Are You Part of The Filmmaking Class?

Canon EOS 7D, front view.

The Cannon EOS 7D is changing the ways filmmakers make movies. Image via Wikipedia

Last week I had a debate with my buddy about filmmaking class. And no, I’m not talking about the classroom. But I am talking about social filmmaking status.

Basically the debate went like this: how do you decide what movies are “real” movies and what movies are “fake.”

(I know. Stupid debate, right? But if you read this, I’ll dispel a myth and forever end Hollywood movie snobbery. Promise.)

In other words, let’s say you’re a filmmaker and you decide to grab your Cannon EOS 7D and shoot a feature – how do you determine if you made a real movie or not?

ARE YOU READY TO LEARN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FAKE MOVIE AND A REAL MOVIE? Then here is the official Jason Brubaker criteria to determine if you created a “real” movie:

Does your movie make money?

If the answer is yes, you my filmmaking friend have a real movie.

“But there are no stars in your stupid movie that you made for 20K on a borrowed camera.”

“Yeah. But it makes more money than that Tom Cruise box office bomb.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I don’t give a crap about the idiot Hollywood snobs who would much rather ignore you and your HD camera. And so what if you never worked with Spielberg or for that matter any “name” talent. And who really cares if some band of ivy league film school graduates spent their 30k making an 8 minute, 35mm short, when you decided to make a feature?

Seriously.

The only thing that matters is if your movie makes money.

Again, seriously.

You’re a filmmaker. If you want to be in business, you must create a product. Your product is a feature film. And if you happen to shoot your feature for no money, with limited locations, with scenes that are under-lit, starring no name actors – but you actually FINISH your feature film and you find your audience and they agree to buy your movie, guess what?

  1. First of all, you are what us business minded folks call “efficient.”
  2. Secondly, by keeping your overhead low, it will take less sales to recoup your initial investment.
  3. And most importantly, you have just created a REAL movie. You are a real, professional filmmaker.

So “F” any Hollywood snob that tells you otherwise. I mean, be nice – but seriously, tell em’ to take a hike. They are probably just worried about job security – and they should be.

Here is why:

Take a look at the ever eroding options for traditional distribution. There are more feature films than ever with better and better images for less of a budget. And very soon, the entire world will be flooded with high production valued content – the likes of which Hollywood has never encountered. (For a historical reference, read about how inexpensive product and cheap labor killed Bethalam Steel and compare this to what’s happening in Hollywood.)

So as a filmmaker, you now have a few choices:

  1. Wait around for someone to discover your project and give you a gazillion dollars – so that you can have a “real” movie that will play the festivals and probably end up on iTunes and Amazon.
  2. Move to Los Angeles, fetch coffee on various “real” productions so that you can one day make a movie that will probably play the festivals and guess what? End up on Amazon and iTunes?
  3. Or starting today, you can create a movie structured around your current cash and equipment and location limitations that will (this is the kicker) play the festivals and probably end up on iTunes and Amazon.

Do you see what I’m getting at? Theatrical distribution is not a viable outlet for independent filmmakers. And video stores are changing and becoming a less viable sales outlet for indie filmmakers. So where does this leave Hollywood filmmakers and you? You got it. The internet.

And yes, I’m once again referring to:

digital self distribution.

(Tell your filmmaking friends – it’s time to face reality.)

You see, for any business to survive, you need a product (or a service) and a group of people willing to recognize that the value of your product outweighs the value of their cash.

Your movie is your product. And thanks to innovations in both production and digital self distribution, there is really no difference between the dollars spent for “real” Hollywood movies or your movie.

And if you’re making a living doing what you love, who really cares if some idiot thinks your work is sub par? I mean, this debate never bothered Roger Corman, so why should it bother you?

Now the important question is – what does this mean? For that answer, I offer a FREE filmmaking book:

www.FreeFilmmakingBook.com

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Jason Brubaker is a Los Angeles based independent producer and an expert in digital self distribution. He makes movies and he writes about making movies. More of his articles can be found at www.filmmakingstuff.com

Movie Distribution (Without Asking Permission)

Over the past year, I have been invited to various filmmaking workshops and panel discussions to share my internet movie distribution system. My goal in doing these events is to show indie filmmakers how to leverage the internet, build an audience and get paid for their work. My other purpose is to help you (and other filmmakers) avoid my marketing mistakes.

Let me explain. . .

A few years back, my first feature failed to garner a tradition distribution deal. Admittedly the movie was a silly zombie flick with a very controversial story and a totally rough production value (understatement!). Upon completion, (like you), we cut the movie, rented a theater, held a premiere, got the feedback, refined the movie and then entered the festival circuit.

How our marketing mistakes cost us $100K in lost profits. . .

Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #1 – Our Movie Website
On our last day of production, a photographer for (the now defunct) Premier Magazine came to set and snapped a few pictures. One of the photos appeared in the magazine – And on the day of publication, we had about 10,000 unique visitors to our website. We were not ready. The traffic crashed the servers. Oops.

What we learned about movie websites:
We should have spent the money and got a Hosting Company with a solid track record. These days I prefer www.bluehost.com because for very little money, you can get a domain name and year’s worth of hosting. Since utilizing Bluehost, I have experienced very little downtime – And they have great indie film friendly customer service.

Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #2 – Our Initial Trailer
Once we fixed the website, we added a trailer that we self hosted. This was a mistake. Firstly, the load time sucked. Secondly, the trailer burnt bandwidth. And third, there was no option for zombie movie enthusiasts to re-embed the trailer on their fan sites (which is very inexpensive advertising). Oops.

What we learned about hosting a movie trailer:
Don’t host your movie trailer yourself. Upload it to one of the many video sites, like YouTube. Aside from saving you the bandwidth and providing re-embedding opportunities, each video hosting site allows your fanbase to build community around your movie. This in-turn spreads word of mouth and offers you the opportunity to keep your finger on the pulse of your marketing. The more views, the more your movie gains popularity.

Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #3 – Capture Visitor Information:
Despite our mistakes, the one thing we had going for us was a very controversial hook. Word of mouth spread quickly. And our website had thousands of visitors each week. This was great right? Sort of. . .

Why we should have captured visitor information:
Garnering high organic (unpaid) traffic on your movie website is euphoric. However if you allow people to visit and leave your website without attempting to build a long term relationship, then you just lost a fan. To prevent this, set up an automatic newsletter opt in on your website. For this job, I prefer www.aweber.com. For a minimal amount of money, the service provides you with a opt-in form and also manages your email list.

This goes almost without saying, but you should immediatly set up a facebook fan page. You can find ours by clicking here:

The Filmmaking Stuff Fan Page

Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #4 – Marketing VS Sales:
Your initial website will allow you to spread word about your movie and provide contact information for anybody who wants it. Additionally, your initial website will probably include production photos, silly stuff and a press kit. All of this is fine if you are seeking a traditional distribution deal. BUT. . .

The difference between Movie Marketing and Movie Sales:
When you’re marketing your movie, it is OK to have all the extra web pages. But when you make the shift from movie marketer to movie seller, you will need to change a few things. Firstly, you need to remove anything that doesn’t progress the sale of your movie. For example, if your intention is to sell a DVD, and your prospective fan gets distracted by your behind the scenes photos – and leaves your site – you have accomplished nothing.

Movie Maker Marketing Mistake #5 – Getting Bootlegged:
When it happens, it is both disheartening and validating at the same time. At first we went all over the internet and found a bunch of weird, cryptic streaming websites. We sent threatening, attorney drafted emails to the violators. Surprisingly, many complied and our movie was removed. . .

What we learned:
Within a week of removing the bootleggers both our web traffic and subsequent movie sales flat-lined. While I don’t have the evidence to prove correlation between bootlegs and sales – I have since come to the conclusion that people will buy your movie or not. Those that want to steal, will.

As a result, I have stopped policing the internet for bootleg providers. Let’s face it, paid advertising is expensive. Independent movie bootlegging is just another form of advertising.
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If you are already a member of my newsletter, you know how passionate I am about helping you make movies without asking permission. You also know that I’m passionate about sharing the “how to aspects” of making movies and making money. In no other area can this be achieved than the distribution of your movie.

As a result of my digital self distribution experience, I was hired to coach a rather well known indie filmmaker through his own digital self distribution campaign. Additionally, I have put all of this knowledge into a product called The Indie Producer’s Guide To Digital Self Distribution.

Comments and questions related to digital self movie distribution are welcome below: