A Free public screening of Fourth Wall Films' award-winning "Lost Nation: The Ioway 2&3" at Black Hawk State Historic Site in Rock Island, Illinois.
People sometimes wonder what we do with the "millions" of dollars we make producing historical documentary films. The short answer is...nothing. Why? Because (surprise!) we don't make millions of dollars. In fact, we don't make a profit...at all. To our knowledge, even the people at the top of the profession aren't making millions of dollars. Well, maybe a couple of guys are. But the history business just isn't a "money" business for most who have dedicated themselves to telling stories from the past.
We fund our local history film projects with local humanities council grants and other small grants. Those funds cover a little less than half the cost of our productions. The balance of our film budgets come from our own piggy bank in cash and in the form of in-kind contributions (work we do but don't get paid for).
To be sure, we are fortunate to receive help toward the cash match from individuals and organizations who are supportive of our work in general, or of a specific project and topic. We are very grateful for that support, and without that help our film work would not be possible.
That said, we have never been able to raise the entire budget for any of our films prior to completion.
But what about broadcast rights? Don't you make "millions" of dollars on that?
Some people see our films at free public showings and on DVDs, but 90% or more see the films via FREE PBS broadcasts. Local PBS stations do not pay us a fee to broadcast our work.
What about DVD sales?
DVD pre-sales (sales before a DVD is officially available for sale) help us pay for the cost of creating and manufacturing the DVD version of the film. DVD sales that come after release, help us offset the portion of the budget that we weren't able to raise prior to the film's completion.
Long story short, we are lucky to be able to pay ourselves for the work we do, and to pay ourselves for work we have already done. Our films do not generate a profit. Thanks to DVD sales, and now streaming options, we might be able to offset the cost of our production over an extended period of time.
Why do you make films that are unlikely to make a profit? If it doesn't make a profit, does it have value?
We consider two things when deciding whether to make a film. First, is the subject an important story to tell? And second, can we raise the funds to make the project possible? Financially, we would be far better off choosing topics based solely on the prospect of profits. Plenty of producers do this by telling the same history stories over and over again. Other's do it by making so-called "reality shows."
A free public showing of the award-winning "Lost Nation: The Ioway" drew a packed event in Los Angeles at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy. Representatives of the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska exchanged gifts with the Tongva Tribe of Southern California.
They may be making millions of dollars, but they are not telling Midwestern history stories. Stories from America's heartland are the stories we are committed to telling. We aren't making "millions", but we believe our films are making a difference.
Thank you for your support. We hope you will continue to help us make movies that matter!