How To Network In Hollywood (Or anywhere, really)

The other night, I was at some party. I didn’t know a lot of people, but this is nothing new.

Learning how to network in Hollywood, or anywhere really is one of  the most important skills you can refine. Besides, meeting new people is fun. It leads to new ideas and new opportunties.

But every so often, you will meet a jerk or two .

That is exactly what happened when I walked into a conversation where this guy was bragging about his shoes. Something about Italian leather or some crap.

Anyway, as the conversation shifted from shoes to the movie industry, I started to chime in about video on demand distribution.

And do you know what?

This guy…

He totally looked down at my shoes. He noticed my low top Converse and literally cut me off mid-sentence.

WTF?

(I promise this is not a segue into a fashion blog…)

But here’s the fun part. Later in the evening, I guess somebody tells this guy that I’m connected… That I know people. That maybe I can introduce him to people who could help him in his career.

So this filmmaker comes up to me and actually starts talking about a movie idea.

Pretty silly. No thanks.

I don’t think him and I will ever do business together.

Why?

Frankly, because I don’t like him. He made a poor judgement on how to treat me.

This is an example of BAD NETWORKING

Here is a video on how I thought about Hollywood before I got into the game.

A lot of filmmakers visit LA, wondering how to network in Hollywood. Before I get too far into some awesome networking tips, let me clarify something.

You don’t have to be in Hollywood to make movies!

But if your goal is to make movies, you are going to need a way to raise money. And unless you have a rich uncle or an awesome hookup, you’re going to have to do what most unknown filmmakers do… They get out there and they hustle!

Which begs the question:

“How do filmmakers meet and network with rich people?”

Good question.

You will meet rich people through your ever expanding network of awesomeness. In other words, you’re going to make lots of cold calls, take lots of lunches and network!

The following principals will reveal how to network in everyday life. But importantly, they will show you how to network in Hollywood.

Here is the reason you need to learn how to network in Hollywood:

Odds are good that if you make movies, sooner or later you’re going to end up in Hollywood.

Makes sense right?

how to network in Hollywood with Jason Brubaker

How To Network In Hollywood

As you can probably guess, the guy in our previous example needs to learn how to network in Hollywood. (Or anywhere, for that matter.)

And maybe you’ve experienced this type of crap too.

It happens all the time. I mostly see it at film festivals. Somebody approaches you and immediately asks what you do.

As soon as you tell the other person, there is a beat – A moment or two when the person decides if you are worth his time.

If not, then the other person will feign a polite interest in you, look over your shoulder for someone more important to talk to and leave the scene, tossing you a business card on his way out.

Whenever someone mentions the word “networking” the mental picture that comes into focus, often involves an overly energetic schmoozer who hands out business cards like candy.

These people typically have their own agenda in mind and could care less about you – unless they could potentially USE you.

While this strategy may be utilized by many up-and-coming filmmakers, it won’t be ours.

Avoid becoming a walking business card dispensary”

In order to avoid becoming a walking business card dispensary,  every time you think about networking, I want you to focus on one thing – and one thing only.

Focus on the other person!

If you like the other person and think they are a nice human being, I want you to always focus on finding ways to help. By helping other people reach their goals, all the lessons we spoke about (rapport, reputation and building relationships) will work in your favor.

Here is what I learned. Help enough people, and enough people will help you.

Simple, right?

Action Steps

  1. Build a network of like minded individuals.
  2. If you live in a small town like I did, try to find a local art scene and other local filmmakers.If your area is limited, then contact people through social networking websites.
  3. Consider taking weekend trips to film festivals and screenings within your proximity. Strike up conversations.
  4. Consider helping as PA for movies in your area.
  5. Once you make friends. Go to their screenings. Get business cards. Follow up. Always ask yourself: “What can I do to help this person succeed?”

Get Movie MoneyOne of the best parts about working in the movie industry is meeting other like-minded, creative people. If you go out of your way to help other people as much as you can (without allowing other people to take advantage of you), then you’ll be in very good shape when it comes time to create your own projects.

If you’re still trying to find out how to network in Hollywood, or if you are looking for strategies on how to meet and mingle with prospective investors or Hollywood Heavyweights – I recommend you check out my guide focused on: “How To Meet Rich People So You Can Fund Your Movie.”


Secrets of Successful Indie Filmmakers: Don’t Give Up

One thing that’s true for all indie filmmakers is this: Sometimes life sucks.

Movie deals fall apart. Investors bail out. People don’t come through and they let you down. And sometimes what you thought was a sure-thing becomes a no-thing…

While nobody wants to experience pain and heartache, it is equally important to know that these challenges are part of the journey. And what I just described are the same realities and the same circumstances that all successful indie filmmakers face.

The difference? Successful indie filmmakers don’t give up.

But that probably doesn’t make you feel much better. And if you’re in the midst of a shaky project or an uncertain life circumstance, I can sympathize. When I was in NYC, we were going into production on a 1.5 million dollar movie.

I can remember feeling pretty excited about the whole process. I was finally working in the movie business. I felt awesome. . .

(Note: If you’re reading my emails, look for the one titled “The First Time I Got Fired.”)

Then all-a-sudden the entire project fell apart. Something about the investors getting scared… Something about the actor’s mom… Dunno. The reason the project fell apart does not matter. But what I know is this – I suddenly found myself in New York with no job and no money.

Imagine going from a feeling of awesomeness to a feeling of heartache in a single day.

That experience truly sucked.

indie filmmakers

Secrets of Indie Filmmakers: Don’t Give Up

I remember calling my friend and mentor Joe on the phone. I thought he would be encouraging. Maybe even say something nice to me. Instead he said something I never forgot… He said, “Get UP!”

ME: What?

JOE: Get UP! You just experienced your first bloody nose. Welcome to the world. At this point, you have two choices. You can quit – or you can get up, wipe your bloody nose and push forward.

I chose to push forward. I had no other choice. It wasn’t easy. For a time, I had to leave New York and move back to my parent’s house. And while this was humiliating, I forced myself to think of each challenge as a rite of passage for any serious indie filmmakers. How bad did I want it? Okay. Prove it!

This belief got me through my darkest times…

“I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…”

Eventually I found a job, saved money for a few months, packed my car and moved to California. Once there, I got some stuff in motion and was finally able to produce my first feature.

While I’m proud of that accomplishment, I can tell you that my challenges have only gotten more complicated. Since that time, I have been fired from several jobs, dumped, heart broken, broke and fired again. In the years since, I have had more than a dozen projects, job offers and awesome opportunities come and go. Poof!

And while failed opportunity still sucks, all of it has somehow become less sucky, I now understand a solid, fundamental truth. And it is the reason I can sleep soundly most nights. Are you ready?

Uncertainty is the price of success.

There will be good times and bad times. There will be red and black. You will win and you will lose.

And while I’m not here to tell you every day is going to be fun. (It won’t. Every setback sucks.) But if you let your challenges steel your resolve instead of stealing your soul, I guarantee one day you will wake up happy. The sun will shine. The stress will dissolve. And you will be excited for whatever life has to offer.

I look forward to watching your movies.

If you would like more tips like this, click here to grab your filmmaker checklist.

 

Three Ways To Cut Your Movie Budget (And Increase Production Value)

Coming up with an accurate film budget can be a sobering experience. You either find out that you need to raise more money or cut your budget entirely.

And if you’re anything like most independent filmmakers, both options suck.

But don’t worry.

I’m here to help you. In a few paragraphs I am going to offer you some ways to cut your movie budget while actually increasing your production value.

Cut Your Movie Budget

And heck, you might even apply one of these ideas to your movie project and come up with an even more awesome, creative solution than what you initially thought about.

Cut Your Movie Budget (first things first. . .)

If you’ve been following filmmaking stuff for any length of time, you know how much I enjoy helping you become entrepreneurial in your filmmaking.

That means, I would love to see you get your movie made!

And as an entrepreneurial filmmaker, it is important to understand that there are a lot of ways to bootstrap your movie – even before you take time to raise money to make your movie.

Your initial breakdown and schedule will organize the elements of your movie into smaller, more manageable chunks.

This is an important step because it allows you to analyze the scope, scale and availability of your elements.

And once you have your initial breakdown and schedule, you will then get an idea of how all of these variables will fit into some sort of schedule.

After you sorted out your elements and your schedule, you’ll then take the information and plug it into your budget.

Here’s a short video I put together for you with ways to cut your movie budget.

Assuming you’ve planned for an ideal execution of your movie, most likely your project will cost considerably more than the money you actually have.

As I mentioned earlier, when this happens, you have two choices:

  1. Get more money.
  2. Cut the budget!

Three Ways To Cut Your Movie Budget

Assuming you’re not going to get any more money, here are three methods you can utilize to cut your movie budget without degrading the production value of the movie:

1. Revisit your network and let everyone know you’re making a movie. Provide a shopping list of everything you’re looking for. (Food, Locations, Special FX, Picture Vehicles, et al…) Chances are, someone you know, knows someone who has what you need – for FREE or at least at a discounted rate.

2. Think creatively. Even if you don’t have money, before you give up on the super awesome element, think creatively. Is there any way you can barter or trade? In small towns, sometimes the promise of free publicity is all business owner needs to offer up a location for free.

3. Modify your screenplay. If all else fails, go back to your screenplay. Yes – We all agree that having snow on the ground would really set a cold mood for your story. But at 10K, are you sure it’s necessary for your story?

Get Movie MoneyAs a filmmaker, I think you’ll have plenty of time in your career to produce movies with unlimited budgets.

Seriously. Do well with your small projects and then “level up” to bigger projects.

But if you an train yourself to overcome financial shortcomings with creative alternatives NOW, including some simple ways to cut your movie budget, I wouldn’t be surprised if you continually discover magic.

Seriously. It is totally amazing what you can accomplish with a little creativity. But here’s the kicker, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Keep this in mind as you push forward!

In your opinion (in the comments section below), what are aspects of filmmaking that do no require money?

How To Build Rapport With Movie Investors (And Other Hollywood Heavy Hitters)

If you want to to raise money to make your movie, you need to first build rapport.  This one lesson alone can accelerate your filmmaking success faster than most anything else you can do. This is especially important when you meet with prospective movie investors and Hollywood heavy hitters.

The reason is simple. People do business with people they like and trust.

(Remember this, always. Seriously.)

My first film was this silly short, shot in 16mm. It was a college project. And it was expensive.

In order to participate in the class, I had to come up with a over one-thousand dollars. That may or may not seem like a lot of money to you. But when I was in college, I didn’t have it.

I was broke!

I saw a job advertisement in the local paper that seemed interesting (this was years before the internet.) Anyway, the job was with this swimming pool and spa company. They needed someone to travel to regional fairs and carnivals to sell hot-tubs.

Yeah. Before I made and distributed movies, I worked at a carnival. Don’t judge me.

Can you picture this? You’re at a local carnival. Probably chomping on french fries and funnel cake. And as you’re walking to find a chocolate milkshake to wash it all down, you stumble into the hot-tub tent.

Picture this:

I’m pitching you a ten-thousand dollar hot tub that you have no desire to buy.

At the time, I wasn’t the best sales guy. In fact, I had no idea what I was doing. I kept pitching and pitching, but the ice cream eating customers were not buying.

Worse, they ignored me cold and often walked away.

My filmmaking dreams faded with each rejection.

But then one day, this old timer sales guy came up to me and said the following:

“You know why you aren’t selling?”
“No,” I said.
“It’s because you ain’t taking time to build rapport.”
“Rapport?”
“Yeah. You need to connect with these people. Make a friend first.”

Rapport is simply a feeling of connection between you and the person (or people) around you. To build rapport, you simply need to ask some questions, shut your mouth and listen. Once I understood this, I took time and got to know each prospect BEFORE I went into the pitch.

In the weeks to follow, an interesting thing happened. I found out that a lot people were just visiting to fair so they could eat ice cream. They had no desire to buy a hot-tub. So I did not waste time pitching my offer. Taking time to build rapport also allowed me to find people who were actually interested.

By the end of the summer, I was the top hot-tub sales guy on the team.

This allowed me to produce my first short movie, and I also had extra money left over.

But Jason – What does this have to do with filmmaking?

Years later I realized taking time to build rapport while selling hot-tubs is the exact strategy you will use to build rapport with movie investors and Hollywood Heavy Hitters. It’s amazing how small jobs can teach you BIG lessons!

Here is a quick filmmaking video.

BUILD RAPPORT

I’ve said it time and time again. If you cannot connect with people, garnering any measure of success in the movie industry will be difficult. The good news is, with a few strategies and techniques, you can begin to build meaningful and profitable relationships with people at an accelerated rate.

Establishing rapport is the first step to creating a Hollywood relationship.

FILMMAKING ACTION STEPS

  1. Read the trade journals, national newspapers and watch the news whenever you can. This will keep you informed of current events, including sports, finance and especially entertainment. (So you can find stuff to talk about.)
  2. When you’re informed, finding conversational topics between strangers will come easier – This is a skill you’ll need when you got out and pitch to prospective investors or Hollywood heavyweights for the first time. I know I just mentioned it – but in Hollywood, there are two trade journals. Daily Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. Read them!
  3. This one should be obvious, but watch every movie you can. (Seriously.)
  4. Read the following books: How to Win Friends & Influence People and Never Eat Alone (These are general business books, but useful to your filmmaking.)
  5. Since communication is mostly body language, one effective technique to building rapport involves mirroring and moving your body in sync with the person you’re talking with. (Just don’t be obvious about this.)

As you meet more people, you’ll begin to expand your context of reality. People will provide you with ideas, help and often introduce you to other people. Add this up over time and you’ll soon see how each person you meet potentially creates a positive ripple effect that will propel you in the direction of your Hollywood goals!

RESOURCES
If you are looking for tips and strategies for getting movie money, check out The Film Finance Guide. It was authored by myself and Tom Malloy. Keep in mind the Tom Malloy has raise over 25M in film funding to produce his firs feature film. Head over the Film Finance Guide here.

How To Finance Movies With VOD Sales Projections

Do you know the most popular question filmmakers ask me?

I’ll give you a hint. It has to do with video on demand.

Ready. . .

Without too much variation, the most popular question is: “Can you provide some VOD sales projections?”

I understand the motive behind this question.

Believe me, I do.

You’re a filmmaker. You either made an awesome movie and you’re trying to use VOD sales projections to convince your partners that VOD is the way to go. Or you are in the process of making a movie and you need to convince your investors that VOD is awesome. In both scenarios, you’re trying to find proof that movies make money in VOD.

I get that. . . But. . .

Let’s make one thing clear. Asking for VOD sales projections is asking the wrong question!

If you dig around, examples of VOD Sales successes are out there. Check out what The Polish Brothers did. And if that’s not enough, Google the case study around Indie Game the movie.

But the truth is, one filmmaker’s past success does not guarantee that your movie will be successful.

Read that statement over and over again. And if you need a little more clarity, take a look at what the cat is saying here:

VOD Sales Projections

Realizing that VOD sales projections are BS is essential for your success. And I am going to explain how you can use your new found understanding for good, very soon…

But before I go there, let’s talk about why people invest in independent film.

Why Investors Invest In Indie Film

Independent movie investors invest because (aside from having an appetite for risk and an interest in the film business) most of these people want a return on their money. If you are doing things by the book, you probably created a marketing strategy as part of your business plan. This plan provides prospective investors an overview of how investment dollars will be budgeted, spent and hopefully recouped.

In the past, trying to convince investors movies were a good investment involved projecting returns based on speculative data. To guess how much money a movie may make, filmmakers would compare their project to other successful movies.

Creating indie movie comparables is complete BS.

The reason for this is simple.

Just because you make a low budget horror movie does not guarantee your movie will have the same success as Paranormal Activity.

In fact, Paranormal Activity is an outlier. It is not a fair comparison. And using breakout hits as examples, while ignoring the thousands of unsuccessful horror movies made each year, is short-sited at best and I dare say a little unethical.

Video On Demand Sales Projections

Given the birth of VOD distribution, as a filmmaker you now have the ability to access and enter into a non-discriminatory marketplace as soon as your movie is ready. And because many of these marketplaces exist online, much of your sales will come from internet traffic.

This is actually awesome news.

It means that you can boost your sales by using a very common marketing concept called…

[Seriously… Are you ready? You are about to receive the secret sauce of modern, indie movie marketing.]

More important than VOD Sales Projections is:

Conversion Rates

What is a conversion rate?

Conversion Rate Defined, According to Wikipedia:

Your conversion rate is the proportion of visits to a website who take action to go beyond a casual content view or website visit, as a result of subtle or direct requests from marketers, advertisers, and content creators.

Conversion_Rate

In other words, if you send one-hundred people to your movie website and two people buy your movie, your conversion rate is two percent. This is profound. This is life changing for indie filmmakers!

Question: Why should filmmakers be enthusiastic about the internet marketing, nerd concept of conversion rates?

Answer: If you know your conversion rates, you can model and potentially project more accurate movie sales projections from day one.

But before you start noodling around to find your conversion rates, it helps to answer the following questions:

Modern MovieMaking Model

  1. Who Is Your Target Audience?
  2. How Large Is Your Target Audience?
  3. How Will You Reach Your Audience?
  4. What Is Your Marketing Strategy?
  5. How Many VOD Sales To Break Even?

While I won’t get into the actual mechanics of marketing and selling your movie here (My Action Guide How To Sell Your Movie provides you with an actual step-by-step plan for getting your movie seen and sold), I will simply note that a marketing plan must now be included with your business plan.

The Secret VOD Sales Projection Formula

When you create (or refine) your marketing plan, you must now include some marketing math.

Truth be told, math is a weak subject for me and I dare say, most of the filmmakers I know. But luckily there are many spreadsheet templates that allow you to test several conversion rate scenarios. You can use these scenarios as a guideline to ballpark the potential ROI for your movie.

Here is a basic website conversion rate calculator you can utilize: http://bit.ly/17TSCrt

Before you get overly excited (like I am) calculating your movie website conversion rate is only one metric to determine your movie’s potential for profitability. You still need to figure out how to price your movie. And at the same time, you will need to determine how much targeted internet traffic will cost you.

Generating Internet traffic is the result of executing four strategies. You can either get free traffic online, free traffic offline, paid traffic offline or paid traffic online.

For the sake of this example, I am going to incorporate pay per visit advertising. With pay per visit advertising, you simply pay for someone to visit your movie website.

One example of Pay Per Visit traffic is StumbleUpon. It’s a social bookmarking site that also allows you to pay for semi-targeted traffic. This works well if you have a movie with a dose of controversy and a strong hook.

And again, if you’d like more info on specific traffic generating strategies, check out my indie guide to distribution.

Ok. Here is our first example…

Let’s assume only 1% of the targeted folks who actually visit your website, buy. Then how many visits will you need to sell 100 units?

100 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000
THEN 10,000($.05) = $500 paid for targeted traffic.

So in other words, if you were lucky enough to get a 1% return, you just paid $500 dollars in pay per visit advertising to sell 100 units of your movie. But let’s go one step further. Let’s assume you’re like me – and you hate order fulfillment and shipping. So you decide to let a company like Amazon’s Create Space or iTunes (or some other popular marketplace) handle your order.

Video On Demand For Rent (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($3) = $300 – 50% paid to marketplace = $150
minus $500 paid for advertising = -$350 NEGATIVE

In this VOD rental scenario, the Pay Per Visit Ad numbers don’t work, unless you like losing money.

Video On Demand For Download (Electronic Sell Through)
100 units ($10) = $1000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $500
minus $500 paid for advertising = BREAK EVEN

In this VOD download to own scenario, the numbers work a little bit better. Assuming you’re lucky enough to get 1% of your money returned, at least the advertising pays for itself. But unless you can increase your conversion rates, pay per visit advertising is going to be very difficult method for returning money to your investors.

Physical DVD Sales
100 units ($20) = $2000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1000
minus $500 paid for advertising = $500 in profit.

Ah ha! If you’re fortunate enough to get 1% return on your pay per visit advertising, you can see how physical DVD’s (or units) sold at $20 dollars may offer a slight profit margin. In other words, in this scenario, for every $.50 cents you spend, you get $1 dollar back.

So let’s tackle the bigger problem. Let’s try to get a return on our 1Million dollar movie, selling physical DVD sales and using pay per visit advertising alone:

Movie Budget = 1 Million dollars
Physical DVD Sales using Pay Per Visit Advertising

$1,000,000 divided by $20 per unit = 50,000 Units

Since we will give 50% to the marketplace for all sales, we will need to project for double our budget.

100,000 units = Our goal for this ad campaign.
$.05 = Amount you may pay advertiser per visit.
X = Number of Visitors Needed to buy 100,000 units if only 1% buy.

(X).01 = 100,000 units
EQUATES TO: X= 10,000,000 (Yes, TEN MILLION people.)
THEN 10,000,000($.05) = $500,000 paid for targeted traffic.

100,000 units ($20) = $2,000,000 – 50% paid to marketplace = $1,000,000
minus $500,000 paid for advertising = $500,000 in profit.

So to break even, you would need to sell 100,000 units and make $2,000,000.

Some Sales Conclusions

Based on this scenario, as a filmmaker you will (obviously) need to expand your promotion beyond pay-per-visit advertising!

But importantly and most AWESOMELY, you can treat your movie business like any other small business. With VOD Sales projections, you can find the marketing formula that works for your movie and crunch your numbers until you find a scenario that brings you profits.

Create a plan that included your marketing costs in your budget.

While there are no guarantees in any business, having a plan for marketing, sales and distribution sure beats the old days when your only plan for ROI involved crossing your fingers in the hopes someone will offer you a profitable, traditional deal.

While these may not be the VOD Sales Projections you were looking for, hopefully you now realize the power of knowing your conversion rates.

Treating your movie business like any small business simply means you don’t have to ask permission. You can make your movie NOW! And your prospective investors might take notice…

Also, can you do me a favor? If you liked this filmmaking article, could you kindly retweet or share this article with your friends?