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.
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.
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.