On the low end, you might want to consider making your film, non-union in a tax incentive state for under $2 million. You use gifted amateurs, non-SAG actors and one veteran television star (who is just happy to be working). Then, if it is actually a good film, you can sell your movie to foreign distributors for $500,000, Netflix for $200,000, Video On Demand for $300,000, Redbox for $200,000, Pay Cable (HBO/Cinemax/Starz) for $50,000, and then free television for another $50,000. If you can get a 25% tax credit from an incentive friendly state, then you are in the black. No theatrical release, very little P&A spend and no shelping around from film festival to film festival praying that someone buys your movie.
Scenario two, you raise $10 to $20 million and make a really, really great film, with an original concept, a couple of big name movie stars, special effects, an award winning director and all SAG, DGA, WGA, IA trappings. You will then of course need either a major studio to buy (or distribute) your film – or $25 million in P&A to self distribute. This path takes a lot of cash, whether it comes from you, investors or loans to pull off. It is high risk but the rewards are big if you succeed. Think of it as swinging for the fences.
What is not working very well right now is the $3 million to $8 million budgeted films that have no major stars, no distribution or P&A money. You can’t make enough in foreign pre-sales to offset the cost of the film and unless you have a big name star in your pocket (think Matthew McConneghey, Brad Pitt, or Charliez Theorn) you won’t see big MG’s. The domestic and foreign distributors only care about who’s in your movie. They don’t care that you have a brilliant script, they don’t care that you have a great director, they don’t care that you have a killer marketing plan… they buy 90% based on cast. And a little on the concept. You could put big name actors in a dreary urban drama and they would still pass.
So, don’t get caught in the middle with a film that doesn’t have the horses to win the box office race. Consider the fast, inexpensive film… or go for it all.