Should Filmmakers Move To Hollywood?

One of our Filmmaking Stuff newsletter readers named Jake asked the following question:

Hollywood Sign

Should Filmmakers Move To Hollywood? Image via Wikipedia

“My filmmaking friend in LA told me NOT to make anything in my small town because I would just be wasting my time. He told me no one in the industry will take me seriously if I make my 1st feature outside of Hollywood. So instead of making what I CAN make right now, I’ve been working to move to LA to start doing something… My question is this: is he right?”

My response to this question is a big fat NO!

Unless you plan on working for a major studio, you no longer need Hollywood.

If you are a filmmaker with an idea and the passion to create a feature film, you can do it from anywhere on earth. And here are a few reasons why:

Getting Money In Hollywood Sucks

Everybody in Los Angeles is competing to find someone (or some studio) willing to back their movie project. Can you imagine a town where your waiter is an aspiring actor, your cable guy is an aspiring screenwriter and your taxi driver is an aspiring producer? Hollywood is saturated with a supply of willing, talented, aspiring workers. And they are all waiting for their big break.

Even if you do raise the money to make your movie, you’ll have to raise a lot more to shoot in LA, because everything (locations, equipment, props, and permits) makes making movies in LA cost prohibitive and a royal pain in the butt.

What a mess!

On the other-hand, if you live in small town and you have good material and ambition, you’re in luck. If you can get past the fact that all your non-filmmaker friends think you’re crazy, you can build a team, find cheap locations (and other resources, including free food) and you can take action.

Heck, you might even make the nightly news (If this happens, just make sure you advertise your movie website and start building your audience list!)

Also, unlike trying to get a meeting with a busy, semi famous studio executive who never heard of you – If you call up the local rich guy to make a pitch, your odds of getting a lunch meeting are pretty high. As I detail extensively in my film financing program, getting meetings does not guarantee success. But it’s a start!

And let’s pretend for a moment that your town has no rich people. Well, thanks to crowdfunding sites like indie GoGo and Kickstarter you can now reach an entire global audience of people who may be interested in sponsoring your work.

Filmmaking Equipment is Now Cheap

When I was getting my start, I saved up an entire summer to buy a used Arri BL 16mm Camera. I shot a short film over a weekend. And then I spent the entire winter saving up enough money to process and transfer the film to video.

That sucked.

Times have changed. These days, if you want to create cinematic quality content all you have to do is go to your local electronics store and pick up an HDSLR camera and start producing your backyard indie. As long as you take time to understand lighting and camera angles, your end result will look pretty amazing.

Distribution Changes Everything

Read this carefully. Everyday I am amazed that more filmmakers are not getting naked and running into the streets cheering (Ok. I’m kidding.) But here is the deal…

The biggest, most awesome change in cinematic HISTORY is distribution. And modern movie distribution changes EVERYTHING!

Thanks to companies like distribber (my affiliate link is  MovieSalesTool – they pay me to promote) – Anyway,  you can now get your movie into sites like Hulu, Amazon, iTunes and NetFlix (and other cable VOD outlets) without giving away all of your rights (for life) to some bottom feeding distributor who will likely never pay you what they promised. This is BIG.

What does this mean for Modern MovieMakers?

This means that instead of raising money and crossing your fingers for a dream distribution deal, you can now create a marketing plan within the context of your movie business plan. This is important and liberating. Non-discriminatory distribution allows filmmakers to treat their movie business like any other business. You do not need to ask permission to create a product, access a marketplace and make sales!

In other-words, as long as you have a camera and internet access, you can now make, market and sell your movies without asking permission. (Ok, if you really want to get naked and run into the streets, I won’t stop you.)

A few words about marketing.

Whenever I put on my  film distribution talks, invariably someone will ask me about marketing. And it’s a good point. Because distribution is now part of your movie making business, you will need someone on your team who can market.

Here is the big disconnect. Hollywood (and traditional sales agents and distributors) will tell you to leave distribution to the experts. They will tell you to give up the rights to your movie because their company has been in business for a gazillion years.

But this kind of talk is crap. I mean, obviously if these guys offer you a huge cash advance, it might make sense. But if there is no money involved, what value are they giving you? The promise of getting your movie seen and selling on iTunes and Hulu? You can just as easily access iTunes and Hulu too.

My point is, unless these old-timers know how to source the appropriate target audience (and they openly share their marketing budget with you and are fully transparent with each marketing step) then there is no value to give away your rights in exchange for validation. Validation and a crappy distribution deal does not pay the bills!

In MovieMaking Conclusion

Wow. I intended to write a quick reply to Jake’s question and I totally blasted you with my filmmaking passion. Just remember, the best question to ask is this:

“Given the resources that I have now, what is the movie that I can make this year?”

Hopefully you are now inspired to make, market and sell your movie from anywhere on earth. If that’s the case, I’d love to read your comments below.

One last thing…

After reading articles like this, I get a lot of email from filmmakers who need my help marketing and selling their movies.

If that’s you, here are some options:

Option 1 – Hire Me

In the event you want to hire me to help market your movie, please know that my fee is roughly $10,000, plus expenses. Compare this to what studios spend on marketing. When you add up all the costs and labor necessary to build buzz (including advertising and social media and blogging and outreach) – it’s intense. So 10K is actually a bargain.

Option 2 – Apply For Inner Circle Coaching Program

A lot of you don’t know this (because I haven’t promoted it) but I also have a movie marketing coaching group open to a dozen filmmakers. The group coaching lasts for six months. And the fee is $2,000 dollars. Aside from working on a marketing plan that you can implement for your movie, the group coaching includes a weekly call and group strategy session. The coaching group is a good way to share ideas with other filmmakers. And inturn, they share ideas with you.

[Note: If you are interested in the coaching program, you must first be selected. Please send an email providing an overview of your movie, as well as the reasons why you want to be included in the next coaching group. ]

Option 3 – Just Grab Your Action Guide

If these options are out of your budget, you might just want to grab a copy of your movie marketing system.

Movie Distribution Action Guide

How to Sell Your Movie Action Guide

Also – Special thanks to filmmaking Jake for the question. Hope this helped!