By lance weiler, March 7th, 2008

We’re happy to introduce another contributor to the Workbook Project. Steve Balderson is a DIY filmmaking machine. He self funds, produces, and releases his own films. Some of the films have been shot on 35mm and others on miniDV. He’s taken his work on tour and staged his own “freakshows” in cities across the country. We’re excited to have him join the project and if you happen to live in the Boston area make sure to stop by and meet Steve when he presents his latest film “Underbelly” later this month.

By Steve Balderson – We’ve all learned that we can make our own movies without the establishment, so why once we’ve finished our movies, and we want to release them, the first place we go to is the establishment?

You don’t need someone else to release your movie. It’s YOUR movie.

There are two kinds of filmmakers in the world. The kind who wants to appeal to industry executives and other filmmakers, and the kind who wants to focus on the audience watching his movie, regardless of what other filmmakers and executives think about him.

I am an independent filmmaker. I am not dependent on someone else to finance my movies, write my movies, make my movies, shoot my movies, design my movies, market my movies, or release my movies. This gives me the freedom to not be bothered what other filmmakers or movie execs think of me.

It took me a long time to get to this place emotionally because I was always so concerned with what people thought of me. It didn’t take very long financially because I made a project called “Phone Sex” that sold very well and didn’t cost a cent to produce.

For some it is really challenging to NOT compare yourself to other filmmakers or what the neighbors are doing. I had trouble at first. But trust me: once you confront it, and move past it, having total FREEDOM is something you’ll never want to let go of.

Like a wise investor who wants to diversify his portfolio, it is more logical for an independent filmmaker to make six $50,000 films than it is to make a single film for $300,000. There is a greater chance at the return on the investment. After all, you only have to sell 2000 dvds to make your money back.

Simply identify how many units you think your target market will purchase. If you think you’ll realistically sell 4000, and you want to make some money, you should probably not spend more than $60,000, or so, on the movie. I would avoid going into the movie making process without having first figured out how you plan on making your money back.


Let’s examine my newest, “Underbelly,” which is a belly dance documentary co-starring Margaret Cho. The target market for this kind of product does not read the Hollywood Reporter or Variety. So it would be illogical of me to try and get those publications to write articles about me making that movie. Instead, I decided to focus all the attention to belly dance magazines and the gay/lesbian crowd.

I noticed that filmmakers usually don’t have a merch table when they do screenings. Musicians do at their concerts. I think it’s really important to have dvds available for sale at a festival so when the audience walks out of the screening they can buy a dvd immediately.

It only costs $1500 or so to print a thousand dvds (that means you only need to sell 60 of them to pay for a nice looking dvd). There’s no reason not to do it!

And repeat.

On March 23, Steve will unveil “Underbelly” at the Boston Underground Film Festival. On April 2, he goes into production on his next feature, the outrageous “Watch Out” based on the best-selling novel by Joseph Suglia.
For more information visit:


Roger Ebert named Steve Balderson’s film FIRECRACKER (with Karen Black) on his list of 2005’s Best Films. Currently filming WATCH OUT, based on the best-selling novel by Joseph Suglia, Balderson’s other work includes: PHONE SEX (featuring Margaret Cho, Ron Jeremy, Penn Jillette and Lloyd Kaufman), PEP SQUAD (the satire that predicted American school violence), and UNDERBELLY (a year in the life of Princess Farhana). Steve is also the subject of the award-winning WAMEGO documentary series about DIY Filmmaking. If you are unfamiliar with Balderson’s movies, you can purchase them from anywhere in the world.

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Posted in BTS audience biz community discovery distro diy doc dvd festivals pov production promotion resource screening theatrical

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects


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