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Three Steps For 21st-Century Independent Filmmaking Success

05.18.12 @ 3:05PM Tags : ,

This is a guest post by Jason Brubaker, author of the new book Filmmaking Stuff: How to make, market and sell your movie without the middle-man.

Independent filmmaking has changed a lot in the decade since I started my career. It sounds silly now, but back when I started, there was this collective belief that if you made your movie, you would sell it at Sundance and live happily ever after. Perpetuated by sensational headlines touting the successes of Ed Burns, Kevin Smith and Robert Rodriguez, Sundance Fever became a full-blown epidemic resulting in maxed out credit cards, angry investors and film festival rejection.

Even if you were one of the few filmmakers fortunate enough to make a movie and have an amazing festival run, it soon became apparent that you were nobody unless you could reach the marketplace. And because there were thousands of poorly produced titles flooding the festival circuit, distribution became discriminatory, abusive and monopolistic. As a consequence, many filmmakers settled for crappy distribution deals. At least getting something felt better than nothing.
Or so we thought…

Having worked on several features since then, I am happy to report that times have changed. As a result of modern tools such as crowdfunding, social media and Internet based marketplaces you now have the ability to get your movie seen and selling, without the middleman. But just because you can get your title into iTunes, Amazon and Hulu does not guarantee that you will make money.

To garner success, YOU are now responsible for sourcing an audience and building a platform for YOUR projects. And this reveals the next major challenge. How does a filmmaker succeed in this changing business?

Here are THREE essential filmmaking skills you need to master:

1. Become an Internet marketer: Or team up with someone who is. Why? Because there will come a time when there is no delineation between the Internet and your television. Or your mobile device. As a result of these changes, you will need to drive targeted Internet traffic to your desired point of sale and convert these visitors into customers.


2. Find Out How To Crowdfund: Running a successful crowdfunding campaign requires social networking, real-world networking and Internet marketing. Aside from raising money, your goal is to test all your movie concepts before you dive in both feet first. And if successful, your goal is to snowball your supporters into one giant mailing list so you can gain their support for your next projects.

3. Your Audience Is Your Business: Marketing nerds have a saying, “The money is in your list.” It is now no different to filmmakers. Your ongoing goal is to create work that encourages people to sign up for your mailing list and become a fan of you and your movies, for life. Then with each project, your ongoing goal is to continually grow your list.

While what I am suggesting will require hard work, I believe this is an AWESOME time to make movies. Between crowdfunding and non-discriminatory distribution, you have an opportunity to build and run your own mini-movie-studio. Think about it. The future of filmmaking is not Hollywood. It is the thousands of independent filmmakers (just like you) who are empowered by the digital revolution. You can now make, market and sell your movies from anywhere in the world!

Are you excited? You should be.


Jason Brubaker is a Los Angeles based Independent Motion Picture Producer and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. He is focused on helping YOU make, market and sell movies more easily by growing your fan base, building buzz and creating community around your title. Find out more at FilmmakingStuff.com

COMMENT POLICY

We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Luke Neumann on 05.18.12 @ 3:12PM

    Amen brother.

  • Having just completed my first feature film with this model, I can say that I hate what this means for cinema. For starters, I think crowd funding is going to very quickly become a non option for most filmmakers as there are only so many friends and family members you can tap so many times to help you make films that end up going nowhere. Granted some of these crowdfunded films have and will go on to achieve great success, but the vast majority with go on to nothing. Further more, I have donated to more than one project that has yet to make good on their promised perks with no communication whatsoever. This leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I also know I am not alone when I am bombarded with “please give me money” requests for yet another film project. I don’t feel good receiving these messages and I feel even worse sending them out. Has it allowed me to make my film? Yes. Did I enjoy doing any of it? Not a chance.

    Now when it comes to becoming your own mini studio, this is huge problem. With filmmakers now needing to think about how they are going to make money, distribute, market etc we have essentially put ourselves in the same position hollywood has for years, and our films will become pieces for profit. As such, our stories have and will continue to suffer. As soon as back end profits starts into the picture your film changes and usually for the worst. I know for me this has been a major source of disappointment with my own film.

    This is more of a rant then a comment, probably stemming from my own insecurities and worry about the current state of our industry. I do not think this model is sustainable at all and something has got to change, ultimately I think we are going to end up with a new hollywood. People with money deciding what gets made and the old system will be re-born…again. And so it will continue. Blargh.

    • well i think hollywood is a film marketing industry since it’s inception, i don’t think they care about the art of film making as much as they care about money making. I don’t blame them, they are there to make money and they will do everything they know to make that happen. if you are making film just to make money, yeah you are heading the hollywood way, but if you are telling a good story you are making a good film if you are making a good film people will enjoy it and you will make more money in the process. i think that will encourage anyone to make more good films. how is that a problem?
      ithink this post really is simple and kindlike how things work in real life, the internet will creates a way for you to reach your audience with no bureaucracy. if you are a good film maker, people will watch your film just b/c it’s good and if your film suck well not a lot of people are going to watch your film. you just have to learn more and come back period as simple as that.

    • I think that it is important to realize that with the crowd funding model you will find that 99% of the projects are bad investments. Just as in the studio system, many people want to make a movie, but 99% of those people are not talented. This is a big reason why most screenplays barely even get read by producers or their readers. You need to weed through the plethora of bad projects that “push” people to fund their film (i.e. beg), and look for the good ideas that “pull” people in with passion and talent. Look at the more successful kickstarter projects and you will see how evident the passion(s) of the creator(s) is(are). You simply can’t help but want to support. Those are the projects that must be made, and when they are, you will be rewarded regardless, at the very least by knowing you helped create something great.

    • on the up-side this over-saturation of non-product only serves to knock back the poor attempts and let the real good stuff shine.

    • I completely agree with Adam. This model is not sustainable and doing more damage than good, in my eyes the independent movies I have seen that have been made are for the most part terrible. that being said some great films will be made with this model but vey few.

    • I have heard that there is a crowdfunding over-saturation of sorts in the US creative markets. Luckily in the UK, Canada and europe there really doesn’t seem to be!

      I think filmmaking in its purest sense is storytelling, it may be that the stories need to get better, the marketing needs to be stronger as the competition online and elsewhere grows… being creative has never been easy… competition will push people to push boundaries and potentially look for new solutions.

      But don’t count on crowdfunding to solve all your problems…

  • Would Mr. Brubaker care to cite narrative films which have succeeded, based on these recommendations? We’re talking raising workable budgets in advance of production and making money on distribution, when the filmmaker has no prior fame.

    • Have you not heard of kickstarter?

      • yes i have heard of kickstarter. what i haven’t heard of is one single successful film funded by these means that’s been talked about by people other than the claimant’s friends and family.

    • Indie go go is another crowd funding site. There are plenty of successful campaigns and stories spanning several formats to point to. For instance there’s the video game campaign which raised 1 million dollars on Kickstarter within 24 hrs.

      Most definitely attainable and a great source to prepare and raise awareness for your projects.

  • There is no basically viable career in independent narrative filmmaking. A one-off success on Kickstarter is one thing. Making it viable in the long term is another.

    Keep it a passion or a hobby and you’ll be much happier and better off.

    Just my two cents.

  • My biggest fear about this “new industry business model” is the fact that BECAUSE it is so available and independent, it increases the number of people utilizing it which increases competition which brings us back to where we started. I think the best marketing the internet has done for the indie, no-budget film industry was for The Blair Witch Project. But that’s only because they were one of the first ones to utilize it as a marketing medium for film.

    Now, EVERYONE has a Vimeo, YouTube, or Facebook account (and etc.) and can upload their films, thus oversaturating an already infinite Internet. Everyone and their mother-in-law can buy a Canon 7D, a cheap fast lens, shoot some shallow DoF and Twixtor up a slo-motion video with trippy music and suck up 2,000,000 views.

    My point is, there is already so much media on the Internet and, I dont give a shit what anyone says, its onlu going to get more difficult with the increase of accessibility to this so called “marketing medium.” The average joe shmoe doesn’t just go out and look for new awesome indies anyway, people are just more comfortable with going to see big, $30million+ movie they see advertised on tv and before other films in the theatres.

    I’m not saying this is a completely ineffective distributive medium, but I am saying it isn’t the answer that indie filmmakers have been long awaiting. I think Adam McKay hit it right on the head when he said hollywood’s old self will be re-invented…and it’s only a matter of time.

    That’s just my opinion. I think there are better, more efficient and cost-effective ways to distribute our films and ultimately “make it”…we just have to think outside the box. Finding a medium that has the most potential for popularity and being the first ones there.

    • Basically we have an infinite internet with a very limited attention-span of an audience.

      • That’s the issue.

        • A phenomenon called CPA, Continuous Partial Attention. Look in-depth to some of your YouTube statistics and you’ll see that the vast majority does not finish your latest short; 75% does not even watch the second quarter…

          • It’s really scary.

            When you hear things like “24 hours of video uploaded every minute” you realize just how ludicrous it is all becoming. How can even big players on Youtube, etc, capture anyone’s attention for more than a handful of times? The model of loyal viewership is basically disappearing; people will watch either the latest viral video (which lasts in the public consciousness for, at MOST, 24 hours) or they’ll search for a very specific thing on a specific occasion. When everyone and their cousin is making a new “web series” or “indy film”, how could you ever conceivably compete?

          • But it is not really scary.

            Well it is not scary for some of us. Let me explain. Few people are natural storytellers. It is a rare skill. If you have it, then you are always in demand (socially, professionally). Unfortunately a lot of people delude themselves into believing their own egos. They are not good storytellers but are convinced that the sound of their own voice is an elixir for everyone on earth. This happens unfortunately more in the young than the older generations. The young have few experiences and little in life experience. It is hard to tell an interesting story if nothing interesting has ever happened to you.

            The story is EVERYTHING for keeping attention. The story needs to be interesting/exciting/funny and it needs to be skilfully told.

            I am now a little longer in the tooth than most here, but I have lived an exciting life (an Arabic curse, and I agree, no one wishes for their life to be “interesting”). I have personally run from the police (successfully and unsuccessfully), I have become an international fugitive, I have died and have been issued a death certificate, I have been attacked in my own home by drug dealers, I have been attacked in my home by amateur assassins, I have had an ex try to run me down in her car three times, I have been forcibly stripped naked by a gang of women, I have been raped by a large violent sick woman, I have lived in a relationship with two women under the same roof, I have been to court and have won a landmark decision without a lawyer (you CAN defend yourself and win in court if you are determined and have the brains to suit), I have dated a nationally famous stripper who had been full frontal on “60 Minutes” less than a week before I was set up on a blind date with her (she spent almost the same amount of time autographing things for people than talking to me that first date), I have saved endangered and threatened animals, I have lived on the street at 15, I have been part of the largest burglary locally in cash value while living on the street (and I was the ONLY one that got away with it because I was smart enough to realise the pigs were staking out the next place the idiots burgled), I married a woman with NN size breasts, I have a “rain man” child (He did not go full retard… I am unlikely to write a story about my children, with a lot of work, he is able to handle social situations)…. I can go on and on about my experiences. I have listed less than half the things that I have lived through that few if any people live through in their normal suburban middle class lives.

            I can also entertain a room or an auditorium full of people with my stories. I have been able to since I was 13 years old. If you have been a repeated Speech Competition winner (when your teacher tells you you are useless and could never win a speech competition) and head of the senior debate team while still a junior, then you have the ability to entertain people. Speeches and debates are often about the entertainment value, not making the most solid arguments. If you have had people (not friends, but people you have only just met) begging you to write your memoirs since you were 18, then you are a DAMN good storyteller. Add to that a lifetime of real experiences like I have, and you know that you can keep people watching your YouTube content for the full five minutes, thirty minutes or ninety minutes. Entertain them. They want to be entertained. Being fixated on the camera you use will NEVER entertain an audience. Get some life experiences, especially some exciting and dangerous experiences (earn some serious scars), and get lessons on how to entertain people if you can not entertain total strangers already.

          • I also forgot. I have only written one story as a story. I was asked to option it by a successful publishing editor within ten minutes of finishing it (ten minutes of me finishing writing it… I also wrote it in one run, no editing). He was that impressed by what he read in the first few minutes of receiving the manuscript (still handwritten at that point). I turned him down because I have always been more interested in turning my stories into animations, TV shows and films.

            Another point I forgot to make is to never accept second rate with anyone you work with. Directors and actors especially. Also, if you are a writer director, don’t believe that any actor knows more than you do if you have LIVED a situation. If you have been held at gunpoint, if you have been a drug runner for a bikie (biker) gang, then you know a hell of a lot more than the actor does about your emotions, what runs through your head in those situations. Some times micromanaging a great actor will give you the best results. If neither of you have experience in that situation, then your scene will be as derivative as the next team who get their life experience off the boob tube and from film directors that were often born with a silver spoon up their unmentionables and themselves have never been in a gang shootout so “imagined” it all themselves.

          • @Hummer > > When everyone and their cousin is making a new “web series” or “indy film”, how could you ever conceivably compete?

            by doing it better and with a highly original flare. if you can’t take the heat . . .

          • Jason..there’s been some internet marketing articles here before.
            And they don’t go over well among the readers…check the comments.

            Because it’s 2012 not 1999 and by now everyone knows the facts.
            Even Sundance films are not able to break even. And those are
            only about 20 films out of 4,000 submitted.

            Until you or the No Film School staff can give us a list of 5 or 10 films
            by an unknown director with an unknown cast in the last few years
            that could turn a profit…well there’s no business…and no business
            model to follow. It’s just a sort of delusional craziness of hope.

  • A person cannot be smart enough to make a great film and simultaneously dumb enough to self-distribute it.
    These are mutually exclusive propositions. A person can, however, be dumb enough to make a so-so film and simultaneously dumb enough to self-distribute it. People don’t like to hear this but…films worth watching are rare. When someone is brilliant enough to make one they know that it will stand out amongst the typical festival crap and get a distribution deal. People who make so-so crap want to rely on “marketing” ideas to magically convince people to watch their godawful film. Having said that…I’m all for self-distribution because people having the ability to tell their stories and share them with people who want them is good…but it’s just a hobby…or are you seriously going to battle against Sony Classics and Paramount? Really? If so, have fun…if you can.

    • Some festivals are so hard to get into that I would say by virtue of getting in you are probably not “crap.” And some people are offered a distribution deal that is just awful in terms of guarantees. So what do you do then? Take the deal just to think you’re “brilliant enough?”

      • All sorts of crap gets into the best festivals, for all sorts of reasons — name recognition, prior association with the festival (e.g., Sundance Labs), personal associations with the festival staff, stars in the cast, fools and philistines in the programming suite etc. This has been true for years, and it’s still true.

        And if you are offered a distribution deal it is indeed likely to be lousy. The fact that this route is all but hopeless doesn’t mean the Brubaker approach is any more viable. The best way to succeed in the indie film business is to escape the indie film business.

        • Consider also the — as it were — existential dilemma of indie film. Trivial, formulaic content is the norm in movies because, fundamentally, something else is being sold to the audience – a fantasy of glamour, celebrity, wish-fulfillment and aestheticized reality.

          Most indies have, by contrast, only their actual content to sell, for lack of production resources. Consider the burden here: one needs to come up with not only an extraordinary conception or literary realization of the script, but the successful realization of the film can’t depend on much in the way of production resources. How many times, in the history of cinema, has that occurred? It’s no wonder that “slacker films” were the most successful indie genre, short-lived though it was, is and deserved to be.

          Anyway, the argument here is, none of it makes any sense, and anyone pretending there’s a viable aesthetic or monetary return in indie filmmaking is, for 9999 out of 10,0000 instances — is a dreamer or a fake.

      • I think we have a different definition of “crap”…my perspective is that I don’t care if it takes 5,000 submissions for Sundance to pick 100. That doesn’t impress me. I want to watch the best three of those…the rest can go to hell.
        And ten times out of ten those super best three will get decent distribution deals. “Beasts of the Southern Wild”
        has no big superstars and, I think, was shot on 16mm…but it clearly(according to most critics, I haven’t seen it) kicked the shit out of everything else at
        Sundance…that’s a film I wanna see…that type of film will always get distribution…nobody self-distributes something at that level. There are a billion cameras and editing programs out there…people should not expect to earn a living from film unless their films kick serious ass critically or commercially…there simply is no ecosystem
        to support average filmmaking…unless you’re a major studio. Again, I am all for people self-distributing…but it’s a hobby.
        If a film is offered poor distribution deals it’s because the film tested badly at festivals. That filmmaker needs to
        check their motives. If their motive is money they need to make more commercial product to attract better deals
        If their motive is creating the best art they can then showing the film at festivals and a vod and itunes release
        should be plenty.

        • Lliam Worthington on 05.19.12 @ 11:25AM

          “there simply is no ecosystem to support average filmmaking”

          I consider myself an optimist, but also a realist, and I think this quote and the rest of your post is entirely accurate.

        • bguest writes:

          “… but it clearly(according to most critics, I haven’t seen it) kicked the shit out of everything else at
          Sundance…that’s a film I wanna see…that type of film will always get distribution…nobody self-distributes something at that level.”

          Much the same thing was said about “Ballast” a few years ago, and which had the advantage of a famous executive producer who came on after the fact. But it still ended up with dismal self-distribution and a dead loss, because no distributor offered them a decent deal.

          And even you’re satisfied to let Sundance vet the medium, reward the usual suspects and enforce its own peculiar standards, “kicking the shit” out of everything at that festival doesn’t mean much, when American indies are competing against heavily subsidized art-house cinema from other countries which don’t need Sundance Labs and are under no pressure to satisfy the tastes of Sundance. How many heralded Sundance prize winners have disappeared without trace, and deservedly so?

        • Film Festivals are the very last measure of what motion pictures get a great distribution deal. There are plenty of examples of feature films being made between 250K and 3M outside of the studio system being snatched up for major cash.

          Most of the time it has nothing to do with how good or bad your feature is, but who’s in it or how it can be sold to someone. The reality of the monetary system that is “cinema” is that he with the most connections and the most expertise in the field would be rich.

          Getting into world class festivals just means more advertising for the people that want to recoup dollars through distribution. You can get nearly the same amount of advertising by sending free copies of your feature in a clever gift basket to major blog outlets. This is if you aim to sell.

          If you want to actually become the next NAME in motion picture, then you probably aren’t concerned with money and more so concerned with accolades, representation, and remaining prolific at all costs.

          None of this stuff is mystical or hidden technology, those actually IN this industry (full time), producing content and talking with serious producers know these things.

          • Houston Hews on 05.19.12 @ 3:14PM

            @Kholi

            Except that indie-aspiring, non-Hollywood filmmaking is not an industry. The for-profit industry model doesn’t explain indie operations or indie success and indie successes rarely come out of the industry or from industry people.

            It’s true that there are any number of producers and filmmakers trying to make commercial films for budgets more in line with typical indie than Hollywood financing, but that’s a completely different market, with different aspirations and different marketing strategies.

          • @Houston Hews

            Well, it depends on how you look at it, to be honest. Without some sort of profit (or a second job) indie cannot exist, regardless.

            However, I would agree that it’s a very different sort of market with different goals, most of the time the goal of actually creating a GOOD product being at the very bottom of the list, and marketable product at the top.

            Marketable is not synonymous with good.

  • We’ve all the tools for making film and distribute over the internet but that’s doesn’t mean the film will be the next: Clerks, Brothers McMullen or El Mariachi. The fact now we’re free to post everywhere on the web our film doesn’t mean people are going to watch it, internet is just a tool like a camera or whatever. I think the path for short film are first of all film festival. If you win some prize then your short online could attract more reviews and be viewed by a large audience instead of posting directly on the web. Same for feature, is something is worth watching is more easy and you have to think about as a product to sell so it’s better hire people who are pros in that business if it’s not in your skills. Offering your film on internet for free looks like is cheap, it’s not worth with no value. the marketing part of a film is the main thing where all filmmakers including me aren’t good enough or at all, because maybe looks like we did our job finishing the final cut of the film and that’s no more our business… but we don’t have the Hollywood shark working instead of us for selling, marketing… distribution is the most important part of making a film after the script, that’s the first point to achieve good results. And I guess that is something we just learn while we grow up as filmmakers. but before of all marketing just write a very good story that’s is the main thing will push you on everything else, watch a lot of movies and steal from them and stories from people you’ve just met on a bus or whatever… We care if “Clerks” was shot cheap on 16mm or we had a lot of fun watching it? with no good story you are going anywhere, now you could show your film online but if it’s not good audience will say that sucks and was a waste of time even if it free…sorry I wrote to much and sorry for my english! ciao

  • Robert Rodriguez had distribution, agency, and contract talks before El Mariachi was shown at Sundance… his mention in the lead is a bit of a misrepresentation.

    The issue with any indie film that is self-distributed, it seems, is that the prospect of profit is dubious. If Mr. Brubaker is so inclined, I would love to know his experience with clients or acquaintances who have some black ink in the ledger without having mainsteam success before like Kevin Smith’s Red State.

    I’m not doubting the efficacy of permission marketing ala Seth Godin, but how far can you go with a niche segment (film aficionados) before reaching a profit ceiling? And how many people can make films with good production value for those profit projections?

    And this is coming from myself, someone who has a site that sells indie films…. just food for thought as it truly depends on how balls-to-the-wall an individual’s efforts are.

  • The way I see it-

    Come up with an idea and make it as epic as you want (not Avatar, more like half of a Nolan film) and then go with it. Inquire about the different things you think would be cool to have in your film. Production value is one of the keys to success. If you want a helicopter go to an air-club and see if you can get one for free for a few hours. If not, then see if you want the price in your budget.

    Repeat for everything in the film. You would be seriously surprised how much money you will save. I almost produced a short film (went flop) and got over $2000 off of my budget (my $0 budget). Once you know what yo can and can’t do, then do everything you can without money. Write the script, then get a rough storyboard. I myself decided to do a extremely rough pre-vis in Blender. I have accsess to two cameras so I set up the cameras I want in Blender, then sort out what camera (A_cam, B_cam) goes where when I’m editing the pre-vis footage.

    Do as much as you can before the actual production stage to impress people. Make them interested. Even try to get some cool scene made with an explosion (action essentials is your friend). If you need to, set up a campaign on kickstarter or indygogo. Hope for the best.

    I’m making a story based in the world from a book. I’m hoping for the author to like the idea (once again, impress him with a “high production” script and effects) so there is another selling point for the people paying off your film.

    Just keep them happy and don’t use them unless you NEED to.

  • Social media can assist in 2 ways – not only to garner funds through IndyGoGo or Kickstarter, but, probably, more importantly, to create a following for you as a filmmaker and/or your next project. In a way, that’s exactly what Ryan is doing right here with NoFilmSchool.com.

    Financiers fund great stories first and foremost, but need to gather the best in the business to make things fly. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo never achieved the same results in its original Swedish form, but needed Fincher and Graig to make it fly. One notable exception currently exists, however – the French movie Intouchables is steadily growing its fanbase, not so much through old Hollywood style billboarding, but via word-of-mouth of movie goers. Over the last several weeks various people have recommended me this movie, both online and IRL. Based on its trailer I thought the movie was an ultimate tear jerker, but it turned out to be better than one of my other all-time favorites, Scent of a Woman.

    The point I’m making here is that social media is as much about getting attention, as it is about getting funds. A famous quote by Harold S Geneen reads “In the business world you’re paid in two coins: cash and experience. Take the experience first, the cash will come later”. Someone who practices this is Danny Lacey, who, through The Filmmaker’s Journey, is involving like-minded people to create beautiful shorts such as Host and That Day to document his own path to success.

    • Harold Hill on 05.19.12 @ 6:00PM

      Forgive me, but when will this “financiers fund great stories” fantasy finally be put to rest? Is it really necessary to point out that movies are funded (assuming we’re not talking about mom and dad) because somebody thinks he’ll make money off the investment? Or that indie financiers as a class have never proven themselves competent judges of material?

  • I’m amazed at all the ungrateful wimpering younger film makers out there.

  • I’m amazed at all the ungrateful wimpering younger film makers out there. But then most of your were not around in the 70′s and 80′s trying to make an independent film. Back then there was only the major studios. Television only had three main channels. There was no internet. No computers. Your film had to made on 16mm or Beta tape. The only way to shoot anything was to rent a camera from a rental house at $10,000 a week. Special effects added another $20,000 to your budget. Editing ran around $35,000 for a feature.The minimum budget for a low budget film was $700,000. And you guys are complaining now????

    Everything starts with the script. A good script will rise to the top and it doesn’t matter what type of camera you use. There are more people with cameras today and more distribution avenues making it more competitive but today you are able to do something that you couldn’t do in the past. Be passionate about your projects and not concerned with the money you may or may not make. If your script is fantastic, you have a great business plan and make your project out of love, the money will find you.

    • $700,000? Eraserhead cost $20,000 even factoring inflation it’s still less by about a factor of 10.

      As for your main point, cameras aren’t the most important thing, but script isn’t everything. It’s very, very easy to make a bad movie out of a good script if you don’t have good editing, sound, acting, locations/sets and cinematography.

    • Joe Skeptic on 05.19.12 @ 1:58PM

      There were tons of films made on 16mm for 4 and 5 figures, from late 70s well into the 90s. $10000 a week for a camera rental is a ludicrous figure. Most people either owned 2nd and 3rd hand cameras, got them from film schools for nothing, or rented sub-standard equipment at way below market rates from non-profits. And you could rent a Steenbeck for $100 a month, or a few dollars an hour on the premises.

      Funny, also, how folks are so convinced that “a good script will rise to the top”. Would that account for all the brain-dead writing one sees in Hollywood — and in indie film, for that matter?

      I

  • Hollywood’s biggest cost is P&A (prints and advertising). With the advent of Digital Distribution print costs have mostly gone away. But that still leaves advertising.

    How do you reach a potential audience that doesn’t use SpaceFace? Even if they do have a SpaceFace account many will never hear the buzz about your film. Therefore you have to create some of your own buzz through some form of advertising. They won’t buy it on iTunes, if they don’t know that it exists. And I don’t think giving it away on YouTube and making your profit from t-shirt sales is an option.

    Back in the day some people “Four Walled” their film. They rented a theater, they got the admission money and the theater owner got the concession money (plus the price of rental). They did their own advertising (print, radio, TV) The actor Tom Laughlin Four Walled some of his films. Also there were some nature, surfing and religious films, plus Erich von Däniken’s “Chariots of the Gods.” How do you Four Wall on the internet? Can you afford to Four Wall real theaters? BTW they way it worked was to have a limited number of prints and to move from town to town over a period of months.

    With any luck you should be able to breakeven.

    • one also has to account for the now severely retarded attention spans of audio-visual consumers.

  • I’m curious to know if being cynical about what is arguably the best time in history to be a filmmaker, helps in getting your movies made and distributed, versus others who embrace and are open to any new and exciting avenue that comes your way. I think what it really comes down to, and nobody has the balls to say it is that the era of the uber rich and powerful director is coming to and end. Somewhere deep down in our souls we all what that Spielberg, Lucas, and dare I say Bay money. And the fact that the current state of indie movies does not neccessarily offer that route, scares people I think. But wouldn’t it be nice just to be able to carvmakings living making movies. I edit tv shows, just produced a feature and am producing and directing a web-series, and am not near a millionaire. But I pay my bills with my passion, and that is cool. Crowd fund, self distribute, traditionally distribute, project it on the side of a white wall in an alley. But be open to it all, and never tell anyone they can’t do something. Because they’ll be the ones to prove you wrong, and all you’re left with is your cynicism and in produced script.

    • Thanks for telling us all what we want “deep down in our souls”…what are you, a prophet?…no wonder cynicism pisses you off…you expect people to follow you regardless of what happens…”being open to it all” is adolescent simplicity…discerning adults are selective…I’m glad you earn a living with your passion…”never tell anyone they
      can’t do something”…I’ll say what I want, I don’t need your permission Mr. Prophet….try starting your own cult

      • john jeffreys on 05.20.12 @ 11:34PM

        smells like the butthurt of a washed up 40 year old filmographer

        go shoot a wedding or something and let the man follow his dreams.

    • john jeffreys on 05.20.12 @ 11:30PM

      amen brother

  • Sorry abou grammar errors auto-correct got me. Should be unproduced and carve out a living. :)

  • shaun wilson on 05.19.12 @ 6:45PM

    Consider this…

    When Hollywood decided to change from silent films to sound films, it was almost overnight and an entire swag of productions in the making were stuck with rejection from distributions unless they used sound. So the now infamous ‘goat gland’ films came into effect which was quite an ingenious work around. They either started to use voice overs or have a small section of the film reshot with sound. So for two years (someone correct me if it was more) or so, film makers were finding often low cost or dodgy ways to get around the issue of distribution. So if we return to 2012, I think that we are in a similar situation where our work-around is the internet. What I really admire about internet methods as both a financial and or distribution model is that there is less concern about profits and more concern about story and craft because the audience isn’t necessarily removed from the film making process. So while it maybe a smaller scale operation than conventional studio models, it does offers film makers a way to make content that might not have been possible even 5 years ago.Its still in its infancy but if at some point in the future a film historian looked back 100 years from now we may indeed be in a ‘golden years’ of indie film making with the advent of Kickstart and the likes. Who knows, The ancients might just be right about 2012 and I’ve got 6 months left to finish that next script…

  • well this article was a short-n-sweet book advert eh . .

  • I had no idea that an article focused on internet movie distribution would spark such a debate. Great discussion and lots of good points!

    Jason Brubaker
    Filmmaking Stuff

  • MARK GEORGEFF on 05.25.12 @ 12:29AM

    Genre…genre…genre.
    It’s the answers to all the whiners here on this post.

    Take your great indie creed and indie drama and wrap it
    up in the candy coating of a kick ass genre.

    Production values don’t have to be high or expensive.

    Do what Roger Corman did, but do it on digital, and without the cheese factor.

    Have any idea why so many great filmmers are coming out of Asia and have been for some time;
    and why Hollywood keeps co-opting them?

    Look at what they’re doing:

    They’re making genre films with a dramatic thru line; a moral fable.
    This is not…brain surgery!

  • What an awesome article. Had to re-post in my blog. Thanks.

  • SáenzGalvis on 09.4.12 @ 10:50AM

    I don’t get you guys… We should be shitting our pants with happiness and anxiety with OPORTUNITIES like this one that’s explained in this marvelous article. Yes, sure, it has upsides and downsides. Like everything, right? We just have to know if those upsides are worth a try. But consider that 20, 10, even 5 years ago we didn’t haver a choice. I don’t think DIY distribution and internet marketing guarantees ” the happy ending” we always’ve wanted as filmmakers. To some it will, to some it will lead to better or worst things, but for the first time in history we have the power to decide where do we want to go with our film career. Before this, I just had the licking-ass-for-years path of Hollywood studios or the commercially-uncertain path of Indie festivals. Now we have another, more viable choice, even if perhaps it’s just a choice and not heaven finally brought to earth by the film gods. For those who know, what would have directors who struggled part (or most) of their lives trying to do things their own way, like Orson Welles, Kubrick or Goddard, if they had know such a powerful tool as the internet, that reaches millions o people. (Some years after Kane, Welles had to act in horrible TV commercials, downgrading his on-screen persona just to have enough money to make his films just the way he wanted and not subjugate to the “aesthetic” demands of the major studios). Once again, it has its downsides. The other two paths had, too. Whichever you think it’s the one for you, we still have a third choice now.
    I think as artists we all have one characteristic (and, like the paths mentioned above, it has an upside and a downside) that sets us apart from other people: we are idealists. I don’t have to make a list about all the benefits this bring to us, but I will point out the downside: We are thinking that some day a system will appear that will change this industry forever, that the artists will finally be able to make their stories without worrying about money or how people will find it among billions of other content. Call me pesimistic, but there is, and will, never be such a thing. What internet just gave us is just another tool. Let’s use it… Because we all know we followed a steep and hard path (filmmaking). Just listen to the great filmmakers talk about their work. It’s a damn hard job/life choice, and every little thing that makes it easier counts… Just listen to the great filmmakers talk about their work… “When you finally get it right, there’s not many joys in life that can equal the feeling”, to quote S. Kubrick in his D.W. Griffith award acceptance speech.
    So, let’s use this tool as greatly as possible. Because it’s just another one. When the chissel was invented for writing, we didn’t achieve the speed and efficiency of writinig in papyrus (the next big thing after that), not to mention paper or a typewriter. But you can bet your ass 5000 years after that we can still see things that were written with it!

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