Unwanted, my first
Everyone who makes a film goes through the same range of emotions through the process. We all believe we are going to change the world, we all believe we are doing something original and we all believe that we don't need Hollywood to make a movie.
Unwanted was that journey for me.
In 2015 nobody had heard of Paul Foster or Second Hand Productions. It didn't exist in the indie film scene. Most who are affiliated with the film or have followed me on social media recall a grand casting call that was live cast with 100 people showing up to fill 4 roles. What most don't know is that was the second audition after the first one was an epic failure having 1 person attend.
I had about as much experience making a movie as I had money to get it done. I didn't know anything. But I was eager to learn everything. Unwanted was a simple concept. I originally intended it to be a 10 page short film about a couple that moves into a haunted house. As i went through revision after revision of the script, that originally took a day to write, the size and scope started to get bigger and bigger. Not a good thing for a first time film maker.
I decided early on after the failed audition that I attempted to hold at my house the only way to make this film work
was to grow an audience before it was released. I thought that if people were emotionally invested in what I was doing they were more likely to either buy a DVD or come to the premiere.
I came up with incentives to encourage people to want to follow this project. some of the earliest stuff I did was to draw attention to the project. But, the first thing I needed was a house. This had to be a character in itself, I wanted a house with history and looked like it could be haunted. I was tipped off my friend Kelly Johnston that Pittsburg Texas was film friendly and would help me out. So I reached out to them very nervous, I was blown away when they actually responded to my email. I quickly shot the 2nd draft of the script over to them. a few days later I got another email saying they loved the premise of the story and had some local homes they wanted to show me and could introduce me to the home owners.
The very first house I saw was built in 1913, I fell for it. but entered the first negotiation point that I would deal with in film. Access to the house would not be free. I needed 6 days to shoot my film and that would basically be every weekend over a month and a half. After all i'm an indie film maker and like most I have a day job.
We proceeded with a rewrite of the script so that it fit with the house and moved on with our second round of casting, this time I went all out. location for hosting the event and promoted it on social media like crazy for 30 days to give everyone plenty of time to be there.
Part of building an audience was the idea behind live streaming auditions so that family and friends could watch. everyone seemed to really enjoy it. the audience was coming, people started following. I had a trailer out as soon as I secured the location. then it was a full press to filming. We did social gatherings for the community to meet everyone and got publicity in print, radio and TV as the production moved along.
Ultimately a film that was budgeted for 3k ended up costing 8,800. Once complete and ready we pushed and promoted like crazy to get a solid turn out for the premiere. I was on the hook for a lot of money and it had to be paid back. After our premiere we had made half that money back. The problem was I never thought past that day. Once it came and went I wondered where would the money come from. Then I found out that you could self distribute on Amazon Prime. total cost for distribution? Zero... just some time in meeting all of the needs.
It took off over the summer. within 5 months we had over 100,000 streams. and were being represented at AFM in the fall. What an exciting time it was and I learned so much from the process. We came out of the show with an offer for international distribution with two more to follow. I decided not to accept them, retaining the rights for the film and with the knowledge that probably wasn't going to maintain the level of interest for long but that was okay.
That film made a total of 12,500 in a year. Paid for itself and opened up so many new exciting opportunities for both myself and Second Hand Productions. in total we filmed for 13 days throughout 2016, I spent a year editing and working on visual effects.
The key to making money off this film for me was that I kept it simple. Single location, small cast and the most important part for me was the location. What I wish i had done better was practiced more with the camera and focused more on the audio. these are areas where I felt it hurt the film in the end.