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…

Name My Filmmaking Book Contest

I have been writing a filmmaking book. It outlines the whole modern moviemaking philosophy – and originally I thought I would stay with the modern moviemaking theme, and possibly call it “Confessions of a Modern Moviemaker.”

The title is fun because, historically books titled with the word “confessions” seem to intrigue readers… I also fear the title might be a little too gimmicky. So before I send the book off to the press, I thought I would ask you for advice.

Before I do, let me tell you what the book covers…

Unlike most the other filmmaking books you’ve read, this one is going to be tons different. In it, I will cover how to create a mini-movie studio, how to gear your material towards your target audience, how to reach your target audience and how to market and sell your movie without the middle-man.

Because coming up with a title is really tough, I need your help. I have decided to create a contest…

All you have to do is comment below with your best book title. And if I use your title, you will win a free copy of the book as well as a half-hour of modern moviemaking coaching (valued at $300) on Skipe or phone if you’re in the US.

This is a completely biased contest. And it is possible that nobody will win. This filmmaking book contest expires on August 30th, 2011.

Do you want to play?

If so, please comment ON THE FILMMAKING STUFF SITE with your best filmmaking book title idea below.

 

Filmmaking eZine and Free Tools

Video on demand has forever changed the ways independent movies are made, seen and sold. And if you’ve not yet made a feature, you might wonder why this is important to you.

I get excited about Video On Demand and the various popular internet marketplaces like iTunes and Amazon because movie distribution is no longer discriminatory. This means that you can actually control your own business and marketing plan.

The downside to this is, as a modern moviemaker, if you want to prosper, you need to develop some marketing and sales skills – or at least know enough about this stuff to hire the appropriate team member.

When you click the picture below, you will have the opportunity to grab some great filmmaking tools, FREE of charge. You’ll get valuable tips on how you can make, market and sell your independent movies more easily.

If you like all the free stuff, make sure you tell your filmmaking friends!

 

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 >>

Filmmaking or why modern moviemakers should not ask permission

I did it again. I refined a concept and wrote a business plan. I made the pitch. I got a warm reception and now months have gone by with radio silence. If you’re into filmmaking and you’re also trying to get projects off the ground – I understand what you’re going through.

The ongoing question I get: “How will this make money?”

While it’s safe to provide projections – any investor with any business experience will understand that each project carries it’s own risk to reward ratio. Your goal as a filmmaker is to help mitigate these risks as best you can.

But the reality is, you can only push so hard. You can only be patient for so long. And then one day you have to pack your proverbial filmmaking bags and move on to the next project… Or the next opportunity.

One of the biggest filmmaking (and life success lessons) I’ve learned is this – asking permission sucks. Try to avoid it – if you can.

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Also, if you’re new here, you might want to watch my video   >>