Some of my independent filmmaker friends consider indie film to be sacred and they avoid the studios like the plague. Other friends think studio movies are the ONLY movies that count. And they discount indies as a passing fad or a calling card to simply get noticed by the studios.
If you’re like most, you just want to get your film made! Long before I lived in LA and before I produced my first feature, I spent a summer writing a screenplay with my buddy Jared. It was this silly bowling comedy called Seven-Ten-Split. After writing the script, I sent it to my actor buddy Jimmi in Los Angeles.
How To Become A Modern Independent Filmmaker
Weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything. Then one day I got this call. It was Jimmi. He read the script. Loved it. Jimmi offered to get a bunch of his actor friends together for a reading. Asked if I would like to visit Los Angeles.
The next thing you know I was flying across the country and I was super excited. On the day of the reading, Jared and I walked into a room full of “known” actors we had only formerly seen on TV. To say it was surreal is an understatement.
As these actors read the script and acted out the characters who had (up until this point) only existed in my and Jared’s imaginations – Well, during that time I was transported to a world full of possibilities. A world where my work meant something and had merit with people I respected.
I imagined myself flying all around the world to watch screenings of our film.
Having someone appreciate your work is a drug. Having some “known” Hollywood players appreciate your work is a better drug. And when this happens, intense idealized imaginings of success can be your biggest addiction. And I was hooked on getting my movie made.
So what happened to the project?
The truth is, at the time, I didn’t have enough experience (or confidence) as an independent filmmaker to go the extra mile. Sure, there was a business plan and a private placement memorandum. And I had an initial breakdown and a budget. I was even good enough to cold call rich people and get meetings. At the time, I was trying to raise a mere 250K. But my prospective investors kept asking me the same question:
“How Do You Plan To Recoup The Money?”
I didn’t have an answer.
Back then, the only distribution strategy I could offer was something like this:
“My friends are actors on well known TV shows. If we get into festivals and create buzz and get noticed by a distributor, we might have a chance at recouping the investment.”
Suffice it to say, no distribution meant no deal.
An Independent Filmmaker Is An Entrepreneur
That was 2003. And since then, the world has changed. As a modern independent filmmaker, you no longer need permission to reach the marketplace. Companies like Distribber (where, in full disclosure, I currently work) provide you with access to popular marketplaces.
This means you can now incorporate both a marketing and distribution plan into your overall film business plan. And while this does not guarantee your success as an independent filmmaker, you can finally have a pragmatic model for getting a return on investment, without depending on traditional distribution.
As a modern independent filmmaker, YOU are now responsible for your own marketing, distribution and sales. And this is extremely liberating and empowering.