Top 3 Reasons You Won’t Make It In Hollywood (And What To Do About It)

As a filmmaker, taking action is everything. But sometimes this is easy to say, but tough to execute. Over the past year, I have been getting a bunch of emails from Hollywood hopefuls who want to make movies or write screenplays or do something.

But for some reason (insert YOUR idiotic excuse here) these people think they need an agent or someone to give them permission to make it in Hollywood. Hint… You don’t!

Our goal at Filmmaking Stuff is to remind you the whole point of independent filmmaking involves being a rebel. And even though you may not have aspirations to “make it in Hollywood,” at least in the traditional sense – Odds are good you’d still love to make some movies in your lifetime.

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to ask for permission to become a filmmaking success.

You just need to do the WORK.

Make It In Hollywood

Photo © Dmitry Ersler / Dollar Photo Club

3 Reasons You Won’t Make It In Hollywood

Many filmmakers incorrectly think that their ideas are enough to make it in Hollywood… That they don’t have to do the work. That Hollywood is a lottery, and all you gotta do is buy the bus ticket. Here are the types of filmmaking excuses I receive every week.

Excuse #1: You’re too lazy (or you’re an idea person.)

I have the most amazing idea for a movie. I just need to find someone willing to raise the money and help me produce it.

Join the club. Everybody has an idea. Your ideas are probably good, but nobody cares. Unless you have a track record, selling a movie idea is nearly impossible. It is execution that matters. Are you willing to take action and produce your own movie?

Excuse #2: You don’t have the money or an investor.

I can’t afford to make a movie. I don’t know anybody. Nobody will look at my work until I get an investor. Can you stop sending me filmmaking tips? I just need you to introduce me to investors.

My buddy Tom Malloy raised over 25M to make his movies. But when he started out, he didn’t know anybody. That didn’t stop him from networking like crazy, always making the pitch and working his butt off to meet high net-worth individuals. Sure this may involve cold calling successful people. So what’s stopping you?

Excuse #3: You don’t live in Hollywood.

Hey Jason. I wish I could make it in Hollywood. But I don’t even live there. I don’t have plans for moving. I’m wondering if you could just produce my movie for me and send the checks?

Hopefully you now realize that you no longer have to move to Hollywood to make it in Hollywood. There is this awesome thing called video on demand distribution. And because companies like Distribber exist, you can now make, market and sell your movie from anywhere on Earth.

So given the resources you have right now, what movie will you make this year?

The thing you need to remember is everybody started from somewhere. And despite popular opinion, most successful filmmakers started from scratch. Here are some tactics my friends have utilized to make it in Hollywood.

  1. One friend got an agent after his movie was produced. It is important to note that he was one of the producers. Now that he produced stuff, he is more valuable to Hollywood.
  2. I have writer friend who couldn’t get a break. So he started a screenwriting magazine. He leveraged his magazine to interview and build relationships with other writers. From these relationships, one writer introduced him to an agent. (He also sold the magazine, but that is another story.)
  3. My other buddy writes horror novels and screenplays. He started as a roller skate messenger in New York City (which sounds strange, but whatever). One day he delivered a package to a publishing company. Always ready to take action, he saw a pile of manuscripts and dropped his on the stack. Then he got a call, which led to an agent, a book deal and screenwriting work.

All of these people had the guts and creativity to DO THE WORK and overcome obstacles. If you take action, you will increase the odds that you will make it in Hollywood. Stop investing time in your filmmaking excuses!

I do not have a choice. If I do not find a producer, my movie doesn’t get made.

I understand why you might think this way. But you are only correct if you want to be. And let’s be honest, sometimes it’s much easier to complain, make excuses and never action because you are terrified of rejection.

When we decided to make our first feature, we were scared too. But that didn’t stop us. And neither did the fact that we didn’t have a producer. We simply decided to become our own producers. This is the rite of passage for many first time feature filmmakers.

Think of it this way – if you were starting your own frozen yogurt shop, would you wait for someone to do it for you? Thank goodness Charlie Day didn’t wait around for permission.

Take Action and Make Your Movie

Look. If you want to make movies and make it in Hollywood, you need to put blinders on and go for it. You need to produce the movie you can produce this year. If that means you make a three-minute YouTube short on your cell phone, do that.

A friend told me that YouTube is a silly way to test my ideas and build an audience. He said I should just focus on getting an agent.

If you have friends like this, you should probably find some new friends. While there are no guarantees in filmmaking or any business, YouTube offers a great way to have your very own portal to the world. If you are talented, you should be able to scale a few backyard indies to fit the format. In fact, I’d say YouTube offers a great way to get noticed and make it in Hollywood.

Evidence of this includes Disney’s purchase of Maker Studios.

The world is changing. Hollywood isn’t waiting to hear your ideas. Sorry. The people who run that town only care about one thing – making money. And in doing this, most Hollywood heavyweights are seeking people who actually produce stuff. And if it isn’t totally clear, the real secret on how to make it in Hollywood is actually getting your filmmaking career to the point where you don’t actually need to make it in Hollywood!

If you are sick of asking permission, check out some this professional filmmaking resource.

No-Budget Filmmaking: Rise of The Backyard Indie

Like it or lump it, there are a lot of backyard indies being made each year. Thanks to inexpensive production technology, no-budget filmmaking is not only possible, but has become the norm for many first time feature filmmakers, web series producers, YouTube artists and short filmmakers.

These days any filmmaker with passion and a story can make a movie. And unlike years past, backyard indie filmmakers are not prohibited by cash or creativity.

Yet despite the no-budget filmmaking movement, many of my high profile “professional” friends in Los Angeles, have made a conscious effort to ignore the rise of backyard indies. Why?

Because no-budget filmmaking isn’t real! (At least, that’s what some of the old school pros would tell you.) When it comes to no-budget filmmaking, some common questions asked by these Hollywood hot-shots are:

  1. Who signed the SAG agreements?
  2. Who contacted the Unions?
  3. Who notified the MPAA?
  4. Where is your theatrical distribution deal?
  5. Who do you think you are?

Good questions. Why don’t you go back in time and ask Roger Corman!

But the thing is, if you create a good movie – Your audience doesn’t care if the movie was an official union indie or a backyard indie made for pocket change.

no budget filmmaking

Photo © Jacek Krol / Dollar Photo Club

No Budget Filmmaking: Rise of The Backyard Indie

The demise of traditional DVD distribution coupled with the growing market domination of iTunes, Amazon and Netflix had leveled the playing field. The big difference between a $10,000 backyard indie and a $2,000,000 dollar indie isn’t the budget – The difference revolves around the film that gets the most eyeballs (and sales).

Think about it. Hitting breakeven on a 2M feature is going to require a lot of sales.

As a rough example, to recoup 2M dollars, the filmmaker will need to to sell (roughly) 200,000 video on demand downloads at $10 a pop. These first sales will cover the 40% cost allocated to VOD providers (the real winners here), after which, the filmmaker will still need to sell an additional 200,000 downloads to repay the investors.

400,000 VOD downloads x $10 = $4,000,000 minus $2,000,000 in VOD fees = the initial $2,000,000

Meanwhile, through no-budget filmmaking, a backyard indie only has to sell 2000 VOD downloads to recover the initial 10K costs.

While nobody wants to make movies for pocket change, many filmmakers still believe we can somehow continually produce unprofitable (movie) products and expect the money and the subsequent jobs to keep rolling in.

And unlike years past, filmmakers can no longer approach investors with the cliche pitch: “Filmmaking is a risky investment – if we are lucky, we might win Sundance and get a deal.”

Now, with transparent distribution options available to all filmmakers, that line of give-me-money reasoning is reckless, no longer applicable, and in my opinion, unethical. And for these reasons, no-budget filmmaking makes a lot of sense.

Aside from the initial challenge of sales and marketing, the ripple effect reveals an even greater conundrum:

How will you raise enough money to pay your cast and crew AND still pay back your investors?

I mean, what’s the new sweet spot?

How can we once again make independent filmmaking profitable?


Here is the modern moviemaking model on how to save the movie industry.

(And you thought this was going to be your typical no-budget filmmaking article.)

To survive in this ever changing world of indie filmmaking, we have to change our strategy.

Instead of focusing on making that one big awesome indie, we now need to focus on building a genre specific movie library and spend all of our downtime building a ginormously targeted email list.

Step 1: Find your top-ten closest filmmaking collaborators. Form a company.

Step 2: Write a business plan, but instead of putting all of your focus on making one movie, concentrate on making 3-5 feature films.

Step 3: Make sure that you include a sales and marketing plan for each movie. To do this, take your proposed budget for all movies and work backwards. Start asking yourself, “How many units do we need to sell to recoup our investment?”

Step 4: In this model, instead of paying freelance day rates, you’ll have to hire long term employees and provide each with a salary and back end points (sort of like stock options) on each title.

Step 5: When the title wins, you all win. Over the years, your titles will add up. And the real compensation will come back in the form of residual movie income.

While this is not a fully refined model, it’s a start.

In my opinion, creating a sustainable business model is better than ignoring no-budget filmmaking and pretending backyard indies are not real movies.

We are experiencing a time of change.

This is the indie movie distribution equivalent of the automobile replacing the horse drawn wagon.

You can choose to ignore this movement, and you can probably succeed for a few more years. But there will come a day when all entertainment will be on-demand and cheap to produce and cheap to consume.

The question is, will you ignore the no-budget filmmaking movement and continue to play your distribution lottery ticket in hopes of winning the dream deal, or will you  join the movement and help us filmmakers figure out a way to make indie movies profitable?

If you liked this article, you’d probably benefit from these professional filmmaking tools.

3 Tips How To Make Money In Filmmaking

The other night I puked a little in my mouth.

It was just a little puke.

It was the sort that burnt a bit, resulting in bad breath I couldn’t quite brush out…

And the whole mess came after I read some BS article from a “filmmaking guru” (who will remain unnamed here) talking about some old fuddy duddy way to make money in filmmaking.

The information was outdated, impractical and further perpetuated the myth that I’ve heard many times… That all you gotta do is make a great movie, work with a distributor and let them handle the business stuff.

I blame Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will come.”

That sort of crap is responsible for creating a horrible epidemic among indie filmmakers.

The epidemic is this: Most filmmakers never take time to learn how to make money in filmmaking!

“I’m an artist. Money is dirty.”

Make Money In Filmmaking


How To Make Money In Filmmaking

You may have thought about making money in filmmaking. You may have hoped (or you may be “hoping”) that all you gotta do is  make a movie and the world will discover your talents.

And let’s face it, it is okay to think this way. The truth is, you and I both know your stuff is better than 90% of the crap that comes out every summer. But the problem is, there are a TON of poorly produced backyard indies flooding the market each year.

This makes it hard to find your movie.

And this means you can no longer simply make a movie and wait.

I have awesome news for you!

After helping hundreds of filmmakers get their movies to market, I have seen quite a few successful filmmakers grow really successful movie businesses.

Do you want to know how successful filmmakers make money in filmmaking?

Distilled down, successful filmmakers create and then execute a marketing plan.

Successful filmmakers do not wait around for a distributor to do all that business stuff.

Conversely, I would say the number one reason filmmakers fail is because most filmmakers NEVER plan to make money in the first place. I am going to be blunt here.

Most filmmakers lack a plan for how to make money in filmmaking.

Case in point, I have heard the following line dozens of times:

“I just want to get my movie on Netflix or iTunes or Amazon or Cable VOD. I don’t care if my my movie makes money. I just want people to see it.”

See what I mean?

Whenever I hear that (and I hear that sort of thing a lot) I get another grey hair.

Because you’re killing me softly.

Even if you don’t care if your movie makes money, I can assure you that every platform, distributor and sales agent in existence is in the business of making money. And if you don’t care about how to make money in filmmaking, nobody else will either.

And your movie will suffer.

And your career will suffer.

Let me be clear, making money as a filmmaker is not easy. I can think of a gazillion other businesses that work much more smoothly than trying to produce projects, source an audience and get a return on your investment.

Yet despite these odds, serious filmmakers push on.

Assuming you are serious – And assuming you want to make money in filmmaking – here are 3 simple tips that most filmmakers never consider:

  1. Do not make a movie unless you know your niche audience.
  2. Do not make a movie unless you know how to reach your audience.
  3. Do not make a movie unless you have enough money to market your movie.

I know you secretly hold onto the myth that “if I make my movie, Hollywood will buy it for a gazillion dollars.”

But here’s the thing. The reason why successful movies get a golden ticket is because someone can answer those three questions.

And the good news? If you take time to answer these questions, you will be ahead of the majority of filmmakers who do not care to make money in filmmaking.

sell your movieIf you’d like to find out how to build an audience and sell your movie, then you might enjoy my upcoming “Sell Your Movie” system. In it, I provide my seven-step, modern system for getting your movie seen and selling. Click here.

Three Tips On How To Target Your Target Audience

Having spent time at the major film festivals, I can tell you that having an audience (also known as a large email subscriber list) is currency. It gives you power. But before you get into the mechanics of growing your audience – You need to first figure out how to find your target audience.

In fact, you need to target your target audience even before you write your screenplay.

If thinking about your target audience is a new concept, you’re not alone. Most filmmakers fail to consider their target audience. Or worse, many filmmakers will tell you that everyone is their audience.

This means men, women, teens, tweens, children, puppies and space aliens could all benefit from your movie.

This is a mistake. It’s a left-over concept from the indie era of 1995. Back then, you only had one goal with your movie. Get into the festivals, fill up your screening and hope the some distributor shows up and writes a check.

Many filmmakers still believe this. But these filmmakers are wrong.

Think about it.

Think about the last time you went to a film festival. What did you see? Was it a bunch of acquisitions professionals handing out business cards like candy? Or did you happen to see other filmmakers handing you postcards, asking:

“Will you come to my screening?”

If you want to figure out how to find your target audience, here’s a solid piece of advice:

Other filmmakers are not your target audience!

But don’t worry. Because I’ve worked on the inside of film distribution for several years, I am going to help you avoid the mistakes 99% of other filmmakers make. I am going to provide you with three simple steps on how to find your target audience.

And these simple steps will put you years ahead of other filmmakers who are living off the hope and pray film distribution strategy of the bygone era. Are you ready to rock?

Find Your Target Audience

Find Your Target Audience

Here is the thing. There are ton of filmmakers that consistently muck up their film release strategy. As I mentioned earlier, the reason most films fail is because the filmmaker never took time to really write out a release plan.

The process of finding your audience starts with refining your movie concept.

Step 1: Refine Your Movie Concept: For this example, let’s pretend your lead character is a boxer living in an improvised community. And then let’s pretend that your boxer ends up with ONE big opportunity to take a shot.

A. From this, we know your movie is geared towards: Boxing.

B. We can also think about related interests: weightlifting, fitness gear, diary supplements, et al.

Step 2 – Conduct a Google Search: Your next step is to locate blogs, websites and publications already targeting people who may be interested in your subject matter. In this example, you can quickly Google “boxing.”

When you do this, “boxing” will get over forty-nine million results. This is not surprising. Interests such as boxing, horror movies, martial arts and race car driving have prominence in our culture.

Step 3 – Build a List: Add the top 50 targeted publications (both online and offline) to a spreadsheet. Then reach out to each publication and request their demographic statistics. These stats will tell you how many people subscribe to the publication and will often provide details on age and gender. (You will use this info later, when you go to sell your movie.)

You can apply these three steps whenever you want to find your target audience. And once you have a good understanding of your target audience, all future advertising, marketing language and your trailer should be created with your target audience in mind.

Then later, when your movie enters the marketplace, this research will provide you a contact list full of organizations that may help you promote your movie. And if you would like more information on how to market and sell your movie, come to my next webinar:

3 Tips For Hacking Hollywood

“If you make good work, you’ll get discovered…”

If you believe this crap, I’ll tell you another.

This is the same BS that got indie filmmakers into this whole mess in the first place. Sure good work is essential. But I’m assuming you’re already set on making great movies.

Otherwise, why bother making movies?

But making great movies is not enough. Some industry gurus estimate there are roughly 50,000 feature films made each year. And given advances in inexpensive production technology, I assure you this figure will increase.

We are experiencing a paradigm shift. A disruption. A sea-change in how movies are made, seen and sold. The market is flooded. Supply now outweighs demand. And worse?

Most of the movies being made are not great. In fact, if you look around, you’re now competing with every yahoo who owns a camera.

Hacking Hollywood

The new era of filmmaking has arrived.

What worked in the past is no longer working. Distributors have turned into aggregators. And most aggregators do not have the muscle to market your movie properly.

What is the value for getting locked into a traditional distribution deal?

Special placement on iTunes? Validation? You need a friend?

The new era of filmmaking has arrived. This is a world where you create your own movies, source your own audience and distribute your work all over the globe without asking permission.

Gone are the days when you begged for upfront cash advances. These days, it is all about creating multiple movies for maximum profit. And success as a modern moviemaker is all about selling directly to your audience.

And I ain’t saying it’s easy. It never has been. But what I am saying is this…

If you are going to succeed as a filmmaker, you will need a strategy.

You need to think like an entrepreneur.

What will YOU do today to build your audience?

This is the question you need to ask yourself constantly. And coming up with reasonable answers is way more important that asking yourself what camera lenses you’re going to utilize. Repeat after me:

“My audience is my business, without an audience, I have no business.”

You might be under the impression that making movies is your business. But it’s not. Your movie is your product. Your real business is creating and growing your audience.

The bigger your audience, the more Hollywood will take notice.

3 Tips For Hacking Hollywood

It’s great to say “grow an audience” but you would probably benefit from a few tactics to help you. So here are three hacks you must do today to start growing your audience.

1. Create a blog centered on your subject matter: Look. I get it. Between writing, funding, producing, directing, promoting and fetching coffee, the last thing you want to think about is creating another job for yourself. But here’s the thing. You don’t need to do it alone. Collaborate with other talented people. But make sure you include a blog!

2. Collect email addresses: When I talk about growing an audience, I am most certainly thinking about email. How many subscribers do you have on your list? Wait, you don’t have a list? My suggestion is to sign up for my affiliate at Aweber. Sure. They pay me to promote. But this very blog would not have survived all these years without them. Email is how you grow your audience.

[Note: Many filmmakers hesitate to invest the $19 bucks a month to utilize a professional email service. Yet they will happily pay thousands for equipment that simply collects dust in a closet. Don’t become one of them. Your audience is your business. Not your soon-to-be obsolete equipment.]

3. Always think about community: There is a reason that Food Matters, Camp Takota and Forks Over Knives are successful case studies. If you look closely, making the movie is only part of the equation. The bigger goal is building an engaged community around the subject matter. Take note of how these sites sell ancillary merchandise. (Also take note of how they use email.)

A Final Tactic for Hacking Hollywood

As an added tip, I suggest all filmmakers carve out some time to watch “Please Subscribe.”

This is a documentary about famed YouTubers who have built multi-million dollar YouTube businesses from their living rooms. Watching this movie will show you the importance of audience. And ironically, the movie will also show you that once you have an audience, you don’t really need Hollywood.

If you liked this filmmaking stuff, you’ll love my Sell Your Movie System. In it, I share tactics for growing an audience and creating a sustainable filmmaking business so you can become a filmmaking rock star. If you’re interested, go here.