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.

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.

This is usually the part in the article where I ask you to sign up for my newsletter.

Writer Director John Chu talks filmmaking

As a filmmaker, getting your movies produced sometimes seems impossible. And if you haven’t yet made your first feature, it is often very easy to get caught up in all the reasons why it can’t be done.

My screenwriter friend Jurgen Wolff forwarded this great filmmaking video with John M Chu. In it, he shares some of the innovative approaches he took to filmmaking, including starting small on YouTube, making the process interactive, finding ways to leverage input, and how modern moviemaking has changed the game.

While I don’t yet know John personally, I think his approach to filmmaking is smart and worth listening to.

If you like this sort of filmmaking stuff, why don’t you sign up for the Filmmaking Newsletter?

Movie Marketing: Are Film Festivals Losing Relevance?

Filmmakers often utilize film festivals as a way to get their work seen and hopefully sold. And while acceptance to top-tier festivals is super exciting – the reality is, many filmmakers do not get in.

As a result, many of these semi-dejected filmmakers take a shotgun approach to their festival strategy. They start applying for most every regional and local film festival, everywhere. And aside from outlandish application fees, upon arrival to these festivals – instead of  meeting a bunch of VIP acquisitions executives, most second tier festivals are populated by a bunch of other desperate filmmakers shoving postcards in your face, eagerly advertising their screening times to, well, other filmmakers.

Sometimes this includes free beer. (Most times not.)

While having delusions of distribution grandeur is still part of the film festival fun – with the demise of DVD distribution, and the odds that you won’t get into Sundance – it is vitally important that you create a film festival strategy PLAN B.

What is a film festival strategy PLAN B?

Simply put, if you are serious about making your movie profitable, YOU are now responsible for marketing, promotion and distribution of your movie. And inline with this strategy, you must view regional and second tier festivals as an opportunity to build your audience list. But instead of handing out postcards to other filmmakers, your marketing strategy will be smarter.

Here are five tips on making film festivals relevant to your movie business:

  1. Write a press release specific to the festival and then distribute to the local press. This also involves picking up the phone and personally inviting the press to attend your screening. Many festivals will have a press list. You can use this – but I would also advise conducting additional internet searches for other press outlets.
  2. Many local towns have a filmmaker community. Reach out to them. If you are traveling, it’s great to have someone to pal around with. The secondary benefit to this is, many of these same people will have relationships with the festival staff – always good to know people on the staff.
  3. If the festival allows it, see if you can take several clipboards into your screening. You’ll want to collect the names and email addresses of each viewer and get their permission to email them. Later you will enter this data into your audience list.
  4. If your film website does not include a blog component, add one. Then update frequently. Add pictures and video. Let the world know your movie is screening. People like this stuff.
  5. And finally, most regional festivals have panel discussions with industry experts. Make sure you attend these. Take your business cards. And then try to build relationships with whomever is on the panel. (And as a side note, if you know anybody looking for a panelist – I suggest inviting Jason Brubaker from Filmmaking Stuff? Just sayin’)

Out of everthing I mentioned, the most important strategy for your movie and your modern moviemaking career is grow your own fan base. This way, when you focus on building your audience list, you stress a lot less about the traditional distribution deal you may or may not have received at one of the notorious festivals.

So yes. Film festivals are still relevant. They offer a great way to source an audience for a minimal marketing investment.

Also, I’d like to thank one of our filmmaking stuff readers named Michael for this question. If you would like to get on the filmmaking stuff VIP list, click here >>

Streaming Movies is OK If…

The other week I went on a minor rant about filmmakers hellbent on streaming movies from their movie website. And after some very thoughtful feedback, the truth is (as much as I hate admitting this) I realized I may have made an error.

In my article, I mentioned that most customers will feel more comfortable watching movies on established platforms, such as Hulu, iTunes, Amazon and NetFlix. At the same time, I totally discounted filmmakers presently testing ways to stream from their sites. And as any great marketer knows, ALL marketing decisions (assuming they make financial sense) have to be tested.

What works with one movie, may not work with every movie.

With that said, a lot of filmmakers (who do not have website traffic) are being fed the idea that “content enablers” will magically source an audience. They will not. So if your website does not have a lot of visitors, before you worry about where to stream your movie, I suggest you work on increasing your traffic as well as building your audience list. Then later, when you reach mass, you can focus on directing folks into your sales funnel.

The other tip is this: DO NOT stream a movie from your own hosting company server. That is silly. Let someone else handle the bandwidth and content delivery issues. Here are two resources for selling your movie (both of which are affiliates and pay me to promote – so research each before you make any purchase):

Distribber. They help you get your movie onto iTunes and other popular marketplaces.

Again – while both of these companies provide great services for filmmakers, it is important that you remember the major, key aspect of the brave new world of modern moviemaking – Regardless of platform – YOU are responsible for sourcing your own audience. Don’t forget that!

To help you out, I have created a step-by-step guide called the independent producer’s guide to digital distribution. If you need help driving targeted traffic to your website and selling your movie through VOD marketplaces, the guide offers some tips.