Independent filmmakers need a few things to make a film. They need a script, a production company with cameras and tons of gear, actors, and a distribution channel. Until now, independent filmmakers have faced an often insurmountable hurdle when it came to getting their work in front of audiences — finding a distributor who would promote the film to buyers.
That hurdle has been cut down to size with the formation of Borderlands Media, southern New Mexico’s first, fullservice film distribution company focusing on the independent filmmaker.
When asked why a distributor for indy filmmakers was necessary, David Salcido, marketing manager for Borderlands Media, said, “The biggest complaint of so many filmmakers we know is ‘We make these films and we can’t get anybody to distribute them for us.’”
There are a number of reasons, Salcido explains. The filmmaker can’t get his or her work accepted by the Sundance Film Festival, which Robert Redford established in 1985. Distributors tell filmmakers they only handle films accepted by Sundance. They may also require the film to have won a certain number of awards, have big studio backing, or a “name” attached to the project: a wellknown actor, producer, or director. Perhaps the most frustrating Catch 22 is a distributor who tells the filmmaker his work has to have been screened in X-number of theaters but, of course, he can’t get it to theaters without the distributor.
If you want to know how frustrating the problem is, ask Mark Medoff or Rod McCall, both notable Las Cruces filmmakers whose work has been swallowed up by the typical distributor and never — or rarely — seen again.
Borderlands Media, in a sense, is blazing a trail for independent filmmakers in southern New Mexico. “Obviously, there are more independent filmmakers per capita here than there are big studio filmmakers,” Salcido says. “We’re not Albuquerque, and we’re certainly not Los Angeles. We have two award-winning film schools here cranking out filmmakers. Most of them have to move to get job, but those who choose to live here and ply their trade here are running into this problem, where they’ve created really wonderful work but nobody wants to look at it.”
Borderlands Media came into being when Salcido, Troy Scoughton — an independent filmmaker who owns PRC Productions — and Rebecca Reeves put their heads together to solve the distribution problem.
Reeves had moved to Las Cruces to care for an aging father. “She’s like a gift dropped into our laps,” Salcido says. She has years of experience and hundred of contacts in the distribution side of the film industry — contacts including Netflix and Red Box, big-box stores like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy, and the independent movie theater association.
It’s an interesting time to try to get independent films on the big, silver screen. The industry — as is much of the communications world — is in the midst of a digital revolution. Film distributors not only try to book films into theaters, they are having to meet a growing demand for video-on-demand (VOD).
“You can go to a theater to see a film or pay your two bucks and stream it in your home,” Salcido says. “Of course, you have to supply your own popcorn, but you can watch in your pajamas with your dog curled at your feet.”
Film distribution is on the cusp of this rapidly changing technology, and Borderlands Media is positioning itself to succeed. The people involved with the company are attending conferences to take advantage of seminars addressing the new technologies. “They’re telling us not just how things are now but how things will be in five years,” Salcido adds. “We need to anticipate how to position our business so we’ll still be viable when demand shifts more from theaters to in-home VOD.”
Salcido says they will not just circulate films to theaters. “We’ll help filmmakers produce movies that meet very exacting quality standards.” He explains, if the filmmaker has been savvy enough to bring a sound engineer on set to record the film and hired an editor who knows how to get the most out of the footage, Borderlands Media will have less to do in getting the film out. A lot of filmmakers don’t do this, or don’t have the funds to. Then the distributor will work with them to make sure the end product meets the quality standards.
Borderlands Media will also be involved in producing a dynamic trailer and exciting artwork — both of which contribute considerably to a film’s success.
The next step for Borderlands Media is actually to begin distributing films. Troy Scoughton and his production company have created a film entitled Truth. “We were planning to distribute it this fall,” Salcido says, “but Rebecca [Reeves] said we should wait.”
She reasoned, all the big studios are releasing their latest work in the third quarter for the Christmas season. Buyers won’t show interest in independent films. Instead, Borderlands Media is now planning to roll out Truth, along with two other films, in the first quarter of 2016.
It may be, now Borderlands Media is here, filmmakers in southern New Mexico can finally get over that final hurdle and have audiences here, across the country, and around the world see and appreciate their creative efforts.