Sunday, October 11, 2009
I really feel blessed to have had the opportunity to attend this past weekend's FIND Filmmaker Forum. The event was packed with great panel discussions. I was able to attend "Following the Money Trail," "Sweet and Low Budget," "Cultivating Your Audience," "Has the Dust Settled," "The International Market Place," and "New Uses for Film Festivals." Here's the full schedule with all of the panelists http://www.filmindependent.org/empower/schedule_and_topics2009.php
The forum certainly has my mind stimulated. I would love to be able to attend an event like this every month. To be able to soak up the ideas, to stretch my mind...
I will admit that the environment is intimidating. I was exposed to a lot of bright and passionate people. These folks love film. They live and breathe the business of film. Each night I returned home feeling somewhat inadequate. It can actually be kind of depressing. It is fierce and it is competitive. Maybe I should say ultra-competitive. The film business is not for the feint of heart. At the same time it is inspiring to see so many people who live and die the film business.
With that, let me put together a few of my insights gathered and/or crystalized from this weekend.
1) Make no mistake, this is the film business. Very little talk of making artistic films. The collective mindset was on creative, original works that make money.
2) "Drama" is not an attractive word when selling your film. Of course they still sell, but if you can be creative in categorizing your film...and not using the word drama, you may be better off.
3) This next point is something I mentioned on my Film Courage radio show this morning. I've always had it in the back of my mind that I would have to chase down distributors, gatekeepers, key decision makers at studios, etc. There was kind of a throw-away comment by one of the panelists where he stated that without you really hunting them down, at some point key decision makers will see your film. It was just something that really stood out to me. The film world is really a small community. Movers and shakers in the industry love film and they all know their business. Bottom line, don't worry about the critical people seeing your film. If it is a stand-out film and if you focus on getting it to your audience, eventually the machine will find you.
4) The decline of the US economy and the decline in the DVD market means less money to talent as costs are slashed. Actors are seeing their salaries reduced.
5) Self-distribution is not viewed as an ugly step-child. In many cases, it offers the best opportunity for lower budgeted films to make their money back.
6) Right now the 2 million dollar to 10 million dollar picture is dead. In most cases, there is not a viable way to make this money back in today's market.
7) Lots of buzzing about "Paranormal Activity." Not so much the film itself, just the marketing and buzz swirling around it right now.
8) There is certainly a break in the film distribution model. Everyone is trying to figure out what the new model is going to be. There are so many factors that go into this. Piracy, windows of time from theatrical to VOD to DVD, amount of films in marketplace, social networking, Netflix, TV, etc.
9) Newspapers are in big trouble. How long will it be before Movie Studios stop paying for full page movie ads in newspapers? With the shift from newspaper reading to the internet, does it make sense to dump money into the costly newspaper ads? By the way, those Full Page movie ads are a significant part of any newspaper company's budget.
10) Thumb factor. We are entering a new era where many movies can be made or broken through a twitter posting or text message seconds after walking out of a screening. That's pretty scary.
11) It was wild to hear Director Arin Crumley touch upon what I was writing in my last blog. The idea that many of us independent filmmakers could sustain ourselves with an audience/fan base of 1000 people. In my last blog I wrote that I am working on building a fan base of 7500. Of course my goal is higher than 1000 but the core idea is the same. Of course I have no where near 1000 fans so maybe I should start there first. : )
12) My Film Courage radio show has yet to make an impact in the independent world. Not one person came up to either Karen and I regarding our show. Though this isn't anything to complain about. Though on the bright side, our show is gaining in popularity. We are currently averaging over 500 page visits per week. This is a nice jump from averaging 50 page visits a week when we started.
13) Lastly I want to leave you with the main thought I take away. To me the main through-line to the whole weekend is that it comes down to identifying and building your audience. Underneath it all, no matter which part of filmmaking you are talking about, it boils down to audience. Who's going to see the film, how are they going to see it, why are they going to see it?
I would love to get some of your reactions to some of the points I have posted here. Do you have anything to add? Anything you disagree with?