10:49 PM, Wednesday, February 21st, 2018:
I'm not sure how to do this as an unlocked entry. The past week has been insane. The story of that certainly makes one company look bad and the other good which is a story you don't want to tell in this town because we need all options open going forward...
...but I will try my best to explain this in a way that shows a bunch of angles. Because truthfully? I'm not even sure I'm right here. It's all going on gut.
So, I have the call with Gravitas on Friday. I hang up with an offer, but don't feel good about any of it. Not because of the specific numbers in the offer (though that's not great either), but something feels off. And I think it's a product of having been out here for so many years. Decades now. It goes a little somethin' like this:
I want barriers to entry. I think they're good. I think it pushes you to achieve higher goals. I think it determines value and the end result is better. It's why I hate online competitions where VOTES matter or shit like that. I want experts to look my shit and determine what is good and bad and either invest or not. Period. Showbiz is now so hyper-reactive that no one takes calculated risks. No one seems to know what works and in return they throw shit against a wall not based on merit, but based on quantity. Quantity of likes or views... things that are easily manipulated and often don't translate to success.
It was clear after my call with Gravitas that not only didn't they watch anything (which I actually understand - more on that later), this call was a form letter of sorts. It would've been given to ANYONE with ANY film at ANY time. The offer I was then emailed that evening was clearly one that is sent hundreds of times with almost the understanding that they may never hear from the the filmmaker again. In fact, it said at the bottom that we'd talk this week and it's now late night Wednesday and I've never been called or emailed to do that. I don't think I'll ever hear from them again. And it's not that I want to be treated differently or feel special... it's that if there is no barrier to entry for this distributor? There's not motivation on their end to do much for the film. So Friday night, something was just wrong. So I contacted Sadie Katz.
Sadie released a movie with Gravitas in December called "The Bill Murray Experience" about trying to meet Bill and have one of those legendary experiences with him that are now pop culture fables. I connected with her after interviewing Joel Murray for Hats & Minigolf in 2014 as she did the same thing for this documentary. If that seems like a long time ago, it is... and the fact that it took 3 more years for her movie to come out was strange to me and I needed to know what her experience with the company was like. Yes, I know of Jason's experience (Director of 'Back in Time') but that movie was on a trajectory of its own. Spielberg is in it for crying out loud. Fox, Lloyd, Zemeckis - the movie hardly even NEEDED a distributor - they could have sold 100,000 blu-rays out of a truck it had so much press/publicity leading into October 21st, 2015. My film is far more on par with Sadie's film: low budget with a catch: she has Bill Murray in the title and I have a Delorean on the cover. Attention getters no matter if the movie is good or not.
I will keep the details of our conversation on Saturday morning private, but suffice to say her film is pretty invisible right now. It's not even on the Gravitas Ventures Documentary page which is clearly not a select group of their docs, there's 126 titles on that page and a movie they released two months ago is nowhere to be found? A search of their site brings up nothing. A search of their 2017 releases... nada. And they actually gave her up-front money so they believed in her doc more than mine. How scary is this? Worst of all? 6 month wait. That's right, I was told (and she is proof) that once signed you will wait at least 6 months before anything is released. In the meantime they push you to upsell iTunes pre-orders and if you don't get a certain amount THAT is why your film is invisible.
Who the ever-loving fuck pre-orders a documentary on iTunes. WHAAAAAT?
Now, I'll take the other side which I'm sure I would hear from Gravitas if I asked them: the movie was reviewed poorly effectively killing it. Certainly has merit. Can't argue with the assessment...
...but here's my problem with that. Some movies are review proof. The trailer is fine and the movie has Bill Murray in the title. There's no way that doesn't at least get some rentals or sales. I don't get it. Bad reviews hurt the filmmakers, the producers, the actors for the next go-round, but the initial distribution and sales? Yeah, not sure I buy that at the beginning. Maybe I'm wrong and I'll find out with my movie - but to me, you watch the trailer and you jump or you don't. If YOU CAN'T FIND IT... not sure how that's on the reviewers.

Now it should also be noted that Gravitas was sold last November so the people that bought her film and the people now in charge of pushing it are different people. They could very well have written the film off because it was bought by a previous administration and just cut their losses based on their assessment of how it was being receieved. All of that's possible. I don't really know and probably never will because on Sadie's advice I contacted a distributor called "Indie Rights Movies" and immediately got one of the owners on the phone. She remembered Sadie and remembered trying to convince her to go with them, but the pull of a bigger distributor was to inviting. Boy do I understand that. But ya know what, let's make a long story short:
Gravitas was gonna make me wait until fall to release this film and Indie Rights said if they made me an offer and I got them the deliverables it would be up in a week.
Ahem, excuse me? Yup. It means I make the "Ready Player One" deadline and I can market WITH that movie the entire run while it's in theaters. Holy shit. So I submitted all of my stuff that day and on Monday morning I had an offer. I actually rolled my eyes at the email. Truly thinking this was another blanket form-email and I go back to the "I WANT BARRIERS" section of this long-winded essay. So I spoke to her again. She madeit very clear what their process was for evaluating this. They watched the trailer. They went on YouTube and typed "Delorean" and saw a fuckton of videos. They believe it has international appeal and want to attempt to sell the licensing rights at Cannes in June to several different territories. She wasn't trying to feed my ego or make me feel good, it was business. Just business.
I understand business. I appreciate the candor. And will briefly note here, that the conversation with Gravitas felt far more like making me, the filmmaker, feel good than a business transaction. That may work for some people (hell, the majority) but not after what I've been through. I want BLUNTNESS and efficiency. So with that... I'm going with Indie Rights, the movie will be out next month and holy fucking balls this is happening. I do indeed feel like I avoided a hugely draining year with Gravitas and am so thankful that I can move forward. I cannot fathom the devastation I would feel spending an entire year leading up to a release that was then invisible. At least this way if it happens, it'll be quick. ;-)
As for the actual terms, there is one MASSIVE difference between Gravitas and Indie Rights and feel free to contact me personally if you'd like to know what that is because it's so glaring it feels wrong to put it in writing online. Whew.
And all of that happening on a day with TWO gigs, where my car did survive with the normal stalling issues but whew, it survived and one where Don made a surprise visit leading to this endearing video.
The tables are turning. This is coming together. The first 2 months of 2018 are almost behind us.