5 Ways To Succeed As a Modern Filmmaker

The other day it occurred to me that I’ve been living in Los Angeles for nearly a decade.

Over the years I have learned a thing or two about Hollywood. I have also realized there are distinct differences between filmmakers who make a movie and the would-be filmmakers who do not.

Since most people in LA are involved in some aspect of the movie industry, most conversations revolve around some aspect of getting a movie made.

That said, what is surprising to me are the vast numbers of people I meet who report spending years searching for ways to hand their movie projects off to someone else – someone who will magically do all the “business stuff” and make a movie appear.

Sometimes I think filmmakers do things just because they believe it’s the way things HAVE to be done.

That doesn’t necessary make it right. And admittedly, I’m not always right. But how I conduct my movie business works for me. And if you’re reading this, I assume you’re looking for some perspective just a little left of center. So here we go.

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5 Ways To Succeed as A Modern Filmmaker

  1. Quit asking permission. It’s a waste of time.
  2. Create your own business plan and budget.
  3. Create the movie you can make this year, not next.
  4. Learn money. (Know the difference between cash flow and capital gains!)
  5. Similar to #1, quit making excuses. Grab a camera and push “record.”

As an added bonus – because I’ve been meeting a lot of actors lately – if you’re an actor, stop handing out headshots and start producing! Then cast yourself in your own projects.

If any of these filmmaking tips sound useful, feel free to download this filmmaker checklist.

Filmmaking For a Living

Hollywood Sign

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As a filmmaker, you are expected to make a product (your movie). The money invested to create your product should be less than the eventual sales of your product. If you can not figure out how to achieve this goal, you do not have a business. You instead have an expensive hobby and probably a good demo reel.

There are a lot of filmmakers who attempt to raise money without first considering how their movie will recoup the initial investment. These filmmakers say things like “I have a vision” or “I’m going to make this for the love of filmmaking. Then I’ll get into festivals, get noticed and garner a great distribution deal!” And while it is true that passion, tenacity and blind optimism play an important role in getting your movie produced and seen and hopefully sold, this alone is not enough to drive the masses to your screenings.

This happens in Hollywood all the time. A filmmaker creates a typical business plan that focuses on film festivals as the most viable distribution strategy. And played out, the filmmaker gets the money, hires a crew, makes a movie and then enters the festivals. But months after wrap, well into the festival circuit, these filmmakers realize that the market has changed. The days of awesome DVD acquisitions deals and huge upfront advances are over. And when the last frame flickers off the silver screen, these filmmakers take their dashed-dreams back to their day job.

The veterans of the industry tell us that all this distribution deal disappointment is a result of improved technology. They optimistically tell us that our lost DVD revenues will be recouped by Video On Demand. Some refer to this as simply a market correction, implying that someday, somewhere, someone will figure out how to once again pay the big bucks for movies. But this is a pipe-dream.

Here is the flaw. Most filmmakers depend on DVD distribution for a return on investment. And with deteriorating DVD sales channels, filmmakers are currently left with iTunes, NetFlix and Amazon as the most prominent VOD sales options. My question is this. Who on earth is going to pay a major advance to get your movie into a marketplace that YOU can easily access without the middle man?

This approach to the marketplace changes everything. Your business is no longer dependent on production and capital gains. Nope. These days, the focus for the filmmaker lies in creating multiple streams of movie income over the long term. And if you want to make a living making movies, you need to realize that your libary and the subsequent auidence you source (over your career)  are your major assets. And as a result, your most important filmmaking focus (aside from doing good work) is to acquire and keep a customer.

Like it or lump it, filmmaking has become a small business. The same rules now apply.

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Jason Brubaker is a Los Angles based independent filmmaker and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. If you are one of the many filmmakers seeking movie distribution, you might want to check out The Independent Producer’s Guide To Distribution.

Leverage Your Following | Sell Your Movie PT 7

Internal rate of return, two solutions, cashflow

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One of the most important filmmaking strategies you must adopt in this era of modern moviemaking is a long term perspective. In years past, filmmakers focused on making one movie, selling it and then moving on to the next movie.

While the idea of creating multiple titles over the course of your filmmaking career has not changed, it is now vitally important that you plan a series of movies from day one. The reason for this is simple. You are now solely responsible for the success of your movie business. And to stay in business, you will need to create a profitable library of titles that continually pay you.

To use a real estate business analogy, in years past you built a house and sold it for maximum profit. But these days, given the changes in the real estate market, it makes sense to hold onto the house, rent it out and collect rent checks every month. This is the difference between capital gains and cashflow. And as an independent filmmaker, the growing demise in DVD sales outlets means that filmmakers must now focus on creating multiple titles – and increasing cashflow, over time.

Leverage Your Following

As I mentioned previously, creating a highly targeted mailing list is now essential for your success.

Thinking long term, the most important component of your movie making success is establishing a loyal following. From a business perspective, the size of your mailing list will provide a solid metric on which to base forward looking revenue projections. In other words, you can take look at your list and say “two percent of our followers bought this movie. I wonder how many fans will be interested in my next movie?” But instead of guess work, you can send your followers an email and ask them.

As you grow your community your fans will begin to know you, know your company and celebrate your work. And as long as you continue to provide good entertainment, you may eventually reach mass great enough to fund your future movie projects. Imagine how much prospective investors will appreciate your pitch when you already have one-hundred-thousand fans eager to buy your next movie?

[box style=”notice”] For more information on how to market and sell your movie, visit www.HowToSellYourMovie.com[/box]

In the end, the heart and soul of all forms of distribution is finding an audience willing to pay you for your work. Video on demand simply removes the middle-man from the process and allows you to connect directly with the people who matter the most – your audience.