Michael J. Smith Sr. in Lance Hammer’s Ballast

This story is about 1000 years old by Internet standards (July 3), but I just stumbled across it and it’s interesting.

Though busy IFC has been snapping up projects left and right lately, one recently slipped through its grasp. According to IndieWIRE’s Anthony Kaufman, Lance Hammer backed out of a deal to have IFC release his festival favorite Ballast. Instead the filmmaker is opting to go it alone.

At issue wasn’t so much the low fee, it was the lack of future creative control Hammer would have over his own film. “Giving up Internet rights for 20 years, that’s just crazy,” said the filmmaker. According to IndieWIRE, he also called IFC’s exclusive home video arrangement with Blockbuster a “deal breaker.”

IFC Films acquisitions head Arianna Bocco took the high road saying, “We’re disappointed and we love the movie, but how can you argue with an independent filmmaker who wrote, directed, produced and financed his own movie and wants to take that final step of ownership? I respect that choice.”

I liked Ballast quite a bit, though not as much as some. It’s a quiet, subtle film about a reluctant family triangle formed from tragedy in rural Mississippi. It’s difficult to quantify in a small blurb, but I recommend it. I’ll be keeping an eye out for it as it makes its way into the marketplace.

Ballast is schedule to play New York’s Film Forum beginning October 1 with plans for a national release to follow.

6 Responses to “Indie Indeed”

  1. I’m glad a guy with some clout (admittedly, indie-world clout) is pointing out how ridiculous that Blockbuster deal is. It’s not just insulting to anyone who appreciates cinema, it’s just plain bad business.

  2. I agree and that’s at least 45% of my interest in this story, the rest being I think it’s a worthwhile film.

    If I understood the implications of the IndieWIRE piece correctly, he’s not counting on making a huge theatrical splash, but enough of one to have a decent DVD release where he can make enough money to make another film.

    With the IFC deal, he was looking at some upfront cash that was probably less than his film cost to make with little hope of future revenue.

    I hope it works out for him.

  3. Yes, I’m glad he’s pointing out the borderline insanity of the Blockbuster deal.

    I’ve been looking forward to seeing this for ove six months. In your little review of it, Craig, from LAFF, you noted that it was very subtle and required great attention, which was a little testing in the face of the festival, but you were glad you stuck with it–so considering all of those things that were potentially going against it for you, sounds like it’s certainly one to be pursued.

  4. Yeah, and he’s smart not to sign away online rights to his film for TWENTY YEARS. Anyone that does that right now is high. There’s no telling what’s going to happen with film distribution and the internets in the next 3 years, let alone the next 20.

    Wow, smart guy. Glad to see he’s not hot to have Lackluster shelve his film to the bottom rung in 90% of its markets either.

  5. He could benefit more from the IFC deal if he hadn’t gotten so much attention at Sundance. For some people, just getting their film distributed and getting their name out there is probably a huge victory. Many of those are probably hoping on cashing in by heading to Hollywood, but this Hammer guy sounds like he’s more interested in funding his next indie feature.

    If so, good for him and good luck.

    I wish I could say I was more taken by Ballast. I caught it at a low energy point in a film festival on a day when I saw a bunch of other relatively heavy films, but I still liked it.

  6. I’m still looking forward to this bad boy. Hope it has a successful run, if for not other reason than somebody bucking the system.

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