Indie Filmmaking As Your Business

If you’ve been following Filmmaking Stuff for some time, you probably know that this site really pushes non-permission based filmmaking. This concept means that if you’re a filmmaker with ambition and a dream, you should not hesitate…

You should not wait for Hollywood to give you permission – but rather, you should pick up a camera and Make Your Movie Now!

For some of you, this is easier said than done. Part of why this seems challenging and impossible is because many of us start our career with the belief that filmmakers need a gazillion dollars, tons of experience and an address in Hollywood to make a living as a “real” filmmaker.

While this was once true, the new model of movie making allows you to create and sell movies from anywhere in the world.

For many, this filmmaking evolution is exciting. But the classic elements of filmmaking remain. You still need a great story, the passion and persistence to bring your movie to life, and the guts to share your work with the world.

To give you a rough plan of how to get your indie movie business up and running, I’ve provided a few steps. (Where I thought it would help, I also included links to some sponsored filmmaking tools and services.) Ready:

1. Build A Team: Create relationships with at least 5-10 collaborators who complement your skill set. At the very least, you’ll want to find a writer who understands budgets, a physical producer experienced in low budget movie making, a tech guru who understands cameras and modern production gadgets, an editor with Final Cut Pro and an internet guru who can help you promote and sell your movies online.

Bonus points if you can find a lawyer who can provide you with the necessary legal advice, contracts and advice on setting up a business.

2. Create a Manageable Movie Concept: Come together as a team and design a movie that can be explained in one high-concept log-line. It has been my experience that original, genre specific movies with a bit of controversy, geared towards a clearly defined target audience will later help you when it comes time to market and sell your movie.

Above all, your movie idea should be totally fun and captivating. (Otherwise, why make the movie?)

3. Break Down Your Screenplay: Out of this, complete your schedule and your budget. Then analyze your budget. Ask yourself: If we do not garner a traditional distribution deal, how many $4.99 VOD downloads will we need to sell to get a return? At this point you can decide to decrease your budget, or not. But once you decide on your budget and the amount of sales you’ll need to get a return, you can then begin planning your marketing strategy.

If you have money, hire a great Production Manger. If you don’t have money, you’ll have to do your own breakdown. Check out my sponsor, LightSpeed EPS.

4. Go Get The Money: Once you have a concrete filmmaking strategy, you can go after your money. Investors like to see three things in your business plan: Who is running the company? How will you spend the money? And how will you make a profit?

Unlike years past, iTunes, Amazon and (sometimes) Netflix provides you with an accessible distribution pipeline. This will assist you in getting the necessary movie money. If you don’t know how to find prospective investors, see:

After you lock down your money, you can go into pre-production full force. Hire a great 1st AD.

5. Sell Your Movie: Once you get the money, I’m assuming you’ll make the movie. After that, two things have to happen. You have to spread the word about your movie. And you have to figure out how you are going to sell the thing. Once you get your movie out there and selling, focus on fueling your marketing with ads, PR and partnerships with other filmmakers.

After you do this once, the way to become successful is to create more and more movies. Remember, your goal is to create at least 20 movies in your life time, so that you can get at least 20 checks in the mail each month!

If you like this filmmaking stuff, you’ll love this resource:

Filmmaking Tip: How to make it in Hollywood.

The Lumiere brothers

Filmmakers with a strong vision for what they want can make it. Image via Wikipedia

Making movies is both awesome and incredibly challenging. And becoming a professional filmmaker requires a certain amount of dedication that is easy to talk about – but not always easy to live by.

In my filmmaking career, I’ve experienced heartache as well as the surreal, super exciting moments that come when people get to know me and my work. Making stories and building an audience that supports our work is the reason we do what we do.

But in order to get from point A to point B, it is essential that you create a clear and exciting vision for your filmmaking future… Because (believe me) you’ll need something exciting to focus on, should things get challenging…

… And as a filmmaker, things always get challenging.

I have known many people who started out their filmmaking careers with all the movie making passion, energy and enthusiasm in the world, only to drop their dreams at the first sign of trouble. Other friends have disappeared without ever making a movie. And one of my friends went crazy, stole a bunch of money from his filmmaking team and left town.

Why? Because creating a dream for yourself and paying the price, (no matter how hard) to realize your potential –  that’s the tough part.

I’m serious about this. Making a career making movies is a long term game. It won’t happen over night. In fact, success probably won’t find you on your first feature or your second feature film. So you have to get tough.

Here is a strategy worth applying to your own life: One of the mental attributes that all successful people share in common is a never ending ability to keep their eye on the prize. And if you’re looking for the secret formula for all your filmmaking success, it is this: patience plus unyielding persistence in a face of adversity will get you through a tough spot. NEVER give up!


Here is what separates the professional filmmaker from the horde of crybabies.  They have goals. And you should too. And I’m not just talking general stuff, like “Hey, I want to make movies and get rich and all the crap.” Who doesn’t (on some level) want the things that sort of lifestyle offers?

But what I’m asking you to do today, dear filmmaker is to set very specific goals for your filmmaking future.

What does your ideal future look like?

In order to create meaningful success in both your filmmaking career and your life, you MUST get a clear idea of what you want. This will involve not just setting goals for yourself, but actually taking out a pen and writing them down.

The following actions will help you hone in your movie ideas, your money ideas and also help you paint a picture of the wonderful life you want to live:


  1. Take out some paper and write down three ideas for movies you want to make in your lifetime.
  2. How much money would you like to have?
  3. How much money do you have now?
  4. What will you do to get the money you need?
  5. The people you hang out with will influence your success. Are you hanging out with people who share your vision? Or, are you hanging out with negative people?

After this, you’ll get a pretty good idea of where you are and where you want to go. From there, you can begin to take steps in your desired direction.

Here is an affiliate recommendation. A few years back, I stumbled upon the following audio program and even though it talks about general goal setting, I totally thought it was a great tool for helping me refine my own filmmaking goals: Master Strategies for Higher Achievement: Set Your Goals and Reach Them – Fast! (Your Coach in a Box)

I don’t know if I’m hitting a nerve with you or not. But long before I made my first money making movies, I can remember driving around my small home town dreaming of a time when I would not only have a few features under my belt, but I also dreamed of a time that I could share my experience with you.

If you find yourself faced with filmmaking self doubt, you’re not alone. The important part is that you at least get a picture of what you want that is very specific. Then you should take time to work backwards. And who knows, maybe a decade from now we will be working on movie projects together.