Monday, June 15, 2009

Filmmaker Jamin Winans on his 'INK' Hollywood Screening

I am reposting this with permission from Filmmaker Jamin Winans (INK, 11:59). This is from Jamin and Kiowa's blog ( Just an extraordinarily honest, candid, and insightful look into the current state of distribution for today's independent filmmaker.

by Jamin

It was an intense, exciting, and bittersweet experience premiering Ink in LA this week. An amazing screening, turnout, and response at the Egyptian Theatre on June 10th. People were sitting in the aisles in the balcony, most stayed for Q & A and I've never seen digital projection and consequently our film look so good. Our cast, now family, were beyond wonderful to be with.

So where from here? This is what has happened; we premiered Ink and had an amazing response at the Santa Barbara Int'l Film Festival. We opened in Denver immediately after and played 8 amazing weeks and could have kept going, we opened in Ft. Collins and are now on our 4th week, we opened in Greeley and are on our 2nd week, then we opened in Hollywood to a packed house of over 500 people and ongoing amazing responses. We have dates booked in New York and Portland, we have a cumulative 90,000 hits on our Ink trailers on YouTube alone and we've had amazing reviews from huge publications including Ain't It Cool News and Film School Rejects. Ink has been featured on numerous sites and blogs including JoBlo, Film Drunk, and the front page of, we've been contacted by three of the four major Hollywood agencies including UTA, ICM, and WME (we signed with UTA), and we've had screenings and meetings with all the major studios all excited about the film and what's next... but do we have a domestic theatrical distribution deal for Ink? No. And that is the "bitter" of the bittersweet.

For whatever reason we cannot interest a distributor in, what seems to be no-brainer, a theatrical deal for Ink. Why? Who knows. Maybe it's the fact that our cast is relatively unknown, maybe it's because Ink just isn't like a lot of other films, or maybe it's the bad economy and the fact that so many independent distribution arms have shut down. But I would guess it's most likely the fact that the distribution and Hollywood world are consistently more conservative and risk averse than the audience itself. If there's going to be something new and different you can be sure Hollywood will be the last to get behind it.

Hollywood is a complicated place where nobody knows anything (as William Goldman famously said) and the powers that be are constantly balancing commerce and art. During the week in LA I had the privilege of doing what's called "general meetings" with a number of huge Hollywood moguls that UTA setup for me. The intent of these meetings was to get me in front of big wig producers and development executives to form a more perfect union for our future projects. They had all seen Ink and either liked or loved it, thought it was unique, visionary and wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.

I had meetings on the Warner and Sony lots where huge films are being made and famous folks are everywhere. After parking our Honda Civic between BMW's, I sat down with a number of people asking what I wanted to do next, all trying to calculate how I can make them money. It becomes instantly evident how an indie filmmaker with a voice can promptly sell his soul. The fact is, indie filmmaking is brutal, pays nothing, and usually has a limited audience. So when sitting in Joel Silver's offices (producer of The Matrix, Die Hard, and Lethal Weapon among others) it's pretty tempting to want to do anything they say. But the truth is indie filmmakers like me never get final cut in a place like this. In fact they don't get final cut anywhere in Hollywood. Every company and studio operates in the same way; Hollywood films are films made by committee not by directors. And that is the choice every new filmmaker has to make. Are you willing to join the committee and get rich, or do you want to do something singular, different and potentially remain poor?

As I went from meeting to meeting it became more and more clear that not only would a larger theatrical release for Ink be a near impossibility, but that attempting to make future unique films within the Hollywood system would also be an unrealistic dream. Of course this was no surprise which is why we never chose to move to LA, but after reading about this for years, it was discouraging to actually see it with my own eyes. And to be clear, these guys know exactly what they're making and make no apologies for it. They're looking to make huge budget, four-quadrant movies that can ideally appeal to everyone and offend no one. That doesn't bother me. What bothers me is that they're not doing anything else.

The amazing thing is, Ink isn't exactly an unaccessible, non-commercial film. It's a sci-fi/fantasy action/thriller with makeup, effects, and so on. Yes it's a little more narratively complex and requires the viewer to think, but heaven have mercy on the filmmaker trying to make something non-genre like an indie drama or comedy or maybe something, dare I say it, slower-paced. In the past 20 years Hollywood has become a system that has grown homogenized trying to bank on the limited commonalities of the human race rather than celebrate the differences.

So what does this all mean for Ink? We've always been prepared for the "system" to not embrace the film, so we've had plan B, C, D and so on. As we move forward we're going to continue playing in Colorado, LA then NYC and then Portland. Simultaneously we're going to make a foreign deal and begin releasing Ink in the rest of the world. Our hope now all lies in our fans. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and has been the only reason for our success thus far. So we hope that our fans will continue to help us carry the film, with or without Hollywood.

1 comment:

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