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Sep 15th
08:01 am
An interesting article on Me and Orson Welles distribution  
From the LA Times:

Will Richard Linklater's 'Me and Orson Welles' have a wonderful new life?
September 15, 2009 | 6:00 am
Patrick Goldstein

A year ago, when "Me and Orson Welles" made its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, it was one of the most anticipated new films of the season and a leading candidate on most distributors' acquisition lists. Directed by Richard Linklater, it offered a striking vision of Orson Welles as a brash 22-year-old wunderkind mounting his legendary theatrical production of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" -- four years before his "Citizen Kane" transformed moviemaking.

Offering a view of Welles' escapades through the eyes of a theater-crazed teenager, the movie seemed to have something for everyone, from a great performance by Christian McKay as Welles, a lively portrait of an oversize artist as a young enfant terrible and last, but certainly not least, the presence of a red-hot young actor, Zac Efron, star of "High School Musical," in the role of Welles' starstruck protege.

But despite a raft of largely favorable reviews and a warm audience reaction, "Me and Orson Welles" left the festival without attracting a buyer. In fact, the film had been out of sight ever since until its backers announced late last week that it would be arriving in theaters Nov. 25. The film will be distributed by Freestyle Releasing, the do-it-yourself distributor that has been involved with a variety of art-house and genre projects, including "An American Haunting," which quietly grossed $16 million in 2006, as well as "Bottle Shock," which did modest business last summer.

But for me, the reemergence of "Me and Orson Welles," accompanied by a tie-in with a major studio DVD release and a revenue-sharing deal with a major theatrical exhibitor, offers a fascinating glimpse into the future of independent cinema. If the film finds an audience later this year, it could provide a template for success for the untold thousands of films that play film festivals around the world but never find any real theatrical distribution. If there is a real lesson behind this film's new lease on life, it is that in today's overcrowded marketplace, it takes a village -- a village of like-minded, entrepreneurial talents -- to nurture a film that appeals to a specialized audience.

So what happened? Keep reading:

"Me and Orson Welles" was bankrolled by CinemaNX -- NX for short -- a British finance and production company that is backed by a film fund from the Isle of Man. NX has a new slate of films in various stages of postproduction, including a thriller called "The Disappearance of Alice Creed" that is playing at this year's Toronto festival. NX Chairman Steve Christian strongly believes that indie films, if they expect to flourish again, need a radically new distribution model.

"This deal means everything," he told me the other day. "The day before we started shooting 'Me and Orson Welles,' I told Rick Linklater that the best thing that could happen to this film would be if we could release it ourselves." While he is using Freestyle as a distributor in the U.S., Christian has engineered a much more unusual scheme in the U.K., striking a revenue-sharing deal with Vue, one of Britain's largest exhibitors with close to 25% of the country's theaters. Vue will exhibit the movie, which opens on 150 screens Dec. 4 in the U.K., in return for a share of the film's DVD, pay TV and other ancillary revenues.

Christian is committed to giving Vue four films for each of the next three years. At first, the films will represent pictures NX has bankrolled, but eventually the films will include acquisitions as well. The benefits are pretty obvious, because if a theater chain has a piece of a movie's back end in addition to its theater rentals, it would have a much larger interest in the film's long-term success.

"It seems so obvious at a time when buyers for specialized films were drying up, but so far we're the only ones doing it," says Christian. "It's a way to harness the power of the big screen to create ancillary value for good movies. Obviously, we have to show we can make it work in the U.K., but if we can, I'm betting we'll find a way to do the same thing in the U.S."

"Me and Orson Welles" also received a couple of important boosts for its U.S. release, thanks to some strategic brainpower from Cinetic Media partner John Sloss, a familiar figure on the film festival circuit whose consulting and management company helped orchestrate the production and distribution of Linklater's film. Sloss realized that he had a film that could attract a lot of studio interest, but largely only for its DVD release, not for a theatrical opening, since most of the studio specialty divisions, which would have been the most likely buyers for a film like "Me and Orson Welles," have been dismantled in the past couple of years.

Sloss made a deal with Warner Home Video to release "Orson Welles" on DVD with an added promotional prize. When the studio recently released Efron's recent hit "17 Again" on DVD, it spotlighted a trailer for "Me and Orson Welles," offering a valuable free plug for the movie. "We thought it was a great opportunity to be able to draft off of the '17 Again' video release," Sloss explains. "It was a conscious decision on our part to not even think about releasing this movie until after '17 Again' had come out as a way of allowing Zac to transition from his 'High School Musical' audience to an older group of moviegoers."

Even though the film now has a U.S. distributor in Freestyle Releasing, one of the main differences between Freestyle and a larger studio distributor, like Fox Searchlight or Focus Features, is that Freestyle doesn't put up any prints and advertising money -- essentially the marketing backing for a film. So Sloss found an outside company, Louisville-based Hart/Lunsford Pictures, who agreed to put up roughly $4 million in P&A commitments in return for a piece of participation in the film's revenues.

Freestyle Releasing's Mark Borde, who's been in distribution for nearly four decades, says his company is a perfect fit for a specialized film like "Me and Orson Welles," which could attract several distinct audiences: older moviegoers eager to see a story about the fabled Orson Welles as well as younger moviegoers who are fans of Efron and Claire Danes, who plays an ambitious young assistant to Welles who becomes romantically involved with Efron.

"We've had more people coming to us than ever before because at a time when its become so hard to find people willing to risk spending P&A money to take pictures into the marketplace, we can offer producers an opportunity to get their films into quality theaters," says Borde. "This film won't be treated like a stepchild. It will play side-by-side with the top releases in the best theaters in the country."

Another village elder on board is Russell Schwartz, the former New Line marketing chief who now does indie marketing and is helping orchestrate the publicity launch for "Orson Welles." He's betting that the film can attract several different audiences, including Linklater followers, Efron fans and a large contingent of 15- to 20-year-old girls who look to theater arts as a big part of their lives. "If we just get 1/15 of Zac's audience, we'll do fine," he says.

So what does Linklater, who's spent most of his career working outside the studio system, think of this unusually diverse group effort? "Look, as a filmmaker these days, you either have to adapt or perish," he told me. "So this is definitely a way for someone like me to adapt. It's pretty obvious that Hollywood isn't going to take the risk to make these kind of movies. So I'm hoping that this could be a new model, by taking things straight to the public."

In the indie film business, with far fewer buyers around than ever before, the risk has shifted from the distributors to the filmmakers. To Linklater, it was obvious the times were a-changing. "In the past few years, when I'd go talk at a film school, I'd always ask: How many people here want to be writers or directors? And all the hands would go up. But you know what happened when I asked how many people want to be distributors? No hands go up. So it's no surprise that there are thousands of new films being made, but no distributors for them."

Linklater laughs. "I guess that means if I wanted this film to be done right, I had to find a bunch of people who cared about the movie and become a distributor myself."


Sorry if my bolding is kind of random, lol. I find the whole article fascinating.
Mood: sleepysleepy
27 27 comments Comment
It's Audrey not Aubreyaudrey_za on September 15th, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
"This deal means everything,"
That part really made me smile. :)

"If we just get 1/15 of Zac's audience, we'll do fine,"
I really have faith his audience is going to come out for this. More than 1/15th. (And not just b/c Efron is 'such a babe'. I think "17 Again" proved to some naysayers that he can act- wherein they're willing to give Zac another shot at movie theaters.)

What an interesting article! I don't closely follow the bts filmmaking endeavors, but this was informative and easy to understand. I wonder what this means for the future of film distribution? I feel like Linklater was joking at the end, but I wonder if we won't see more directors taking on dual jobs as both that and the distributor of their films.
zaccy23zaccy23 on September 15th, 2009 03:50 pm (UTC)
1/15 of Zac's audience?? Clearly they underestimate the power of the Zef or how many times we'll pay to see this movie at the theatres. Audrey_za you know we are there at least twice: once to freak out at Zac in a period film, then the second to actually process the movie!!
jessica3311: richard 2jessica3311 on September 15th, 2009 06:50 pm (UTC)
Yeah I def. think they will get more then 1/15 of Zac's audience... If they can distribute the movie in enough places the Zef fans will come out LOL
bettybaby63bettybaby63 on September 15th, 2009 06:02 pm (UTC)
i got this earlier from my news feed. ia, for me, it was easier to understand than some of the other articles written, and i just love the overall positive tone.
poppyj on September 15th, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this, it's interesting to see how the film has gained life. Love the 'red hot young actor' part too. Personally, and it is probably just me, but I love the fact that this film has not just been an outright hit from the start in terms of getting distribution. The indie fan in me loves that it is, in effect, an underdog. A couple of my colleagues have also said that they will watch it and they are real indie freaks. One was at Deauville and he did say that for him MAOW was the highlight and Zac did very well and it shocked him. I was quite proud. I seriously can't wait to see the film, and speaking of which, the MAOW Facebook page has a competition thing to win tickets to the UK premiere.
butterflybee260: pic#92277227butterflybee260 on September 15th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)

Great article, very understandable. I'm very interested to see the type of promo they come up with.
Troll St. Trollglamour_addict on September 15th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
im gonna watch the bd live features now. :)

thanks c!
Troll St. Trollglamour_addict on September 15th, 2009 06:45 pm (UTC)
i didnt read this, but i skimmed. I'm surprised to see its not negative.

but that queen aint off the hook.
jessica3311: ZacinIOMjessica3311 on September 15th, 2009 06:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah i was surprised too actually. Esp since hes obsessed with Rob & the whole Robsten thing LOL
hunny miss (aka lets fead him to the gators)ehs_wildcats on September 15th, 2009 06:53 pm (UTC)
he ain't off the hook cause you know he just wants hits from defensive rob stans. he knows the twihards will freak the fuck out at a zac comparison. they are so silly and irrational and uninformed. the comments just get lulzier as you go too.

eta: i think i should clarify not all twilight fans are like that. some of them are ok.

Edited at 2009-09-15 06:56 pm (UTC)
Troll St. Trollglamour_addict on September 15th, 2009 06:57 pm (UTC)
SOME. lol
Troll St. Trollglamour_addict on September 15th, 2009 06:55 pm (UTC)
omg the commenatry is so low budg, but im enjoying it.

Troll St. Trollglamour_addict on September 15th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
Tom: I lost best kiss this year... thanks internet.

Zac: If you were a vampire it would have worked out.

LOL i love it.

hunny miss (aka lets fead him to the gators)ehs_wildcats on September 15th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
i love how he says eaten. enunciated so well, lol.
Troll St. Trollglamour_addict on September 15th, 2009 07:16 pm (UTC)
i know right! eat-in, i'd say eat'n.

I love this. I love that he spontaneously sings and singsongs, which is how I imagined him.

lmv191lmv191 on September 16th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)
what? he does? do you mean the theme song thing at the beginning when tom is doing the mock intro?
Troll St. Trollglamour_addict on September 15th, 2009 07:20 pm (UTC)
"He like left set one day and came back another day, and just a total bad ass. What happened to you? I was suddently afraid of him. Where did my friend go? What did you do with Hunter?"


reminds me of, "Vhere's valdo!?"
butterflybee260: pic#92302907butterflybee260 on September 16th, 2009 07:00 am (UTC)

I LOVE the way his voice sounds when he says that. <3
samwise gamgee.colfer on September 15th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
about the 17 Again commentary... idk when i'll be able to watch it so i just went to youtube & saved the vids to my HD in case they get taken down. so they're not talking the whole way through, just in little bits? :(
hunny miss (aka lets fead him to the gators)ehs_wildcats on September 15th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
yeah, it's about 35 minutes long. and they don't talk during the dancing with leslie scene or the courtroom :(

my only thought is that wb may add more commentaries later. that's the idea behind bd live, wb can add and remove media at will, so hopefully that is why they didn't talk during those scenes because they are planning on adding a zac and leslie commentary later. i kind of doubt it but you never know.
samwise gamgee.colfer on September 15th, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
blue ray is stoopid. thank you again for uploading everything :)
jessica3311: 17 balconyjessica3311 on September 16th, 2009 03:34 am (UTC)
omg i would love a Zac & Leslie commentary!
zaccy23zaccy23 on September 16th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
It's Audrey not Aubreyaudrey_za on September 16th, 2009 02:36 am (UTC)
Lol, see below. I was like 'Lookie what Zaccy23 found!'
hunny miss (aka lets fead him to the gators)ehs_wildcats on September 16th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC)
yeah i've been going through his flickr trying to choose what to post.
It's Audrey not Aubreyaudrey_za on September 16th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)