The challenge for any film without A-List actors or an Avatar budget is, of course, finding distribution. This is where awards recognition can really help. With help from the Indie Fest, The Uninvited was recently placed with York Entertainment, who will attempt to sell licensing rights for the film into territories around the world.
Here’s what director and producer Jonathan Pokay had to say:
Q: Can you walk us through your journey in finding a distributor?
A: Winning an award or garnering some similar recognition would make The Uninvited more attractive to distributors, so we sent out entries to several dozen festivals, mainly ones with horror themes, or festivals that accepted all genres. Surprisingly, very few festivals showed any interest, possibly because the movie is geared towards an audience that may be looking for something more than your typical 'buckets of blood' horror film. The Uninvited is practically bloodless in that regard.
Q: In what ways did the Indie Fest help you?
A: It was most instrumental in getting us recognized by distributors; in fact, the Indie Fest went above and beyond our expectations. Not only did they provide a list of recommended distributors, they streamlined the process by offering to package all our marketing materials and press kit, and send them off! Hats off to the Indie Fest staff for believing in us.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenge facing filmmakers in trying to find a distributor?
A: The biggest challenge in getting a distributor is finding that special 'hook' that makes a film attractive to a buyer. Since many independent films can't afford big-name stars and lavish production values, they must work with discovering some element of the movie, either technical or story-related, that makes a distributor sit up and say, 'I haven’t seen that before.' In the case of The Uninvited, we added humor, something not normally found in many horror films.
Q: Why did you get into filmmaking?
A: When I was 10 years old, I sat in a theater and watched Raiders of the Lost Ark. And that's when I knew I wanted to make movies. The sheer pleasure of forgetting your problems for two hours is a feeling I never tire of, even after almost 30 years.'
Q: What drove you to make this film?
A: I knew it was possible to make a decent-looking feature after I watched a breathtaking video of the California Redwoods forest, created by Emmy-nominated editor Andrew Bolhuis, a colleague of mine from our days at Columbia College. He shot it on a JVC high-definition camcorder, and edited it with Adobe Premiere Pro on a home computer. Working with those tools, there'd be no excuse not to shoot a feature. All we needed at that point was a strong script.
Q: Do you have a preference for a certain film genre?
A: Growing up, my father introduced me to all sorts of genres, and I discovered even more when I attended film school, so I can’t really say I have any preferences. As long as the movie is interesting without insulting my intelligence, I’ll watch just about anything. As far as making particular movies, my philosophy is the same; I like films with a little bit of everything. I don’t see myself making any musicals in the immediate future, however!
Q: What lessons have you learned in making this film; any mistakes to avoid?
A: One large, painful lesson we learned is that even if you have your project backed up, have a second backup. As paranoid as that sounds, it took three years for The Uninvited to find a distributor. During that time, the movie had to be rebuilt almost from scratch, a headache that could have easily been avoided had I saved the elements to a second drive. Note to my fellow filmmakers: External hard drives wear out when used daily.
Q: What would you change, if you were given a "do over"?
A: I wouldn’t change anything. The best part was working with talented actors, an experience I would do over and over again for the sheer pleasure of it.
Q: How did you go about casting the film? Did you have specific actors in mind?
A: We used a casting director to help us find our actors; it was a wise move, as we were able to rent out a space and hold auditions all in one evening. It took slightly longer to find the male lead, but our final choice of Kevin Oestenstad proved to be brilliant in his portrayal of Brad.
Q: How difficult was it to obtain financing? Was this based on the strength of your previous work or on the script?
A: We broke a cardinal rule for The Uninvited, we actually put up our own money to fund the entire project. The initial expenditure started out around $12,000, and the cost of props, food, rental of a theatre for the premiere, and all the promotional materials practically doubled that figure. It was a risk we were willing to run. If we break even, I’ll be happy.
Q: What's next for you; any new projects?
A: Currently my producer Fred Robey and I are finishing up a script for a dark comedy titled, Gnome. We can pull this one off on a shoestring budget and have it ready to go within a year. We also have a fully finished script for an action adventure film, which we would like to get started on as soon as we raise sufficient funds; the story takes place in the 1930’s, so we’re hoping to acquire a modest budget for this one. I assure you the stories for both movies are very compelling!
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