The website indieWIRE has an excellant article called Toolkit Case Study: How Indie Hit “Winter’s Bone” Came to be. It walks you through the various stages of the five year journey that Debra Granik, Anne Rosellini and Alix Madigan took from first reading Daniel Woodrell’s book, through developing and financing, to the sale and distribution of their Sundance winning film Winter’s Bone.
Here’s a quick overview.
The book Winter’s Bone was optioned for high four figures or low five figures. They researched the Ozarks where they wanted to shoot and put together a photo album to get investors interested. After 25 potential investors passed on a project they got pretty far down the road with one investor before that fell through. Another financer stepped up agreeing to pay half of the budget at which point the descision was made to cut the budget in half and get the film produced.
The article points out along the way how casting directors Paul Schnee and Kerry Barden found six key actors. After the production was completed and the film edited they hired various people from publicist Laura Kim to producer rep Josh Braun to guide them as they prepared to sell the film. They made a deal with Roadhouse Attractions even before the film was shown at Sundance or picked up its awards.
As of this writing, the $2 million film has made just over $6 million at the domestic box office. Because prints and advertising (P&A) were kept low on this project I image by now everyone has made their money back and then some. Winter’s Bone is not an off-the charts financial success story. But it is an rare high-quality independent film that thankfully got made and found an audience.
And know that in that five-year period that they were working on getting the film made, there have been hundreds if not thousands of independent films that for one reason or another never found an audience or a distributor.
Lastly, when Winter’s Bone receives some Oscar nominations don’t forget the five-year journey that it took for the filmmakers to get to that point.
I also found a link to the Winter’s Bone press kit that is a solid reference for filmmakers.