Vision Scope Financing - How to Sell Your Movie: What Happened to Ballast (2008)?
Just a few years ago, if you were lucky enough to make a small film and get it into competition at Sundance, you hired a sales rep and worked on obtaining a distribution deal. The deal you wanted was an advance (paid by the distributor when the filmmaker delivered all the film elements to the distributor) that was sufficient to pay back the investors.
Those days may be gone: “I am curious what a sales rep does now,” Ballast (2008) director Lance Hammer has said, noting that most smaller films aren’t getting theatrical deals at all today. Those few small films that are acquired for theatrical distribution rarely receive an advance in excess of $25,000-50,000.
Hammer's film Ballast won both the best director and best cinematography awards at Sundance 2008.
Lance Hammer worked Sundance diligently with his sales rep. But the deals offered Ballast would not have paid back Ballast's investors, so Lance Hammer decided to release his film himself.
The decision to self-distribute Ballast (2008) required making prints and buying ads. Those extra costs to the filmmaker probably already amount to more than the budget of the film. And, so far, the decision to self-distribute Ballast (2008) hasn't paid off.
In retrospect (if he could do it all over again), Hammer says he would have booked the film into theaters right out of Sundance to capitalize on the attention Ballast generated at the festival - and then he would have focused on how to exploit the digital rights to his film.
Here's a link to Anthony Kaufman's definitive article (from IndieWire on July 3, 2008) about the decision to take Ballast (2008) out theatrically without an established distributor.
Here's a radio interview with Lance Hammer about the making of Ballast (2008).
Here's a link to a Filmmaker Magazine article about a panel discussion in Nov. 2008 that included Lance Hammer.
And here's a Dec. 2008 open letter to all independent filmmakers from IndieWire editor Eugene Hernandez that discusses Ballast (2008) in the context of the limited distribution opportunities available to small filmmakers and their reps.
Finally, here is the trailer for Ballast (2008).