is there REALLY a market for DV Features? : LUSENET : Distributing & Exhibiting DV Films : One Thread

Hi Maxie,

I really love your website.

I am curious, though.

Is there REALLY a market for a horror feature film that is:

1. Shot on digital video ("DV") 2. Has complete unknowns doing everything 3. Has everything else going for it 4. Is not shot documentary style (ie "Blair Witch")

I know this is a very general question, but over the months, we've been told that in the final analysis, without any name director, writer, producer, actor involved, and without the project being shot on film, forget it.

"Distribution will prove impossible to find" is the general concensus of the distributors we approached, although they seemed geninely impressed by our grass-roots approach.

Speculation aside, are you aware of any feature film to date that has the above criteria, and has found distribution and success?

We are planning such a feature now. But it sure would be nice to know if we even have a fighting chance for success aside from the given determination to succeed, do it for the art, don't follow formulas, etc.


Mark W. Curran Premiere Pictures

-- Mark W. Curran (, May 03, 1999


Mark, Horror is a passion. I truly believe that with the criteria listed above this type of project can be marketed. I believe anything can be marketed. Now will you get a big distributor? Probably not, but that is the case with 99% of all the independent films out there. There are distributors out there that market only horror. Mainly direct-to-video, but even so, this opens up doors for the future. Full Moon Entertainment makes movies in the "well under 1 million" range mainly for direct-to-video sales. What matters most is your story, picture quality, and sound. Good acting definatly helps. Make something that you want to see and make it good. It doesn't matter that there are no "names" attached. Prepare a plan to try to break even, then everything else is kudos! Rock the World!! Todd

-- Todd Pontsler (, May 04, 1999.

hi Todd,

Still, the answers are cryptic.

I'm looking for the hard numbers of films that have already been picked up by distributors and sold on home video, and or any foreign markets.

I will pose my specific question again:

What, if any, returns have been seen by a well-made horror feature shot on DV with no names attached?

Full Moon Entertainment, to my knowledge, shoots on 35mm, and has a distribution deal with Paramount Home Video.

Those are out of our league entirely, as they are shot on film and their budgets are close to 1-2 million.

I'm looking for finding out about the features shot for 10,000-20,000 on video, and what returns have they earned their distributors and filmmakers?

Asking around I get so many vague answers, because people think I'm asking them about the potential of a film, when I'm talking only about the hard numbers the film has earned thus far.

What distributors handle DV features, and what kind of returns have these films that have found distribution brought into the pockets of the filmmakers?


Mark Curran Premier Pictures

-- Mark Curran (, May 04, 1999.


Unfortunately, all I see are vague answers as well.

I know people are making profits or else they would fold up and quit making movies. How much profit is the question. You might try contacting Salt City Home Video ( or Independent Edge Releasing ( Both market horror films and may be able to provide some hard numbers. However, what I've found is that most companies are so proprietary that they do not divulge any info.

I know that not only in the horror genre, but in the whole indie world that people lose their butts. I've been told that it's all in the marketing and not in the quality of the movie. I do believe this to an extent based upon videos I've rented at Blockbuster. I know better work can be done, but somehow it was marketed very well and Blockbuster purchased it.

The whole distribution game is cryptic. I've never been given a straight answer from anyone. Why is this? Are they protecting big secrets? Salt City will sell you their contact list for $10,000. Couldn't someone just make phone calls and get the same info with a little hard work?

To me DV is an answer to many solutions I've been seeking. Mainly to keep costs low, but more important it's a video tool all the same. I do not expect to transfer to film. Straight to video with the hopes of turning a profit. I always try to estimate how many units will need to be sold before I break even. Everything after that is profit(to a degree).

What about self-distribution? I'm exploring this now. It's limited, but it can bring in revenue to break even. There are about a dozen internet showcases now. I expect it will grow as well. Look at:

Did you read the latest DV Report from Maxie? Issue 4? It hits on alot of the b-movie info. I found it enlightening. Check it out if you haven't.

I have heard that Full Moon is switching to DV. I know "Curse of the PuppetMaster" was partially edited on a Mac G3 in the editor's apartment. (JR Bookwalter--from Tempe Video works at Full Moon( Some of their movies were shot on Beta SP. The bigger titles were on 35mm.

I'm sorry I don't have any specific figures. I wish I did. It's frustrating. Hopefully as my business grows I'll be getting figures on my own production. This will be through next year though, so no immediate help.

The best thing above all is the cost. I've been making and dreaming of making movies over the past 12 years. At no time has it been more cost effective than now. 2 years ago it would have cost me $30,000 minimum for a nonlinear editing system alone. Today a bare bones/no frills system is $4,000. All thanks to DV. $12,000 can get me a great setup that rivals Hollywood.

Sorry I've written a book here. I'm excited about the new possibilities. Distribution right now is like going to Vegas. Roll the dice, close your eyes, and pray.

Thanks and Best of Luck!!! Todd Pontsler THRAE Entertainment

-- Todd Pontsler (, May 05, 1999.

I don't know the horror market, but an obvious example of a DV feature is "The Celebration" which was, as I learned elsewhere on this forum, shot on a TRV9. Maybe that helps bolster your position.


-- Olen Steinhauer (, May 18, 1999.

I'm new to DV but I am sourcing info for my own feature I hope to make at around Christmas time this year.

A part of my research revealed that an Australian film (I'm from OZ) called DUST OFF THE WINGS (it's a surfie flick) was shot on DV and transferred to 35mm. It got a very limited theatrical release but was quickly followed by video. So, in Oz atleast it is possible to get distribution.

I have worked in distribution for 7 years. That's my background. Over here, and it is the same in the States I am sure, Distributors are ALWAYS looking for product and there are a number of indi distribs who are always looking for product because multiplexing has created such a huge demand for software. It has also raised competition to the max. In Oz, we have a pretty well established "art house" market which is struggling because it can't get the product. In the States, this market just doesn't seem to quite be there, and i mean that in terms of the operators. Art house is quite high profile over here. I guess my point is, for you guys in the States, there are 2nd run houses that only ever get 2nd run or move over product - they are the orphan dogs of the exhibition who get thrown the scraps after the bigger guys have had their chew. In Oz, we don't really have these move over houses. They don't work. In the States, a 2nd run release of a film can make a good impact on BO. Point being, exhibitors are the same around the world, that is selfish and bitchy... they want two things. They want the best and they want it all for themselves. 2nd run houses can't have the best, so that means there's potential for DV films if you want to spend the time sourcing them. The other market in the States (I studied at UCSB for a year) that could potentially be good for DV films is the universities. US universities, unlike Australian ones, have film societies that are better set up to take these sorts of product and the market, I would assume is keen and eager. In Oz, we have similar things, but we don't have the proliferation of Uni's nor the population. Still, we have a well honed indi-distrib and exhib sector that expressed interest in "smaller" productions that utilise "new" technologies. I guess what I am saying here, is that sometimes you have to do so much of the work yourself, but if you have a good product (and at the end of the day, that's what REALLY matters) you can find a market. It just takes time, energy, and a little bit of patience and creativity and maybe, with DV you need to go straight to the retailers (the old ROADSHOW technique) rather than look for a distrib.

I don't have any figures on DUST OFF THE WINGS as yet. I am looking and if I get some info. I will post it.

Incidentally, for those of you more experienced in production, I am looking for a little advice.

I am writing a script I want to shoot on DV. I was thinking 16mm but after seeing an Oz film maker talk about his experiences starting out, and after he spoke pretty highly of DV, I am pursuing this avenue at the mo. Basically, the film is a mocu-mentary. It's sort of a bit like THE REAL WORLD in that it is intercut with doco footage and interviews. The doco footage will be hand held and the interviews will be static. A lot of the shots are interior, though there are some exterior shots that are mainly done at night. The camera I was thinking of using is a Canon XL1 and editing on Avid, then if it's good enough, kinescoping the vid to 35mm.


1. I want to get 35mm quality and I heard with DUST OFF THE WINGS (I ain't seen it, it left screens very quickly, and even though it's out on video, I want to see what it looks like on the big screen)that the int., low light scenes look EXCELLENT, though the ext, high contrast, were not as good. I'm flying blind because my experience with projected video and video tranferred to film is that it looks like crap. Really crap. I'm talking blue hues, grainy as a gravel pit, and as sharp as a rusty knife. Yet, I haven't seen anything on DV.

Can anyone give me any advice as to what I can expect? Even though this film is doco-like, I still want it to look professional. Any advice as to what should be done and what I should look out for in a DP?

Any particular references to the special consids of the Canon XL1?

2. POST-PRODUCTION - I was thinking of using an AVID - I can get access to an AVID - but if I were to find a cheaper alternative, what do I need to consider? I am a film guy. I really know nothing about video, nor digital editing. I don't know what's out there, but I am aiming for the best. I want to make this for $10,000 (or about $7000US) and then go for a grant to have it Kine'd. So, I'm doing it cheap. Can you mix sound on an AVID or do I have to budget for a mixer - it will be quite a basic mix for non-sync (fade in, fade out, cuts, etc) no real fancy stuff. The look is what is most important at the moment.

3. THE KINE itself... actually, this is pretty straight forward.



-- Craig Rossiter (, June 03, 1999.

Dear Craig,

The possibilities for a DV film to play in second run foreign may be an alternative, but the cost to transfer to 35mm is prohibitive.

You did not make it clear if exhibition of a DV film was possible on DV, or if a 35 mm "blowup" was required. Please clarify this, if possible.

Without a 35mm transfer, we could perhaps get away with "FilmLook" or "Cinelook" to make it more appealing, but we have not heard of any success stories as yet for a film shot entirely on video, (even Filmlooked,) that has found decent distribution.

If anyone out there knows of a distributor or exhibitor that will buy these types of features, please post.

We know Salt City Video will find some limited sales, but even they have said the market is drying up for low budget shot on video features.

Again, though, there are no hard and fast rules. Someone just may come out of the box with one of these features and it might find a distrib, but it's a real crap shoot unless you can keep the budget way down, and that of course negates getting a quality product. A rather maddening Catch-22.

-- Mark W. Curran (, June 04, 1999.


Clarification: Dust off the Wings was shot on DV and then transferred to 35mm. Basically, I don't know too many exhibitors who have video projectioning equipment (other than the X-rated ones). Why would they? Their money is in 35mm.

This is not to say that a distributor won't be interested in looking at a film if it's not on 35mm. Robert Rodriguez shot El MAriachi on 16mm, transferred and cut on video. He sent a copy of the video to a couple of people and eventually Columbia picked it up and paid for all the costs of blowing the thing up to 35mm. If the film is good enough, then who knows... a studio may even by the rights to re-make the film in 35mm. Or, they may just pay for the transfer, the inter- neg.

Thing is, Distribution adn Exhibition on a theatrical level (Cinema) is film based. It will be that way for a while. There is just too much capital invested in 35mm projectors and exhibitors are the biggest tight arses that they loath spending any money on new technology until they are forced to. If Spielberg hadn't used DTS for Jurassic Park and the Distrib. made a pitch, like Lucas is doing with Star Wars and THX, that if you don't have the technology you don't get the print, then Digital sound would not have proliferated as much as it has.

I guess you just have to look at where your market is for the film you are making and how far you want to go with it.

If you want a cinema release, you gotta' go 35mm. It's the way it is at the moment.

If you can't afford the transfer, find someone who will pay for it, a distributor, and sell it to them. If you're finding a bit of resistance about it being shot on DV, don't tell the person you shot it on DV until they ask, or until the contract has been signed. If they like the film, the story is new, fresh, and production values are high, believe me, what it was shot on won't make any difference.

If you just want a sale, remember that a theatrical release now is more like a marketing tool for the overseas and video release. There is a much bigger market for video, and even TV. These guys definately won't care what it was shot on. If you find no luck locally, go overseas. Mexico are hungry for US product, so are a number of Asian markets. TV is hungrier that the multiplexes and there is more competition, especially in the US with cable. It's also money that is up-front. With a cinema release it will be months, possibly years, before you ever see any money other than the initial sale.

It sounds like you want the whole cake, icing and all. you want Theatrical release in hard tops and that, my friend, means 35mm. There's no if's, but's or maybe's with that one. That's been the format since this whole movie thing started and it will be for a little while longer. It may even go beyond 35mm, to 65mm run horizontally and projected on a mammoth screen. Who knows! But film will be with us for a little while longer, and if you want the cinemas, you gotta play in their format.

Bill Bennet is an Aussie Director who made TWO IF BY SEA with Sandra Bullock and has made a number of Aussie flicks. He's not much of a story teller in my book, but still, he's in the business. He was the guy who told me to shoot in DV. Lucas has been talking about shooting in DV for yonks as well. However, they both know that the theatrical market is still 35mm. Shooting in DV will lower costs, but cinemas are still 35mm. There is talk about broadcasting to cinemas via satellite, and HDTV, and video projection, but if there are changes this will come from Distributors not the film makers. Distributors are always looking to lower their costs, but they also know, that their clients are exhibitors who will give them so much resistance to change, and they also know that cinemas competitive advantage is optical quality. Movie stars are FILM stars, not video stars. That's TV! It will be a while yet before the format of theatrical changes and there'll be a lot of activity.

A few years ago this guy went bush and set up a whole heap of twin cinemas projecting movies on video but operating as a cinema. Not only could he not get product and so nobody came, but he also had so much problem convincing audiences to pay cinema prices to watch a video... and you have to remember that audiences are stupid... it's a shame, but they are. It's the lowest common denominator. You may have a film shot on video, projected on video, and the audience would be none the wiser, but tell them that it's video and they will ask for their money back and say "I could get that down the video shop for $6 and my whole family could have watched it". I'm not saying video projection will never happen, in some cases, I think it just has to, but there has to be a period of "education".

Till then, if you want a theatrical release you gotta' get that 35mm transfer. If you can't pay for it, get someone else who will, ideally a distributor. They like to do this, too. It gives them a sense of real control and intimidation.


-- Craig Rossiter (, June 08, 1999.

Film will be shown in HBO (USA) this month - entirely shot on Hi8 and mini dv (vx 1000) - documnetary about sailing in a race to hawaii - all the crew has the virus. There si an article about it in Moviemaker magazine. They posted on an avid and afterwards spent approx. $20,000 and blew upp to 35 mm. Bottom line they got distributed. As a filmmaker I am more concerned with content and story. If you have a good story and good acting it will sel itself. Many. many 16 and 35 mm films have never seen the light of day - I have often thought about making a documentary about the films in everyone's closet - so why waste time talking about the acceptance of the technology. Lets invest that time into the script and actors. I think that in general with all the talk at cannes and companies like blow up films and next wave - the HDTV craze and inroads into digital projection that in the future there will be a better market. But if all we can turn out is mundane cliched shit - there will be no market. I beleive the audience wants to be moved and dv affords a medium as Verow has sadi or speaking in the language of the evening news and the soap opera. Let us use that language and see what happens. Unfortunatly if distribution is what we are after we must resign ourselves to the fact that academy 35 mm is where it is at. Yet, DV still offers us high shooting rations, intamacy, freedom of movement adn minimal crews - allowing us to focus more on the story adn characters (acting). I for one am hopeful. Incidently, when I see a film I usually, do not try to figure out what medium it was filmed in. The TV guide blip (logline) don't read - feature shot on super 16 and blown up to 35 mm for distribution. It just sticks to the story.

Sorry for the rant.

BTW to answer directlly, there is a market if you spend the money to blow it up to academy 35 or have some bankable stars for direct to video market.

-- Kurt Adam (, June 11, 1999.

Also forgot to mention Sudance horor suspense film - Blair Witch Hunt - shot on hi8 and some dv - they spent 40 grand to transfer got nationwide distribution nad wide relase - why - excellent story read about it in this months premeir magazine (or maybe May) opens in June at a theater near you.

-- Kurt Adam (, June 11, 1999.


Could not have said it better myself. Damn! Now what am I gonna' do!


-- Craig (, June 12, 1999.

What I ask myself damn near every day is: Is there a market for (pick one or more) small - indie - no name - micro budget - D or any other kind of V - personal - action drama comedy noir SF or any genre - B movie - art - exploitation - narrative - documentary - non Hollywood - MOVIE? Beats me. Maybe the question is flawed. Unanswerable. My first real movie was extra crappy (see the reviews for Enemy on IMDB) , shot on 16mm, every badly acted word looped, edited and mastered on 3/4, and not even close, not even CLOSE to my original vision and script having input from everybody and his cow and I hated it. Still hate it. My partner found a distributor who sold off US video for a song to a second distributor who packaged this piece of shit and sold it to Blockbuster and Hollywood nationally. Multiple copies. We, of course, had no income from this as the second distributor had purchased the rights. There had to have been 15,000 copies of this maloderous dreck polluting store shelves from Fresno to Cleveland (the cities I personnaly saw 3 - 8 copies in their Blockbuster stores). It sure wasn't the quality that sold this movie. Nor was it the format that sold this (the third generation copies of the masters were pastel visually as well as wooden aurally.) It got out there. It being out there got us further micro financing. But I still hate it. Moral. There's a way to sell anything. But will we make money at it? That's the question we need to answer, the problem to solve. We're trying to set up our own distribution channels through wholesalers like Ingraham and Baker and Taylor, but that's damn near as hard as getting Miramax. The next thing for us is trying to set up distribution direct to the video stores and other retailers. All of this assumes direct to video. No theatrical. Sorry for the ramble. Bruce

-- Bruce A. Pattison (, June 21, 1999.

The success of any business venture is determined largely by how much you have invested. For a DV feature to succeed in finding an audience you first have to accept that it is not going to see the inside of a theatre. But that dosen't mean it won't be wildly successful on it's own terms. The key to this is distribution. The reason that you can't get a straight answer from anyone in distribution is that every film ever shot that goes to the local cinema is the result of months of negotiations and contract revisions that result in each and every film being a one-of-a-kind business model. There is no cookie cutter formula involved in the distribution game when it comes down to who gets how much of the ticket dollar. Every movie exhibited theatrically has a one-of-a-kind deal behind it. Sorry to be so long-winded, but, for a DV independent to see the light of day with their picture, they will probably have to self-distribute direct to the video outlets and retailers. Then you're making your own deal. And YOU decide how much of t

-- Jeff Coatney (, September 20, 1999.

Hello-- could someone please email with any info. about what I would need to do to approach distributors with a well-shot mini-DV feature that "works" and will be marketed possibly as a "skateboarding movie," towards a younger audience, but could definitely appeal to a wider audience than this because of its powerful mini-climaxes, anti- drug subject matter and working sense of humor.

-- John Birmingham (, November 28, 2001.

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