What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

This filmmaking article is challenging to write. The reason for this is simple. It is tough to admit that a movie you made (that you once thought was brilliant) totally sucks.

Cringing at the sight of your old work is a good sign. The emotion means that you’re growing as an artist. But I don’t know. After having made a few feature films and prior to that, a whole bunch of shorts – I can tell you that many of my movies are embarrassing.

Don’t believe me? Check out this little gem I produced over a decade ago:

Watching this movie makes me queasy. Aside from the fact I once thought it was brilliant, poetic and profound… Full transparency here – I actually sent this out to people. Hollywood people. And worse, I was convinced that having such a great movie would assure my success in the movie industry.

As you can imagine, my big break did not come. Nobody wrote me back. Nobody cared about my movie. And I had to go back to my crappy day job with hope no-longer springing eternal. I was discouraged. I thought my career was over.

What To Do When Your Filmmaking Sucks

Luckily I had a group of filmmaker friends who encouraged me to keep going. So I kept making movies. Through the process, my friends reminded me not to worry if my filmmaking sucks. One friend even told me to make as many bad movies as possible – That way I could get all the stupid ideas out of my head.

Thankfully I kept going. Over time, I successfully produced my first feature. And after that, a few more. So in the event your filmmaking sucks, I want to share the following tips with you:

  1. Accept the fact that your first five movies are going to suck, no matter how brilliant you are. Make your first five movies so you can get past the suck.
  2. Surround yourself with a team of good people. You cannot attain filmmaking success alone. You will need the support, feedback and collaboration of other like-minded creatives to keep going.
  3. Realize that some sucky movies still make money. I include this tip to remind you that sucky movies get produced all the time. Many of these movies find an audience. Many of these movies make money.

Here are two examples of movies that should not have worked (but became successful!)

Birdemic: Often referred to as the worst movie ever made, the story reveals what happens when you screw with nature. This movie was so successful, they produced a Birdemic sequel.

The Room: I don’t know what to say about this movie. I have seen it and it frankly makes very sense. But it is remarkable. And special props to Tommy Wiseau – he now describes the movie as a “quirky black comedy” as well as “the best movie of the year.”

It is important to remember that every filmmaker starts somewhere. Maybe your first movie won’t win an Oscar. Maybe your third movie will have poor lighting. But sooner or later, if you keep working on your craft – you will learn from your mistakes. You’ll get better. You will achieve great things.

If you are interested in learning how to get your movie made, seen and sold, you might want to check out my professional filmmaking tools.

 

Cynicism Won’t Make Movies

Getting your movie made can be frustrating. I know the feeling.

Over the course of a year, I get involved in hundreds of conversations with people with the hopes of making a deal. Most of the deals fall apart. And even though this is part of the game, every time I experience a setback, I spend a few days moping.

Then I find my next project and repeat the cycle.

Experience has taught me that if you consistently put yourself out there and make new friends and try to put together new deals, sooner or later something will work out.

Call it the law of probability. Call it par for the course. But never let yourself get jaded or cynical. Cynicism won’t make movies.

Cynicism Won't Make Movies

Photo © contrastwerkstatt / Dollar Photo Club

 Cynicism Won’t Make Movies

As a filmmaker, it’s easy to make excuses for why you aren’t making movies. Maybe you don’t have enough experience, time, money, connections, friends or [fill in the blank with your best reason HERE.]

A few weeks ago, I found myself watching a movie with some Hollywood acquaintances. At the end of the movie, one guy started blabbering on about why the movie was horrible and why the filmmaker should call it quits.

Then his wife joined in and suddenly everybody starts criticizing Hollywood, other movies and people.

The conversation escalated into a cynical bitch session with bullet-points as to why screenwriting work is hard to find. Keep in mind these are all people in the conversation make a very nice living in entertainment.

But based on the conversation, you would have thought they dug ditches for a living… Ugh.

If you’ve been in this game for any length of time, you probably met these people. If not, you will.

These people are frustrated with their current work. And instead of writing more and doing more to level up their careers, they find it easier to embrace cynicism.

This is a trap for all of us.

And the thing to remember is, cynicism won’t make movies.

Here is the filmmaker challenge:
For the next 30 days, force yourself to stop complaining and refrain from voicing anything negative.

The reason for this exercise is simple. If you can do this, you will stop talking and start doing. And the ongoing goal is to ask yourself the right questions.

One of my favorite filmmaking questions is, “Given the resources that you have now, what is the movie that you can make this year?” And if you would like some professional filmmaking tools, make sure you check out: www.MakeYourMovieNow.com

Top 3 Reasons You Won’t Make It In Hollywood (And What To Do About It)

As a filmmaker, taking action is everything. But sometimes this is easy to say, but tough to execute. Over the past year, I have been getting a bunch of emails from Hollywood hopefuls who want to make movies or write screenplays or do something.

But for some reason (insert YOUR idiotic excuse here) these people think they need an agent or someone to give them permission to make it in Hollywood. Hint… You don’t!

Our goal at Filmmaking Stuff is to remind you the whole point of independent filmmaking involves being a rebel. And even though you may not have aspirations to “make it in Hollywood,” at least in the traditional sense – Odds are good you’d still love to make some movies in your lifetime.

Here’s the deal. You don’t have to ask for permission to become a filmmaking success.

You just need to do the WORK.

Make It In Hollywood

Photo © Dmitry Ersler / Dollar Photo Club

3 Reasons You Won’t Make It In Hollywood

Many filmmakers incorrectly think that their ideas are enough to make it in Hollywood… That they don’t have to do the work. That Hollywood is a lottery, and all you gotta do is buy the bus ticket. Here are the types of filmmaking excuses I receive every week.

Excuse #1: You’re too lazy (or you’re an idea person.)

I have the most amazing idea for a movie. I just need to find someone willing to raise the money and help me produce it.

Join the club. Everybody has an idea. Your ideas are probably good, but nobody cares. Unless you have a track record, selling a movie idea is nearly impossible. It is execution that matters. Are you willing to take action and produce your own movie?

Excuse #2: You don’t have the money or an investor.

I can’t afford to make a movie. I don’t know anybody. Nobody will look at my work until I get an investor. Can you stop sending me filmmaking tips? I just need you to introduce me to investors.

My buddy Tom Malloy raised over 25M to make his movies. But when he started out, he didn’t know anybody. That didn’t stop him from networking like crazy, always making the pitch and working his butt off to meet high net-worth individuals. Sure this may involve cold calling successful people. So what’s stopping you?

Excuse #3: You don’t live in Hollywood.

Hey Jason. I wish I could make it in Hollywood. But I don’t even live there. I don’t have plans for moving. I’m wondering if you could just produce my movie for me and send the checks?

Hopefully you now realize that you no longer have to move to Hollywood to make it in Hollywood. There is this awesome thing called video on demand distribution. And because companies like Distribber exist, you can now make, market and sell your movie from anywhere on Earth.

So given the resources you have right now, what movie will you make this year?

The thing you need to remember is everybody started from somewhere. And despite popular opinion, most successful filmmakers started from scratch. Here are some tactics my friends have utilized to make it in Hollywood.

  1. One friend got an agent after his movie was produced. It is important to note that he was one of the producers. Now that he produced stuff, he is more valuable to Hollywood.
  2. I have writer friend who couldn’t get a break. So he started a screenwriting magazine. He leveraged his magazine to interview and build relationships with other writers. From these relationships, one writer introduced him to an agent. (He also sold the magazine, but that is another story.)
  3. My other buddy writes horror novels and screenplays. He started as a roller skate messenger in New York City (which sounds strange, but whatever). One day he delivered a package to a publishing company. Always ready to take action, he saw a pile of manuscripts and dropped his on the stack. Then he got a call, which led to an agent, a book deal and screenwriting work.

All of these people had the guts and creativity to DO THE WORK and overcome obstacles. If you take action, you will increase the odds that you will make it in Hollywood. Stop investing time in your filmmaking excuses!

I do not have a choice. If I do not find a producer, my movie doesn’t get made.

I understand why you might think this way. But you are only correct if you want to be. And let’s be honest, sometimes it’s much easier to complain, make excuses and never action because you are terrified of rejection.

When we decided to make our first feature, we were scared too. But that didn’t stop us. And neither did the fact that we didn’t have a producer. We simply decided to become our own producers. This is the rite of passage for many first time feature filmmakers.

Think of it this way – if you were starting your own frozen yogurt shop, would you wait for someone to do it for you? Thank goodness Charlie Day didn’t wait around for permission.

Take Action and Make Your Movie

Look. If you want to make movies and make it in Hollywood, you need to put blinders on and go for it. You need to produce the movie you can produce this year. If that means you make a three-minute YouTube short on your cell phone, do that.

A friend told me that YouTube is a silly way to test my ideas and build an audience. He said I should just focus on getting an agent.

If you have friends like this, you should probably find some new friends. While there are no guarantees in filmmaking or any business, YouTube offers a great way to have your very own portal to the world. If you are talented, you should be able to scale a few backyard indies to fit the format. In fact, I’d say YouTube offers a great way to get noticed and make it in Hollywood.

Evidence of this includes Disney’s purchase of Maker Studios.

The world is changing. Hollywood isn’t waiting to hear your ideas. Sorry. The people who run that town only care about one thing – making money. And in doing this, most Hollywood heavyweights are seeking people who actually produce stuff. And if it isn’t totally clear, the real secret on how to make it in Hollywood is actually getting your filmmaking career to the point where you don’t actually need to make it in Hollywood!

If you are sick of asking permission, check out some this professional filmmaking resource.

No-Budget Filmmaking: Rise of The Backyard Indie

Like it or lump it, there are a lot of backyard indies being made each year. Thanks to inexpensive production technology, no-budget filmmaking is not only possible, but has become the norm for many first time feature filmmakers, web series producers, YouTube artists and short filmmakers.

These days any filmmaker with passion and a story can make a movie. And unlike years past, backyard indie filmmakers are not prohibited by cash or creativity.

Yet despite the no-budget filmmaking movement, many of my high profile “professional” friends in Los Angeles, have made a conscious effort to ignore the rise of backyard indies. Why?

Because no-budget filmmaking isn’t real! (At least, that’s what some of the old school pros would tell you.) When it comes to no-budget filmmaking, some common questions asked by these Hollywood hot-shots are:

  1. Who signed the SAG agreements?
  2. Who contacted the Unions?
  3. Who notified the MPAA?
  4. Where is your theatrical distribution deal?
  5. Who do you think you are?

Good questions. Why don’t you go back in time and ask Roger Corman!

But the thing is, if you create a good movie – Your audience doesn’t care if the movie was an official union indie or a backyard indie made for pocket change.

no budget filmmaking

Photo © Jacek Krol / Dollar Photo Club

No Budget Filmmaking: Rise of The Backyard Indie

The demise of traditional DVD distribution coupled with the growing market domination of iTunes, Amazon and Netflix had leveled the playing field. The big difference between a $10,000 backyard indie and a $2,000,000 dollar indie isn’t the budget – The difference revolves around the film that gets the most eyeballs (and sales).

Think about it. Hitting breakeven on a 2M feature is going to require a lot of sales.

As a rough example, to recoup 2M dollars, the filmmaker will need to to sell (roughly) 200,000 video on demand downloads at $10 a pop. These first sales will cover the 40% cost allocated to VOD providers (the real winners here), after which, the filmmaker will still need to sell an additional 200,000 downloads to repay the investors.

400,000 VOD downloads x $10 = $4,000,000 minus $2,000,000 in VOD fees = the initial $2,000,000

Meanwhile, through no-budget filmmaking, a backyard indie only has to sell 2000 VOD downloads to recover the initial 10K costs.

While nobody wants to make movies for pocket change, many filmmakers still believe we can somehow continually produce unprofitable (movie) products and expect the money and the subsequent jobs to keep rolling in.

And unlike years past, filmmakers can no longer approach investors with the cliche pitch: “Filmmaking is a risky investment – if we are lucky, we might win Sundance and get a deal.”

Now, with transparent distribution options available to all filmmakers, that line of give-me-money reasoning is reckless, no longer applicable, and in my opinion, unethical. And for these reasons, no-budget filmmaking makes a lot of sense.

Aside from the initial challenge of sales and marketing, the ripple effect reveals an even greater conundrum:

How will you raise enough money to pay your cast and crew AND still pay back your investors?

I mean, what’s the new sweet spot?

How can we once again make independent filmmaking profitable?

“I CAN’T AFFORD TO PAY MY CAST AND CREW. WHAT DO I DO?”

Here is the modern moviemaking model on how to save the movie industry.

(And you thought this was going to be your typical no-budget filmmaking article.)

To survive in this ever changing world of indie filmmaking, we have to change our strategy.

Instead of focusing on making that one big awesome indie, we now need to focus on building a genre specific movie library and spend all of our downtime building a ginormously targeted email list.

Step 1: Find your top-ten closest filmmaking collaborators. Form a company.

Step 2: Write a business plan, but instead of putting all of your focus on making one movie, concentrate on making 3-5 feature films.

Step 3: Make sure that you include a sales and marketing plan for each movie. To do this, take your proposed budget for all movies and work backwards. Start asking yourself, “How many units do we need to sell to recoup our investment?”

Step 4: In this model, instead of paying freelance day rates, you’ll have to hire long term employees and provide each with a salary and back end points (sort of like stock options) on each title.

Step 5: When the title wins, you all win. Over the years, your titles will add up. And the real compensation will come back in the form of residual movie income.

While this is not a fully refined model, it’s a start.

In my opinion, creating a sustainable business model is better than ignoring no-budget filmmaking and pretending backyard indies are not real movies.

We are experiencing a time of change.

This is the indie movie distribution equivalent of the automobile replacing the horse drawn wagon.

You can choose to ignore this movement, and you can probably succeed for a few more years. But there will come a day when all entertainment will be on-demand and cheap to produce and cheap to consume.

The question is, will you ignore the no-budget filmmaking movement and continue to play your distribution lottery ticket in hopes of winning the dream deal, or will you  join the movement and help us filmmakers figure out a way to make indie movies profitable?

If you liked this article, you’d probably benefit from these professional filmmaking tools.

3 Reasons You Will Fail In Filmmaking (Avoid The Excuses)

Do you want to know the top 3 reasons you will fail at filmmaking? Or better yet, would you like to know how to avoid the excuses and become a filmmaking success? If so, you’re in the right place.

Every week I share my filmmaking thoughts in a newsletter broadcast to over 10,000 filmmakers. And if you’re serious about filmmaking, my newsletter offers tips and tactics on how to get your movie made, seen and sold without waiting around and asking permission.

(I can’t stand asking for permission to make movies.)

With that said, whenever I do an email blast, I get a lot of responses from filmmakers. And while most of these responses are positive – I also get a lot of email from filmmakers telling me why they can’t make a movie. These responses are full of limiting excuses.

And in our short time together, I’d like to help you avoid these.

3 Reasons You Will Fail In Filmmaking

Photo © olly / Dollar Photo Club

3 Reasons You Will Fail In Filmmaking (Avoid The Excuses)

In order to save you the trouble, I thought I would take a moment to echo the top 3 reasons you will fail as a filmmaker.

Excuse #1 “I Don’t Have The Money

I get this one. This was my excuse for almost a decade. Then I got smart. I started hanging out with other filmmakers and instead of focusing on what we lacked, we started focusing on the things we had. One question changed everything: “Given the resources that we have right now, what is the movie we can make this year?” Answering this question enabled us to produce our first feature.

And this was before crowdfunding. Do you understand how crowdfunding changes everything?

Excuse #2 “I Don’t Have The Equipment”

A decade ago, I saved up an entire summer and bought a used Arri BL 16mm camera and a few rolls of 16mm film. I then spent a weekend shooting my first short. After that, I spent the entire fall and winter saving up enough money to process the film, transfer it to video and then edit it.

These days, you can get an inexpensive movie camera for a few hundred dollars that will produce footage without the fuss of film. The days of saving all summer to capture footage are over.

Excuse #3 I Don’t Know Anybody In The Movie Industry”

This is probably the excuse that makes me the most concerned for your future. Do you realize that you don’t need to know anybody in the movie industry? At least not yet. For your first few features, forget about Hollywood. Instead focus on building your audience.

Utilize crowdfunding to raise money and test your movie concept. Build your mailing list. Then tap into internet movie distribution. Seriously, does it matter how your movie gets into iTunes?

The truth is, everybody starts at the same place. You get an idea for a project. You get an idea for the person you want to become. You wonder if you are crazy. Then your friends and family make fun of you. But you decide to take action anyway. You pick up a pen and paper and make a check list of how to make your movie.

A big reason filmmakers fail at filmmaking is because many believe the excuses. But not you. You are smarter and more creative and capable of making movies.

The question is – will you take action?

Or will you sit around coming up with excuses why you can’t make your movie?