Kevin Smith announces he will self-distribute new film Red State - trailer
Filmmaker makes announcement at Sundance premiere of Red State
It was the premiere of Kevin Smith’s latest horror film Red State at the Sundance Film Festival on Sunday 23rd January in Utah. Via Twitter, Smith told the public that there would be a live auction of the film for distributors afterwards, which led to major indie film companies attending the screening. It was turned out to be an elaborate prank however, as everyone was outbid by Smith himself when he ‘bought’ the $4million film for $20million as soon as it started. He proceeded to tell everyone why he chose to buy it himself and wasn’t afraid to tell his angry audience of distributors what he thought of them.
He explained that he was fed up of them stealing his money and that he was going to release the film in his own way. He plans to take Red State on a tour taking in 15 cities and to use Twitter, his popular podcast and word-of-mouth by fans to promote and release the film himself. By doing so, Smith is completely turning the film industry’s hugely powerful and profitable traditional format of distribution and marketing on its head. This is a significant development, and his innovative, fresh take could potentially transform how filmmakers decide to release their films in future - if it becomes a success story.
Smith explained his decision further in a tweet:
'So long as we don't spend on marketing, every penny after that becomes profit. No more of this "The movie cost $4mil to make but needs to earn $50mil at the box office to break even." That ALWAYS bugged me: I'd got out of my way to make flicks for as little as possible, then watch folks spend more to market it. But that's how the business works: EVERYBODY does that. It is the standard.'
He wants to try something different than the standard model in order to remain more in control of the finances. By using social media such as his podcast and Twitter - on which he has over 1 million followers - he plans to ‘advertise’ to everyone when and where the film is playing and how to purchase tickets. Then, once the tour is over, he will distribute the film himself rather than through a major distribution company in order to save a vast amount of money. He would also give theatres more lucrative terms by way of an incentive to work with him, ensuring cinema-goers could still see the film in the traditional way.
Smith’s idea could potentially shake up the whole structure of the industry, if executed successfully, but whether this can work is questionable. He will need to make extremely shrewd decisions in the advertising/marketing process and secure distribution terms that work well for him. Insulting some of the major distribution companies could also put strain on his efforts and create enemies within the industry.
He questions himself on Twitter, 'Is it possible to sell a flick WITHOUT spending any of that money?' - The evolution of the music industry also sounded preposterous before it’s complete transformation over the last decade, and this could be the signal that the film industry’s time to change is upon us. It will be interesting to follow Smith’s progress.