If you’re wondering how to make money in filmmaking, you’re not alone. I distinctly remember walking into The American Film Market for the first time. It was like I had walked onto the New York Stock Exchange. The place was plastered with film posters and banners. Film buyers and sellers congregated in every corner, pitching projects and making deals.
After a few conversations, I realized that a finished feature film is a product. And to make money, you need to sell your product. In the years since, I’ve participated AFM and made it my mission to attend Cannes, Berlinale (EFM), MIPCOM, Natpe, MipTV, Filmart, and TIFF. And even though technology has changed the film production and distribution landscape, there are three fundamental tactics for making money in filmmaking.
How To Make Money In Filmmaking
“Just make a great movie, work with a distributor and let them handle the business stuff.”
That could be a solution, but the ultimate answer is more complicated. So let’s put a pin in that one. You may have thought about making money in filmmaking. You may have hoped (or maybe “hoping”) that all you have to do is make a movie, and the world will discover your talents. And let’s face it, it is okay to think this way.
The truth is, you and I both know your stuff is better than 90% of the crap that comes out every summer. But the problem is, there are a TON of poorly produced backyard indies flooding the market each year. This makes it hard to find your movie. And this means you can no longer make a movie and wait.
You have to make a film remarkable enough to rise above the noise.
Passive Income For Filmmakers
After helping hundreds of filmmakers get their movies to market, I have seen quite a few successful filmmakers grow successful movie businesses. Distilled down, aside from making a great film, successful filmmakers have it in their heads to focus on the business aspect, including cast, connections, networking, relationships, etc.
The number one reason filmmakers fail is that most filmmakers NEVER plan to make money in the first place. I am going to be blunt here. Most filmmakers lack a plan for how to make money in filmmaking. Case in point, I have heard the following line dozens of times:
“I want to get my movie on Netflix or iTunes or Amazon or Cable VOD. And I don’t care if my movie makes money. I want people to see it.”
Whenever I hear that (and I hear that sort of thing a lot), I get another grey hair because you’re killing me softly. Even if you don’t care if your movie makes money, I can assure you that every platform, distributor, and sales agent in existence is in the business of making money. If you don’t care about how to make money in filmmaking, nobody else will either. Your film will suffer. And your career will suffer.
Make Money From Independent Films
Making money as a filmmaker is not easy. I can think of a gazillion other businesses that work much more smoothly than trying to produce projects, get a great deal, and get a return on your investment. Assuming you are serious – And assuming you want to make money in filmmaking – here are three simple tips that most filmmakers never consider:
1.) Choose Successful Genres: The best genres to make are not depressing dramas or edgy comedies. The best genres are action, sci-fi, horror (with a cast), and family-friendly films.
2.) Cast Name Actors: If I had a dime for every director who said, “I just want to cast the best people, I don’t need stars…” I’d have enough to buy myself a nice dinner. Having a name cast helps sell your film. And they’re usually very talented, or they wouldn’t have become famous in the first place.
3.) Attend Film Markets: Meet distributors. Meet sales agents. Ask around about the ones that are interested in you. Look them up and reach out to producers who have worked with them and ask about their experience. Getting a great relationship here is paramount to the success of your film.
I know you secretly hold onto the myth that “if I make my movie, Hollywood will buy it for a gazillion dollars.” But here’s the thing—the reason why successful movies got that golden ticket is that someone took those three steps. And if you take the time to do that, you will be ahead of many filmmakers who do not care to make money in filmmaking. And if you like this stuff, make sure you grab a copy of my film business plan template.