Tootsie. Field of Dreams. Raiders of the Lost Ark. The list of successful high-quality studio films targeting the whole family is extensive. Realizing their profitability, the major studios have begun to revisit these types of films and focus a significant amount of attention on family fare. Two recent Disney live-action films are perfect examples: The Princess Diaries cost approximately $35 million to make and grossed $108 million domestically while The Rookie was made for just $24 million and took in $72 million domestically. As the New York Times recently noted, the impact goes far beyond the movie theater. "Studios have realized that films aimed at families or teens tend to be the best sellers in the home-video market and earn bigger payouts than adult-oriented films from broadcast and cable programmers" (June 10, 2002). Add to that the fact 2001 was the first in more than 10 years to have an R-less list of annual top ten money earners, and it is even more remarkable that independent filmmakers have yet to take advantage of this trend. While there is certainly an abundance of quality low-budget independent films being made, very few of them fall into the family category. Yet, when properly undertaken, independent films can break through in the family friendly market and generate very significant returns. My Big Fat Greek Wedding comes readily to mind. Waterfall Films plans to capitalize on that void with its first picture, Greener Mountains, a family-oriented coming of age story. Independent low-budget movies such as this which have multi-generational appeal, while keeping production costs low, offer enormous potential for profit in all areas of distribution.
Waterfall's vision is to bring the creative and economic sensibilities of independent film to studio style family fare in producing an innovative, substantive film that wins the hearts of family audiences. Waterfall Films also intends to employ a "mini studio" concept that emulates the larger studio model for marketing and promotion, scaled to the lower cost film segment. Examples of this mini studio approach include creating product tie-ins, cross promotions, and soundtrack and merchandising opportunities; using industry "buzz" public relations vehicles and the internet; and surrounding the film with the best possible talent on and off screen. By bringing a more commercially packaged independent family film to the distribution and marketing communities, Waterfall expects to facilitate broad distribution and optimize return on investment.