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May 3 at 8:30am

17 Things About The Film Biz That Should Significantly Influence Your Behavior

Note: If you’d like to share this article, this is the short link: http://bit.ly/GTUPfx

On May 2nd, 2013, I launched the A2E (Artist To Entrepreneur) program at the San Francisco Film Society with OnRamp (The Direct Distribution Lab).  This is a pilot lab of a pilot program designed to give filmmakers the necessary entrepreneurial skills to achieve a sustainable creative life amidst this changing paradigm.  We will be working out some bugs but I hope to launch the second iteration as soon as possible (but to do so requires some support, both financial and otherwise, so if you know anyone or any organization that might be interested in advancing film culture and enterprise, please do send them my way!).

As part of the lab, we have a first day of big ideas and case studies that hopefully will give the participants the foundation for a design for living and thriving on their art.  As part of that I have prepared three brief lectures focused on what every filmmaker needs to recognize about the business, the culture, and their practice if they want to have a sustainable creative life.  Split between the three categories, I came up with fifty things you should know.  I will provide them to you over the next week or two, but I wish you all could have been there.   It’s always different when you are in the room.

Today, I will unleash what I think it is necessary to recognize about our industry if you are a filmmaker looking to survive from the work you generate.

It's Not That We Are Alone, It's That We Are Still Green

WARNING: taking any of these points out of context, could create unnecessary fear or depression. If you want to tackle reality, you need to know what ground you walk on.  Some truths are hard to accept but once you do, you can move forward and to a different place.  Adding Film Biz realities to Culture truths, and building Best Filmmaker Practices on those understandings could provide a Design For Sustainable Collective Creation.  Or at least that’s this Hope’s hope.

  1. Filmmaking is not currently a sustainable occupation for any but the very rare.  It is not enough to be very good at what you do if you want to survive by doing what you love.
  2. Presently speaking, artists & their supporters are rarely the primary financial beneficiaries of their work – if at all. Filmmakers are not sufficiently rewarded for their quality creative output under current practices.
  3. The film industry’s economic models are not based on today’s reality.  They are predicated on and remain structured upon antiquated principals of scarcity of content, centralized control of that content, and the ability to focus the majority of consumers towards that content.
  4. Film audience’s current consumption habits do not come close to matching the film industry’s production output.  America remains the top film consumption market in the world, and is thought to be able to handle only around 1% of the world annual supply – consuming somewhere between 500-600 titles of the annual output of approximate 50,000 feature films.  We make far more films than we currently know how to use or consume.  We drown our audiences in choices.
  5. The film industry has not found a way to match audiences with the content they will most likely to respond to.  It doesn’t even look like this is a priority for the business.  Everything is spaghetti against the wall, marketed in the same way & only to the most general demographics of race, gender, & income.
  6. In order to reach the people who might respond to a film, the film industry remains dependent on telling everyone (including those who could care less) about each new film.  It is a poorly allocated dedication of resources.  We spend more money telling those who will never be interested, than focusing on those who have already demonstrated support.  There is no audience aggregation platform exclusively for those who love movies, no place where all people who love movies engage deeply about films – if there was, marketing costs could shrink.
  7. Digital distribution is an emerging market and will continue to evolve over the next decade.  The value for titles for the long term has not been specified for digital distribution; currently only short term value is derived – and as a result films are licensed without full understanding of future worth.  We are doing a business of ignorance.
  8. Predictive value of films is primarily currently determined by an incredibly imprecise method:“star value”, a concept that grows less predictive by the day.  Ask anyone and they will tell you that people do not go to movies anymore to see specific stars but interesting subjects.  Granted, that is not a scientific method, but we know it to be true.
  9. The “fair market value” of a feature film’s distribution rights in the US that multiple buyers want has dropped astronomically: from 50% of negative costs 25 years ago, to 30% 15 years ago, to 25% 10 years ago, to 10% today.

10. International territorial licensing of American independent feature films has dropped by approximately 60% over the last decade.  Major territories no longer buy product.  Most have given up on “American Indies”.

11. Everything that has ever been made, has also been copied. The logic of a business based on exclusive ownership or limited access to something can not sustain.  In the digital era the duplication of data is inevitable.  The unauthorized copy will never go away.  People can choose to try to avoid unauthorized versions but they will be made or shared.  This does not have to always be a bad thing either.

12Competing options for film viewing have diminished the comparative value of theatrical exhibition. A consumer can not justify the cost of a movie ticket when that ticket costs more than the cost of a month of unlimited streaming.  Home theaters’ quality surpasses many theaters, and the seats are always better.  Soon 4K Televisions will be the norm while movie theaters are stuck in 2K.

13. The film business lacks a long range economic model for exhibition.  What is the business of movie going? Exhibition gathers people together to sell them a 15 cent bag of popcorn for six dollars.   We can profit from a large group’s interest in more and more meaningful ways, but the infrastructure is not yet designed to expolit this.

14. The film industry foolishly rewards quantity over quality.  Producers are incentivized to forever take on more and the films’ quality suffers as a result.  The best work is not rewarded.  Once upon a time, filmmakers got overhead deals and that made some difference, but those days are long gone.

15. Movies have a unique capacity to create empathy for people and actions we don’t know or have not experienced.  Science has shown that the imagined releases a similar chemical response to the actual experience.  If this empathic experience is virtually unique to film, can it be utilized more?  I think so, tremendously so in fact.

16. Movies create a shared emotional response amongst all those that view it simultaneously.  What other product can claim that?  As a unique attribute, how can you emphasize that more?  Shouldn’t that be the takeaway that your audience remembers and shares?

17. There has never been a better time for most creative individuals to be both a truly independent filmmaker and/or a collaborative creative person.  The barriers to entry are lower, the cost & labor time of creation & distribution are lower than ever, and there are more opportunities and methods that ever.  We just need to abandon the old ways and unearth the new ways.

What’s your response to these?  I personally think it would be great if the answer could always be: “I am going to do something about that.  And I am going to get a little help from my friends.”  Every single one of these can change; it may require a complete move from doing things the way we do them now, but they can get better.  If you want to make movies, and make your profession filmmaking, I think you will have a tremendous advantage if you recognize the world we are living in and the power you have to improve it.  I think these points are the obvious truths that we can use to drive us forward.  And there are more.

Next week I will share “19 Things About Our Current Culture That Should Influence Your Creative & Entrepreneurial Practice“.  Until then, keep producing.  We can build it better together.

Note: I followed this subsequent post up with 16 Recommendations For Best Practices.


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  • http://twitter.com/billpruitt Bill Pruitt

    Compelling, Ted, as usual. RE: #16–the other shared emotional experience is music. Do you see the day when movies at public venues or theaters become like concert tours where, for the jacked up price of a ticket, after a Q&A we get to mingle with Robert Downey Jr. afterwards, get our pictures taken and maybe go home with “Iron Man 3″ on a flash drive? Or perhaps Jim Jarmusch and his cast of vampires at a public setting sponsored by some Vodka maker? The attraction at most film festivals, could this ‘connected experience’ provide for filmmakers the way concerts save musicians?

  • Liam Finn

    Filmmakers should consider creating series as an option too and not just “one-offs.” The single story form is not going away, but the future trend is series content. For the creative it means exploring their story deeper and for the audience it means having more of that story to explore. Audience viewing behaviors are expanding, not just abandoning one habit for the other and we as creatives need to think about how our stories fits into those new viewing behaviors.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jeremy.wilker Jeremy Wilker

    Love all these points, Ted. Particularly #15, one of my personal guiding reasons for making films.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pino.foris Pino Foris

    “16 Things About The Film Biz That Should Significantly Influence Your Behavior ”
    Why is point 17 missing in the title? …and it is with filmmaking always like that – you get 16mil. and you need 17mil. …just joking guys – But ultimately, all of our purses are empty.

  • http://www.ariannaortiz.com/ Arianna Ortiz

    I dunno about #8. I think that’s too bold a statement. People do not go to the movies to see specific stars? Maybe. But about the subject alone? No way. Name talent may not open a movie well, but ask yourself if you have gone to see a film opening weekend without knowing who was in that movie (well, maybe not you, Ted. But you said ask anybody. So, ask anybody that question.) Name talent still serves as a tool to put the film into context for the audience. Name talent sets the tone. If you know Elizabeth Moss is going to be in a film opening this weekend and you are a fan of her on Mad Men, you kinda already know what to expect or it might intrigue you. Same with The Rock for bigger budget films, for example. If you’re in the mood for mindless entertainment, that’s the one you will go see. If you are in the mood to be stimulated on a deeper level, you’ll go to the other. I think it’s a combination of both subject and talent. I think indie filmmakers make a mistake in how they cast their name talent many times, just throwing in a name for the sake of a name. Casting is so important. You need the right actors but you also need the right name actors. It helps the audience. Even if it’s just the right cameo.

  • http://twitter.com/FlickDrum FlickDrum

    Some really interesting points here, and a must-read for anyone looking to the future of the industry. Find my $0.02 over at blog.flickdrum.com/?p=56

  • http://www.facebook.com/tom.banditfilms Tom Broadhurst

    Filmmaking is not currently a sustainable occupation for any but the very rare. It is not enough to be very good at what you do if you want to survive by doing what you love.

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.mcmahon.300 Scott McMahon

    Thank you again Ted for your contribution to the indie film world. I recall entertainment lawyer, Schuyler M. Moore, in his book “The Biz” saying that Hollywood is not in the film business, they are in the business of exploiting licenses. So, now that indie filmmakers have access to the same audiences as the studios do, it’s time to give away your film for free and make sustainable money in the exploitation of your film. And that means merchandising, merchandising, merchandising … the film is nothing more than an advertisement now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/peter.castaldi1 Peter Castaldi

    Hope Hope Hope.
    here in Australia we suffer under the burden of an industry with its nose in the Government trough. Gate keepers who have buried their head in the sand to the inevitability of American business and cultural imperialism and still believe that they can be funded to deliver a competitive English language movie business up against the US paradigm. They don’t want to see or really understand the true potential and possibility of the international paradigm offered by the world wide web!!! They still run financing on models that are defined by domestic distribution guarantees that do the creatives no good – servicing distribution and exhibition only – and international sales agreements that lock IP holders out of non terrestrial and non-linear platforms the web should be opening up for them – they are still, can you believe, signing exclusive deals.
    You are right on the money. These are just a couple of things we need to address.
    Theatrical exhibition for non-studio supported, both US and multinational (Canal + and e1 in this market) is dead, dead, dead in Oz. We allowed the studios to drive their proprietary digital systems (VPF & DCI) into our domestic exhibition and distribution markets and so move even closer to owning ALL of our domestic screen real estate; any one with half a brain should have seen this coming. But again as we rely too much on Government screen bodies and Industry agencies to set the agenda ( and they still believe that the sector at large will set its own agenda) we now find ourselves . as well as most other English language indies locked out of our own screens.
    When we accept that theatrical is DEAD, but CINEMA is not, and we occupy all that screen real estate still democratically available to us via the www, and do it, as you call us to, together. then we will all rise above the mediocrity we are now drowning in.
    Onward and outward.
    best
    Pete Castaldi
    Sydney Australia
    The world

  • http://hopeforfilm.com/ Ted Hope

    It’s been a beef of mine that film schools generally are behind the curve at preparing their students for the future. Very few teach any sort of entrepreneurial activity. Very few incorporate a future of film section. If I ran a producing program I would mandate that it be interdisciplinary. Film is always in the art school and to that end I understand the focus on craft, but it is one that is so dependent on the economic model, I think it must always bring business into it.

  • http://hopeforfilm.com/ Ted Hope

    I agree on the importance of casting and I do think this a bar everyone has to hit to make much of a dent (generally thinking) but I don’t think it is a predictive model by any means — and certainly not the most precise one (yet the entire industry revolves around it).

  • http://hopeforfilm.com/ Ted Hope

    I have two more sections of this post still to come. The next one focuses on the culture in general and the latter on best practices for filmmakers. I agree we have to get off the one-off model. I think all filmmakers need to learn how to be more prolific, ubiquitous, and radically collaborative. We have to shift the model away from the product and towards the relationship. Series is certainly one way to do that.

  • http://hopeforfilm.com/ Ted Hope

    Hi Bill! I think that is a variance on a future model. I think we will see lots of sponsored screenings with added value bundled in, from free drinks to star meets. But it is not the only one.
    I disagree a bit about music. I think it is more visceral than just emotional. There is a different sort of physicality to live music that makes it so compelling and because it generally misses the intellectual with it, at least the sustained intellectual, it is not as deep an emotion. Except on a plane. At 10,000 feet a sad song is a deep deep experience for me. As is a cheesy film. They should reduce the oxygen level in venues and theaters too deepen all emotional response!

  • http://www.facebook.com/velikovsky Joe Velikovsky

    *Great* article. My PhD thesis addresses all this stuff. So, bravo.

    My PhD research – See: http://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/

    As for Point 8, on “Stars”: (I see you say `I know this is not a scientific method’ – but in fact, it has been proven – scientifically – that: Stars make a film lose money. See: Arthur De Vany, `Hollywood Economics’ (2004), and a bunch of peer-reviewed academic papers that ended up in that book.) – So, you don’t need to excuse your comment as not being scientific, by coincidence what you said is actually true. (ie – Read De Vany on `stars’.)

    And, small world. Pete (whose Comment is below) distributed a movie I wrote :)

    Cheers

    JT

    http://storyality.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/velikovsky Joe Velikovsky

    Hey Arianna. Not exactly disagreeing with you, but maybe check out De Vany’s research – on how Stars make a film lose money (I know that sounds pretty counterintuitive… but read the stuff – and see what you make of it.)

    eg Art de Vany, “Hollywood Economics” (2004).

    (Also – some of his academic papers that ended up as chapters in the book are on the web.)

    Eg, Maybe even just read the Abstract (first 2 pages) here
    http://marshallinside.usc.edu/mweinstein/teaching/fbe552/552secure/notes/devany%20new%20one.pdf

    eg: (quoting the above paper by De Vany)

    “We conclude: (1) The studio model of risk management lacks a
    foundation in theory or evidence and revenue forecasts have zero pre-
    cision. In other words, Anything can happen.” (2) Movies are com-
    plex products and the cascade of information among ¯lm-goers during
    the course of a ¯lm’s run can evolve along so many paths that it is
    impossible to attribute the success of a movie to individual causal fac-
    tors. In other words, No one knows anything.” (3) The audience
    makes a movie a hit and no amount of star power” or marketing can
    alter that. In other words, the real star is the movie.”

    And for more (How to make that movie, as – all that matters is The Story, not Stars, not Marketing, etc) – read my Thesis :)
    ie
    http://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/

    Cheers

    JT

  • http://www.facebook.com/velikovsky Joe Velikovsky

    I agree –

    Casting is super-important.
    Stars are not.

    Evidence: None of the Top 20 ROI Films had Stars in them.

    See: http://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/
    Cheers
    JT

  • http://www.facebook.com/velikovsky Joe Velikovsky

    Great post Ted. Can’t wait for Part 2

    JT
    http://storyality.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/velikovsky Joe Velikovsky

    Ted, you going to talk about Transmedia? Just curious.

    JT
    http://storyality.wordpress.com/an-index-to-this-blog/

  • http://www.ariannaortiz.com/ Arianna Ortiz

    That’s great stuff. Ultimately, I agree. Definitely, anything can happen.

  • http://hopeforfilm.com/ Ted Hope

    It looks like you are doing a lot of good reasearch Joe. I look forward to finding the time to read “Storyality”.

  • cj

    Addressing numbers: 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, and 8, a company similar to Klout will likely emerge from the Google family that gives movie projects in development a viability score based on the social media data-mining (likes, reposts, pins, followers, links, junks, Tweets, friends etc.) of the concept and those attached. If the number proves reliable to the BO, then even the Hollywood producer will have to open his pitch with his “score”. It could greatly aid the development process by giving headlights to private equity investors, hedge funds, distributors and the studios.

  • Mike Newman

    The film industry should be structured like European professional soccer with a major league and a minor league developmental structure.

  • cj

    With low interest rates extending the timeline for ROI, Monte Carlo simulation, fewer productions and hedging expensive talent with tentpole, productions, the studios are not making money?

  • http://www.powderdayproductions.info/ sfelt

    Main reason I didn’t go to film school is they don’t teach the business side yet its called “show business”

  • http://www.facebook.com/cushnie Douglas Cushnie

    Who wrote this and where can I find any source material for it, specifically #4 if you’ve got it?

  • STR

    This is a great article……True, straight to the point, and painful to most; however, I believe if you have a unique idea in filmmaking and it is high quality, it will sell. I will hopefully find out soon with my feature film, PROS AND CONS: A FANTASY FOOTBALL MOVIE.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1123880932 Russell Craig Richardson

    Another very useful post, Ted. Thanks. A question, though. If – like myself – you believe that producing quality films (yes, with that tapping into empathy) is important, vital even, how can one juggle all the elements to be able to make a (modest) living? I have a honed script that I know I can film for under $100,000, but am still being asked to go round the same blocks of ‘attach stars’ (oops, budget up to $650K), attach a producer (bigger stars and producer’s fee upfront, budget now $2M) or get a distribution deal (oh and that extra $5M for P&A). How to get that tight script to collaborators who can help get it made, and earn the small but substantail return to make every partner’s time/effort investment worthwhile?

  • Annonymous

    #1 – That’s always been true.

    #2 – That’s always been true, too. But, yes, it’s got to change, and it can.

    #3 – The antiquated system you describe is the reality whether you like it or
    not. If we are to successfully change this, then we have to radically change the cost of making, distributing, marketing, and exhibiting movies – because the new system that every non-commercial indie filmmaker is dreaming about will not sustain the current production-cost infrastructure. Look out SAG/AFTRA and IATSE – technology and
    globalization have made you things of the past.

    #4 – The appearance of cheap digital movie cameras and cheap NLE’s has created a
    plethora of filmmakers churning out unwatchable garbage. No one really wants to watch those other 49,450 feature films. Do you?

    #5 – Now you’re going to tell me that targeted hawking on specific social media channels is going to be the way, right?

    Okay, sure, to a degree. The studios are using it now. And they’ve even greatly curtailed
    newspaper advertising to the point I don’t even know what’s showing out there.

    But if you really expect me, on Friday nights, to check the LA TIMES, MOVIEFONE,
    *and* FANDANGO just to find out about everything that’s playing (‘cause you
    sure can’t find that all in one place anymore), well “Bugger-off! I’m not bothering, and
    you’re going to miss me and many other potential ticket-buyers!”

    Again, we’re going to be narrowcasting and limiting the profit potential – so tell
    those actors and technicians that they’ve got to work for “food only” now.

    #6 – I am certain that we can do better. But the real issue I see is that advertising costs have quadrupled over the years for no better reason than simple GREED. Frankly, I *do* want everyone to know my film is out there. Let’s make ad costs more reasonable and this will be less of an issue.

    Also, for as long as a movie’s opening must be forced to be a “nationwide event”
    instead of just a movie, this insanity will continue. Other than for home video windows and piracy issues, there is still no reason why a film – especially a good small commercial movie – can’t play-off across North America territorially over a 20 week
    period.

    #7 – totally agree

    #8 – I have been saying this since the late 1960’s. It has been the agents who have perpetuated the star myth for decades – mainly because they and their attorney brethren have taken control of the industry and duped distributors, exhibitors, and investors into buying the lie. However, today, what we were saying in the late 60’s & early 70’s is coming back to haunt the industry again – big time.

    #9 – This is true but there’s no reason for it – other than for the lack of distributors out there who have the ability to book cinemas. This shortage of indie distribs with theatrical
    clout has created the situation. Combine this also with the fact that North America no longer makes up even 40% of a film’s revenue stream.

    But this can improve, and will, once our economy recovers.

    #10 – If that were true, there’d be no film markets. And how you’re defining “indie” is open to debate here, too. If you mean the no-name arthouse films, well then, “yes, you’re right”. But if you mean low budget indie films that are commercial, I’d say “no”
    – though the amounts being paid are less today.

    #11 – Oh, please! When is an illegal copy of your movie a good thing? The
    only things you want ripped are the trailers.

    #12 – Totally agree. Theatrical ticket prices need to drop to bring bums back to the seats.

    But you’re all wet about 4K TV. More theaters are already going 4K and are way ahead of homes. For one thing, you can’t really see a difference once you’re 2 screen heights back from the screen or TV. So, don’t buy into that 4K/6K/8K hype. It’s only important for IMAX.

    #13 – Great! Agreed! But what do you propose? I’m all ears.

    #14 – Agreed!

    #15 – Agreed!

    #16 – Agreed!

    #17 – Keep it up. Instead of 49,450 unwanted features, there’ll be 95,650 more. And I’m tempted to force you to watch all of them.

  • Annonymous

    Great article. #1 and #2 are true in part due to the filmmakers, actors and other artists in the film community. Too many give away their services for free with the “I love what I do so I’ll do it for free” approach. And they get taken advantage of time and again. What other industry does this? An bookkeeper, a cabinet maker or even a carpenter would not work for free so why should a filmmaker, actor or other creative professional ? Those who agree to work for free or for unsustainable wages have only themselves to blame.

  • arincrumley

    To the commenter who doubts illegal copies can be a good thing… I can tell you from experience that we released our film Four Eyed Monsters for free on YouTube and file sharing networks and were able to win over fans that sometimes went on to crowd fund future projects. Not all of them. But some of them. So it can help to increase the pool of people exposed to your work in an effort to win over super fans that will support your work and otherwise wouldn’t have known about it. There is that famous quote, “The greatest risk to an artist isn’t theft it’s obscurity.”

  • http://twitter.com/nyindieguy Ira Deutchman

    It may be true that many film schools are behind the curve, but some are not, including our program at Columbia. From Day 1 in Columbia’s Creative Producing Program, we are talking about the marketplace, and ways to navigate it in the current climate. We DO teach business, but not with the traditional B-School goal of turning out moguls. Our students graduate with a clear sense of the many roads there are to sustainability, which include everything from DIY to new emerging distribution paradigms.

  • http://twitter.com/pbdg_movie anna newman

    music and dance are two additional fields where being very good do not guarantee a living wage. if you think a poor day rate is a sad thing, ask a musician what their wages look like — they are in a similar or worse situation. I have less direct experience of dance, but I fear it too is highly problematic.

  • Joe Velikovsky

    Hey CJ… yeah! Crazy huh? I think the problem is a lot of the underlying assumptions (that they run Monte Carlo sims, on) are actually incorrect… So my doctoral research is trying to a) test all the common assumptions – and then b)figure out what we instead need to do. Also – fewer productions is a big part of the problem. Should be: more productions for a lower budget each, right? (Makes logical sense yeah? ie the Law of Large Numbers etc)… Anyway 7 in 10 films are still losing money… so yes, something is very much broken. Cheers JT http://storyality.wordpress.com/

  • Joe Velikovsky

    Many thanks Ted. By the way am a huge fan of all your films. Cheers JT

  • cj

    I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.

  • GrrllaFilmMag

    GREAT article! A lot of this is exactly why we started the Guerrilla Filmmaking Magazine!

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/71952678/guerrilla-filmmaking-magazine-no-to-low-budget-fil

  • Harry Johnquest

    17 is true and wonderful. 16 yes/no; as Q.Tarantino says, if a million people see one of his movies, he hopes they see a million different movies. 15, nah, many other mediums can do the same thing, even radio. One through 14 all are arguable, skewed views. #1 in particular does not add up. Yes we need to shift paradigms, think outside the Fox, produce better results. Honesty, “critical thinking” and “associative logic” skills are needed here. Please.

  • Ric

    Its heartening to see this conversation go forth as it is a familiar lament for us critics that try to further the cause for the artist and the fan!

  • Jennifer Fischer

    Great piece that underscores much of what I am seeing and learning as an independent producer. My husband and I have a production company, Think Ten Media Group. We made films before we created this company, but with the founding of this company we marked a stark change in our approach — a change that included much of what you shared here. We let go of the “old” way and of our efforts to “break in” to the traditional Hollywood system and took advantage of the fact that we had the tools and skills already available to us to create content that mattered, content that could create community and connect with a specific audience and, most importantly, content that we were passionate about.

    We both always felt so strongly in the power of film, for the reasons you state above as #15 — as an “empathetic experience” as you say. With that in mind, we made a micro-budget film, SMUGGLED, telling an important mother-son story and found that experience much more rewarding (personally, professionally and financially) than our previous feature, which was more “typical” (a genre horror flick) for low-budget, indie work.

    We also stepped out of the old with our distribution approach as well and declined distribution offers and decided to self distribute the film focusing, initially on VOD/online outreach and then shifting gears again to the academic marketplace, which allows us to reach young people who share our passion for this type of media. It has been a truly rewarding experience and has shown us a path to sustainability for our company.

    I agree with your ending and hope that others are inspired to create media as well and branch out in their own ways to reach their audience. It can work.

  • crafttruck

    So much that you can deep dive into in this post. Not nearly enough time or space here to consider all — however, #6 truly stands out. It’s riskier to spend less money – in a highly targeted manner – then to spend more money and fail. Why? Because if you spend more no one gets fired. If you spend less then “maybe” you left something on the table that prevented the film from opening big. It’s, as you say, an antiquated model based on an old supply and demand model.

  • Jon Williams

    “…There is no audience aggregation platform exclusively for those who love
    movies, no place where all people who love movies engage deeply about
    films…”

    Here in the North-West of England – home of the great cities of Manchester and Liverpool, an alliance was formed between some of the regions indie feature producers and the major film festival organisers. Our aim was to set up a website which would actively curate films produced in the region, with each film being peer-reviewed so as to give genuine criticism and opinion to indie film fans, as against the endless and tiresome social media hype, and serious feedback to film-makers. We worked out that it would cost quite a bit to set up a website which would do justice to these aims, but we thought that the prospects for long-term sustainability were good. So we approached the BFI’s regional arm: Creative England. They turned us down flat, preferring to spend public money on what we’ve come to call the game of ‘Fantasy Executive Producer’, in which they encourage, and then underfund and interfere in, the production of micro-budget features which have no means of reaching their audiences.

  • FourQ

    12 and 13 are most relevant to me as a consumer. Certain movies I would prefer to see in a theater, but more and more I simply don’t bother because I feel raped every time I go.

  • Jason Fonceca

    Now I feel sad :)

  • Randominc

    I’ve noticed that no one comments on the glut. Audiences are up to their ears in content and choices, there’s not room enough on the boat to sustain a lot of passionate dreamers who decided one day they were film makers. Do people go into a career composing classical music anymore? They did in the 17-1800′s. It’s time to move forward, which sometimes means letting go. There are countless ways to be creative in life. You have a myriad of choices you haven’t even thought of yet. Filmmaking doesn’t have to be some kind of religion.

  • lauralee

    If you can let it go, you’re lucky, and you’re not a lifer. I’m a lifer – movies are religion, and I cannot be anything else, even when all of the above points are true. Most of my friends are lifers too. We have been slowly widening our circle, and making slightly bigger films each time. So, it can be done. I believe it. I have to.

  • Fake Name

    I don’t think the idiot who wrote this has heard of IMDB.

  • Virginia Hayon

    Hey Joe, I agree that the law of large numbers would apply better. Instead of a 200M film, w/ 200M P&A, why not make 200 1M films, in a genre like horror, and have 1M for marketing each as well. If 30% have a shot 60 films could be hits. The MCMC they are running must be bayesian as well. That means they would only be able to predict the most likely causes for past success/failures and not future. Joe, I’d love to have a mathematical discussion on some of these points you’ve made. Your PHD work seems to fit some of my own heuristic work. I think it is possible to refine the analysis more and hone in on the elements of the story that lure in viewers effectively. To some extent, people have a good register for banality. I believe that audiences respond to uniqueness more than industry standards. Your list of top 20 films in the last 70 years, w.r.t ROI, all feature that uniqueness attribute. The uniqueness can just be in the marketing strategy, or in the medium itself. It’s interesting that the biggest winners are mostly horror, feature unknown actors & directors, and are low budget to ultra low budget. It’s a shame that many producers don’t key in on these mechanics. It would lead to more cost-effective insurgent techniques of filmmaking. I read a studio exec quote that stated, in a comparison of silicon valley to hollywood, “films can’t be made in a garage.” Oh yes they can, “PRIMER.” Financial restrictions usually require more creative solutions which is awesome in this medium. The audience seems to want unique experiences in a few key genre’s. I think that assertion can be proven probabilistically. I’d really like to hear your thoughts Joe.

  • http://storyality.wordpress.com/ joe velikovsky

    Hi Virginia,
    Yes, all these ideas you mention (and comments you make) sound terrific. – Thanks for this. You can drop me an email anytime, my email is on the `Contact’ page, here: http://storyality.wordpress.com/
    Look forward to chatting more.
    Best
    JT

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