Monday, June 1, 2009

Interview: Red Hook

I interviewed Brad Rubenstein on Skype this morning. Brad's production company, Red Sand Media, produced a horror film called Red Hook. From the Red Hook website: "Hip, romantic and darkly clever, RED HOOK is a chilling thrill ride through the landmarks and local haunts of New York."

Brad discusses making his first low-budget film, the impact of the Internet on film marketing, and what you need to know when you make your first low-budget film. If you want to know the current state of the low-budget film world, read on!

Steven Damron: When did you start working on Red Hook?

Brad Rubenstein: My involvement started in early 2007, when my business partner Kris Stewart, director Elizabeth Lucas, and screenwriter Sammy Buck came to me with the project.

SD: What else have you produced?

BR: Red Hook is the first film I've been involved in. I've invested in a large number of theatre shows (and raised money for a lot of non-profit performance groups, such as the New York Festival of Song), the first big show I helped produce was [title of show]. It ran on Broadway at the Lyceum in 2008.

SD: Which is more fun, shows or films?

BR: They are very, very different. That's for sure.

SD: Can you say how much money it took to make Red Hook, and where you found investors?

BR: It was done on a very low budget. In addition to investing myself, there were numerous friends both from the theatre world, and my business contacts, that got involved. It was definitely a labor of love. One of our intentions was to provide an environment where several of us who had never made a feature film before could learn how it ticks.

SD: Do Internet sites like youtube, itunes store, and hulu help or hurt low budget films like Red Hook?

BR: In the current environment, I think that very very few low budget films (with no stars attached) are going to earn back their production costs. So either they are vanity projects, or stepping stones to future bigger endeavors. In either case, free distribution and exposure are all for the good.

SD: Do you think you'll distribute through the Internet?

BR: That said, we're treating this project as a serious commercial one, and in particular, we're considering a deal with a distribution company, not a self-distribution approach. In other words, now that we've made the movie, we'd like to partner with someone who has expertise in marketing and distribution and let them take the lead. I'm confident that internet distribution will be part of their plan.

SD: Can you comment on who will distribute Red Hook and planned release dates?

BR: Distribution is its own complicated world, and the way that movie rights get sliced and diced among different geographies and media is in a state of flux. Since we're in the middle of negotiating these things, we can't say much. But I think you'll see something fun by Halloween.

SD: Now that you put your toe in the water, will you dive into film production?

BR: It's fun and crazy and engrossing, and I'm looking forward to the next one. I definitely need to work on projects that are small enough to allow me to combine the capital-raising end with the logistical and "production" end. As projects get larger, those tend to drift farther and farther apart. I actually do have another project, a tangled Science Fiction story, entitled Fade To White, in post.

SD: So, it took you a little over two years from the time you first discussed Red Hook to the time you expect to have the film in distribution. Now that you know more about small budget production, what are your learnings? Will the market for small-budget films grow as media companies reduce costs structures?

BR: That's a good question. I actually think the world of low budget filmmaking is drifting toward the "youtube" world of a larger number of smaller, more personal, projects. There is a huge glut of content as production costs for High Definition production (for example) come down. Festivals that would normally cater to these indie projects, Sundance, Slamdance, Tribeca, etc, are all completely overrun with submissions. I can only imagine that separating the wheat from the chaff is extremely difficult for them.

SD: What's your advice to other low-budget film makers? How do they find audiences for their films? How should they distribute?

BR: Well, for many films, you the producer will know your audience far better than any distributor ever will. So in a sense, you're going to be "self-distributing" no matter what, even if you're promoting your film for your distributor. That said, options like,, and are making the mechanics of self distribution easier than ever. Of course, as the channels get more accessible, they get more crowded. Ultimately, you've got to be a good marketer.

SD: Anything else you'd like to share?

BR: Check out our trailer at, and if you want to get updates, you can get on our mailing list. It's a funny, scary, crazy tale, and I think it will make a big splash. In the East River.

SD: Thanks for your time!

BR: My pleasure. I'll give you my recipe for fake blood after the interview.

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