The New Model of Filmmaking

In his book, “Think Outside The Box Office,” Jon Reiss coined a new filmmaking job called Producer of Marketing and Distribution (PMD). This idea was born of the fact that modern independent moviemakers must now create their own marketing and forge their eventual distribution strategy from day one.

Having had extensive experience in producing, marketing and selling my own movies, I agree that moviemakers must now take a much more comprehensive approach to the business side of independent film. With lower production costs predicated on the dramatic shift in distribution, Filmmaking is now a Small Business… And as a result, I am also of the opinion that the role of PMD as well as some other roles are now necessary.

What I am about to propose is a bit radical. So if you would like to bury your head in the sand, that’s understandable. You can stop reading now.

But for the rest of us filmmakers, eager to face this brave new world of indie filmmaking head-on, in addition to hiring a PMD, I propose that the entire production team must now take a vested interest in the success of each movie. To explain and explore my point a bit further, let’s examine the realities of moviemaking.

Traditionally, when making a movie, filmmakers break down a script, create a schedule, figure out who they need to hire, create a budget, raise the money, hire freelances, pay the freelances, make the movie and then sell the movie – In this old model, before non-discriminatory VOD distribution, the idea of making a movie was like the lottery. Very few filmmakers ever gave thought to the marketing and eventual sales of the movie. They just made the movie, traveled the festivals and film markets and hoped for the best.

In the event a good distribution deal transpired, investors got lucky. If it didn’t happen, investors would once again learn the age-old lesson that filmaking is risky. In the meantime, after WRAPPING, the hired freelancers working in this space would simply collect their final check and move onto their next project. And they could really care less about distribution…

But this has to change.


There was a time when making a feature was more expensive. The market had less competition. Physical video outlets were more abundant. Festivals were emerging in mass… And distributors were less picky.

But now, anybody with a HDSLR camera can make a good looking movie. That doesn’t mean everybody can make a good movie – but it does mean that more product in the marketplace, combined with decreased distribution outlets creates excessive supply. This added competition floods the marketplace and subsequently decreases the potential for return – which makes it really darn tough to get your independent movie seen and sold!

What we are experiencing is the film industry equivalent of sweat shop labor flooding the market with cheaply produced product. And as a result of these diminished margins, filmmakers must now think in terms of volume. So instead of putting 100% focus on simply making one movie, the model must now involve planning for, and creating a library for a minimal budget. In other words, we need to think about our movie business like a mini-studio, or a small factory. And instead of hiring freelancers – I suggest creating salaried positions whereby everybody on the production team shares a percentage of ownership and profits.

While this may at first seem outlandish, I’m simply shoving filmmaking into a traditional upstart model, complete with stock options. And like most upstarts, each employee will share a vested interest in making the company profitable.

Am I off my rocker? Click here to comment >>



  1. @CCP_Prez says

    You may be off your rocker, but I have spent more time thinking about the backend, marketing, how many views I need if a theatrical release per screen, etc…

    The artist department comes easily in my head…but the marketing of my film fits into my background fairly easily.

    I disgree with Rebecca to a degree, we don’t need to make 52 films we need 52 indie film makers making films. If you don’t control your costs, (no jet setting, 19 star hotels or boondoggles your budget and profit margins won’t handle it), you will not make money and any investor pool you may have had will go to an individual who does controls the costs first and is artistic 2nd.

    I am not advocating poor films, but check the VOD, NetFlix and you will find many poor artistic quality films making money. You need to think profit margins and ROI as much as you do script.

    Just the thoughts of an Indie Producer out East…

    Tom Shaw

  2. says

    Sounds like the modern production studio needs to go back to the studios of old that put out up to 52 movies a year. That’s one movie a week! How did they do that? Most likely with the very model you just expressed on having full time, salaried positions that were not project based but over all production based. The wheels on the bus go round and round….what a concept!

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