September 8, 2014 at 4:34AM

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Why do we need movie studios?

I'm just curious, because I'm a new filmmaker: Why is it that we need studio distribution anymore?

You can get the same VOD distribution on your own for a flat fee (ie: Distribber).
If you want it scene on screens including TV you can use cheap (ie: Chromecast). If you want your film in movie theaters, there are crowd funding platforms that specialize in that (ie: Tugg).

With their millions of dollars of P&A, they still can't guarantee they'll make their money back, let alone they'll have a hit. Yet a pimple faced teen in Nebraska who knows how to handle social media can have just as much influence (ie: Gary Vaynerchuk principles).

There are few stars in the world (most of whom are aging before our eyes) that can guarantee a great box office weekend.

Let's put it this way, I have access to many well-known people and they complain that there are very few good studio projects and they are all fighting to be in them. They say, it's not like people imagine that everyone's just turning down scripts left and right, at all.

Once filmmakers get a movie deal with a studio, they often complain about the studio system and studio notes and how they lost control of the film.

I know you receive a much larger budget if you land a studio deal and that's one advantage but costs of shooting a film are so much cheaper than they were, even five years ago.

Though many say it's incredibly difficult to raise money on crowd funding sites, I know people who have produced some of the top films of all time and they still can't get their low budget films made by mini-studios.

I'm not saying that if Paramount Studios handing me a studio film opportunity that I would turn it out down necessarily, but my question is, other than the feel-good feeling of being "picked", what is the advantage?

Is there going to come a time (maybe it's already arrived) when we seriously don't need the studios at all?

What are your thoughts?

(FYI -- I wrote this at 2am, so excuse any typos)

29 Comments

My view on movie studios is if they offer me a deal then I'll take it! But as that is very unlikely to happen to me.... I'm much better cutting them out and doing it myself then releasing the film directly to my audience.

September 8, 2014 at 7:46AM

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David Peterson
Wedding Cinematographer
2489

I think mini studios are they way to go, the $100k-$500k films are what is really needed. Blockbusters are just feeding the greed and need of the elite actors and directors. These micro budgets could become the mainstream movies in the near future, you could producer 10-20 of them for the cost of 1 blockbuster and if you put another $250k into the marketing you could really bring in some good return on a relatively small investment.

We need to open up that range of budgets that give enough money to make a great movie, sure you won't have a big name star at this range, but it will create new stars from the indie world getting exposure if we start putting these into theatres and on to VOD platforms in the mainstream and not in a subcategory hidden away.

September 8, 2014 at 4:55PM, Edited September 8, 4:55PM

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Chase Axton
Cinematographer
1110

I agree. Most mega budget "movies" are nothing but "see how cool our CGI is" drivel. In support of my statement I give you "Avatar." It wasn't good as a cartoon, and it wasn't good as a sci-fi. I believe there is a huge potential for "Mini" studios that produce small budget content similar to the way studios worked in the 1930s and 40s. IE, good story, decent acting, decent editing, decent directors, cinematographers that knew how to light a scene, but no-one with a "Ooh look what I can do" mindset. I wouldn't even mind if I saw the same actors in 10 movies a year if the product was good.

Produce a movie every 5 weeks, with exactly the same crew. Forget trying to win the Oscar, focus on delivering good, watchable, interesting movies.

September 15, 2014 at 9:05PM

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Robert W.
116

Once you get above a certain budget level, I think it would be very hard to piece it together through crowdfunding, private equity, and the other means of film finance:

http://nofilmschool.com/2014/08/film-finance-101-equity-pre-sales-gap-ta...

And there are a lot of stories that, even taking into account the lowered cost of shooting on digital, overseas CGI, etc. are still going to need budgets over $20 million, and that's where the studios are the main game in town. Unless you find yourself in the rare situation where you have a high net-worth individual personally invested in seeing something made, or you piece together financing from 41 producers:

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/why-lee-daniels-butler-has-605011

It's interesting to see that in the film industry right now, people often want <$500k projects that cost nothing (and may have breakout potential), OR >$5 million projects that have name talent attached. It's the new "middle class" (which have drastically lower budgets than films that were considered the middle class 10 or 20 years ago) that investors see as a difficult sell.

Ultimately, it's not about whether you CAN get your film into iTunes, Netflix etc. anymore -- it's whether you can create demand and find a sizable audience. "Distribution is easy -- marketing is hard."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-tK5_pDRzzI

I also wrote about this back when I launched this site, but some of the points I've talked about above reflect that my understanding of the industry has, understandably, changed since I wrote this manifesto over four years ago:

http://nofilmschool.com/2010/04/the-nofilmschool-manifesto

September 13, 2014 at 2:09PM, Edited September 13, 2:44PM

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

When you mostly see movies with numbers after them (Star Trek 2, Spiderman 3, Captain America 4) then you know that you have a problem with originality in films.

September 13, 2014 at 7:47PM

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I agree. It's not distribution that's the issue, it's awareness. You can self-distribute to as many platforms as you want these days, but it won't matter if no one knows your film even exists.

September 14, 2014 at 11:36PM

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John V. Knowles
Director
188

Big studios system is an american thing. Films are made all over the world without it, and there are no problem so yes you don't need the studio system. Actually this studio system is old and doesn't work anymore (mostly bad super heroes films, remakes, stupid comedies, etc).

September 13, 2014 at 7:38PM

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Vincent Galiano
Filmmaker / Screenwriter / Photographer
299

How does billions of dollars in revenue every year "not work anymore"? I'm not arguing about the quality of the films (I agree, most are awful) but they still rake in the cash. If you're talking about selling your film to them, well they're not buying.

September 14, 2014 at 11:38PM

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John V. Knowles
Director
188

Well, if you got the money you feel you need for everything, then you don't need studios.
I just watched If I Stay yesterday, which is listed on Box Office Mojo at 11 mil $. This is the type of project that can be put together outside the Studio system, but in the end it's all about what you want.
Studio's carry not only their check book, but their brand name recognition and that can't be crowd-sourced. Remember the Entourage storyline with Medellin, it was between selling to a Studio and selling to an independent financier. Studio's carry that security, they have the machinery to sell your film in place and running.
It's not enough to just dump your film on VOD and pray that it works, marketing your film to your audience is hard, as it has been noted.
Maybe you don't have to get the film financed through the Studio system, but you better make damn sure they distribute it, because they hate competition.

September 13, 2014 at 7:47PM

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Damjan Raknic
Journalist
74

I made a feature film few months back. Rejected by a lot of distributors, Netflix, iTunes and others. Can't get any revenue from alternate distribution. LOL. What should be done?

September 13, 2014 at 8:26PM

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Moosa Saleem
Director, Director of Photography
547

Did you try distribber.com & Tugg.com?

September 14, 2014 at 9:07AM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
892

I think examples like Shane Carruth with Upstream Color show that we are definitely at the point now where self-distribution is a viable way to go.
Marketing and getting a return on your investment is always going to be the challenging part though, but if for instance you're able to crowd-fund the project and you don't care if it makes it's money back, there's nothing stopping you from bypassing the standard distribution chain entirely.

September 13, 2014 at 10:38PM

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Peter Lipay
Director/Producer/Writer
189

Really? Is this a serious question? Studios have distribution that your facebook page couldn't even touch. Oh, you have 1000, or 10,000 people following you on your film's FB page? great... how about the 100's of millions of people a studio distribution muscle can flex?
While you're shooting on your used, Ebay bought DSLR, you can do cinema justice and shoot on film.
You don't need to use your friends or parents in your film. You can, and get a load of this, use real life, professional ACTORS! Amazing, huh?
You wouldn't travel the world doing press junkets and pre-screenings for your indie that just maxed out your credit cards. But guess what? A writer/director will get to spread the word of his film, do interviews, and Q and A panels.

This is a ridiculous question to even ponder. This is sacrilegious, treason, and wanting to not have any film studios, AS A FILMMAKER, you're the anti-film movement. These are tried and tested ways. Next you won't want movie theaters either.

I can write a script and if it's great enough, a studio will give 100's of people jobs to make it a reality, and make my dreams come true. You should raise your bar a little higher than shooting an indie and thinking you can do it all yourself.

Hope this question gets down voted and buried into oblivion and never spoken of ever again.

September 14, 2014 at 1:01AM

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Filmmagician
Writer/Director
164

Not so sure about that. Even with their millions of dollars, they still can't guarantee anyone will show up in theaters.

September 14, 2014 at 9:10AM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
892

Actually, based on the quality of some of the movies being pushed by studios, I would say that with their millions of dollars, they can guarantee that at least some people will show up in theaters. They may not be able to keep them there much longer than opening weekend with just money, but they can definitely get them there if you market it enough.

September 14, 2014 at 3:04PM

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Ryan Toyota
Graphic Designer / Typographer / Video Editor
1116

True but then they start out in debt because they can't get enough or keep enough in the theaters to even begin to make their budget back, let alone their marketing & advertising.

September 15, 2014 at 9:31AM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
892

Its either you are trolling everyone here or you are what i'd call a dunce ignorant ass...Frichen retard!

September 15, 2014 at 1:42PM

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Wentworth Kelly
Director/DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2109

In the 80's banking went through disintermediation; and brokerage houses started being banks and vice versa.
It's what is happening now.
A fancy term for cutting out the middle man.
4K (and soon 8K ) are in the hands of movie folks now. Editing with VFX and other nuances are fingertip items.
Distribution is still the sticky wicket. Mobile devices have replaced theatre screens.
Will we be going to see movies in the cinema 10 years hence ?
Probably, but not as much and at a higher price.
If Art becomes content, is it still art ?
And some content may simply be an embedded feature to sell hardware a la U2 and the iPhone.

September 14, 2014 at 3:59AM

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dano smith
writer /producer
170

Indie filmmaking is a revolution these days. I think that the truth is laying somewhere between two opposite answers.
Film studios are something that is needed for one big part of the filming industry, but indie production and crowd funding options are something that will allow us, independent filmmakers, to get our way to the top.

Many famous producers started without studios, but in the end they are all working with those famous film studios. That is telling us something, if that was not good for them, they wouldn't go that way...

Filmmaking today is much, much cheaper than it was few years / decades before. But, the film industry is still held in the hands of few.

I am preparing my first feature film and I'll go trough crowd funding, but, if I get an offer from some studio when I finish it, I will definitely sell the picture to them. This way it will secure me a better future for the film, and in the end, more money for the next title.

September 14, 2014 at 5:16AM

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Bojan Andrejek
DP / Cinematographer / Producer
229

Australia has little studio's, and Australian films suck balls. Yet they all seem to have the attitude that they can make films just as good as a big Hollywood studio. No, no you can't crappy little independent style studio.

September 14, 2014 at 12:06PM

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Jarrad Cody
Guy who likes film stuff
333

We still need studios because somebody's gotta make the big blockbusters! And if you haven't made an independent film then you don't know...you can't make a living from making small indie films because they don't make a profit!!! rarely

September 14, 2014 at 5:22PM

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Byron Q
Writer/Director
92

Here's a post I made about building an audience from scratch for your film: http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/how-create-thousands-fans-you...

September 14, 2014 at 5:26PM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
892

The premise of your question is off-base. It implies that the studios are there to serve YOU, as a resource to finance and/or distribute your film. Reality check: they don't care about you, they don't know you exist, and they don't want your movie.

The big studios are not distributing independent films, they're busy making "Guardians of the Galaxy" and Liam Neeson thrillers; they're financing and distributing tentpole movies and other star-driven features. They all used to have speciality distribution companies that bought independent films (Warner Independent, Sony Pictures Classics, etc.) but a lot of those have gone away as has the Indy market. The handful of distributors who are left are working in the VOD and limited theatrical market, where some (but certainly not all) films can actually turn a profit. There are more platforms for film than ever before, but also more films then ever before; the money being offered is fairly low and the platforms can afford to be picky.

I can't tell if you're seriously asking why studios even exist -- if that's the case, you need only look at the current box office to see what studios are bringing to the table. "Guardians of the Galaxy" has made hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide, and it cost hundreds of millions to produce, market and distribute. Only a studio has those kinds of resources. If you don't care about movies like that then that's fine -- but just know that the market for independent film is much smaller and requires a more personal, grass-roots approach to building awareness and an audience.

September 14, 2014 at 11:25PM

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John V. Knowles
Director
188

this is a super interesting thread. I throw this out - movies I have seen that were created by Kickstarter - well the only one I say - the Canyons - I was a backer! And it was overall one of the worst films I've ever seen. Also as a commenter said, Australia doesn't have major studios and they have bad films. I think in many ways a team like PIXAR is a good thing and the first Star Wars: A New Beginning - is proof that the struggle and fight to make a film - fighting against studio heads can make a great film vs having complete control. I truly believe that to make good art you must struggle and struggle and try to prove yourself - making a film is a huge stressful herculean effort - and the more obsticales, the more your film has to be worth it in the preproduction stage. I think nowadays anyone can make a feature for 100k, where in the past it cost around 500k to 1 mil just to make an indie. and then to get 500k or 1 mil your script better have been good, your actors had better been good - and there were less bad movies. Where there more good movies? I personally don't think so. But more and more - it's harder and harder to get your film seen or noticed or heard. Just simply too many films. Maybe then actually this will again force people to really make a good scipt and get good actors. Maybe we are about to witness a new era in filmmaking? Or maybe not.

September 15, 2014 at 9:43AM

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Ed David
Director of Photography
1782

Here's PART 2 -- of my article about how to create fans before you shoot a minute of film: http://nofilmschool.com/boards/discussions/part-2-how-create-thousands-f...

September 15, 2014 at 6:55PM

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Jeff Rivera
Filmmaker | Storyteller
892

The answer is money. Even small films cost a lot to make if people are not working for free.

Unfortunately the majority of people want to watch crap movies because we've been conditioned to repel anything that is different, or might make us feel uncomfortable or sad or challenged. In the same way salt and sugar has slowly been injected into to every aspect of the american diet in gross quantities, hore-shit adolescent fantasy cinema has become easy listening safety blanket of the masses. We've been fed junk for so long our souls are morbidly obese, curled up in the fetal position with hemorrhoids.

Carry on the good fight, make your stories, make them cheap and share how you made it with the rest of us :)

September 19, 2014 at 4:38PM

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LJ
676

Like most other things, movies exist on different scales. The average person lacks the resources to make movies above a certain scale, even with all of the fundraising options available today. They also have lots of other perks, most importantly their access to people. Because they produce the biggest movies, they handle the most money. And by handling the most money, they have better relationships with the best DPs, Editors, Visual Effects Artists, Musicians, and a host of other talent that makes the best films possible.

This isn't to downplay the ability of indie filmmakers, but as you move up in ability and talent you make bigger and better films. You eventually will hit a ceiling. It's a bit like professional sports. The biggest money is in the NFL, so the best talent goes there. There are great players in arena football, but when you're the best of the best, you tend to want to make the best money. And there's only one place to go for that.

December 7, 2014 at 12:40AM

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Joshua Bowen
Editor
610

You do not NEED a studio. But if I wrote a script and want to turn it into a movie with Bradley Cooper because I like him as an actor. Olivia Wilde because I like her. Me directing. Hoyte van Hoytema as the dp. Filming in 3 countries because that is what the script asks for. 30 shooting days and everything on location. Harry Escot composing at Skywalker sound. Six months of vfx post work with ILM. Then after the film is complete I will go with the cast on a two week long tour around the world to promote the movie. Also I want posters on busses and metro stations around the world. I want my trailer to play through adsense on youtube and on tv channels and radio around the world because I truly want everyone to know about my film. Then I want the film to play on all cinema screens on this world for 8 weeks straight. AND I and everyone who has worked with me wants to be paid handsomely before the movie even plays. Then unless I am a billionaire or can convince a billionaire to give me $50 million for this film, I really need one of the big studios because they are the best in the world in this business and have the money!!

December 7, 2014 at 1:53PM

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luc bees
161

Speaking of studios. I do not agree with the ongoing Sony hack but there are some JEWELS for us there in those files. You can learn more from those files then ANY filmschool. Budgets,Marketing,Email conversations etc. Christmas came early for us guys. There is some 200gb released in 6 days. Just look at pastebin...or not.

December 10, 2014 at 3:32PM

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luc bees
161

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