Filmmakers Need To Get Debt Free

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Filmmakers need to manage their money Image via Wikipedia

Learning how to manage money is one of the most important traits of an independent filmmaker. Because many filmmakers are focused on a big Hollywood payday, they have decided to live paycheck to paycheck, shackled by high debt.

If you’re that person right now, you’re not alone.

It wasn’t too long ago that I lived with no savings and thousands of dollars in debt. I had no idea how to turn myself around. Luckily, I met some very successful people who set me straight.

They told me about “FU money.”

In Hollywood, when you get a bunch of money in the bank, it’s called FU money. You know you have FU money when you can enter into negotiations and walk out of the deal without the fear of starvation.

The most valuable success strategy for acquiring FU money is: “Pay Yourself First.”

When I first heard this concept, I had no idea what the heck people were talking about. But after meeting with some power players, I realized the idea is simple. Whenever you get a paycheck, before you pay any bills or fill up your gas tank, set a little money aside and never touch it. That’s all you gotta do.

I know. I know. Most independent filmmakers want to save money but feel too strapped to take action. This is because each month is filled with bills and other unexpected expenses. For this reason, most people put off saving until the end of the month. The problem is, by that time, there is nothing left to save.

And please let me remind you, as a general disclaimer, since I’m a filmmaker and not a qualified legal, tax or financial professional, even if the following strategy provided me with a bunch of FU money, this stuff may not be right for you. So, please talk to a qualified professional first.

One day, I decided to follow a successful friend’s advice. And while it took me a long time, I eventually dug myself out of debt and lifted that financial weight off my back. Here is what I did:

  1. I wrote down all monthly income, including paycheck, extra jobs, etc.
  2. I wrote down all monthly expenses, including bills, groceries, gas, etc.
  3. I subtracted the expenses from the income.
  4. I had some money left, so I figured out how much to save.
  5. I opened a high-interest online savings account.
  6. I set up automatic withdraws each payday and pretended it was a bill.
  7. No matter what, for one year I didn’t touch the money!
  8. After one year, I paid off my credit card debt.
  9. After another year, I spoke to a financial adviser and started investing.
  10. After another year, I built up an emergency fund.

After saving, I not only had enough money to get out of debt, I had also developed the valuable life-long habit of always paying myself first. FU!

Learning how to manage your own money will give you confidence when you begin managing your movie projects. Thankfully, there are many financial software programs and online services to help you stay on top of your finances.

Since 2001 (when I was making about 10K a year – I wish I was kidding), I have been using one of the popular accounting software programs. Since that time, I have migrated into the free version of Quicken online. Other friends use Yodlee. And some of my other friends still use a spreadsheet. All of these programs will give you a daily snapshot of your net worth, your spending habits, your bank accounts and your credit card accounts. Most will also chart your investment activity. Some of the more advanced programs allow you to work out a budget and offer debt elimination tools.

The reason why becoming a good money manger is essential to filmmaking is because most prospective investors will sense how you feel about money.

If you liked this sort of unique filmmaking advice, you’ll love the independent producers guide to movie finance.

 

Free Marketing Advice For Filmmakers

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Filmmakers need to source their target audience. Image via Wikipedia

Given the erosion of traditional movie distribution sales channels, as a filmmaker you must now find your target audience wherever they hang out and then get them to know you, know your work, and hopefully pay money to watch your movie.

In the past, filmmakers never had to worry about sourcing an audience because the entire movie industry operated like a big factory. Filmmakers made the product and the distributors sold the product through theatrical and DVD distribution. But as a result of the internet and enhancements to video on demand technology, distribution has been disrupted and the old model has been forever screwed up.

So now, if you want to succeed as a filmmaker, it is not enough to simply get you movie into iTunes. I mean, anybody can do that. What you also need to do is have a killer website, attract your target audience, and then get them to take action.

While it’s nice to believe that all website visitors will automatically buy your movie, the truth is, most visitors will not buy your movie on the first visit. For starters, they don’t know you. And they probably don’t know anything about your movie. So your job is not necessary to focus on the sale, but rather, focus on opting them into your audience list.

There are many ways to create an audience list. But unfortunately, most of the methods are crap. In my career, to save money, I have tried forgoing using a reputable email marketing company, and opted instead for one of the popular social networks. For awhile, this was awesome – even thought it took years, I had 8000 “friends” and one one of the sites… But then that site went out of vogue. As a result, my sourced audience was useless.

To avoid the same fate, I HIGHLY recommend that you use a reputable 3rd party email marketing company to manage your audience list. While there are some great companies out there, over the past three years, I have utilized a service called Aweber. This is a reputable email marketing company… [and yes, they DO pay me to promote – so conduct your own due-diligence.]

But the reason I promote this service over other services is this: Aweber adheres to Spam Laws and requires “double-opt-in.”  This means, after your visitor opts-in, they get an email asking if they’re sure they really want to hear from you.  And because of their business practices, Aweber is respected by email service provides – like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo Mail- which helps avoid spam filters. Additionally, as part of the service, you are able to set up something called a sequential email auto-responder. An auto-responder allows you to pre-write and create multiple emails for your audience.

So let’s say you were trying to sell your Zombie movie. After the opt-in, your first email could tell your audience more about your movie. And over the following weeks, your subsequent emails could then provide more and more value to your prospective customer – the result of which compels your fan to BUY NOW.

Once your prospect makes a purchase, you could automatically migrate this person to your customer list. And once this fan is in your customer list, you could then promote another zombie movie (from another friendly filmmaker). And because you “sourced a zombie audience member,” the odds of getting a second sale are greater.

Most filmmakers don’t get excited about the wonders of sourcing an audience. But again, most filmmakers do not realize we are in a new era of independent filmmaking. The good news is for you is, with a website, some creativity and an email marketing mechanism, you can start sourcing your audience TODAY.

If you would like to find out more about email marketing and how this can help you with your own independent movie business, you can get some FREE information below:

“The Money Is In The List



AWeber proves it to thousands of businesses every day.

Learn how email marketing software
can get you more sales, too.

 

Happy Filmmaking!

Keven Smith talks Movie Distribution

Kevin Smith at the 2008 Toronto International ...

Image via Wikipedia

I love Kevin Smith’s attitude towards modern movie distribution. If you’re like most independent filmmakers, what Kevin was able to accomplish from his days of Clerks has been amazing. Back then, he not only dreamed the Sundance Dream, but he realized the dream.

The Sundance dream is the idea that you will make your movie, get into Sundance, sell your movie and live happily ever after. As I have been telling you all along, the demise of DVD sales channels, replaced by ever evolving VOD marketplaces are impacting Filmmakers everywhere.

These days, if you are going to make movies and profit, you must now view your independent movie business in ways akin to how any business owner handles their business. You must source and grow your own audience list.

In the following video Kevin Smith shares his perspective on modern movie distribution and how the brave new world is impacting indie filmmakers.

Please feel free to comment.

The New Model of Filmmaking

In his book, “Think Outside The Box Office,” Jon Reiss coined a new filmmaking job called Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD). This idea was born of the fact that modern independent moviemakers must now create their own marketing and forge their eventual distribution strategy from day one.

Having had extensive experience in producing, marketing and selling my own movies, I agree that moviemakers must now take a much more comprehensive approach to the business side of independent film. With lower production costs predicated on the dramatic shift in distribution, Filmmaking is now a Small Business… And as a result, I am also of the opinion that the role of PMD as well as some other roles are now necessary.

What I am about to propose is a bit radical. So if you would like to bury your head in the sand, that’s understandable. You can stop reading now.

But for the rest of us filmmakers, eager to face this brave new world of indie filmmaking head-on, in addition to hiring a PMD, I propose that the entire production team must now take a vested interest in the success of each movie. To explain and explore my point a bit further, let’s examine the realities of moviemaking.

Traditionally, when making a movie, filmmakers break down a script, create a schedule, figure out who they need to hire, create a budget, raise the money, hire freelances, pay the freelances, make the movie and then sell the movie – In this old model, before non-discriminatory VOD distribution, the idea of making a movie was like the lottery. Very few filmmakers ever gave thought to the marketing and eventual sales of the movie. They just made the movie, traveled the festivals and film markets and hoped for the best.

In the event a good distribution deal transpired, investors got lucky. If it didn’t happen, investors would once again learn the age-old lesson that filmaking is risky. In the meantime, after WRAPPING, the hired freelancers working in this space would simply collect their final check and move onto their next project. And they could really care less about distribution…

But this has to change.

Why?

There was a time when making a feature was more expensive. The market had less competition. Physical video outlets were more abundant. Festivals were emerging in mass… And distributors were less picky.

But now, anybody with a HDSLR camera can make a good looking movie. That doesn’t mean everybody can make a good movie – but it does mean that more product in the marketplace, combined with decreased distribution outlets creates excessive supply. This added competition floods the marketplace and subsequently decreases the potential for return – which makes it really darn tough to get your independent movie seen and sold!

What we are experiencing is the film industry equivalent of sweat shop labor flooding the market with cheaply produced product. And as a result of these diminished margins, filmmakers must now think in terms of volume. So instead of putting 100% focus on simply making one movie, the model must now involve planning for, and creating a library for a minimal budget. In other words, we need to think about our movie business like a mini-studio, or a small factory. And instead of hiring freelancers – I suggest creating salaried positions whereby everybody on the production team shares a percentage of ownership and profits.

While this may at first seem outlandish, I’m simply shoving filmmaking into a traditional upstart model, complete with stock options. And like most upstarts, each employee will share a vested interest in making the company profitable.

Am I off my rocker? Click here to comment >>

 

The Secret Society Of Modern Indie Filmmakers

Earlier this week, Sheri Candler was spreading word of mouth about a test screening of Gary King’s indie film musical:  How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song. So I did something I haven’t done for awhile – I got out from behind my computer screen to meet and mingle with some new filmmakers face-to-face.

As the lights dimmed and Gary’s movie flickered across the screen, I was reminded of the year I lived in New York City. This was a time when I couch surfed between a sofa and an inflatable air mattress, all the while dreaming that I would someday make movies. Admittedly, maybe these memories were flooding back as a result of Gary’s movie. I mean, the story is based in Manhattan.

During the screening, and afterwards, I realized I have been missing something I haven’t felt for years.

I have forgotten the joy that comes from participating in activities with other folks from the indie filmmaking community. And I also realized that my world of indie filmmaking (once defined and limited by the following filmmaking mantra): save up all summer and buy an Arri BL, scrape together enough money to pay for film and processing, make the movie and PRAY for a distribution deal that makes sense – I’m pleased to say that era of filmmaking is over.

As a result of lower priced production equipment, coupled with new, non-discriminatory distribution, YOU can make, market and sell your movie this year and you don’t need to ask permission. Filmmakers like Gary King epitomize this movement – asking questions like How do you write a Joe Schermann Song starring awesome actress Christina Rose (nice work Christina!)

Past that, there is something else. While the studios are excited about UltraViolet and a new attempt to control their piece of the world wide web, our thriving indie community could care less. Instead of worrying about traditional distribution, modern movie makers are more concerned with their YouTube following – and the size of their growing audience.

As a filmmaker, you are part of movie making history. And you probably don’t know it. But like all artistic and social movements that have come before, you are riding this wave. The question is, will you take advantage of this opportunity – or will you find yet another reason why you can’t make your movie this year?

ALSO:

At the screening, I met close to a dozen people who claimed to have heard of me or knew me from this website. Please give me some time to adjust socially – It’s not every day that people approach me and quote my ideas back to me… But I want you to know I am honored and grateful for your readership.

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