The No Film School Manifesto

Here is how many in my parent's generation spent their careers and made their money:

They got paid by one company, and there was an assumption that the company would take care of them, providing health care, a retirement plan, and eventually, some sort of tacky gift to celebrate their 30 years of service.

But this isn't the case for my generation; I don't know anyone my age who's going to work for one company for 30 years. Times have changed and no (large) corporation is going to take care of anyone, except maybe its executives. Indefensible golden parachutes. Fading pension plans. Growing income inequality. The writing is on the wall: it is up to us as individuals to take care of ourselves and forge independent careers.

Now imagine the pie chart above represents ownership. For filmmakers, if we're getting all of our money on a project from a single source, it's likely that whoever's paying us actually owns the intellectual property, at least for a certain number of years. So the question then becomes, as creators, how can we derive monetary value from our content, without relying on financing from a corporate entity whose commercial interests are often opposed to our own artistic vision?

Here is a hypothetical example of a way we can support ourselves as independent creators in the new digital economy, while retaining ownership of our intellectual property:

Yes, dividing the pie dozens of ways is not very exciting. A lot of the above revenue streams probably aren't appealing to you. But one of the goals of No Film School is to find out which methods work and which don't. When it's difficult to predict which methods will succeed and which won't, we have to diversify.

This is only possible because movies are now digital goods. The entire equation changes when a film can be seen without the need to make 35mm prints and without having to manufacture and ship thousands of DVDs to brick-and-mortar stores all across the country (and the world); physical media like DVD and Blu-ray are on their way out. (I say this as an owner of a Blu-ray player, which I enjoy, but... Blu-ray will never be as popular as DVD, and with the advent of HD streaming, many people use their Blu-ray player primarily as a streaming device. In the same way that people listen to MP3s over CDs, convenience wins out over quality.) More and more viewers are watching films via streaming and download-to-own, and this is empowering for the independent content creator. Yes, there are still barriers to selling through many digital stores, but non-exclusive, inexpensive ushers like Distribber are making this less of an issue every day. Not to mention the advent of online banking and direct deposit to handle all of these revenue streams.

It's one thing to talk about all of this hypothetically, and while I wish I currently had a film out there with which to prove this point, give me a couple of months years and I'll have something to show. Still, one of the revenue slices in the above pie chart is "Ads on Blog," and thus: starting today I'm premiering a wonderful new feature on this site: ads! Okay, maybe it's not so wonderful, but the dirty not-so-secret to internet advertising is that it pays very little, and thus in terms of hourly wages, I don't ever expect No Film School to be a good "job." However, I do think it will be a valuable experience to develop real-world expectations regarding internet ads.

The inconstant gardener

One of the main points about the second pie chart is this: a lot of those revenue streams go on without us. At a day job we have to show up every day and do someone else's bidding in order to support ourselves. But as an independent creator, by taking advantage of some of the above revenue streams, we can be off on a beach somewhere surfing -- or writing a screenplay -- and still be getting paid by our creations. The garden doesn't require constant tending. And that's just for one project; many of those revenue streams continue on while we're working on our next project, and indeed can help fund the sucessor.

No Film School is not just about revenue streams and cutting out the gatekeepers and middlemen, however. More importantly, it's about the creative control that comes with owning our intellectual property, which is what will sustain our independent careers in the long run. We can make what we want, and find our own audience, instead of making what they want (meanwhile pulling our hair out because their desires aren't the same as our intentions).

I'm not saying this will work for everyone or that James Cameron and Tom Cruise should drop everything and switch to DIY methods, but everyone's talking about how the sky has fallen on independent film, when what they really mean is: the sky has fallen on companies that make money off independent filmmakers. The power is less in the hands of distributors and middlemen and more in our hands as independent creators.

Terminating the studio model

Actually, you know what? Let's take the example of James Cameron. What if he made the first Terminator movie today? The Terminator was the progenitor of an entire storyworld, and as a result the Terminator universe has been exploited across all manner of franchises: movie sequels, TV shows, theme park rides, video games, novels, comic books, etc. The franchise cannot be, uh, terminated.

The Terminator's 1984 production budget of $6.4 million is $13.5 million in today's dollars. If Cameron were in the same career position he was in back then -- that is, this would be his first feature -- he'd still need a studio to foot the cost for such an expensive movie, right? Well, what if he shot it digitally (not an option back then), outsourced the CGI overseas (the original Terminator, you'll recall, didn't have nearly the effects demands of later entries), paid the actors and crew $100/day in exchange for points on the back-end (except maybe Ahnold... although at that point he'd only been in Conan), and did a massive campaign through Kickstarter or IndieGoGo? Even better, what if he used a micro-investment scheme, as the producers of The Age of Stupid did so successfully? Through a combination of reduced production costs (thanks to cheaper digital tools, both for production and post-production), guerilla tactics, and a entirely different funding model, Cameron could shoot The Terminator today digitally for far less money than he did in 1984, without a studio -- and he could own the rights to the storyworld going forward. As it is today, Cameron doesn't own the rights to the Terminator franchise, and he has no say in where the world goes. This is because, in order to direct the first film, he reportedly sold the rights for a dollar. This is how studios work: they put up the money, and in exchange they own the rights to your baby, even if that baby grows up to be a star.

My point is not that Cameron is now a starving artist cracked out in Skid Row who could've made it big if he'd done things differently -- he's doing just fine -- but rather that the game has changed. You can make something small with the hopes that a studio will swoop in and give you a bunch of cash to make something big, but it is not a good gamble -- I know, because that was the bet I took in making The West Side, which was absolutely the embodiment of a nights-and-weekends DIY production. Zack and I won the Webby Award for Best Drama Series, got an agent, wrote a hugely ambitious interactive script that garnered us meetings with 20+ studios (The studios we met with: Warner Brothers (Warner Horizon/, Warner Premiere, Smoke House), CBS Interactive, Fox TV, Fox Digital, Sony Pictures Digital/, Sony Pictures International, Lionsgate, Berman/Braun, 60Frames (now defunct), Vuguru, NBC Universal, Paramount Digital, Overture Films, Miramax, HBO, MTV, AMC, IFC, and Microsoft) -- so far so good -- and then learned the hard way the realities of the business. One of these realities: when you're dealing with studios, it can take forever to get a movie made. According to some, five years on average.

Social media and the curmudgeons

I don't have five years to wait around for someone else to pull the trigger, and I bet you don't either. Not when we can reach our audience directly using social media, not when we can shoot a feature cheaply on a DSLR, not when we can raise money using crowdfunding, and not when we don't need to print and ship hundreds of costly 35mm film prints (if we even go the theatrical route). I spent most of 2009 dealing with studios, and here's what it amounted to: one long lesson learned. One I certainly hope to help others avoid!

I'm not saying the future is bright and every filmmaker is going to be huge success thanks to social media. For independent filmmakers, it still comes down to making something personal and original and of high quality, and even if we achieve that it might still be hard to turn a profit. I don't want all of this to come off as utterly utopian. But hell with that, this is an unprecedented time in moviemaking history! Screw the curmudgeons! It's precisely these DIY techniques that will allow independent creators to break out of the staid corporate system that prevents many works from being original and good. If you're not beholden to the money men then you are far more likely to be able to create something sui generis. And, yes, I hear people saying that if we're watching our own bottom line, then we'll be tempted to sell out and make whatever's going to be the most profitable. Really, though? I chose independent filmmaking because I'm concerned with the bottom line? Who in their right mind would choose this career if their chief concern was money?

Over the years I've heard so many filmmakers comment on their work with, "X company was being acquired by Y company at the time, and as a result they accidentally left us alone to make our movie" (Being John Malkovich) or "we were shooting in a far away country and the studio was too worried about their bigger-budget film, so we were able to get away with this" (Apocalypse Now). Basically: in order for the director to be in a situation where they had more creative control than the norm, the planets had to align. I'm no astrophysicist, but... that's rare, right? So we can either hope for the right circumstances by relying on others, or we can make the right circumstances by retaining control and going the independent route. Which I did originally, and now I'm going back to it.


On this site I spend a lot of time talking about the technical side of being an independent creative -- digital cinematography, social web services, Mac applications, web design -- because technical know-how is exactly what empowers creatives to do it ourselves. Computers are now our paintbrushes.

At no time in history has it been this cheap to make a movie. And while that comes with both benefits and drawbacks, ultimately digital tools also allow the good stuff to rise to the top of the heap (which, as a result, is an admittedly larger heap). My goal for No Film School is to be as transparent as possible: to share the technical knowledge and techniques I learn along the way, and also to share which monetization strategies have worked and which haven't. Even the most independent of filmmakers frequently say, "I've been told not to talk about the budget," and so I'm going to try to be open with that kind of information as well (which will be more possible on a DIY production than if I end up making Transformers IX). With this site covering the technical and monetization aspects of filmmaking, then, ideally the art of my filmmaking will come out not through this blog but... through the art itself.

Talk is cheap

I'm putting my (lack of) money where my mouth is: I moved out of my apartment in August 2009 and have been living out of a suitcase since. When I was a Senior Designer at MTV, living by myself in Manhattan was tenable; now that I'm bootstrapping a DIY filmmaking career and throwing everything I have into making my first feature, this is most definitely no longer the case (I only have two recurring bills right now: my cell phone, and COBRA for health insurance). I took the money I saved by living rent-free (while doing freelance gigs) and invested it in a camera package, which I'm going to use on a feature. I will share here whatever I learn along the way, and I hope it will be helpful to other filmmakers and independent creatives; the best example of this to date is The DSLR Cinematography Guide.

As I set out on this journey, I'm fully aware that many people who see themselves as motivational figures tend to come off as douchebags. "Buck the system, I'm doing it and you can toooo!" they say. I'm going to try my damnedest not to come off as an ass, but by all means, if somewhere along the way I slip up, let me know.

I'm sure some people are going to read the above treatise and comment, "you're only going the DIY route because you can't make it in Hollywood!" My goal with No Film School is to prove them wrong.

And you can toooo!

Your Comment


Fiennes doesn't look too happy about VOD.

Great post Ryan, waiting for your feature.

April 23, 2010 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM


Excellent manifesto - the world needs more manifestos!

One slice of the pie you forgot was Teaching, which is one of the best ways to pay the bills as an independent creator. Of course, most people need to go to film school to teach film, so there's a titular conflict there... But Midd would love to bring you back to guest lecture whenever you've got something to show!

April 23, 2010 at 1:14PM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM


Oh, the irony of me teaching film... I love it. I will definitely be back, and hopefully sooner rather than later!

April 23, 2010 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM

Ryan Koo

As always, fantastic and inspirational! Leaving my 9-5 job last week to pursue my movie making career was the best thing I have did. I feel like the chains have finally been removed from my body! Keep it up Ryan!

April 27, 2010 at 1:11AM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM


A great post...thanks Ryan! I imagine I'll be back to reread it when I need some inspiration...

May 20, 2010 at 1:51PM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM


The top-down model of mass communication generally promotes a passive approach to the authority of corporations and reinforces a hierarchical approach that pushes most creative positions toward the bottom rung of the "power ladder". Thank you Ryan for sharing your experiences with this hierarchical model with other creatives. If we're going to work in the basement - let's own it! (No, that is not a Milton quote.)
I am looking forward to exploring your blog in the future, Ryan.
Like many people pursuing creative careers, I am constantly reassessing how new technologies and distribution/business models can help me reach and set goals. Please keep up your interesting and clear posts!

June 1, 2010 at 6:39AM, Edited September 4, 7:26AM

Clint Earle

Thanks for sharing your life and experience with us online. The indie filmmaker community has been one of the most open and helpful communities I've seen. We are part of history in the making.

One great point you make that I don't hear being discussed enough - that goes against what RED and the higher resolution crowds are chanting - is that the ability to stream video online (convenience) will almost relegate 4K/8K and the need for higher and higher resolutions to a small niche. At least until web speeds can deliver 4K resolution, which I don't see happening any time soon for the majority of the population.

September 16, 2010 at 5:40AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


You reminded me of Jerry McGuire and his manifesto! Inspiring for us all indie filmmakers (I'm about to come out of the filmmakers "closet"), this manifesto and the DSLR Cinematography Guide (thanks for sharing it) is of geat help and guideance!
Regards from Colima, Mexico

September 22, 2010 at 10:05AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Francis Levy

Also from Germany my best regards and thanks for the inspiration!

December 8, 2011 at 2:01AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I left an executive level position in a small production company about 6mos ago and, not to my surprise, there IS work out there! While entertainment is my 1st love, especially comedy, I find that I can pay my bills and then some if I take my creative, entertainment focused talents and apply them to the for-hire marketing world. At the same time I go ahead and pursue my own projects, self financing as i go! I say that to accomplish 2 points: 1, Ryan, you are right - "And You Can Too" is alive and well! 2 - going for broke, on my own, has been the best career move I've made to date.

Now, I'm going to go pick up my DSLR and shoot something just because its fun and I can.
See ya!

October 12, 2010 at 7:06AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


thanks my heart and mind, i knew this was possible. i am amped to help you prove them wrong. thanks, thanks, thanks!

October 17, 2010 at 8:37AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


"digital tools also allow the good stuff to rise to the top of the heap"

What is that you call "good stuff?" And "good," based on what criteria? Also, "good" for who? For you? And who else? How many people you think share your criteria of "good?" And what makes your criteria "good," besides the number of people who share it?

Let's be totally honest about this: When it comes to cultural products, like films and music, nobody has a clue about what is "good." People expect to be TOLD what is "good." And the way they expect to be told that is: through advertising campaigns. Their axiological criteria is: a "good" product is an advertised product. If it's not mass-advertised, then it can't be "good." In consequence, those with big advertising budgets have, are, and will likely always decide what is "good." Unless you convince them to advertise it, your product will only be "good" for you. And, perhaps, for a small percent of those who will accept to spend time on taking a short (and probably doubtful) look at your product. Digital tools available to everyone only means that everything those tools may produce is devoid of any kind value. Unless it's heavily advertised, that is.

Welcome to the postmodern world, where technology has effaced the latest trace of aesthetical and axiological awareness. The "good" is gone, along with the "beauty" and the "truth." People value what they're told to, like what they're seeing often, and believe what's being repeated. "O brave new world that has such people in it."

Bottom line: When everything is available and accessible, nothing really matters.

October 26, 2010 at 9:10PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Dead Man

Very succintly stated, but "good" is not gone, nor "beauty" and especially not truth. (Cue all atheists to begin howling). Christianity taught that truth, good, and beauty are derived from the character of God, who created the universe. His fingerprints are on the smallest atomic particle and the largest nebula. Western (Christian) culture once benefited greatly by understanding this "truth", and while always falling short, at least ascribed to and in many ways strove toward the good, true and beautiful as valued things that objectively (independant of any human at any rate) exist and were always seen as by-products of drawing near to the Creator (cue the increase in howling) from whom they are derived.
We are indeed in a post-modern world that has rejected God, and therefore lost the footing that good, beauty and truth once stood on, but it is we that are lost, not God. Created in His image, we still have to work at it to fully sever good, beauty and truth from our own consciousness. Few have the time or desire to do so, which means there will always be an audience for good, beautiful, and honest works of art, and mass audiences will often have a better sense of these things than elite cliques of educated fools (though advertisers know you can fool all of the people some of the time).
No question the art of movie-making is in revolution, and there is no stopping the flood of banal and pornagraphic garbage made possible by cheaper technology, but flowers in the desert are, well, so much more beautiful because of the contrast. The first time I heard IZ sing "Over the Rainbow", I forgave youtube for all the time it took from me.
And (since I've gone this far), if you think about it, if there is a God, His opinion matters the most. (Cue the stones).

November 10, 2010 at 1:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Russell Steen

Great Article and lovely thoughts!

I too left my j.o.b. as a nurse this year to begin my career in art. I am fortunate that I have a partner that supports me, but I started about ten years ago on the path of "no-bills". ...when the crunch came three years was really no big deal for me.

I will be following this website and digging deeper too.

Right now I am just beginning my DSLR film career, and only focusing on the art aspect, and not the business aspect. The Business will take care of itself in due time but not without due work! But I won't go there until I am ready to work in that direction. First, my craft.

As for the Not doing the Hollywood route...Even though I know nothing of Hollywood. What I do know is, it is a money-game. And if you choose to go that route, you have to play it their way. So if you want to go your own way, the choice is clear!

Keep up the good work, the Good articles, and the NOFILMSCHOOL thought-line~

Good Luck, and holler up when you need a place to stay in Georgia!

Cheers, tw

December 26, 2010 at 6:41AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I am very very impressed not only with the quality of writing but the quality of presentation here. The live links are a major plus enabling the reader to expand from your solar system to include a universe of understanding.

For me the most exciting part and bold statement was: "everyone’s talking about how the sky has fallen on independent film, when what they really mean is: the sky has fallen on companies that make money off independent filmmakers".

I'm getting anxious, fidgety, a desire to get back in the saddle. Now I think I can. Thank you! I look forward to exploring more. Could not have come into my arena at a better time. One question as I'm curious. What was the end result of your studio meetings? My guess is their answer is what propelled you to go out on your own again. Force be with you!

April 23, 2011 at 11:10AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Roy Stewart

Maaaannn!!! I feel like quitting my job right now!
Surround by grey walls and no windows this place kills my creativity! I just have to man up a little and say " im done with this sh*t!"
I got my dslr about two years ago and i didnt even know the power they had when it comes to shooting videos. Last years i produced two videos and i loved it! All day shooting, editing until 1 in the morning. But the experience was soooo delightfull!!
Now i just got a new camera, a viewfinder and i keep procrastinating to get the shoulder thing or something like that.
Man let me know when you come to north carolina so when can meet up and do some shootings.
I might have quit my job by then hehe
Keep it up!! This website is very inspiring!!

May 13, 2011 at 8:45AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Lucas Alcalde

I love this manifesto. And I love your DSLR guide book as well. So thank you!

June 3, 2011 at 11:08AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM



I LOVE your manifesto! You have spoken the words right out of my heart. I too left LA after several years to not do it their way. To be honest, I told the world (my world) that I quite acting. Which was true, until I learned of the DYI route. I have been back at it for just about 4 months now and loving the creative control I have. No longer will I be running off to useless auditions that get me now where! I know live in Austin TX! Whooo HOOO! And taking control of my life and creative career!

August 28, 2011 at 1:09AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Convincing words Ryan, and you don't come across in the least like a motivational type, out to garner a following. To the point and sincere, so thank you. I also feel that you are articulating and seizing a moment in transition, that we will one day look back on and wonder: " why did we ever doubt it was possible?" Once a river changes its course, it doesn't flow back. No, I think you've got it right, and that the simplicity and directness of the digital age is an emancipator. Good luck to you, and to all of us.

December 6, 2011 at 6:01AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


The manifesto bears out exactly what I've been suspecting would happen to the creative and media industries for years. The Hollywood Studio System is doomed. Long live the independent creative film maker!

December 19, 2011 at 8:12AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I am from Mexico, and im really inspired in this manifesto.
Im 21 years old and im starting my own business with my hdslr.
Thans koo

January 30, 2012 at 11:13PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Johnny Revolver

thanks ryan

February 10, 2012 at 2:00AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Inspiring dude and very similar to our situation, except for the living out of a suitcase part but close. I come from a post production background and joined 4 friends to start our studio. Thank you for your guide, I've followed it over the years and it helped lead me to where I am today. All the best

February 11, 2012 at 11:34AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thank you -> I had a crazy idea of doing a film based on a book I just finished. I bumped into NoFilmSchool and have decided to go for it! Thank you again!!

March 22, 2012 at 3:13PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


What I learned in my life is that 99% of people talk and complain a lot and do nothing... Reading your manifesto I believe you are one of 1% that have courage, discipline and vision to pursue his dream.
I have always been freelancing and earning money since a I was 18... This forced me to learn many trades and perfect many skills... By education I am a lawyer, being an actor for 10 years, established small advertising company working as an art director and...
I shot my first and till now only film in July 2000. I bought Canon XL, gathered friends from theatre and we did it in one month and... I have 20 hours of great material but money I invested was gone and... A great loonatic comedy is waiting to be finished...

I never write support letters like this, but you deserve it. Helping people out of enthusiasm is far from extinct therefore you are entitled for at least a bit of moral support. I honestly admire what are you doing and hope you will have the energy to continue.
Godspeed and use the force.
Igor Dragar

March 24, 2012 at 1:45AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Here is my understanding of the history of the filmmaking process: It seems that the "Hollywood System" of filmmaking goes through drastic changes every 40 years or so... in the beginning of Hollywood up to about the 1960s, studios created and developed the careers of actors.

Everything was done for the actors by the studios who had the actor signed to a long-term contract... the actor's style, PR, how they walk, talk, and behaved in public was dictated to the actor by the studio. This was a little robotic, but there were some great actors in this era of Hollywood.

Then, the 60s arrive, and how we view the world begins changing... people protest the war in Vietnam, it's becoming a more hedonistic society, the old Hollywood system of developing the careers of actors no longer exists. It's up to every actor to develop their own careers and spend their own money doing so. Filmmakers buck the system because they want to make the films they want to make, and so new "independent" studios begin to emerge

Fast forward 40 years or so, and any Tom, Dick or Harry can now buy camera for a few hundred bucks and make a movie about a witch or some ghosts that attack a family while they sleep in their home. Did they have big budgets? Nope. Did they make a $#!+ load of money? ABSOLUTELY!!! With hard work, a good film concept, and a lot of tenacity, it can be done by the independent filmmaker.

July 5, 2012 at 8:52AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Nice deep manifest comment as I would parent generation, who has already retired and enjoying photo and movie as hobby using DSLR camera and make movie with 3D and animation using software now.
Due to huge changing a environment for film because of available cheap DSLR camera (5Dmark and D90)
in 2008 and software for reasonable price, even needed more than $100K? to $1000K? before.
Now, amateur can become like professional as understanding from youtube and vimeo.

July 12, 2012 at 11:39PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Bravo !

September 7, 2012 at 12:58AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Excelent! I will use some of your book at my DIY classroom in Brazil!


November 6, 2012 at 4:54AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Grande! (Learning from Peru)

January 26, 2013 at 3:32PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Im so glad that I landed here. Thank you so much for the sharing. It will definitely be a key starting point in my pursuit of the same passion. Peace and Love from Malaysia.

March 23, 2013 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Ali Abrahm

Keep up the good momentum, there is a whole world behind you NOW!, i'm glad i join your mailing list. I believe it time for the creatives to take over, and to build this we must unite and support each other until it grows in to a sustainable industry.( RUN n GUN )Roshinaya23

May 8, 2013 at 11:27AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


i just read your manifesto, its too good, we share the same expression. As for hollywood my moto" dont compete just create" we dont need hollywood, we have the world wide web as veiwers and subscriptions and monitise. On top of that bandwith wiil always battle with quality because big companies think its better shoot in big formats and try to push the highest quality, when the user just wants it to stream faster and visible. So to reach a larger audiance the highest format should be 720p. This should be the web format so it can reach the globe. Large format like ie the live broadcast of the 100 meters mens final in the olympics 2012, video bandwith got crushed, everything was shxt and that was the BBCi player. Movie theatres are digital now, what would a digital hollywood look like on paper driven by a web based platform. Also a Cut away database, where xtra money could be made, i think there is a way....and its comming.

May 8, 2013 at 1:35PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Thank you!

May 20, 2013 at 3:37PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


thankyu soo much

September 3, 2013 at 11:28PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


Hi Ryan,

I stumbled across your website this morning search for DSLR moviemaking tips, and I'm looking forward to reading your ebook. I work in the radio industry, and have seen both it and the music industry turned upside-down (mostly in good ways). I saw the same dynamic with music artists that you've described with film--some of the luckiest people were those who didn't get signed to a label, but were able to find ways to leverage new technologies and distribution streams to carve out a decent following. They seemed a lot more likely to keep both their integrity and their sanity intact. I knew people who got signed to major labels, were dropped after one album (or after making a second one that got no promotion and a token release), and ended financially devastated and disillusioned by the whole experience. They lost the rights to their own recordings (and sometimes to their songs) with the same kind of strong-arm tactics that you described. It's an amazing time to be involved in media creation.

I've started getting into making small films--I'm currently editing a small documentary I shot--and I've read a lot about the DLSR revolution. I bought a decent prosumer video camera on Ebay a few months ago, and just upgraded to a new DSLR (I sold the camcorder and a bunch of instruments and music equipment I wasn't using anymore). I think I have a decent (if very basic) kit, and now I have to learn how to use it.

Looking at recording with a DSLR is kind of daunting. I didn't really think about how many crutches the camcorder offered, although the clumsiness of the layout and lack of control was pretty frustrating. Just playing with the DSLR for a few minutes yesterday, I realized how much that video camera had compensated for my newbie status. I'd rather start from scratch and learn how to do this right than lean on a bunch of tech that will end up limiting me in the long run. I think I have a pretty good sense of how to frame shots and I'm very comfortable with editing, but I have a lot to learn about technique and about how to set up shots (especially lighting) to get as professional a look as I can manage. I'm going to be able to clean up
my current project quite a bit in Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, but I want to shoot better source material to begin with.

I'm not really sure where I'm going to go with all this, but I'm serious about doing something with it. I appreciate your perspective on both the technical and marketing sides of all this (I've suggested the same approach to independent artists, most of whom just got angry and/or completely ignored my advice). Thanks for a great website, and for sharing your journey with the rest of us.

September 11, 2013 at 7:28AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


thank you so much ryan...

October 5, 2013 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

vaibhav rahul

Fuckin eh! That is a great manifesto.
The truth is we need to make work for ourselves in order to survive. It is the just the way it is these days and it is a very good thing :)

November 16, 2013 at 8:40AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM

Colum Nolan

Hi Ryan, I really appreciate what you are doing for people like us that can't afford film school for now. I saw the pop up of your Idea on Teradek web page, when I was trying to download the TeraCentral software, to instal and set up the live streaming gadget the organization bought. I picked interest immediately I saw the advert, I abounded what I was doing and filled in my name and e-mail. I got your reply, and believe me, I don't regret taking that step. Thank You Real Good

February 7, 2014 at 3:46AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Prince Ugochukw...

Thanks Ryan. Just what I/we needed.

February 10, 2014 at 9:52AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


An inspirational article and website. The very very best of luck, goodwill and karma heading your way. D

February 26, 2014 at 1:46PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Dom Gregory

Have you already seen Technicolors Creative District? Sounds like an Idea to support DIY film making!
By the way great article!
Thanks =D

March 5, 2014 at 7:52AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Thank you for this website. I read it just as I was looking for inspiration as an actor. I spent my entire adult life training and working on my art but the stories out there are not stories I want to tell. I want to tell stories about real people and the experiences we all share as human beings. I want to focus on characters and plot and real human condition where the answers aren't always tidy. I want to empower myself to make what I like to see. I want to make what I want to see

May 29, 2014 at 10:00PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Quiver Digital( is a great alternative to Distribber. They are a distribution platform for independent filmmakers that allows them to distribute their film to up to 18 different cable or VOD platforms. Unlike some other distributors, Quiver takes no back end share of filmmaker revenue. They provide distribution services with one flat rate allowing the filmmakers to keep all of their profits.

June 29, 2016 at 4:40PM