Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

In case you haven’t noticed, filmmaking is changing. And the future of filmmaking is now.

In years past, if you wanted to make a movie, you had to raise enough money to not only cover the film and equipment, but you paid for your DP, your camera operator, someone to pull focus, someone to load the film, someone to lay dolly track and someone else to push your dolly.

If you wanted to create an awesome movie on a budget, you shot Super 16mm. Once the film was in the can, you paid to get the film processed, color corrected, transferred to video, edited “off line” and later blown up to 35mm. And all these steps were considered an affordable option!

Then you crossed your fingers, hoping to land an awesome distribution deal. Can you imagine trying to make movies like that? It’s easy to understand why most would-be filmmakers never took action.

Future Of Filmmaking

Photo © Dmytro Tolokonov / Dollar Photo Club

Future Of Filmmaking: Will You Be Replaced By A Robot?

With the emergence of awesomely inexpensive production technology, making a movie is getting easier. And everything has changed.

It’s been over a decade since I’ve heard anybody in the filmmaking community seriously consider shooting their first feature on film. And why would they? These days, if you want to make a great looking movie, you grab your $2,000 DSLR camera and you start shooting.

That’s it. No film stock. No silly processing costs. And no transfers to video.

You simply take your camera out of the bag, point and shoot. Then you edit on your computer and upload to several of the video on demand websites. And you can start selling your work to the world.

This is an AMAZING time to make movies, right?

Or is it?

For the first time in history, filmmakers are experiencing what happens in other industries when robots start producing comparable goods for less and less money. You get an overwhelming supply of inexpensive product in the marketplace, which devalues the market as a whole. Couple this with the demise of traditional DVD distribution, and you can understand why it’s difficult land a killer payday.

Considering these unfavorable odds, why would any filmmaker risk millions on a budget when there are less opportunities to make the money back? This is our new paradox as filmmakers.

Producing product is not the problem. It is easy to make a backyard indie.

The real challenge is keeping budgets low enough to increase the odds of recouping, while at the same time creating movies that people actually want to see.

This seems obvious.

While there are no guarantees in this or any business, aside from making an awesome movie, here are three things you can do to increase your odds of success:

  1. Know your target audience.
  2. Have a plan for reaching your target audience.
  3. Cast actors who have a large social media following.

Having spent the last half-decade working in marketing and distribution, I can tell you that most filmmakers completely ignore these steps. Most never take time to sketch out a marketing, sales and distribution strategy for their movies. And as a result, most movies end up dying in digital obscurity.

Don’t do that.

Make Filmmaking Your Next Small Business

Quiet please…we have speed…ACTION!

A new website is being launched today that will help take filmmaking out of Hollywood, and put it into the hands of everyday, creative people so that they can combine their life’s ambition of being a filmmaker with owning their own business.

makeyourmovienow.com is the brain child of Jason Brubaker, a Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. He has hosted another filmmaking website, Filmmakingstuff.com for years and is taking his experience to the next level.

“makeyourmovienow.com is focused on helping YOU make, market and sell movies more easily,” he says. “The ways movies finally make it to market has changed. makeyourmovienow.com is specifically designed to help grow your fan base, build “buzz” and create community around your title.

“If you want to make a living making movies, you need to realize that your library and the subsequent audience 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,” he emphasizes.

For filmmakers in need, makeyourmovienow.com covers the four key areas of film production: screenwriting, film financing, filmmaking and distribution.

Tell your filmmaking friends!

Film Production Crew Takes Action

As a filmmaker, making a feature takes time. You need a great team, which includes a great production crew. And you also need money. And you also need a little luck!

When I moved to Los Angeles, I had planned on making at least one movie per year. And despite the US economy and some other challenges, I am very happy about the features I have helped to produce. But as a producer, no matter how many movies you make, you always wonder when the next feature will take shape. And that can make anyone a little movie-stir-crazy!

Then one day, the pieces start to come together…

The first plan for my next movie is an idea. So over the weekend, I met with some key members of my film production crew, including my writer friend. Collectively, we have started working a rough idea into a fine-tuned movie, complete with a marketable hook and an established, niche target audience. If you’re just tuning into filmmaking stuff, you’ll quickly learn that starting with a defined target market in one core strategy I employ to gear us towards an eventual return on investment. (More on this in the distribution and finance articles found at Filmmaking Stuff.)

Anyway, we are getting close to finding our hook. Once we have it, we will then work on characters. Once we have the characters – and their individual objectives, we will then expand the hook into a 3 acts. We will then populate this plot with our characters. And scene by scene, we will work out ways to add something interesting into the action.

I know the system I describe may seem a bit regimented for most writer/filmmaker types. And while I agree that nobody knows nothing, by building our indie films from the marketing hook first, and the the story later (and not the other way around)  we at least have the confidence that a niche market for our movie exists. (Remember, a movie marketed to everybody is nobody! So it’s niche’s that make you riches.)

I’ve received emails from a few of you asking if I would share more stuff from the trenches. So in the days, weeks and months to come, I will continually provide insight on how we are gonna take this concept from script to screen.

If this type of front line filmmaking stuff would be valuable to you, and if you’re not already on our mailing list, you can join our filmmaking community by going here: www.FreeFilmmakingBook.com

How to Survive The Movie Business

A CD Video Disc (playing side) produced in 1987.

A 1987 Video Disc -- Image via Wikipedia

Over the holiday season, I spent some time back east with family and friends.

Aside from shoveling snow and fighting the cold winter in Pennsylvania, getting outside of Hollywood for a few weeks provides a time of relaxation and reflection. And at the same time, spending time with friends and family almost always reveals coming trends in the movie industry.

Let me explain.

Based on some popular entertainment oriented Christmas gifts, it’s evident that changes in the movie industry are upon us. Thanks to VOD innovations like the the Roku HD Player and some new television sets that directly link to the internet, I predict that 2010 will be the beginning of the end for movie rental kiosks, movie rental stores and as a result, studios will experience further decline in physical DVD sales (including Blue Ray.)

While my prediction may be a little ahead of the curve, I think it’s important to prepare your movie business accordingly. These innovations (over time) will eliminate traditional, physical movie sales channels – Diminished revenue may result in less production and you might experience a decrease in movie production work.

Conversely, streaming, down-loadable movies on demand will also create a enormous opportunity for filmmakers wishing to reach the global masses without asking permission. For the right producer, this is an exciting time!

But in order to profit from these innovations, let’s analyze the ripple effect. Here are some things we might expect:

5 (possible) PREDICTABLE movie business DECLINES

  1. Decline in traditional home video channels (video rental business, video delivery business and home video purchases will decline.)
  2. Decline in traditional hardware like DVD Players and Blue Ray Players.
  3. Decline for dub houses, DVD manufactures and DVD shipping boxes.
  4. Less pre-sale predictability. Tell your investors that you’ll put the movie on iTunes and then try to project potential revenue. Have fun.
  5. Less investor cash means there will be two motion picture tiers for your day rate: micro budget features and mid-to-high budget studio features (with theatrical outlets for distribution.) Budget ranges in-between are becoming increasingly too risky to finance.

7 (possible) PREDICTABLE movie business OPPORTUNITIES

  1. Providers of VOD and digital down-loadable content will increase.
  2. Innovations in hardware (TV Sets, Roku Devices and TiVo type products) will increase.
  3. Instead of getting your day rate, more professionals will be forced to take back end points. (This is the movie making equivalent to getting start-up stock options.)
  4. State movie production tax incentives will influence production of higher budget pictures.
  5. Distribution channels will be many. Look for more and more indie production companies to create in-house marketing arms and PR firms to promote movies across the globe.
  6. Additionally, movie internet marketing experts will become an asset to your production. (OK – a little self serving. But after successfully producing and marketing one of our movies on the internet, this is something I’m passionate about.)
  7. This is totally optimistic: but we might also expect more outlets for TV content. HDTV accessible website will spring up where you’ll post your content, build a VOD following and leverage your following to increase targeted advertising revenue. (Check out Hulu.com for an example.)

Great. What does this mean for you?

Save your money! Speak with a financial adviser and learn how you can make a financial plan for your future. Seriously. Learn how to make your money work for you. Then –

If you want to produce movies: these industry changes mean you should cultivate relationships with “name” actors and join forces with all the folks you’ve been working with for years and years. Start to create your own micro-budget projects and get super creative on the financing end. Find folks with equipment. Work out deals and see if you can pay in both up-front money and back-end points.

Additionally, if you go this route, you should become friends with movie producer marketers, PR professionals and sales consultants who have successfully sold movies over the net. These folks will help you create a plan for ROI – And while nothing is guaranteed, if you can create 5-7 movies in your career that supply your bank account with cash each month, it’s a nice place to be.

If you make money working as a freelancer – you may have to change some of your focus (as is very common) to television commercial work, corporate video work and high-end music video work. These avenues seem to have more frequent production instances… And you don’t have to give up months for money.

Surviving the Movie Industry in times of change is similar to surviving other industries going through change. Necessitated by the need for cash (survival), many of you will be forced to see the world as an entrepreneur. Even if you aren’t ready, you may have to learn how to produce your own profitable movies.

Filmmaking Lesson 16 Local Publicity

As they say, when trying to promote a movie that folks have otherwise not heard of, all ink is potentially good ink.

And in this regard, even if you’re producing your movie somewhere locally you need make sure you present your marketing message with consistency. I say this because, regardless of publication or geography, most anything written about your movie will end up on the internet.

So always be mindful of how you present your project

LOCAL PUBLICITY

If you plan on producing your movie outside of major film cities, like Los Angles and NYC, then getting the attention of local press might be pretty simple. And you might even be able to attract attention for a short movie. Why is this important? Because you will want to keep an ongoing collection of all good press written about your project.

ACTION

  1. If you’re shooting in a small town, contact your local news. You’ll probably get written up in the paper. You might even get interviewed for the nightly news.
  2. If you’re working in Los Angeles, this could prove to be a bit more challenging, but not impossible. In the big cities, try to contact journalists who write about your type of small movie.
  3. When these folks agree to profile your movie, try to think of interesting topics you can discuss.
  4. If they take pictures, get yourself around some lights and equipment. That will make you look like a serious filmmaker.
  5. Finally, as they say in sales, if you don’t ask for the sale, you don’t get the sale. Do not be afraid to call journalists up and treat them to lunch to discuss your project. Never know where that will go…

Jason Brubaker's Movie Maker Action PackIn The Publicity Handbook, you’ll get the Inside Scoop from More than 100 Journalists and PR professionals on how to get great publicity. If you can learn to master publicity in the early stages of your filmmaking career, imagine what you can do when you projects become ginormous!

Happy Filmmaking!