Sell Your Movie For Maximum Profit

If you’re already a seasoned feature filmmaker, take a moment and think back: Do you remember when the idea of making movies seemed like a far away dream?

Do you remember when you first got the idea for your movie? Do you remember Your first day of production? Do you remember your first screening and how well everyone loved your work?

That happened to me with my first feature. Like you, I thought our movie would get into Sundance, play well, build buzz and if we were really lucky, we had hoped the movie would garner us a 3 picture deal. But that didn’t happen.

Sure, we got some offers, but they were not “deals.” (A deal actually pays money!)

So instead of exchanging our movie for an empty promise, we decided to try selling our movie on the internet. Little did I know, this one decision has changed the course of my movie making life. That was five years ago…

And since that time, the internet as evolved. If you’re a filmmaker with a movie, you need to get it selling in all the popular internet marketplaces, including Amazon and iTunes.

You don’t need a middle-man to make this profitable. I am going to show you my internet marketing secrets…

You can check out my “How To Sell Your Movie” system by visiting the website here.

Filmmaking For a Living

Hollywood Sign

Image via Wikipedia

As a filmmaker, you are expected to make a product (your movie). The money invested to create your product should be less than the eventual sales of your product. If you can not figure out how to achieve this goal, you do not have a business. You instead have an expensive hobby and probably a good demo reel.

There are a lot of filmmakers who attempt to raise money without first considering how their movie will recoup the initial investment. These filmmakers say things like “I have a vision” or “I’m going to make this for the love of filmmaking. Then I’ll get into festivals, get noticed and garner a great distribution deal!” And while it is true that passion, tenacity and blind optimism play an important role in getting your movie produced and seen and hopefully sold, this alone is not enough to drive the masses to your screenings.

This happens in Hollywood all the time. A filmmaker creates a typical business plan that focuses on film festivals as the most viable distribution strategy. And played out, the filmmaker gets the money, hires a crew, makes a movie and then enters the festivals. But months after wrap, well into the festival circuit, these filmmakers realize that the market has changed. The days of awesome DVD acquisitions deals and huge upfront advances are over. And when the last frame flickers off the silver screen, these filmmakers take their dashed-dreams back to their day job.

The veterans of the industry tell us that all this distribution deal disappointment is a result of improved technology. They optimistically tell us that our lost DVD revenues will be recouped by Video On Demand. Some refer to this as simply a market correction, implying that someday, somewhere, someone will figure out how to once again pay the big bucks for movies. But this is a pipe-dream.

Here is the flaw. Most filmmakers depend on DVD distribution for a return on investment. And with deteriorating DVD sales channels, filmmakers are currently left with iTunes, NetFlix and Amazon as the most prominent VOD sales options. My question is this. Who on earth is going to pay a major advance to get your movie into a marketplace that YOU can easily access without the middle man?

This approach to the marketplace changes everything. Your business is no longer dependent on production and capital gains. Nope. These days, the focus for the filmmaker lies in creating multiple streams of movie income over the long term. And if you want to make a living making movies, you need to realize that your libary and the subsequent auidence 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.

Like it or lump it, filmmaking has become a small business. The same rules now apply.

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Jason Brubaker is a Los Angles based independent filmmaker and an expert in Video On Demand distribution. If you are one of the many filmmakers seeking movie distribution, you might want to check out The Independent Producer’s Guide To Distribution.

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

Sell Your Movie

Lasky's original studio, aka: "The Barn&q...
Lasky’s Original Studio, AKA The Barn —  Image via Wikipedia

If you’ve made a movie or you’re working to make your movie (and I hope you are), you might also be thinking about how you’re going to sell the sucker.

I mean, despite the fact that filmmaking is fun there is a business component to it. If you fail to think in terms of Return On Investment (ROI), then getting money for your next movie is going to be even more difficult than the first, for two reasons:

  1. You’ll need to worry about money to put food on the table.
  2. Your prospective investors will want to see your track record.

As a filmmaker, the other factor we have to consider is our initial budget. Go too high and the chance of return could diminish. Let me explain.

I’ve chatted with a few heavy-hitting friends in the industry (that I hope to interview soon) and there is talk about what I’m going to call the “no-man’s-land” of indie movie production. That is, there is a budget range from roughly 2.5M-10M that is becoming increasingly difficult to finance.

Tax credits and other deals aside – What I’m suggesting is due, in large part to changes in movie distribution and the subsequent challenge of generating enough revenue to recoup the initial investment.

Indie film financing was always a crap shoot – but take away potential sales channels and add the fact that technology now permits virtually anyone to make a decent looking movie and you can begin to understand why this is happening.

While I’m on the subject, I’m not just talking about the indie movies. I’m including studios as well. Thanks to the success of Paranormal Activity,  there is now word that Paramount is going to launch a micro budget division and begin to churn out movies under 100K.

From a business standpoint this makes sense. You invest 100K and you get 100M – That’s pretty good! (Understatement).  But from holy crap perspective, the ripple effect of a studio churning out no-to-low budget movies could potentially rip a hole in the ways Hollywood traditionally operates. (BTW, Paramount is not the first studio to attempt this. But thanks to VOD outlets and more digital projectors in theaters, what didn’t work at this budget level in the past could very well work now.)

Lets talk some numbers…

Traditionally, when movies are financed most people including grips, gaffers, craft services and other crew – they get paid on the front end as part of the movie’s budget. We can also include some agents, managers, lawyers, Teamsters, writers, actors – and mostly everyone else too.

On the micro budget level however, there isn’t enough money up-front to pay these folks what they were formally worth. So there are a few options. Hire less people. Hire non-union folks. And offer to pay Teamsters deferred pay with the added bonus of copy and credit. (I’m adding some humor here – but can you imagine Paramount trying to offer a Teamster deferred pay?)

Ok, so what does this mean for you and your movies? Well just look at the music industry. Recording studios and record companies took a nose dive. But that hasn’t stopped people from making music or making money making music.

Instead of asking some idiot in a suit for permission to make music, musicians can now find their audiences, build a following and sell their music… Without a middle man – globally. That’s pretty amazing.

The same wide open world applies to your movie. Do good work and people will notice. Do bad work, and well, you still have the opportunity to find the 20 people in the world who think you’re brilliant. And in terms of pay structure – I made a joke earlier about deferred pay. But I am not totally opposed to some well structured back end deals. I mean, 1/4th of 1% of 100M is – it’s nothing to sneeze at.

Of course, as we all know there is no guarantee that any movie project will make money. So for you and me and most indies, it will take roughly two years of hustle to churn out a movie that we can be proud of. For the studios, they are going to churn out micro-budget movies like widgets in a factory.  The odds of success, for both of us  – the indie filmmakers and the studio are getting closer equal.

And I think that is something worth celebrating.

Is anyone else excited about this? Please feel free to comment.