'talent' agencies, and also tried a couple of entertainment
lawyers. We got tapes and fishnet
packaging out to all of these, here's how they stood:
Creative Management (ICM) - At least these guys didn't
slam the door on our asses as we left. They told us they "were
split" (on liking the film) and that IF we got into something
like Sundance, they would consider going with us. I asked them
what they didn't like about it. They thought it was sorta low
budget looking. I told them that is WAS low budget, to the tune
of 30 grand for an entire FILM. That seemed to shut him up for
Artists Agency - We bullshit our way into these guys.
We made two psuedo 'contacts' within the company. (More on that
later.) No other information other than 'they passed'.
Morris Agency - The initial contacts (youngish interns?)
who got the film seemed very enthusiastic about the movie and
especially my goofy packaging. The guy who DID see the film
like it, found it "really smart" and felt confident that we
would find a distributor, but they were overloaded with films
for Sundance at this time.
Talent Agency - This was the agency who I had made
a contact through my karate school. A woman who goes there had
a son who moved out to L.A. and was working for this agency.
She had put me in contact with her son and I had spoken to him
and he personally requested a tape. He was a literary agent,
not some one who worked in the film department. He liked the
film. He tried to get the film in the hands of big mucky-mucks
at this agency. They wouldn't even look at it. They told him
they were too busy, no 'funds' available.
Talent Agency - These are the guys who were the agents
for The Blair Witch Project. I was hoping we had a better shot
with these guys, since they were smaller than the others. We
were told "they are a small unit who needs to be extremely selective
and they want bigger movies." Go figure. :-P
TO BULLSHIT YOUR WAY INTO A 'TALENT' AGENCY:
agencies claim that they don't look at unsolicited people/material
and you need a referral by someone in the industry. I think
Dan heard this from all the secretaries who man the phones at
their main numbers. (To find all the phone numbers to ANY agency,
get the Hollywood Creative
If you attempt to ask the secretary (at the main number) to
put you through to the person in charge of acquisitions of indie
films, she just goes "WHO do you want?" This is usually followed
by the standard disclaimer of not taking unsolicited stuff.
Here's what you do:
Pick a random name and number of someone who works at said 'talent'
agency out of the HCD directory. Phone the main number (you'll
be speaking to the same secretary who told you to fuck off just
a few minutes before.) Tell her you would like to have so and
so's extension. (As if you've known the person for years.) Bang.
Transferred right away, no questions asked. So and so gets on
You go, "Oh hi! Is
this So and so? I'm not sure if I have this right, I was told
that you were the agent who deals with indie film acquisitions?
(Or what ever section of the company you are interested in infiltrating.)
This person is usually busy, it's not their job to ask questions,
they almost always know WHO in their company does what, they
tell you right away. (And maybe even transfer you directly,
just to get rid of you.)
You are now transferred
to the CORRECT person. They answer. You go, "Hi! So and so (your
random contact) said I should contact you! I've got an indie
film that I produced..yada yada yada. The implication is that
you were suggested to them by an industry insider. (An agent!
One of THEIR agents no less!) Once you get this person on the
phone, you've got to move the conversation along to your wonderful
doo-hickey that you've just created. Since so many people work
at these agencies, it's not likely that everyone is on intimate
speaking terms with everyone else, and it doesn't seem likely
that your (new) agent is going to interrogate so and so (the
random contact) about you.
New Horizons - This is Roger Cormans office/distributor.
Dan wanted to fire a tape off to these guys because of Roger
Cormans past experience with being independent. They thought
the film had a "genre problem", it didn't fit into the typical
categories that they deal with. (Note: Bob Hawk thought it WAS
part of a genre, a movie that features computers. Brother.)
Pierson - (Famous producers rep) John saw the film
and apparently liked it. He said it was "fitfully funny and
a clear indication of my talent as a filmmaker." Cool. Dan chatted
with him for a while about the whole indie filmmaking process.
The bad news: John is moving to an island in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean and plans to write a book about his journey. He
will have nothing to do with independent filmmaking FOR A VERY
LONG TIME. Oh well.
Media/John Sloss - (Producers rep/lawyer.) Someone
in the office liked it, found it "quirky" (uh-oh). They stated
that Sundance/Slamdance acquisitions (buyers/distributors) are
not confident in buying. They said we need critical support,
acquire press, get good reviews. This was vital because we have
no stars. It was left as that.
Dowd - (famous producers rep) Never got through to
him. I have 11 documented phone calls to his office over the
course of two months. I DID start up a nice relationship with
his assistant Melissa. (By the 11th call, she knew my voice
and remarked that she enjoyed speaking with me.) I sent a FAX,
Melissa did give it to him. Nada. I think I get the hint.
Wave Films - Passed. No funding available, no other
Litwak & Associates - (Producers rep/Lawyer)
They have a pretty descent webapge with all sorts of info on
legal issues with filmmaking. When we got through to their office,
the first thing Marked asked was, "Who's in it, and what's it
shot on?" We sent the tape and packing off with big hopes.
A week later we
got a letter back stating: "Thank you for the opportunity
to view your film, "alt.sex." I enjoyed it, it's original, and
I think it shows a great deal of promise. Unfortunately, many
low-budget innovative films that dare to challenge conventional
story formulas, like yours, are passed by."
first I thought, "Oh..cool. He enjoyed it, thought is was original,
innovative and challenging!" (Woo hoo!) Then I noticed this
printed on the bottom left hand side of the page: E\wpdocs\LEGAL\CORR\filmpass\frothingham.wpd.
The directory on his hard drive where he keeps his rejection
letters! Great. At least I didn't get the form letter that read,
"I DIDN'T enjoy it, found it un-original, repetitious and dull."
Mark's form letter
was revealing. It said: "I think this film will be difficult
to sell, however, because of the lack of name actors. As you
may know, there has been a tremendous increase in independent
production. Ten years ago, 50 independent films a year were
produced; today, that number has swelled to 800. With the market
flooded with product, distributors have become very selective.
In the eyes of many distributors, unless a film has one or more
name actors, or has garnered great critical reviews by major
publications or has won a top film festival, they simply don't
know how to market it, and they often don't have the courage
to try a novel approach."
Dan and I had also
tried contacting some distribution companies for the hell of
it. They basically asked us straight out, "How can we SELL this
film of yours? Do you have stars? (no) Big budget? (no) Awards?
(not yet anyways)" At no point did they ask "Is the film any
GOOD?" or even "Is it FUNNY?"
I think I'm finally
getting it. They're not 'talent' agencies...they're MARKETING
agencies. Do you have something to offer us which we can (easily)
SELL? Who cares if you have potential in the long run, HOW can
we make money off you or your film? If not, why should we even
bother? From a business stand point this makes sense. I'm not
knocking any of these companies on what they do or how they
do it. If you're big enough to pick and choose through everyone
on the planet, you just have to wait until someone starts to
become successful, THEN you can start kissing their ass. (Obviously
these people are very selective on the asses they kiss.)
Litwak had some good points too. The distributors are the same
way. Why should they make an effort to sell something that's
unknown (even if it IS good or original), verses something that's
already starting to leap off the shelves. Now I know why people
like Pauly Shore, Carrot Top and Yahoo Serious are actually
packaged and put on a shelf. I'm sure the distributors don't
think they're funny, but if they're known and some nitwit buys
them, they don't care...there's money to be made! Got it. (I
now put distributors a small step above pornographers.)
I've got a crazy
plan for my own marketing that I may put into effect very soon.
I'll keep you posted.
waiting to hear from Slamdance.
I recently learned that the question on their application; "What
is your shoe size?" is NOT a dumb joke. (I had put "see dick
size.") I guess they have a sponsor that gives a pair of athletic
shoes to everyone who gets in. Gees, if I DO get into Slamdance,
I hope they request my correct measurement, or else I'll be
walking around with clowns feet. (HARDY HAR HAR!)
A bunch of tapes
have gone off to: HBO
Comedy Festival, South By
Southwest Film Festival, New York
Underground Film Festival and the Boston
Underground Film Festival. We'll see what happens with these
guys sometime in January/February.