Festival Winner THE NEW YEAR on iTunes with help of TubeFilter and GoDigital

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about digital distribution lately and one thing is clear – it’s tough out there for filmmakers, folks. I’m not convinced there’s an approach that works in general for all films, and getting your film on iTunes, Amazon VOD, etc. doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make a profit (or that people will watch it), but we can all learn something from those who have gone before us in this brave new digital world.

According to this article on TubeFilter, indie film THE NEW YEAR (director Brett Haley’s feature debut) was released on iTunes on May 22nd. At the end of the article, the fine print states that the film is being distributed through the TubeFilter Indie Film Network, a partnership with GoDigital Media Group that “aims to give independent content creators – and their works – greater exposure” (GoDigital Media Group’s press release about THE NEW YEAR was posted on May 24th and can be found here). GoDigital is a full service Digital and Video on Demand (VOD) distribution company. They have an arsenal of over 1,000 films including the Swedish versions of Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium Series” (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, etc.). It turns out that it’s pretty difficult to get a feature film distributed through iTunes, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon VOD, etc., and companies like GoDigital exist to make it easier.

Having followed TubeFilter for a while, this is the first I’ve heard of their indie film network, and a Google search for “TubeFilter Indie Film Network” only turns up a couple of related articles, but for those interested in learning more, TubeFilter says to contact them. It you have a feature film under your belt with some bragging rights, who knows, maybe they could help.

THE NEW YEAR (which I have not seen yet) was reportedly made for $8,000 (some sources say $5,000) in 12 days. It was an official selection of the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival, won the Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature at the 2010 Sarasota Film Festival, and received some good reviews from the New York Times, IFC, and others. It just so happened that Allison Loring, an employee of GoDigital, saw the film at LAFF 2010 and wrote this glowing review for Gordon and the Whale. I’m not sure how her love of the film played into the distribution agreement between GoDigital and THE NEW YEAR, but it’s an interesting note.

I’m glad to see no-budget indie films get digital distribution. I wish the the team the best of luck as they try to get THE NEW YEAR in front as many people as possible. Getting the film online is just the start. Now comes the work of directing people to it and getting them to watch it. Here’s a link to the film on iTunes. The film currently has 4 out of 5 stars from 9 ratings on iTunes, and 100% on the tomatometer from Rotten Tomatoes. I’m think I’m gonna go watch it.

Have you seen THE NEW YEAR? What did you think? Can you offer any digital distribution woes or praises?

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Thoughts on the Long Work Hours of Film Production

So I got an email from one of my friends yesterday. He had to cancel an evening meeting with me because he was working on a music video. They had already been shooting for 12 hours. He half-jokingly said they’d be there until sunrise. It was 8pm. Do the math. That’s a 22-hour day.

While this is rare, the average production day for a film/television crew is 13 hours+. On student/indie sets, it can be really bad. I’ve heard of students pulling three 18-hour days back to back.

In 2006, Academy Award-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler made a documentary called “Who Needs Sleep” that shows how sleep deprivation and long work hours in Hollywood are a lethal combination. Wexler recently wrote this article for the Huffington Post that talks about the health and safety dangers of “Sleepless Hollywood”. The article marks the 15th anniversary of the tragic event that led Wexler to make the documentary – after working a 19-hour day on “Pleasantville”, assistant cameraman Brent Hershman fell asleep at the wheel and crashed his car. He was killed.

On the short films that I’ve directed, I’ve tried to keep the days as short as possible (12 hours maximum), and give the cast and crew at least 12 hours of rest.  These decisions were partly driven by budget (the SAG contracts I used required overtime pay for work in excess of 10 hours in any day excluding time spent for meals, and rest period charges if performer is not given at least 12 hours of rest), but mostly driven with the well being of the cast and crew in mind. I, like Wexler, am an advocate of the 12 On 12 Off campaign. The campaign has “three basic rules of humane and responsible filmmaking”: 1) No more the 12 hours of work; 2) No less than 12 hours of turnaround; and 3) No more then 6 hours between meals. (Perhaps an exception would be shooting French hours on an 8 to 10 hour day.)

Not everyone in film and television has long hour production days inflicted on them. According to this article, Clint Eastwood is known for working 9-hour days. On top of that, Eastwood has a history of finishing a product early and under budget, and, in my opinion, his films are stellar. Talk about efficiency and excellence.

Thankfully, my friend mentioned above only had to work a 14 hour day. As filmmakers we are a committed bunch and we love what we do. We’ll work as hard and as long as it takes to get the job done. But to what end? Time with family, mental and physical health, and public safety are all sacrificed. Hopefully, it won’t take another tragedy or broken family to wake us up.

To close, here’s a comment from Sidney Lumet on long hour days in Hollywood – “Now I know that great movies have been done that way, and I know great performances have been achieved that way, but in my view they have been great movies or performances despite the hours, not because of them.” (From “Directors Speak Out” clip by Haskell Wexler, 12 On 12 Off Blog, posted January 29, 2010.)

Do you have any stories about working long hours (or short hours) on set?

Out with the Theater, in with the Remote Control?

Image by Jeremy Toeman @ Flickr.

I just read a great piece in the New York Times about the future of indie film as seen by Ed Burns. Burns, the director behind “The Brothers McMullen” sees indie films playing and making money, not in theaters across the country, but rather on your TV screen through cable and satellite on-demand programming. Maybe it’s nostalgia or a too-clear dream in my mind, but the thought of not seeing independent films in the theater makes me sad. But if the big screen won’t take us, maybe we just shack up with the small screen and call it a day. Burns seems to think that’s the way to go. What do you think?