Dear Investors and Followers —
I hope you are well as you push through the various trials and tribulations the planet is currently going through right now. I’m not sure if we could have landed in a more challenging time to finish a movie, but we’re pushing through all the same. Slowly but surely, Astrid is finding her way… and just think of all the stories we’ll have to look back on : )
If you’re not already familiar with it, today I wanted to introduce you to a concept in filmmaking called ‘The 50/50’ rule that for most films I’m a big believer in -- and don’t just take my word for it, you can look to the major studios and how they do business, and you’ll know where I got it from.
The general idea of the 50 / 50 rule is that whatever budget you spend to make the movie, you need to match that budget to market and promote the film. For example, if you spend $100K to make a film, that film should command an additional $100K to market and promote it, for a total budget of $200K. If you spend $5M to make a film, an additional $5M should be put into marketing and promotion, for a total package budget of $10M, and so on and so forth.
The studios do this all the time. If they spend $200M on a film, they will typically and often spend $200M+ worldwide to market it, promote it, and make sure everyone in the world knows they need to go and see it. Even if you’re not interested in seeing the majority of these mega movies — you still know about it — and there in lies the trick to marketing… you can’t go out and see what you don’t know about. This is where most independent films fail.
The entertainment industry is basically just a competition — a competition for eyeballs — in which the major studios, directors, and stars are winning the game. The reason many independent films fail to get seen or turn a profit is not because they aren’t good — although, this sometimes is the case — it’s because they don’t have the infrastructure, and / or, they don’t know how to get the film seen. More often then not, improper budgeting, and a failure to get the financing they need to properly push the film is the reason for this. Studios don't have a cash flow problem, that's why marketing and promotion is rarely if ever the reason a studio film doesn't perform.
The reason you, me, and everyone we know is aware of every Marvel movie that comes out is because they pay for you to know about it — let me say that again — the studios pay for you to know about it. Why? Because the studios know that movies that are out of sight, are out of mind. Whether you want to see Avengers 12 or not, you’re going to know about it, and therefore, there is a possibility that you will go and see it anyway. If you don’t know about it, there’s a 0% chance that you’ll ever see it — it’s that simple.
Now, let’s bring this back to The Astrid Experience…
I’ve told everyone I can finish the film professionally (cut, color, soundmix, etc.) for an additional $50K to our already $30K spent to shoot it. This will take the total production budget to actually make the film to actual $80K. $50K is about what we currently have raised, so at least we can finish the movie and get it done with what we have now. I am grateful for this, and the quality and production value levels we’ve been able to hit at this price point is miraculous.
So if it’s only going to take $80K to actually make the movie, what’s the additional $50K for that brings your budget to $130K? This is the same question we’ve been asked since the beginning, and I always take it back to the same thing —
Our goal is to make everyone money.
Aside from our first job, which is delivering a top notch picture, our secondary goal is to make the film as profitable as possible for our investors and shareholders. In order to do this, we need to be able to properly market and distribute the movie, and it’s going to be difficult to do this if we are underfunded, plain and simple.
For Jim Cummings Sundance Award Winning Film, Thunder Road, he and his team realized that if they signed with a top distributor on even some of their best offers, they would have not broken even on a low budget movie (*public knowledge*). Let me rephrase — for being one of the best independent films in the world created that year, they would have not broken even on their low budget film if they singed with one of the best independent film distributors in the world — this is a major, major problem, and they saw it as just that.
What did they do? They decided to self-distribute and market and promote the film on their own, in which they basically doubled their production budget in the France territory alone, and they had a small marketing and distribution budget to make this happen (*public knowledge*) — now that’s good filmmaking, and smart business — Jim’s case study should be the new standard — not the exception — to all filmmakers and investors looking to work in the independent space today.
As a filmmaker, actor, artist, and business man, I’m always learning, and the student in me is always studying the market, collecting data, and doing my best to churn that knowledge into profit by making the best choices for my film, team, and investors. I read Jim’s story, and I say to myself “If one of the best in our business found a new model that works, who am I to disregard it? If the 2018 Sundance winner proved that the current distribution model is broken, and found a solution, it be irresponsible to not consider and ideally implement it. After all, my career is on the line here, and I need to make profitable movies if I am to be able to do it again. The stakes for me personally could not be more high."
Yes, we are asking for an additional $50K to market and promote The Astrid Experience. If we were truly honoring the 50 / 50 rule, we’d be asking for an additional $80K for marketing and promotion, and although I believe we are worthy of that, I feel that $50K will give our film the infrastructure it needs to make sure that it reaches our audience. We’ve been transparent with our budget and where the money would be going since the beginning, in which you can see it laid out on our line-item budget on our Wefunder profile.
All of this said, it comes down to this —
The Astrid Experience funding is drawing to a close here soon, and we currently have just enough to finish the movie, and nothing more. All I’ve done is study filmmaking and the market obsessively as I make this film 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the last 3 years and beyond. When I say we require an additional $50K marketing budget to maximize this investment and deliver this product to the best of my ability, I truly mean it.
The solution is no longer just finishing the movie and selling it to a distributor like it was in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Those days are long gone. That no longer works and it doesn’t make money. Period. If Jim’s story isn’t enough to sway you — just contact the thousands of filmmakers out there who are with a decent distributor that haven’t seen a dime for their low budget movies — there are many. It doesn't need to be this way.
We must live in the solution, not the problem.
Since films can now be made cheaper — The Astrid Experience would have cost at least $500K to make in the 2000s’ — the new model is to take the money saved during production, and market and distribute it yourself by licensing the film world-wide, territory by territory, using the internet and new technologies. Basically, small production companies are now their own mini-studios when they both produce and market and distribute their own movies themselves. Now that they are mini-studios, they must run their businesses like a studio. If major studios know of the power of the 50 / 50 rule, who are independent studios like us to disregard it? How can we compete with the majors if we don’t have a budget to make sure our audience knows about our film?
I’ll end with this —
If we close with $52K, we’ll successfully have 1/2 of what we need to successfully produce this picture, as producing is no longer just finishing the movie. The second — and I’m sure major studios would argue, more important half — of producing is marketing and promoting the film. If we do not get the budget that we’re asking for, we simply will not have the budget to do this and maximize the product. If we're this under-funded, our hands will be brutally tied when it comes to selling our product.
Either way, we’re going to finish the movie. It just comes down to everyone’s return. If we just raise enough to finish the movie, and have to go with a distributor because we don’t have any money to market and promote the film ourselves, and have to give them 30%+ of the profits, and control of the financial books (which they are notorious for cooking), the chance of seeing any kind of return is unlikely or negligible for everyone. Like it or not, this is just the reality of the old model — as Jim and his team so kindly made clear.
If we get the budget we’re asking for, and can market, distribute, and promote the film ourselves, and we have the financing to do our own PR to make sure people see the film and take the film territory to territory, the chance to see solid profits for a film at our budget level is extremely high.
At this point, John, myself, and the rest of the team have done all we can. I’m not going to keep pounding a wall. If this is what the universe is going to give us to finish the film, then we’ll make due with it. I just personally don’t see any reason to settle, when I know and have proof of a better and more profitable way. There’s a whole world market out there, we’re asking for the support to take The Astrid Experience to them…
I’m not giving up — the world may be in ashes — but I don’t see in that one single excuse to undercut the value of our film or give up on my vision, goals, investors, or team.
I say to you now, “Ride out with me… let’s finish what we set out to do... let's be the light of success in a world that's failing.”
To our EP's and other investors, thank you. After this year is over and the smoke is cleared, we'll be standing at the top. Now who else is gonna come with us?
-Cal R. Barnes
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