Filmmaking For a Living

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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.

Filmmaking For Multiple Streams Of Movie Income

The world of filmmaking is changing. Cheaply produced movies, coupled with nondiscriminatory distribution channels has resulted in oversupply and under-demand. This paradigm shift raises some questions:

  1. Can independent filmmakers still make a living?
  2. Can your indie film budget cover production, and pay freelancers?
  3. How many VOD sales will it take to justify the budget?
  4. How will you get these sales?
  5. And if the numbers don’t work, then what?

In the following filmmaking podcast, I share some thoughts on how we might actually make independent filmmaking profitable again. Specifically, I compare the filmmaking production process to any small business. And I share my thoughts on VOD (video on demand) distribution – and how this sales channel finally gives every filmmaker the opportunity to create multiple streams of movie income.

[UPDATE: So far, the feedback for this podcast has been positive. What I present to you is not 100% refined. For that, it will take all filmmakers contributing ideas. So after listening to the podcast, if you have ideas on how we can push the “multiple streams of movie income” forward, feel free to share your comments.]

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