We live in a world where making films is almost on autopilot. Technology has given us the tools to make amazing, feature length movies with a few tools and a little elbow grease, but (to quote Spiderman’s Uncle Ben) with great power comes great responsibility. Just because you can make a film and put it out to the world on a shoestring budget doesn’t excuse you from coming to grips with the fact that as soon as you make a conscience decision to be a professional filmmaker, you’ve made a decision to go into a business.
And the business of film is a cutthroat business, indeed.
If you want to make a career out of film making, you better wrap your mind around the concept that you are in a business of supply and demand.
Your film, no matter how groundbreaking and amazing (supply) will never reach the target audience if they are not hungry for it (demand).
In order to gain that momentum and to build appropriate buzz around your production, you need to adopt a multi-tiered strategy of success.
The strategy is:
- Marketing: Getting the people stoked about your story and why you are making it.
- Teasing: Giving them just enough to keep them hooked while you’re building your project.
- Funding: Growing casual viewers into brand evangelists.
You might think I have written the order wrong or that I’ve somehow lost my dang mind, but trust me, this is what order you need to succeed.
The old ways of pitching a script to a studio, waiting months (if not years) for some kind of response, only to be rejected time and time again before you finally work your way through the system long enough for someone to take notice, is long since dead.
Today, we have crowdfunding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter and Seed and Spark that can help you raise the money you need for any level of production you can dream of. With enough effort, planning, and a proper release strategy, you can build a multi-million dollar crowdfunding campaign without investing millions of dollars.
It’s not easy. But it is simple.
Adjust your mind to be a business leader first and a storyteller second.
The rule of Supply and Demand is somewhat paradoxical in this industry, because there is FAR too much supply (indie films) for the demand (potential fans) as the barriers of entry are all but gone. This leave us with a deluge of under exposed films that are fluttering on the cusp of success but just don’t have the needed oomph to push it over the edge.
That oomph? It’s marketing.
Now, I’m not the kind of person who advocates spending mountains of money on advertisements and promotions. I think that we as filmmakers have the tools in our disposal to make amazing video campaigns that have the opportunity and probability of virality without having to shell out millions.
I think the best course of action, once you have put together an amazing trailer and an awesome pitch-deck, is to spend a little on Facebook and Twitter ads but to build your audience up, one at a time, by interacting with people and sharing your vision with them.
The likelihood that they will “steal your idea” is preposterous in this day and age because, quite frankly, if you have an idea that is 100% original to begin with, you’ll be well and truly beyond the normal range of filmmakers that you’re almost guaranteed a success. We live in a digital age, an age of information and sharing, of feedback and discussion, so get your work out there to the people who will become your fans.
Give them an unprecedented amount of access to you and your company. Give them total transparency and honesty, wrapped with an absolute commitment to bring them the very best film that you possibly can, and you will find your customers.
Film making is a business. Indie filmmakers are entrepreneurs. Viewers are customers.
The key to finding success in business is to:
- Find what the customer wants.
- Build that want into an amazing product.
- Market it to the customers in an easy to consume package.
- Rinse & Repeat
The reason why some films that we cringe about have a dozen sequels and spin-offs is because there is a well defined market for that film. The people who made those films have found their niche, they have find their “one thing” that defines them as a business and as a filmmaker.
Your job is to find out what your audience wants and to provide it for them.
Don’t try to reinvent the wheel every time.
Yes, unique and groundbreaking films are what we all aspire to make but think about the most successful film franchises in history and realize that they have a formula for success.
Film making is a business.
Find your customers.
QUESTION: Do you agree that film making is a business? – Comment Below
I agree completely Justin. There are days it feels like I’m in retail sales, but aided by the internet. Just today I had a Twitter exchange with a fan of my lead actor, painstakingly walking her through the options for finding my film in her country. All the info was available other places if she had chosen to look for it — but she didn’t — she chose to ask me on Twitter, and I was there to answer. It might translate into a $3 rental on iTunes. But that’s the business I’m in right now, and at least Twitter is free!
I’m glad you took the time to walk the customer through the process. I know it’s tedious and often frustrating to have to hand-hold people, but I think that’s how we ultimately get fans for life.
Providing that personal touch and working with the people who genuinely want to see our films is a real blessing when most of the time you get automated responses, lackluster services, and generally poor communication once a film is released.
The one drawback of that is, of course, the fact that as independent filmmakers and general boostrappers, we generally have to take all of those burdens on ourselves.
It’s nice to hear from you again! 🙂