If you’re like most entrepreneurial filmmakers, you spend countless hours trying to figure out how to make a living filmmaking so you can quit your day job and do cool stuff. You constantly think of slam dunk projects that could potentially repay investors and also pay your bills.
But how? How do you make a living as a filmmaker?
While this answer varies based on your own life experience and worldview, there are two consistent factors to consider with every film project. How much money are you going to spend to make your film? And how much money will you use to properly market your film?
How To Make A Living Filmmaking
Raising cash to make films has always been a challenge. But the big difference between now and the old days is technology. You can now make big looking films on micro budgets. The downside is, you’re not the only filmmaker who knows this. In fact, the market is saturated with thousands of other people trying to make a living filmmaking. And as a result, distribution deals suck.
Think about it like this. Let’s say you raise some money, make your film and get a traditional distribution offer. These days, your deal probably won’t involve (profitable) theatrical distribution or anything essential like marketing. Odds are good your distributor will put your film into popular digital marketplaces like iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. And then it’s up to you to hustle.
So do you really need a distributor? Unlike years past, you can eliminate much of the speculation from your initial business plan. And you can finally present a deal built on a measurable framework that YOU control. In other words, as a filmmaker you can now pick and choose your sales outlets and come up with an entire step-by-step plan for reaching your target audience and then getting your movie seen and sold.
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Create A Reasonable Distribution Plan
You can create a reasonable distribution plan and work backwards. If you crunch your numbers and can’t figure out how to recoup the investment quickly, then you have two choices. You can change your plan or you can change your budget (which may involve changing your screenplay and schedule).
You can no longer think about distribution in the traditional sense. In the past, filmmakers made a film, got lucky and ended up with a BIG paycheck with incremental increases on the back end. These days filmmakers need to think about their movies in ways akin to how traditional investors think about dividends from bonds – once you make the investment, it’s a long term game!
In other words, you create your film this year, get it selling and then you repeat the process. Conceivably in five years, you’ll have a library of a half-dozen films. And with luck each film will passively pay you thousands of dollars per month. This may not be the sexiest way to describe your dream career. But if you start thinking this way, you just might figure out a way to make a living filmmaking.