I am going to share the Modern Moviemaking Manifesto with you. After this, you’re going to know yourself a little better as a filmmaker. To get the ball rolling, I have a question for you:
What’s the biggest filmmaking failure you must avoid?
This is gonna sound obvious. But the answer is simply, making a film nobody cares about. This is the same as making a boring film that could put puppy dogs to sleep, if puppies actually watched movies (mine actually does.)
Notice I didn’t say BAD MOVIE. You can make bad movies and people will still care. For examples, watch The Room or Birdemic for two examples of this.
But if you make movies nobody cares about, you will fail as a filmmaker. This sounds obvious right? But if it was so obvious, how come so many filmmakers keep making movies nobody cares about?
I’ll tell you why…
Here’s A Look At Modern Filmmaking
Inexpensive production technology, coupled with about 237 different ways to get your movie selling makes it way easy for us filmmakers to make mundane, crap movies nobody actually cares about. As a result, the market is saturated. And most films do not make money. It gets even more challenging…
Ready for some serious real world film school?
The problem with traditional independent filmmaking is the ever growing gap between investment dollars and a filmmaker’s ability to recoup the initial investment. In other words, indie filmmakers find investors, get money, make a crap movie and never repay the investors.
But let’s be clear.
Independent filmmaking has always been a risky business. We freely share this with any prospective investors, usually stating: “Filmmaking is risky and you will most likely never see a dime.”
While these types of disclaimers are transparent and accurate, filmmakers could often counter this objection by getting investors to focus on the sexy stuff. The film might get into Sundance. The film might garner ginormous buzz. And the film might sell to the highest bidder! (Sound familiar?)
From this perspective, the real benefit of investing in independent film WAS NEVER the promise of a solid investment. Rather the driving force behind investment dollars was the chance of winning instant fame, fortune and a never ending supply of coolness! And we all want to look cool. Here is a picture of me looking cool:
Many filmmakers still hold this dream. But the realities of the independent film business are sobering. Out of the gazillion films made each year, only a few get into a major film festival. And out of those films, very few garner a distribution deal worth mentioning.
On top of this, technology is changing independent filmmaking. For two-thousand dollars, every filmmaker can now grab a camera, shoot a feature and compete for virtual “shelf space” in iTunes, Amazon, Google Play. Netflix, Hulu still offer some promise, but acceptance is not guaranteed. and most of the many VOD outlets.
In the context of business 101, this means that our high quality, expensive goods (our movies) are now competing with cheaply produced goods of a somewhat comparable quality. If we were in the widget business, this would mean massive layoffs are in the near future. Or to put it another way, our old way of making films no longer fits the marketplace. This of course raises the question:
How do we make independent moviemaking profitable (and fun) again?
Many people have solutions. One that is gaining popularity is the idea that filmmakers should hire someone to cover the marketing and distribution of the film from day one. In this sense, filmmakers can focus on making the film while the marketer can focus on the marketing and distribution.
Instead of trying to find a traditional distribution deal, complete with a cash advance, you get enough people to know you and know your movie from day one. And once you reach a certain mass, you will hopefully sell enough copies of your film to recoup your investment.
In other words, you become your own distributor.
The Modern Moviemaking Manifesto
Audience engagement has been a necessary part of marketing since the beginning. So it really comes down to telling a great story that people actually care about. And then you need to figure out where your audience congregates online.
Everyone fits into some kind of demographic. Everyone wants to be part of something. And many folks aren’t even conscious of this. The reality is, it will take tremendous efforts to make the metrics work, begging the question: Is the community large enough to support your film’s budget?
This begs three economically focused questions:
- Who is your movie’s target audience?
- How will you reach your target audience?
- And how many unit sales do you need to hit your goal?
If you can’t answer these questions, then you know from day one that your odds of success are dramatically decreased. Without a defined market or an established sales channel, it is difficult to justify funding, which makes it very difficult to pay cast and crew, which makes it difficult to produce a film.
Assuming you can answer these questions, the problem is still economy of scale. If you cannot reach the masses (or reach enough people willing to pay for what you’re selling), how will you ever recoup your initial movie investment? And if you can’t figure out how you’re going to recoup your budget, two things have to change:
- You will need to make smaller movies.
- You will need to pay cast and crew less money.
Neither of these options seems to make independent filmmaking fun, which is why people keep creating solutions without first scrutinizing the traditional filmmaking paradigm. As a result most current solutions fail to fully SOLVE the indie producing for profit problem.
Introducing The Modern Moviemaking Manifesto
1. Filmmakers are entrepreneurs. Run your filmmaking business like start up company. Instead of raising investment dollars for just one title, create a mini-studio, complete with development, planning, production, marketing, distribution and your sales under one roof.
2. Focus on producing a slate of at least five genre specific films. Use name talent, social media stars and influencers. These films will be created inexpensively and will be delivered to the audience via popular VOD marketplaces.
3. Don’t pay freelance day-rates. Instead, put crew on a salary, with benefits. Everybody in the company will own equity in the company. So in this regard, someone who owns 10% in company stock will get 10% of all movie profits. This will supplement crew salary with an ongoing, lifelong stream of income.
4. Grow your community (and customer facing brand) BIG. Over time, your fans will begin to know your work, know your company and buy more of your work. Only in this way will you eventually reach mass great enough to increase ongoing revenue through multiple streams of movie income.
5. Produce at least thirteen feature film titles over the next eight years. Or make as many films as you can. This will become your own library, with the goal that every title will build some sort sustainable revenue. Focus on creating entire library instead of just depending on one title to support our career.
While you’re here, check out our filmmaking membership at Filmmaking Stuff HQ, so you can make your movie now.