Over the past few years, we have seen a lot of developments in the indie filmmaking space. New technology coupled with non-discriminatory distribution has enabled many would-be filmmakers to finally get a feature made and distributed.
While most of us in the indie filmmaking community welcome these changes – The downside to these innovations is the market is now saturated with backyard indies.
The other day I asked members of the Filmmaking Stuff Facebook community to describe their biggest indie filmmaking challenges. Minutes later, it became clear that the most glaring obstacles revolved around:
- Film Finance
- Movie distribution.
This seems right. Like you, there was once a time when I had no idea on how to finance, make, market, sell and distribute a movie. I remember spending countless hours reading everything I could get my hands on. Most of those filmmaking resources let me down. None of them helped me overcome my particular indie filmmaking challenges.
So I decided to address both points below and offer solid solutions you can utilize to get your movie made, seen and selling.
Indie Filmmaking Challenge – Film Finance
You know you need money to make a movie. Your indie filmmaking challenge here is obviously finding the money. Read any filmmaking book and the solution almost always involves some ridiculous scenarios where you either hire a seasoned producer to raise the money (wouldn’t that be nice) or find someone with disposable income, like a doctor or dentist.
I’m sure you heard this useless crap too. I am tired of it.
So here is your non-magical solution to film finance. Notice I DID NOT say easy. What I’m about to share is not easy. I am sorry. If you don’t like a challenge, choose another profession or simply buy another indie filmmaking book that promises fame and fortune. But for those of you wiling to do the work, here are the steps for raising money:
- Write or acquire a great script.
- Break your script into a schedule and budget.
- Create a business plan that outlines how you will make, market and sell the movie.
- Have a lawyer draft a Private Placement Memorandum.
- Approach prospective investors and ask for the money.
While the entire indie film finance process can be broken down into five basic steps, it may take you months or even a year or more to get your movie fully financed. At this stage, your indie filmmaking challenge is to decide if you want to keep going, or perhaps save your blockbuster for another time and focus on making a smaller movie now. I personally think it’s better to make a feature than wait. But only you can decide what’s right for you.
Regardless of the scope and scale of your project, most prospective investors will want to know how they will benefit from your movie. Tom Malloy talks about this quite a bit in our film finance guide – But the basic thing to remember is that each prospective investor is looking for a different payoff. Some want a financial return. But some simply want to get involved in the movies.
It is important that you do more listening than talking. Figure out what the investor wants and then provide that. In all scenarios, investors will likely ask what your plans are for marketing, sales and distribution. And that leads me to address the next point in your biggest indie filmmaking challenge – Distribution.
Indie Filmmaking Challenge – Distribution
There was a time when film distribution required someone picking up your move in exchange for a tremendous outlay of cash. Those days are over. Thousands of filmmakers flood the market with cheaply produced backyard indies. DVD distribution has been replaced by VOD distribution. And traditional distributors (with minor exception) no longer offer minimum guarantees.
Sounds pretty wacky, right? Wrong.
Many traditional distributors still pretend it’s 1995 and avenues to the marketplace are limited. But this is not true. Getting onto iTunes or Amazon or any number of VOD outlets is simply a matter of choosing one of the popular encoding houses and shelling out a few thousand bucks.
I cover a lot of this in my indie guide to digital distribution. But the bottom line is, you no longer need a traditional distributor to grant you access to these marketplaces. (Especially if the deal is not good!)
Here are your steps to distribute your movie:
- Create a marketing plan and launch strategy. (This should be part of your business plan.)
- Get your movie onto popular VOD platforms like Amazon, iTunes and Pivotshare (and others).
- Come up with an advertising strategy that pays for itself and provides a profit.
Once again, I oversimplified this. Your indie filmmaking challenge with distribution is creating a strategy that makes sense for your movie. You need to move enough units of your movie to show a profit. Otherwise, you will be operating at a loss. And nobody wants to lose money… Because that’s not a real business.
If you’re like most indie filmmakers, you want me to prove that this works. You want Video On Demand Sales Projections to show your prospective investors. The truth is, most investors will see your projections as fluff. The reason is simple – Just because The Polish Brothers were able to have one of the highest grossing movies on iTunes does not mean that your movie will have similar success.
There. I said it.
More important than any VOD sales projections is figuring out how you will leverage VOD sales, to sell more movies. In short, there are some old fashioned direct mail formulas that will serve as an awesome starting point for actual scenarios. You can utilize these in your business plans. And savvy investors will understand.
You need to plan both your financing and distribution strategy as if you are your own mini studio. Because you are. If you plan to make, market and sell movies – you now have the technological firepower to take your filmmaking dreams to the big screen. And the best part? You don’t need to ask me or any other film professional for permission.
But you have to take action and make things happen.