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Let’s just down tools for one second.
There’s a lot of filmmakers spending months raising funds to make short films via various forms of crowd funding, everyone’s at it, we then ask nice people to work for next to nothing to help us get it made, the film then gets entered into every film festival on the planet, there’s the premiere screening.. and then what?
We try and distribute the film to make some money back, we sell a few copies to mates and Twitter followers, some even distribute their film for free. Others chuck it on YouTube, Vimeo etc for the World to see just how great their work is, or not, and so on.
Let’s be honest – this isn’t exactly Hollywood is it? We’re not going to break any box office records at this rate.
But that’s what we want, isn’t it? Our films on the big screen, with an actual paying audience, a large audience? A career in making successful films?
There does seem to be a huge amount of effort (and cash) going into the making of the film (i.e. raising funds via Indie GoGo, Kickstarter etc) and very little productivity coming out the other end, apart from some lovely looking laurels on the DVD cover if you’re lucky.
The great news is, there is a revolution in progress when it comes to unknown filmmaker’s and their distribution options. You’re looking at iTunes, Distrify and the others. The PR power of Twitter, Facebook etc. However, the balance is all wrong at the moment.
The distribution model for unknown filmmaker’s is way, WAY, behind the ‘making of’ capabilities and fund raising resources. There’s also a real problem when it comes to quality control. We can raise £10k, we have access to 10 Canon 5D’s, experienced crew etc, but does this mean we’re going to have a commercially attractive film at the end? I think I’d be safe in saying, 9 out of 10 times – no.
I don’t mean this as any disrespect to ANY filmmaker out there trying to get their films made, I’m a new filmmaker, I’ve still got a lot to learn in the hope of one day delivering that knockout film. I’m just trying to get us to stop and think for a second. To think about the other end of making our little short (and sometimes feature length) films; are you making an expensive film for fun? To get your name out there? To make money? To build an audience?
Do you really know why you are making that film?
Ten grand to make a film with a few pounds return on a few sales of the DVD equals a steady walk backwards for ‘indie’ filmmaking. Need I remind you that filmmaking is a BUSINESS! A business needs revenue, a steady cashflow to survive. Yes, you’ll have fun making it and a few tales to tell – but at the end of that particular project – have you made any serious ground as a business, or as a filmmaker?
There have been a handful of ‘break out’ stories of low budget short films actually generating revenue through DVD sales etc. This is generally because the filmmaker knows their audience and have been treating the project with a business head on. The film just happens to be brilliant too!
At this stage in my career, I’m planing on making three short films. One of them already in post-production and cost £10k to make. The second will be a no budget, one location, one actor type affair, and the last short film will be what I hope gets me representation as a filmmaker.
I don’t plan on making any money from these projects. My goal is very clear and focussed. However, I have various innovative business ideas in place and ready to launch that I hope will generate funds to feed the third and final short film project.
My filmmaking also ties in very nicely with my video production business which enables me to make a living, a pay the bills.
Things seem to have gone way beyond aspiring filmmaker’s making cheap zombie movies in their back gardens with their mates.
Lots of random thoughts for you to digest here. Maybe I strolled off on a bit of a tangent. Apologies.
The point is – I don’t think we should get too carried away with the thought of making money through distributing our own films to the masses. We haven’t quite broken out in to the public domain as indie filmmaker’s just yet. It’s on it’s way for sure.
What are your thoughts on the distribution options available to indie filmmaker’s? Should we go out tomorrow and shoot a £10k/£20k film in the hope that current distribution models will return a profit. I’m very interested to hear your thoughts. Discuss.
Thanks for stopping by (hope I didn’t confuse you too much).
Don’t forget to check out my Live Filmmaker’s TV show here http://www.livestream.com/dannylaceyfilm
Great piece, Danny.
I think indie filmmakers need to be a lot more "commercial" in their mindset. Not so much in terms of content or stories (small-scale, intimate drama — ie, uncommercial — is what indie does really well), but simply being realistic about potential outcomes for their projects.
Filmmakers need to admit and accept that their 2-actor mumblecore family drama isn't going to make $1million in the cinemas, and may never reach a commercial screen at all. We need to think instead of the hard facts: who will watch this, how much will they pay, how many copies/downloads/streams can I realistically expect to sell etc.?
Only then can you work out what you can afford to make the film for. It's a business, plain and simple. If you're not bothered about making money, that's totally fine, it's what's known as a loss-leader. But don't go making films with a potential gross of £20k that cost £250k to produce.
I don't think there is much of a market for short films. If you make one you are unlikely to make your money, let alone make a profit. Most people make them as calling cards with the hope of getting into festivals and getting noticed as a good filmmaker.
If you have access to £10 K or £20 K, you are better off shooting a low budget feature, but try and get a sales agent to give you some idea that it will sell. You need to pick right genre and attach a star with some sort of name, maybe from TV. Figure out who wants to watch you're movie before you shoot it.
I don't see a short film re-couping £20 K as for distribution even low budget can have trouble getting their money back.
If you're using own money and want to shoot a short that's your choice. Investors money, they should be told that it's unlikely to make money back.
If you get £20 K from crowd funding, well they are happy with signed DVD's or T shirts.
If I had £20 K I would shoot a feature.