Succeeding in the Film Business as an Indie Filmmaker

The Business of Film

We live in an awesome time to be filmmakers. Cameras are plentiful and inexpensive, audio is cheap and great, editing can be done on laptops and funding can be found just by asking your community through the crowd. But the film business  is more than just grabbing some equipment and shooting a script. You need to have your business mind together when trying to make a career out of film making. It’s not easy, but it is possible.

There are thousands of considerations you need to be mindful of when trying to make a career out of being a filmmaker. Some of the most important are:

  • How will you fund your film? Do you have a community to support a crowdfunding campaign or do you have contacts for traditional funding?
  • How will you distribute your film? Will you go to the festivals (this isn’t free) and build buzz that way, or will you focus on Video on Demand?
  • How will you market your film? Is your social media following large enough, do you have a dedicated website, will you do radio / interviews?

Keeping in mind that all of these things need to be done before, during, and after you actually shoot the film, are you ready to actually make this a career or are you just doing it for fun? It’s completely alright to be a filmmaker just for the fun of it, make movies and shoot what you can, when you can, but if you want to make a career out of it, meaning get paid consistently so you can focus entirely on your craft, then you need to keep these things in mind at all times and you need to develop a long-term business plan to help you succeed.

I know a lot of people think that business plans are not for filmmakers and they couldn’t be more mistaken. A good business plan will help you focus on your objectives, find the strengths and weaknesses of your proposal and locate the proper channels to get your film seen by an audience. Your business plan is the single most important document you will have in your film making career. The majority of businesses that fail are businesses that have failed to pay enough attention to their business plan and, make no mistake, if you are making films for any other reason than “art” then you are in the film business and you need a plan.

Any movie proposal, whether for  a single film or a production company, that seeks to raise money from private investors needs a business plan. If you are doing a one-off film, the outline is exactly the same, except you have fewer numbers to project and there is no separate overhead. While production for a single film can be estimated between a few months to a year, distribution can take another year or even two. Film festivals are a great way to distribute and get publicity, but you have to factor in the costs of submissions, the falloff rate (meaning how many will actually accept your film and screen it) how many people will be in the festival and what publicity is covered at the festival.

Putting these details in your plan will help you take action on it and ensure that you and your team make every possible step toward success and profitability. Treating your production company like a business will help you stay in the mindset of someone who actually wants to get paid for their work and see some returns. You can make money in the film business and you can have fun doing it, but with every successful business you need a plan and you need have a mind of business. Success isn’t based on luck, it’s based on hard work and determination. Go get it.



About Justin Kincaid

Justin is the host of Film Fervor and a passionate lover of independent entertainment. Indie films are where people can truly express themselves and Justin believes that there are too many limitations on "mainstream" movies to be able to tell good stories.

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