What is Your Filmmaking Niche?

In movie marketing, there is this phrase I really like: “Marketing to everybody is marketing to nobody and niches will make you riches.” And while not every movie is guaranteed success, it is much easier to find your audience when you choose a filmmaking niche.

What is a filmmaking niche? It’s making a movie for a small slice of a larger audience. For example, let’s say you were making a horror movie. Horror is a very broad genre. But a subset of the horror genre is zombie movies. So in this example, making a zombie movie for a zombie loving audience would be your filmmaking niche.

So this is where you start. Will you make a horror movie, romantic comedy, action movie or a girl with a horse movie? (By the way, a girl with a horse movie really does well internationally.)

filmmaking niche

Photo © auremar / Dollar Photo Club

What is Your Filmmaking Niche?

Knowing your filmmaking niche is important because in order to make non-discriminatory distribution channels, such as iTunes and Amazon profitable – It is required that YOU market your movie on the internet. This means that you must work on sourcing your target audience and then drive those folks to your point of sale.

Having spent the last few years working in distribution, I can tell you that most filmmakers screw this up. They make a movie for everybody. And it is frankly too expensive to market to everybody! So before you even think about making your movie, answer these filmmaking questions:

  1. Who Is Your Target Audience?
  2. How Large Is Your Target Audience?
  3. How Will You Reach Your Audience?
  4. What Is Your Marketing Strategy?
  5. How Many VOD Sales To Break Even?

Since both iTunes and Amazon are internet, transactional marketplaces, it makes sense that most of your sales will come via the internet. And as a result, you must create a web presence that speaks to your audience. In other words, you need to make sure the right people know your movie exists.

Who are the right people? People who love your type of movie.

Your Movie Website

When it comes to designing a movie website, most filmmakers never think about their filmmaking niche. They know they need a website for their movies. The problem is, most filmmakers put way too much crap on their site. And none of it speaks to their audience.

Goals

It’s essential to have goals for your movie website. When people come to your website, what action do you want your visitors to take? Do you want them to Tweet about the site? Join you on Facebook? Get into your audience list? Or buy your movie?

Distractions

Once you know your website goals, you need to determine if your website architecture and design is inline with your goals. To do this, install Google Analytics and monitor your traffic. If you find people are getting lost in a bunch of silly pages, remove those pages. Keep what matters.

– – –

If you like these tips, you’ll love the Independent Producer’s Guide To Digitial Distribution

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.

Filmmaking As Your Small Business

When deciding on a business, some people choose filmmaking.

Other people open frozen yogurt shops.

I should know. Thanks to the frozen yogurt shop (near my house), I’ve eaten a TON of frozen yogurt over the last year. And without mentioning the business, it sure seems like the owner of the shop is passionate about Yogurt, just like you and I are passionate about filmmaking.

Since moving to LA and producing several indie movies (and more recently working with hundreds of filmmakers in my various distribution roles), I realize the major ineptitude most filmmakers suffer from is a lack of general business acumen.

Filmmaking As Your Small Business

Photo © Haider Y. Abdulla / Dollar Photo Club

Filmmaking As Your Small Business

Here’s the deal. Most filmmakers know about the movie business. And these filmmakers usually fall into one of two categories. Either they understand the studio business or they understand traditional independent filmmaking.

In my humble opinion, I think both arenas are based on an old paradigm. In the studio system, the business revolves around asking a lot of folks for permission.

  1. “I finished this great screenplay. It’s high concept and awesome!”
  2. “Would you please read my screenplay?”
  3. “Can we have a meeting?”
  4. “Did you read my screenplay?”

All of which results in a lot of this: “We have decided to pass at this time.”

As an independent filmmaker, many of us also suffer from a similar permission based way of doing business.

  1. “Mr. Investor, if we are lucky this movie will get into Sundance.”
  2. “If we are really lucky, we will get a great distribution deal.”
  3. “And if we are really lucky, we might get a distribution deal.”
  4. “And if we are really, really lucky we will get a 3 picture studio deal, and we will live happily ever after.”

And that got me thinking about this talk about modern moviemaking. Can we now consider movie making a small business?

I mean, if you think about it, all you need to start a small business is an idea, some start up cash, raw material, production and a customer base – and a way to sell whatever it is you’re selling.  And unlike years past, non-discriminatory video on demand marketplaces provide that… So what would modern moviemaking as a small business look like:

  1. We have a screenplay with a strong, well defined concept.
  2. We know our target audience and how to reach them.
  3. We will need to sell 5,000 video on demand downloads to recoup our investment.

Why should we over-complicate our filmmaking?

What do you think? Can Modern Moviemaking be your next small business?

Your comments are welcome below…

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.

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

I am going to share the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto with you. After this, you’re going to know yourself a little better as a filmmaker.

And to get the ball rolling, I have a question for you:

What’s the biggest filmmaking failure you must avoid?

Ok, this is gonna sound obvious… But the answer is:

Making a movie NOBODY CARES about!

(Which is sort of the same as making a boring movie that could put monkeys to sleep, if monkeys actually watched movies – and I think some do.)

 modern moviemaking manifesto

Notice I didn’t say BAD MOVIE. You can make bad movies and people will still care.

For examples, check out The Room or Birdemic for an example of this…

But if you make movies nobody cares about, you will fail as a filmmaker.

This sounds obvious right? But if it was so obvious, how come many silly filmmakers keep making movies nobody cares about. I’ll tell you why…

Modern Moviemaking

Inexpensive production technology, coupled with about 237 different ways to get your movie selling (more on this in my email series) makes it way to easy to make mundane, crap movies nobody cares about.

And SURPRISE: Most movies do not make money!

There. I said it. And it gets more challenging than this… Ready for some serious real world film school?

The problem with traditional independent filmmaking is the ever growing gap between investment dollars and a filmmaker’s ability to recoup the initial investment. In other words, indie filmmakers find investors, get money, make a crap movie and never repay the investors…

Oops. Sorry.

But let’s be clear. Independent filmmaking has always been a risky business. And we freely share this with any prospective investors, usually stating: “Filmmaking is risky and you will most likely never see a dime.”

While these types of disclaimers are transparent and accurate, filmmakers could often counter this objection by getting investors to focus on the misguided idea that the movie might get into Sundance.

The movie might garner ginormous buzz.

And if you’re really lucky, the movie might sell to the highest bidder!

(Sound familiar?)

So from this perspective, the real benefit of investing in independent movies wasn’t the promise of a solid investment. Rather the driving force behind investment dollars was the chance of winning instant fame, fortune and a never ending supply of coolness!

And we all want to look cool.

Here is a picture of me looking cool:

filmmaking_Challenge

Many filmmakers still hold this dream.

But the realities of the independent movie business are sobering.

Out of the gazillion movies made each year, only a few get into a major film festival. And out of those movies, very few garner a deal worth mentioning. Adding to this problem is the ever prevalent demise of DVD sales channels, resulting in filmmaking becoming less profitable and less cool than it once was. And as a result, the “invest in my movie because it’s an awesome business” pitch is no longer believable.

Technology is also changing independent moviemaking. For two-thousand dollars, every filmmaker can now grab a camera, shoot a feature and compete for virtual “shelf space” in iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and most of the many VOD outlets.

In the context of business 101, this means that our high quality, expensive goods (our movies) are now competing with cheaply produced goods of a somewhat comparable quality. And if we were in the widget business, this would mean massive layoffs are in the near future. Or to put it another way, our old way of making movies no longer fits the marketplace.

This of course raises the question:

How do we make independent moviemaking profitable (and fun) again?

A lot of people have solutions. One that is gaining popularity is the idea that filmmakers should hire someone to cover the marketing and distribution of the movie from day one. In this sense, filmmakers can focus on making the movie while the marketer can focus on the marketing, social media and list building duties.

Instead of trying to find a traditional distribution deal, complete with a cash advance, you get enough people to know you and know your movie from day one. And once your mailing list (or community of followers) reaches a certain mass, you will hopefully sell enough copies of your movie to recoup your investment.

Build Your Audience Now

Everybody is now talking about audience engagement as though it’s a new concept. But it’s not. In fact, audience engagement has been around since the beginning of story telling. And again, it comes down to telling a great story that people actually care about.

Then the goal is to start telling your story early enough so people actually care.

Here a video I did for the folks at Film Courage that explains this in a little more detail:

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

Modern moviemakers need to build a targeted audience list and grow community around individual movie titles – Everyone fits into some kind of demographic. And everyone wants to be part of something. And many folks aren’t even conscious of this. But building community around your project is easier said than done.

The reality is, it will take tremendous efforts to make the metrics work, begging the question: How much must a community grow to support a movie budget of at least one-million dollars?

One-million dollars is not a lot of money in terms of traditional indie filmmaking budgets. And if we assume all traditional distribution will eventually be replaced by some form of VOD, then as a filmmaker, business success really comes down to three economically focused questions:

  1. Who is your movie’s target audience?
  2. How will you reach your target audience?
  3. And how many VOD downloads does will take to recoup the initial investment?

If you can’t answer these questions, then you know from day one that your odds of success are dramatically decreased. Without a defined market or an established sales channel, it is difficult to justify financing, which makes it very difficult to pay cast and crew, which makes it difficult to produce a movie.

Assuming you can answer these questions, the problem is still economy of scale. If you can’t reach the masses (or reach enough people willing to pay for what you’re selling), how will you ever recoup your initial movie investment? And if you can’t figure out how you’re going to recoup your budget, two things have to change:

  1. Filmmakers will need to make smaller movies.
  2. Filmmakers will need to pay cast and crew less money.

At first thought, neither of these options seems to make independent movie making profitable (or fun) – which is why people keep creating solutions without first scrutinizing the traditional filmmaking paradigm. As a result most current solutions fail to fully SOLVE the indie producing for profit problem – Which prompted me to share my own solutions.

What I’m about to share is the official Jason Brubaker solution for saving the independent movie industry. And it has a name. I call this philosophy…

Modern Moviemaking

Revolutionary, right? Admittedly, I should have added some shazam to my idea and called it something fancy – but coining phrases is not my strong suit. Rather I want to join the other filmmaker thinkers and focus on a workable solution.

Additionally, I’m just like you. I’m a filmmaker, passionate about making movies. But at the same time, I want to help us figure out a way to make a living making movies.

So this movement is your movement. Should you choose to participate in this brave new modern movie making world, there is one solid, economically viable way to make movies profitable again. And it will require that you adopt a modern moviemaking paradigm.

So are you ready to join the modern moviemaking movement?

Modern Moviemaking Manifesto

1. Modern Moviemakers will think of movie making in ways akin to how entrepreneurs think of start up companies. Instead of raising investment dollars for just one title, Modern Moviemakers will create a mini-studio, complete with research and development, planning, production, marketing, distribution and sales under one roof.

2. Modern Moviemakers will focus on producing a slate of at least five genre specific movies. These movies will be created inexpensively and will be delivered to the audience via ALL popular VOD marketplaces.

3. Instead of paying freelance day-rates, Modern Moviemakers will put crew on a salary, with benefits. Everybody in the company will own equity in the company. So in this regard, someone who owns 10% in company stock will get 10% of all movie profits. This will supplement crew salary with an ongoing, lifelong stream of income.

4. Modern Moviemakers will work to grow our community (and customer base) bigger. And over time, our fans will begin to know us, know our company and celebrate our work. Only in this way will we eventually reach mass great enough to increase ongoing revenue through multiple streams of movie income.

5. Modern Moviemakers focus on muti-title diversification, with the goal that multiple movie titles build enough buzz to create long term, sustainable revenue. In this regard, we can begin to focus on creating entire library instead of just depending on one title to support our career.

There is no fee to join the Modern Moviemaking Movement. If you think it makes sense, just tell two or 3-5 of your closest filmmaking  friends about the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto.

To explore some other awesome filmmaking tools, check out our resources at make your movie now.