The sky is falling. Doomsday predictions are being made. The prophets of film have spoken. Steven Soderbergh, Lynda Obst, Ted Hope, Steven Spielberg have all made their predictions and unfortunately…they’re coming true. I wanted to jump off a cliff half way through Lynda Obst’s book Sleepless in Hollywood. After four disastrous summer movie flops, Hollywood is falling under it’s own weight ($150 million + film budgets not including P&A).
You would think their opinions were a synopsis for some end of days movie. Is it the End of Hollywood? If so…how will you adapt? How does this affect you as an independent filmmaker, film producer, director and screenwriter?
At first glance you couldn’t even fathom being in that budget range. Shit! $150 million…give me $5 million and I will make a cinematic masterpiece. Even then the majority of most independent filmmakers I work with are in the initial micro budgets of $100k to $250k budget range and I’m busting my ass to finally get into that $500k – 1 million dollar budgets.
So whatever affects Hollywood doesn’t apply to us indie filmmakers right? Or does it?
The initial ripple effect is confidence in the market. Investors are going to question the validity of their ROI (Return of Investment) in a micro to low budget film. Damn! If Warner Brothers can’t make a profit what makes you think your film will? If Ted Hope and Steven Soderbergh can’t produce the films they love, where does that leave us?
SELF EXPRESSION OR A FILM CAREER?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with self expression. Want to raise $25k to $50k for your first feature film on Kickstarter? Go for it! Your “dream” will be tested. Let’s be real. No one can survive on a $25k budget for two years. Not your crew, not your actors, not you (unless you’re independently wealthy or you have someone covering you financially). The math will never add up. There has always been two camps – filmmakers who do this for a living (the ones with no PLAN B) and first time filmmakers. The irony is that we both need each other tremendously. Focusing on one film at a time can be the death of you. Which leads me too…
Imagine if you had work lined up for 3 to 5 yrs. For the upcoming uncertainty in the film industry that would be a huge accomplishment. A security blanket that would let you breathe creatively. This leads me to the best revelation I got from reading these insights. Having a slate of 3-5 films that you can make in a 3-5 year period. Instead of putting that amount of energy into just one film, we need to spread our creative juices for longevity. Whether it’s optioning a few scripts that fit your cinematic style, partnering with a notable actor with whom you can guarantee a number of films to be in or involving your key crew to become a part of your company. That is our greatest strength. Our ability to adapt, to be innovative, to make the best of what we have.
Things came into perspective when we started dealing with distribution companies. The importance of having a solid package, was key. This is not only relevant to genre films but for art house films as well.
What’s in your package? What talent do you have attached? Was your script evaluated by industry professionals? Who’s your DP and what does his reel convey? Are you collaborating with a production company that has a professional rapport with a distribution company?
Have you diversified your budget into State Tax Incentives, Pre-Sales, Equality, Tax Breaks? Does your film justify a theatrical release? Are you going to implement section 181? Are you gathering information for the new ruling from the SEC, which will finally let us advertise to potential accredited investors? Have you researched the JOBS Act TITLE II & III?
Financing and gathering your creative talent go hand in hand with your packaging.
So where does that leave us? What gap are we going to fill in? Those days of 50 Million, 80 Million and 150 Million films are going to be long gone. Those movies are going to be reduced tremendously. So what opportunities do you see? What resources are going to open up now that everybody is on a real budget? Everybody has to eat right? What could you do if you increased your budget and had the slate of films that would justify it?
Send me an email and let’s talk about it firstname.lastname@example.org