Leverage Your Following | Sell Your Movie PT 7

Internal rate of return, two solutions, cashflow

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One of the most important filmmaking strategies you must adopt in this era of modern moviemaking is a long term perspective. In years past, filmmakers focused on making one movie, selling it and then moving on to the next movie.

While the idea of creating multiple titles over the course of your filmmaking career has not changed, it is now vitally important that you plan a series of movies from day one. The reason for this is simple. You are now solely responsible for the success of your movie business. And to stay in business, you will need to create a profitable library of titles that continually pay you.

To use a real estate business analogy, in years past you built a house and sold it for maximum profit. But these days, given the changes in the real estate market, it makes sense to hold onto the house, rent it out and collect rent checks every month. This is the difference between capital gains and cashflow. And as an independent filmmaker, the growing demise in DVD sales outlets means that filmmakers must now focus on creating multiple titles – and increasing cashflow, over time.

Leverage Your Following

As I mentioned previously, creating a highly targeted mailing list is now essential for your success.

Thinking long term, the most important component of your movie making success is establishing a loyal following. From a business perspective, the size of your mailing list will provide a solid metric on which to base forward looking revenue projections. In other words, you can take look at your list and say “two percent of our followers bought this movie. I wonder how many fans will be interested in my next movie?” But instead of guess work, you can send your followers an email and ask them.

As you grow your community your fans will begin to know you, know your company and celebrate your work. And as long as you continue to provide good entertainment, you may eventually reach mass great enough to fund your future movie projects. Imagine how much prospective investors will appreciate your pitch when you already have one-hundred-thousand fans eager to buy your next movie?

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In the end, the heart and soul of all forms of distribution is finding an audience willing to pay you for your work. Video on demand simply removes the middle-man from the process and allows you to connect directly with the people who matter the most – your audience.

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.

Independent Film Funding

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin

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I’ve been getting a lot of email from up-and-coming filmmakers asking if there are any websites that help filmmakers find investors for their movie. In past articles, I’ve talked about money and some reasons why you need to be very careful in this arena. But the latest series of emails reminded me of a time when I had the same questions.

So just like you, dear reader, I did a few Google searches for “Independent Film Funding.” And in the spirit of helping you avoid silly mistakes, allow me to list my top three questions:

1. How many business savvy investors are seeking filmmakers via a website built in 1995?
2. Why do I have to submit my credit card information?
3. You want me to pay you, to pitch a movie to you, so you will think about investing?

I know that most of you reading these articles would like to steer clear of unscrupulous tactics. But to do this, you’ll have to get smart. If you want to be successful as a filmmaker, you need to learn business. And I’m not just talking the movie business, but business in general. Depending where you go for money, you may have to pitch your movie idea to a soap manufacturer. Are you prepared to explain your movie business with general business terms like: cash flow, rate of return, asset, income and expense, revenue, profit and loss?

If so, you’re well on your way to talking the talk. And to address the first point of this article – I’m sure there are more than a few legitimate websites out there for filmmakers seeking funding. But there is still one predominate resource for money that happens to be incredibility relevant. It’s the rich people in your personal network.

I know what you’re thinking… What if you don’t know any rich people? Then you need to make some new friends. One easy way to find potential investors is through cold calling. When I first started, I looked for the biggest businesses in my home town. Then I found out who owned the business. After that, I called the person directly and asked to meet. Some of the people I met with back then have become good friends and trusted advisers. And now, when I have an idea for a pitch, I pitch it to them.

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If you are wondering how to get money for your movie – Almost every resource will tell you that you need a business plan. Very few resources will tell you how to actually go out, find prospective investors, qualify them, contact them, get a meeting and build a relationship.

Since getting money for movies was such a frustrating experience for me, I spent the last few months creating: The Independent Producer’s Guide To Financing Your Movie. In it, YOU will gain valuable insider experience so you can avoid my past mistakes, find investors and make your movie. To learn more CLICK HERE