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.

How To Sharpen Your Movie Hook (So You Get Noticed)

Have you ever wondered why finding movie investors is challenging? Have you ever wondered why landing an awesome distribution deal is reserved for a just few movies per year?

And have you ever wondered why some crowdfunding campaigns are a tremendous success while other campaigns die in quiet obscurity?

The reason is simple. . .

And I’m going to blunt.

These movie projects fail because nobody cares about them.

Find_Your_Movie_Hook

The reason nobody cares is because the filmmaker never took time to plan out a marketing, sales and distribution strategy that actually makes people want to see the movie.

Your movie marketing and distribution strategy begins with sharpening your movie hook.

What Is Your Movie Hook?

One of the first questions people ask is, what is your movie about?

While this seems like a pretty easy question, if you find yourself rambling on about a complicated, character driven story, full of people reflecting on love and loss. . .

STOP!

A long description is confusing.

A confused mind doesn’t buy (or invest) in your movie.

To sell your title, your movie must be distinct and memorable.

In business they have this thing called USP. A USP is your “unique selling proposition.” It is the one distinction that makes people buy one product over the next. In Hollywood we call this your movie hook.

And without a strong movie hook, most filmmakers find themselves lost in a sea of other filmmakers clamoring to rise above the noise of mediocre movie making.

You need to make your movie REMARKABLE.

What do I mean by remarkable?

Here’s a brief story to explain how your movie hook influences word of mouth.

Picture this:

Let’s say you’re at a party. You chat with someone and they ask you about your movie.

Your Response: It’s about this guy who falls in love with a woman. Then they have issues. They break up. Then they get back together. It’s really a romantic comedy marketed to every man, woman and child in the world.

Do you see the flaw here? There is no real movie hook.

Do you understand how there is absolutely nothing in this description that makes me want to share your movie idea with other people?

And let’s use another example. Let’s say we start talking and you find out I love martial arts and that I’m really into Bruce Lee. In response, you tell me about the original Ip Man movie. (Ip Man was Bruce Lee’s mentor.)

Then you pull out your phone and share the following fight scene with me:

You can bet I’m going to remark about this. (I might even figure out a way to add it to a Filmmaking Stuff article about finding a movie hook so thousands of people can see my remarks.)

The point here is this. You can have the best movie in the world, but nobody will care about your movie until they care about your movie.

And you have to make them care.

The only way to make people care is to show them something remarkable. And the only way to do that is to make sure there is market for your movie and that you have a sharp movie hook.

In the Ip Man example above, the market is: Martial Arts Movie Enthusiasts.

The movie hook is: The story of Bruce Lee’s Mentor

How To Find Your Movie Hook

Finding your movie hook revolves around taking your broad movie concept and distilling it down to the bare, yet memorable essentials.

For example, let’s say your movie hook is described as “A boxer fights for the title.”

Obviously this is a succinct log-line, but it lacks memorable detail.

So your next job is to incorporate some flavorful elements into your movie hook.

Here is the same example with added detail: “An impoverished boxer is given a once in a lifetime chance to fight for the world heavyweight title.”

Can you guess what movie I’m describing?

With this movie hook example, you can see how the extra detail adds sizzle to the description.

Taking time to sharpen your movie hook will help you in two arenas.

Firstly, with this description, your prospective audience will immediately understand how your movie differs from all the other boxer movies. And from a marketing perspective, the words “boxer,” “fights,” and “heavyweight title” will help you to target your core audience and later, these keywords will help you jump-start your internet search engine optimization campaign.

Finding your movie hook is the start of your movie marketing. Once you have a movie hook, you can then answer the next, very important marketing questions. Take a moment to answer:

  1. Who Is Your Target Audience?
  2. How Large Is Your Target Audience?
  3. How Will You Reach Your Audience?
  4. What Is Your Marketing Strategy?
  5. How Many VOD Sales To Break Even?

For many filmmakers, the benefit of creating a movie hook, as well as marketing, sales and distribution plan saves TONS of headaches when you actually take your movie to market. And putting together a distribution plan is a lot easier than you think. For more information on how to market and sell your movie, check out my newly updated distribution system at www.HowToSellYourMovie.com

Why I Hate The Words “Self Distribution” In A Video On Demand World

If you’ve been reading filmmaking stuff for any length of time, you know how much I avoid the words “self-distribution.”

The reason I dislike the term is because it makes filmmakers lazy.

It implies that somebody else is out there, ready and willing to distribute your movie.

While this was the case many years ago, video on demand has changed everything.

Here is a quick question for you: What do Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith and Stanley Kubrick have in common?

Through the course of their careers, all of them have built a platform. They have an audience.

Audiences know them and know their work. And the name recognition has created leverage in the marketplace. If you plan on getting your movies seen and selling, you need to start building a platform, so you can establish your brand and become a rockstar to your audience.

How To Brand Yourself As A Filmmaker

How To Brand Yourself As A Filmmaker (Part 1)
By filmmaker and graphic designer, Ela Gancarz

Everyone’s talking about personal branding these days, but not everyone understands what it does and why it’s important. As a filmmaker, you might be thinking to yourself, “do I really have to care about my brand?” In today’s Internet focused world, personal branding is no longer reserved solely for celebrities.

If you’ve been using social media or your website, you have probably already developed a brand!

A personal brand is the entire perception of a person. It’s all about who you are and what you want to be known for. It refers to the way other people see you. A ‘personal brand’ is in many cases synonymous with your reputation. It’s so much more than a simple logo!

As a filmmaker, you can use personal branding to build trust with your target audience. When people readily know you and they associate your brand with your face, it will be much easier to raise money for a new production or to sell your movie.

If you’d like make your personal brand stronger or to create a new one, you need to set goals for your public image. Your first task is to find your brand identity and develop a style guide. Here are three essential steps to do this:

Step One: Your Identity.

First of all you should ask yourself a few questions to find your personal brand identity. For example: what words would you use to describe yourself? What do people usually say about you? What makes you different from everyone else? What kind of films do you like? What do you want others to think of you? Then write down your answers.

Step Two: Your Audience.

Your personal brand is not only built from your thoughts but also from reactions of other people. That’s why you should determine the audience you want to target. Once you have established a niche, it’s important to reflect what those people want or expect from you. Write down your thoughts.

Step Three: Your Style.

Now, compare two lists and identify some qualities that you want others to associate with your brand. Remember that personal branding is how we market ourselves to others. After figuring out your brand attributes, try to match a corresponding style. It can be expressed visually with a logo, colors, forms, images (I’ll give more details about that in another post) or in the way you act or talk. Think about your personal brand each time you interact with someone.

Your style should be:

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  • Simple and memorable. Your personal brand has to communicate clearly who you are. People will remember only a few things about you so focus only on elements that really contribute something to your brand.
  • Unique. Your style should be distinctive and unique. But you don’t need to sit down and study how to be different! You ARE special! Try to take your life as the basis of your expertise.
  • Modern. Keep your brand modern, fresh and actual. It should always feel inspiring to you and to your audience.
  • Personal. Try to be yourself – it is your PERSONAL brand. Stand strongly behind it. Don’t apologize for it. And don’t be afraid to speak your mind!

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Finally having your personal brand identity, you need to apply it consistently across many activities. Create a website or blog, participate in social media. Whether you like it or not, the world is turning digital at very fast pace and you need to manage your reputation, both online and in real life.

Remember that your personal brand may add value to each new product, film or campaign you create. People will follow your brand from project to project but only if they feel connected and attracted to it. It’s time to take control of all those impressions!

Keven Smith talks Movie Distribution

Kevin Smith at the 2008 Toronto International ...

Image via Wikipedia

I love Kevin Smith’s attitude towards modern movie distribution. If you’re like most independent filmmakers, what Kevin was able to accomplish from his days of Clerks has been amazing. Back then, he not only dreamed the Sundance Dream, but he realized the dream.

The Sundance dream is the idea that you will make your movie, get into Sundance, sell your movie and live happily ever after. As I have been telling you all along, the demise of DVD sales channels, replaced by ever evolving VOD marketplaces are impacting Filmmakers everywhere.

These days, if you are going to make movies and profit, you must now view your independent movie business in ways akin to how any business owner handles their business. You must source and grow your own audience list.

In the following video Kevin Smith shares his perspective on modern movie distribution and how the brave new world is impacting indie filmmakers.

Please feel free to comment.