Paramount to start micro-budget film division
Lower than low budget films like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and BLAIR WITCH have largely been considered to be lightning. Meaning of course that they are made for next to nothing and go on to gross a lot more than something, largely in part due to unique circumstances - whatever those may be. The marketing, the urban legend-like mystique, etc. Attribute their draw to what you will, but what the studios see in films such as this are dollar signs and a design, so that they may, in the future, produce more films for a penny and squeeze out a dollar...or millions. But, as I said, lighting. And what does lighting do? Well, what it doesn't do is strike twice in the same place. But don't tell that to Paramount.
No formal announcement has been made on this, but it is being reported by The L.A. Times that the major studio is developing a sub-division for what are being referred to as "micro-budget films." This division will look to solely produce films with a budget of less than $100,000, adding up to no more than $2 million annually for the 20 or so films they are looking to produce starting this next year. Films like Paramount's PARANORMAL, which was made for only $15,000 yet has made $107 million theatrically and domestically. And this is not considering that the DVD has yet to even be released!
It is said that the studio will not look to completed films, plucked from festivals and other outlets, but will aim to start from the ground up, similar to their normal development process, using both established names and up-and-coming directors. I.E. A screenplay is written, purchased, possibly rewritten then possibly tuned into a film, with the possibility of either a theatrical distribution, straight-to-DVD or a big budget remake - which was to be the one-time fate of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. I can see it now...the first film to be remade before it's predecessor is even released.
As for distribution, the current state of digital technology will allow theaters to accommodate newer types of media, thus eliminating the need for film prints which can cost up to $1,000 a piece. And then of course there is the viral, grassroots, and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns which have seemed to go hand-in-hand with these smaller budgeted films. These taking the place of costly advertising campaigns, which often account for a large percent of a film's budget.
So what does this really mean? Well, clearly form the studio standpoint it is the attempt to catch lighting in a bottle. King Kong if you will. But we all know there will only be one King Kong a few King Kongs. However, from the filmmaker's standpoint, this just may be an opportunity to get funding and distribution up front for their little films from a major studio. Which raises the point-of-interest, how different would said film be if it was independently produced versus produced under a big studio's micro-division?
What do you think? The next stage in the evolution of "independent" filmmaking or a wolf in sheep's clothing?
As a side note, I've got an idea for a production company logo should Paramount get this micro-division off the ground. They could just use a hill instead of a mountain!
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