November 19, 2013

'Hills Green' Filmmakers Discuss Their Realistic Path to Distribution

Hills Green

Canadian filmmakers Ryan Glover and Krista Dzialoszynski talked to No Film School earlier this year about making their micro-budget feature film Hills Green. With the film's release on iTunes today, I decided to bring them back to briefly talk about their festival expectations, distribution strategies and their long road to releasing on iTunes.

NFS: You premiered at one festival in Toronto, the ReelheART International Film Festival. Were you disappointed by your festival experience?

Krista: We probably submitted to over 30 festivals and that ended up being the one. We were a little disappointed that nobody else seemed to pick up on it. We thought maybe the length would be a factor since it's only 70 minutes. But the film was really well received at the [ReelHeART] festival and we had a great turnout.

Ryan: Festivals are expensive. It's a small film with only two characters, so we know it has a limited appeal. If we were to make such a small film in the future, I don't think we would do it this way again. We wouldn't spend almost as much as our production budget just on festival fees. For those first tier film festivals, with the cost of filmmaking at an all-time low, it's just so competitive out there.

NFS: How did you choose iTunes?

Ryan: We thought the best we could expect is a nice launch on iTunes. For a while we thought it would be just a Vimeo on Demand thing, or do it ourselves. There was a small distributor who had seen the film at the ReelheART International Film Festival and was interested in doing a small theatrical run or a TV thing. After that we talked to other filmmakers who had signed more traditional distribution deals and weighed the pros and cons.

From there we were given the advice to see what other kind of companies in Canada would be interested in doing something with the film. So we had a response and an intermediate company in Toronto called Juice who guided us through the process of getting it on iTunes, getting closed captioning and all that.

Krista: I think we're just thinking really realistically about what the film is and who is appeals to and get it to the most people possible who would want to watch it. A major point of contention [with the traditional distributor] was the possibility of adding runtime to the film. Our film is 70 minutes but a 75-minute runtime is more appealing to some of the VOD channels. We knew the footage we shot and what it took to get it to 70 minutes, so that was a big deciding factor. Plus, we were pretty happy with our trailer and existing marketing materials online and that was able to translate over to iTunes pretty nicely.

NFS: Was that process expensive?

Krista: It cost us something, but it was significantly less than if we tried to package the film for a larger distribution deal for television VOD or on an airplane somewhere.

Ryan: It seemed like the best option for us was to spend a little money and have it end up on iTunes along with the credibility of it being there and the reach it has. The nice thing is you don't need Errors & Omissions to be on iTunes, whereas for other traditional distribution that would be a major hurdle for us.

Krista: And legal fees to negotiate a contract and all this other stuff -- stuff that was new to us and seemed risky if your film didn't get picked up by a channel or something.

Krista Filming Campsite Hills Green

Behind the scenes from Hills Green

NFS: What is your goal for this release?

Ryan: Phase 1 was getting it on iTunes for all English countries with subtitles. Get it out there and see what happens, and then we'll discuss more VOD options, more subtitling, etc. I've heard you can easily double your money by adding subtitles for other regions.

NFS: So you're not avidly pushing to make profit with the film? You're ready to move on to the next project?

Ryan: The statistic on feature filmmakers making their second film is pretty dire from what I understand, so yeah our next feature is hopefully this summer.

Krista: It's more gratifying to let it go and let it exist online. The festival was a nice gratifying "we did it!" but this is more about us feeling good that it's accessible and people can easily watch it. And for our next projects we want people to be able to see something that we've done in the past for a really low-budget.

Ryan: I think it's true about most people's first films, it just needs to exist and stand on its own and people need to be able to watch it and see it as our first film. It's just about getting it out there, at long last. But yeah, we're posting about it in filmmaking and technical message boards which is where most people first found the project in the first place.

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Look for Hills Green on iTunes starting today, November 19th. With all the hubbub about digital distribution these days, it's important to remember to keep it simple and tailored to your (realistic) needs.

As always, join the discussion in the comments below.

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27 Comments

To place your "the best movie" on iTunes not big deal... The biggest deal say 'Hi" to everyone.. Because nobody know about you and about your film... You can make only one sales per year :-)

November 19, 2013 at 9:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Curious about what camera was used for filming? (and good luck with the distribution!)

November 19, 2013 at 10:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dustin

I bet it is a GH1 in the picture "Behind the scenes".

November 19, 2013 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rodrigo Molinsky

From the previous post:

It was a GH1 with one of the earlier hacks, we were shooting at just around 40Mbit/s with a Hotrod PL with 70′s era Anamorphic lenses, and that was pretty much it for the camera package. That camera didn’t do HMDI out so the whole thing was shot looking at the distorted image on the 3 inch screen, but I think the images held up.

November 19, 2013 at 11:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

I didn't read the previous post. Amazing. I should've bet.

November 19, 2013 at 11:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rodrigo Molinsky

I'd be interested in hearing from the cinematographer, the trailer looks great

November 19, 2013 at 11:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Brown

I believe one of the directors' is the dp.

November 19, 2013 at 1:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Grant

Hey Anthony. We shot the film ourselves. You can read a little about that in our previous interview on the site: http://nofilmschool.com/2013/04/hills-green-feature-film/

November 19, 2013 at 2:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Looks interesting. The story behind how it was made is inspiring for other micro-budget filmmakers too.

On an another note, I have never watched a movie on iTunes. I followed the link above and was a bit surprised to see the price, which is close to the cost of a cinema ticket. I expected something equivalent to a dvd rental.

November 19, 2013 at 12:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tom

I too was Surprised By The Price. I think a rental option for $3-4 would be great. But as is, I might wait until it's up on vimeo

November 19, 2013 at 6:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Michael Hawk

Hey Michael. Thanks for reading the article. The rental price is always the same for all new releases on iTunes. But the price will drop a bit in time.

November 19, 2013 at 6:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I know people are under contract in some cases, but it would nice if people gave us ballpark figures about the costs involved. Digital distribution seems to be the last option for many who can't find traditional distribution deals, but I don't see a lot of people recouping.

November 19, 2013 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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moebius22

Hey moebius22, if you click on the link to the Juice website, they have lots of information and some price there.

November 19, 2013 at 2:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Interesting interview. Wondering if they had any problems with distribution/festivals because of the extreme aspect ratio?

November 19, 2013 at 3:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I'm curious about that too...

(btw, I'm another GH1 user! A fantastic camera :-D I might well one day soon shoot a feature with it myself)

November 20, 2013 at 5:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I showed an anamorphic video with 3.55:1 aspect ratio to an independent cinema owner and he said 'how wide is that??! We wouldn't be able to screen it'.

Hence why I asked if Ryan et al had any of the same problems. I like the format/ratio and we have quite a few 2X anamorphic lenses but I'm concerned if we shot something for the cinema or festival release it would be an issue.

November 20, 2013 at 12:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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We never heard any complaints about our 2.67:1 aspect ratio. All files and projection copies were always letterboxed within a 16x9 frame.

November 20, 2013 at 2:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thanks for the info Ryan. When it was projected was the letterbox visable on screen?

November 20, 2013 at 3:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The film was screened as part of a program where it was preceded by a couple shorts so the whole program had to be 16x9 and each film was then letterboxed to its own aspect ratio.

November 21, 2013 at 9:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Awesome, can't wait to see it! Any chance it might end up on Netflix? I don't usually download movies from itunes / or buy physical media. It would be pretty neat to see it on a traditional VOD service some day. The film does look fantastic though!

November 19, 2013 at 7:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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James

Hey James. iTunes is phase one, down the line we're hoping to expand to platforms like Netflix, Google, Vimeo, Amazon, etc.

November 20, 2013 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Congrats team, "Hills Green!"

Takes a ton of heart, luck and talent to make it as far as you did on your first feature. I'll be tuning into this one, so a little ka-ching your way for your efforts! ;)

I'll be interested to see how your iTunes experience goes as I was approached by the people at Juice myself. Ultimately we went another direction but in our second window we finally went wide (iTunes included). I wouldn't be surprised if you see a healthier profit with less middle men. Keep us posted!

November 20, 2013 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brock

Thanks Brock!

November 21, 2013 at 9:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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The trailer looks great! But I just don't get why apple keeps on blocking users outside from the us. I would love to buy/rent the flick but I'm just getting an error message telling me as a german user I'm not allowed to purchase the film. Do you guys know if the film will be available worldwide soon?

November 21, 2013 at 10:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Lukas

Thanks Lukas. The film is only available to English speaking markets right now. Hopefully we'll get various subtitles done in the future so we can expand the release. Like us on facebook to keep up with the latest on the film: https://www.facebook.com/hillsgreen

November 21, 2013 at 9:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Been following this for years on DVXUser, so really glad it has finally made it. Well done Ryan.
Will certainly show my support by renting this next week when I have time to sit down and absorb it.

As a former GH2 user (which is very similar to the GH1), I can't wait to see the whole thing.

November 21, 2013 at 4:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Fresno Bob

Thanks Fresno Bob. Support from people like you has been instrumental as we were finishing up the film. Hopefully the film somewhat lives up to the wait!

November 21, 2013 at 9:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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