Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Almost Time To Kickstart...

It has been quite a thrill for me to see so many of you respond to my last several blog posts. Believe I have gained over 20 followers in the last two weeks which is quite a jump for me. For this I certainly thank you.

What I am loving the most is not my writing, but rather your commentary. Your insights and discussions are incredibly valuable to me. I would like to thank King is a Fink, Sheri Candler, Phil Holbrook, Dee Marie, Thomas Corkran, David P. Baker, Anessa, Miles Maker, Steve Lustgarten, Mark Harris, Gregory Bayne, John Bosley, Phil Calderone, Darrell Kiedo, Ben Hicks, Mattson Tomlin, Julio Ponce Palmieri, & Ester Brym.

I haven’t publicly updated you on what has happened with Kickstarter. After I had written my Kickstarter blog, I had about 10 people hit me up offering invitations. The wild part of it was that one of those 10 was the CTO of Kickstarter offering me a personal invitation. I received the email just hours after I posted my blog. That blew me away. Shows that these guys are on their game.

Now comes the scary part for me. I am getting closer to launching our Kickstarter campaign. Whether I can reach my fundraising goal or not, this campaign will have a major impact on my life. A lot of what I have done over the past year has been concentrated on building an audience. (It has been quite a while since I have worked on a script or worked to develop my story ideas. Not that I do not have them *smile*) The energy I have put into audience building now gets put to the test. A successful campaign would be one of my life’s proudest achievements. That may sound over dramatic to some, but I am not joking. I do not take this lightly. This is more than a dollar amount, it is discovering who my supporters are. Discovering who my audience is and whether I even have an audience. You are crucial to my survival. And I need your advice.

My objective is to raise $15,000 in less than 45 days. This is certainly not an amount I can raise on my own. I am going to need a lot of support. I am also prepared to put in the work.

The campaign is for my 2nd feature film entitled Goodbye Promise. This is a passion project conceived by myself and Actor/Producer Gregor Collins. The film’s subject matter is one we believe is universal for all aspiring artists. One that many artists deal with on a daily basis. The idea that we may never achieve our dream and that we should move onto more realistic and practical means for survival. Only the select few get to live out their dreams, right? ; )

We will share more about the project within the context of our Kickstarter Campaign. Before we launch this campaign, which is going to include a Teaser Trailer, I need your help. I am seeking any input/ideas/suggestions from you on what you would like from me and potentially members of the cast & crew.

For those of you familiar with Kickstarter, you are aware that the site is fueled by incentives which the project creator awards supporters of each campaign. What incentives would entice you to contribute to our campaign? Or what do you believe would entice others to contribute?

Our Incentive Levels are going to be:


You input will not only serve me, but it will also help fuel creativity from those who also aspire to create their own crowd-funding campaigns.

Here are a few of my ideas. Please let me know what level you believe these rewards would fall into and whether any of them should be eliminated.

-Your name mentioned in this blog
-Your name mentioned on the Film Courage Radio Show
-Your film/business/project promoted on this blog
-Your film/business/project promoted on the Film Courage Radio Show
-Your film/business/project promoted through our Film Courage Twitter (10 tweets)
-A personal video message from myself or a member of the cast
-For those in the Los Angeles area, one of my home-made apple pies. They take me about two hours to make. Delicious and dangerous.
-DVD copy of the final film before it becomes widely available
-Have original video you submit included in bonus features on DVD
-Opportunity to edit one of the film’s scenes

Would you like any of these incentives? What else would you like? Please let me know.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Am I... 'A Dream Crusher?'

I am currently working on a blog about my upcoming Kickstarter campaign. But there is something else that has been on my mind for the last few days. I wanted to quickly write about it here as I am hoping that you can offer your opinion as well as your insights and related stories.

A filmmaker sent me an email asking advice on raising money for his first feature film. Though I am hardly the person to answer this question. I was humbled by his inquiry so I took the time to reply with a list of ideas and suggestions. My key point was one we all know, there is no one way. He hadn't given me his budget, so I couldn't get into specifics.

In my mind I was thinking it was probably for a lower budgeted film, under 100K. He then responded to my message with more details surrounding his film and that his budget was going to be at least $300,000. That doesn't include all of post-production and everything that comes after.

I would like to keep this one brief. But please allow to highlight some things.

1) This $300,000+ film will be this filmmaker's 1st feature film.
2) This filmmaker has a small/limited audience.
3) The post production will be extensive with compositing, matte paintings, CG airships, etc…

Once I received the details and the budget range, I informed the filmmaker that I believe before he makes this film, he should first focus on a smaller film that he can make while also building his audience.

My belief is that no filmmaker should make their first feature for more than 100K. Unless you have studio support. Or if you know some money folks who don't care whether the money is made back or not. Your movie being made is worth more to them than the money.

I believe in everyone making their film. But I am a bigger believer in making your film with the resources you have in front of you. Expand and outwork those same resources. I believe the majority of filmmakers overextend themselves on their first feature film. They find themselves straddled with debt, or are unable to recoup their money for their investors, etc.

There are so many filmmakers who are much more talented than me who no longer make films because they took on too much too soon.

There is so much I can write about here, but I would like to turn it over to you. Even if you don't have time to answer all of these, perhaps you can just give me a number for #2.

1) What would be your advice to this filmmaker?

2) What should the budget range be for a filmmaker's 1st feature film?

3) Am I... 'A Dream Crusher?'

Enlighten me.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Lesson We Can All Learn From Tom Cruise's Tweet

Karen and I received quite a jolt yesterday. While checking our @FilmCourage Twitter, I saw a Tweet from @TomCruise. My first thought was who is this impostor pretending to be Tom? I clicked on the page for more information. From there I saw that it was a verified account with over 400,000 Followers. Now while I do not believe it was Tom himself, but rather someone who works as a social media strategist for his brand. I was still puzzled by why Tom Cruise would tweet about our small radio show.

Thanks to Filmmaker Gary King for this screen capture

There is a great lesson we can learn from what many would consider a miniscule gesture on Tom’s part. Before I write my thoughts, please allow me to share this story which will help me illustrate my point.

The Difference Between Heaven and Hell.

A holy man was having a conversation with the Lord one day and said,

‘Lord, I would like to know what Heaven and Hell are like.’

The Lord led the holy man to two doors.

He opened one of the doors and the holy man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the holy man’s mouth water.

The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms and each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful. But because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.

The holy man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering.

The Lord said, ‘You have seen Hell.’

They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew which made the holy man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.

The holy man said, ‘I don’t understand.’

‘It is simple,’ said the Lord. ‘It requires but one skill. You see they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves.’

I have long been a fan of this story. I am almost embarrassed to return to my ideas as I just love this anecdote so much.

Let’s break down Tom Cruise and his Twitter account. How effective would he be if all he did was Twitter about himself and his projects? Sure he would reach his hardcore fans but it doesn’t take long for this method to get stale. Even diehard fans will get tired of it.

Being wise, Tom Cruise doesn’t make it all about himself. Or at least his social media strategist is wise enough to not make it all about Tom. You would be surprised how many people (celebrities and unknowns) always make their promotions, tweets, messages, etc. all about themselves. I wonder how many of you reading this blog fall into this category. Are you an independent filmmaker, artist, business person who doesn’t back the work of your peers, the work of your community? As we learn in the spiritual example above, this path will leave you famished and miserable.

On the other side of the coin, let’s look at what Tom Cruise receives because he takes one minute to Tweet about an unknown radio show. He has received countless tweets and retweets from the Film Courage network. Think of all of the exposure he has gotten in our circles. I have told my share of people about this Tom Cruise tweet while others have brought it up to me wanting to hear more about it. All this attention goes back to Tom Cruise. It has also forced me to write this blog which will also be circulated in the Twitter universe. Look at all the goodwill he has received because of his one minute gesture.

The lesson that Tom Cruise reminds us about.

Promote others and you promote yourself.

I would like to include some additional thoughts.

You want to know what is better than promoting your own work? When others promote your work for you. How does this happen? It happens when you spend as much time promoting others as you do promoting yourself. (Look at Tom’s Twitter and you will see that he spends more time tweeting about others than he does his own work) This is a concept I find myself embracing more and more everyday. And what am I discovering? There are more and more people spreading the word of my projects.

This is a monster concept that I do not see enough of. This is a core principle that independent filmmakers need to embrace. We need to build our collective audience, build the appetite for smaller films and we will see more independent filmmakers reach sustainability.

There are parameters to this principle. You must be genuine and you must care. Do not promote work that you do not genuinely care about.

This is a magical concept and it will be magical for you. I could list countless examples of how this principle has impacted me. But I would rather hear of your stories and how this concept has worked for you. Please share.


Let’s test the magic of this idea. Let’s get the guy who inspired this blog to guest on Film Courage. His next film Knight and Day releases on July 2nd, 2010. No reason to believe that he cannot appear on our show in the weeks prior to that date.

I know this is an insane idea and I know we have a 1% chance of making it happen. It is likely to fail. It's not practical for perhaps the biggest brand acting has ever seen to appear on our radio show. Or is it? Would you view it as a positive for Tom Cruise to come on a show like Film Courage?

We are not building Film COURAGE to be meek. We would like to push the boundaries of what is possible. We do our show so we can learn and we do it so we can inspire others.

We have no way of making this happen alone. The only way Tom Cruise will come on our show is if we make it happen collectively. Will you help campaign for us? Tom’s appearance on our show would not just be a victory for Karen and I. It would be a victory for independent film, a victory for the underdog, and a victory for you. All the while proving the value of promoting others. All you have to do is Tweet (and retweet) @TomCruise that he needs to appear on Film Courage to discuss acting, how he has built his career, and Knight and Day. Use the hash tag #moviedreams. You can also Tweet this blog.

PS - Do not mean to harass you Tom, but you have sparked a fire with your Tweet. Very few have thrived in this industry at your level. There is so much we can all gain from you. We can be reached at

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Kickstarter is a Game Changer

For any new reader to my blog, I welcome you. For those of you returning, thank you for coming back. I have gotten an overwhelming response to my previous blog which I really wasn’t anticipating. Though certainly exhilarating. I do not believe what I am writing is revolutionary. It is just my take on things from the shoes that I am in, while sitting here typing on a computer in Sunland, CA.

We are all looking for answers to how we can sustain our film careers. This posting and my previous one represent some of my answers. (I didn’t cover Merchandise which is a major part of the equation, George Lucas was way ahead of his time. I also recommend what Filmmamker Zeke Zelker has written over at the New Breed.)

I am really excited about what I have for you today, so I am hoping you take the time to read it all the way through. This is really what I wanted to get to in my last blog but I couldn’t fit it all into one posting.

For those of you just tuning in, this is a follow up to my previous blog “Build The Audience and The Movie Will Come.” I ended that blog with this statement “...and it is something that I now believe becomes essential for every independent filmmaker before they make their next film.”

In that posting I also stated The Game Has Changed. We are all well aware of that.

Let’s go!

Kickstarter is here and it is a Big-Time Game Changer. (If you are not familiar with Kickstarter please visit Your life and my life as an independent filmmaker is no longer the same. From here on out it is imperative that every independent film begin a Kickstarter campaign. I do not believe we have yet wrapped our minds around the power of this new tool.

(By the way, I do not have a Kickstarter invitation and I would like one, please help me.)

I will be admit that I have been skeptical of Kickstarter as I didn’t see it for the Tool that it really is. I also admit that I can be foolish. I am working on identifying tools that can help me earlier and earlier. I should have caught this earlier. If you are wondering why I am not including IndieGogo...? (I know there have been many others also...) Well, I believe KickStarter has perfected Crowdfunding (My brief explanation of why KS over IGG is located near the end of this post). Please allow me to elaborate as I have some valuable insights I would like to share.

Let me start with some of my story and then I will bring it back to Kickstarter.

I recently asked myself how can I sustain myself with my filmmaking. This is what everyone is asking themselves isn’t it? We are terrified by the current distribution model.

To bring you up to speed as to where I stand. My first feature film Night Before the Wedding is currently screening semi-theatrically in select cities in the US and we are working on finalizing the DVD before we release it in June. This project has thousands of dollars that we need to recoup. I have seen no money from the film and it will be some time before I do.

In addition to that, I am also juggling my second feature film (Goodbye Promise) which is designed to be another ultra-low budget film. Originally I was going to edit this second feature to save on money. This is no longer the best option as I do not have the time that is required.

Here is the bottom line for me right now. NBTW will eventually make it’s money back. It may take a year, it may take two but the investment will be recouped. With Goodbye Promise, I am in a position where I will have to take on an additional $15,000 to make the film. This is money I know I can make back but this additional debt is something I would love to avoid.

Let me add that it is a long, long journey recouping investment money in the independent film world. It doesn’t matter whether that money comes from investors or from credit cards or wherever else. It is money that needs to be repaid. That means that it will most likely be years before any money comes back into my pockets. I cannot sustain myself this way. (I can easily go off on a tangent here about distributors, middle men, self-distribution, etc. but it will take me too far off the path of what I where I would like to go with this blog.)

The answer for me right now might be an answer for you. Instead of turning to investors who believe in my vision at a price, or creditors who only care about my credit rating and their interest payments...

The Answer is that if the money came right from my audience, if it came from my fanbase in the form of a pledge/donation in advance...because they care about me, or the actors in my film, or the subject matter...this is my answer. This is Kickstarter.

I am not saying this is revolutionary. What is revolutionary is that there are now enough tools in place which make Kickstarter a viable and powerful tool. The way that Facebook and Twitter have connected us in real time...along with many other tools we have access to, we can really embrace the power of Kickstarter. These tools were not in place 2 years ago.

In my case, if I raised $15,000 through Kickstarter, it would literally be a miracle for me. This not only would allow me complete my film, but once it is completed it is paid for by my audience, so any monies generated from that point forward become a revenue stream that will help me sustain my life as a filmmaker. I do not have to spend another My life would be forever be changed.

We tried to raise the production budget for NBTW through fundraisers and through Pre-Order DVD sales. We attempted to get our fans to support our film before we made it. We did have some success and we were able to raise funds this way, but no where near what was eventually required to make the film. We really could have used Kickstarter 2 years ago. Though I didn’t have the audience I now have and I didn’t have the tools I now have either.

I am not done yet. Please stay with me here as I am going to drive home why a Kickstarter campaign is imperative for all indie filmmakers.

Going back to my last blog and the idea, Build Your Audience and the Movie Will Come. I believe this idea will continue to emerge as a law for filmmakers who survive this new world.

It is easy for me to say “build your audience first.” But how do we measure our audience? What is the gauge? When we will know it’s time to make our film? 

Two Points about Kickstarter.

Number 1) Kickstarter is an Audience Barometer. It will let you know how hot your idea is with your audience. It doesn’t judge. It doesn’t hold any punches and it isn’t going to blow any smoke at you. It is black and white. You are either going to raise money for your film or you are not. It is going to give you a fair barometer of your current audience. You either have an audience or you do not. At the end of your campaign you will know the current pulse of where you stand with your fanbase.

You can ask Filmmaker Gregory Bayne how powerful this tool is. He reached his goal of $25,000 (actually raised $27,210) in just 20 days to continue his production of JENS PULVER / DRIVEN Gregory’s story is just as inspiring as the content of his film. He used Twitter, Facebook, and Kickstarter in synergy and raised $27,000 in 20 days. This is astounding to me.

Whether or not we reach our fundraising goal through this site, it allows us to measure the current marketplace for our film. On one level we gauge our audience, on another level we gauge the interest in our film’s content. Do we have the right ingredients? Is it a winning combination? Are we selling our project in the right way. Are we putting enough energy and work into it? Does our idea reach beyond our immediate friends and family?

You see, even in failure of reaching our fundraising goal, we obtain incredibly valuable information. For instance, what if your goal was to raise $50,000 in 90 days and after 90 days you raised $500. What would this tell you about your current audience and the public’s interest in your film? You would learn that your reach isn’t as big as you think it is. What you believe is a $50,000 film is proving itself not to be. Your work is cut out for you. You are not ready to make this film, even though you may think you are.

On the flip side, where does Gregory Bayne stand now? He now knows that he is working on a film that an audience wants to see. He has a brand new support system and a new level of awareness towards his film that did not exist before his Kickstarter campaign. It helped him build an early audience.

Number 2) Kickstarter is an Audience Builder. Whether you reach your fundraising goal or not. You have created awareness in your film. Those of you who have supported a Kickstarter campaign might be able to relate to the magical underdog force that goes with it. Just as rooting for an underdog becomes emotional...for a Kickstarter project you believe in, you find yourself following along and doing all you can to help it succeed. Imagine if it was your project creating this energy and synergy amongst those who believe in you, your talents and subject matter. In the end you will have built a positive, supportive community base for your film. Folks who want to be involved. These same folks are likely to become advocates for you and your team as you move forward.

There is a lot more I can write. I did not cover it all, though I feel like I have rambled enough. I do not want to discourage anyone who may not have a successful Kickstarter campaign. If you come up short on your goal. At least you will have an idea of where you stand. Learn from the process and use the information to evaluate what level of film you should make. (Do not dive into a $500,000 film if you cannot raise $1000 through your current audience) I also realize that you can build your audience as you make your film and that a leap of faith will be required. Overall, I believe Kickstarter is a tool that allows us to be smarter about these decisions.

Lastly, in case you are wondering, Kickstarter is not paying me. I have had no contact with them. And the reason I prefer Kickstarter over IndieGogo is because you cannot beat the power of a deadline. There are not too many motivators more powerful than a deadline. Hopefully someone will send me a Kickstarter invitation. As soon as I can, I am going to set up a Kickstarter campaign for Goodbye Promise. From there I will find out what kind of audience we have. I have no idea whether or not we can raise $15,000 but it is certainly a challenge I am up for.

Okay, one last thing. I know my current project is a tiny one. Do not laugh or make fun of me. I guarantee right here, right now that we will see a Filmmaker raise six figures for their next project through Kickstarter this year. I do not have that audience yet, but there are Filmmakers who do...

Conversation on "Build The Audience and The Movie Will Come"

I didn't realize my last blog would reach so many folks. It has stirred up a lot of conversation as well as activity on Twitter and postings on other sites. Because there was great dialogue stirred from it. I would like to republish the commentary here where it is not buried. Besides for those that took so much time to share their insight, I would like to reward you. Thank you for sharing your commentary, it is really helpful for me and I hope for others.

Before I do so, I would like to thank the following folks on Twitter who shared the posting @Maria_56 @giamilani @iscamedia @ClaireLWasmund @kingisafink @jokeandbiagio @Migg @mediakaleid @ahedetoft @DesertVows @grking @norestrictions @davidspies @philontilt @StripedSocksPro @CitygateFilms @seanjvincent @FilmSpecific @adamchapnick @nicolasmladinic @Gulfi @Lenscapper1 Apologies to those that I certainly missed.

From Jenn Page, "great stuff and excellent timing for me. thx for putting this out."

From Craig Wilson, "It is funny to me, how only a handful of indie filmmakers give this thought process any consideration at all. One would think, it is obvious? But alas, I am wrong. Thanks for spreading this info David, may it inspire and influence the minds that will shape indie cinema in the future."

From Ben Hicks, "Some good points here but your key example of Robert Rodriguez (although inspiring) I feel is no longer relevant in terms of something we can compare ourselves to. I'll admit it takes this kind of spirit but it also reflects how much easier it was to get money for your films before the explosion of digital filmmaking. Robert Rodriguez knew he could sell his film on straight to the Spanish home video market for $25,000 but I'll bet you that today the Spanish home video market would pay much much less simply because there is more content to choose from. I bet that they would pay so much less that Robert Rodriguez might not have even gotten enough to pay off his film.

This is the problem we're all in now. No one is paying us for our work even though there is a big demand for it and in some cases are being seen hundreds of thousands of times in a matter of days.

The system is broken (sorry for the plug) but we're working on a new platform to try and fix all these problems that filmmakers face in order to sustain.

you can check out what we're working on at"

My response to Ben, "Great to have your comment Ben. I am certainly excited to see what you have coming with FanDependentFilms.

With Robert Rodriguez, I know that market option is no longer viable. I reference it because I believe his mentality is key. Too many filmmakers are only thinking about how they are raising money for one feature film, rather than a series of films. It is no easy task to make money off of one film. If you are going to sustain yourself, it is going to take more than one film. I believe this perspective is essential. Common sense, yes, but as I look around the landscape of independent cinema I do not see enough of this mentality."

From Mark Harris, "Yep, it's really come into focus this past six months with THE LOST CHILDREN. Originally supposed to have been shot and edited by now, but we started absorbing all of this stuff and put the breaks on, and re-focused on audience building. Which will continue through production this spring, until the film's release in 2011, and beyond. But now I'm extremely happy we have a whole year to do this stuff, before the movie comes out."

From John W. Bosley, "My favorite line from FIELD OF DEAMS is from James Earl Jones' charecter. He said, "I'm going to beat you with this crowbar until you go away." For some reason every time we heard that line it made us laugh. Ok, I'm weird. But there's a point to bringing up that quote. Costner's charecter pursues connecting with Jones's charecter because it is needed to fullfil the goal. My new perpective on the film biz is that it's not REALLY about storytelling/filmmaking it's about cultivating relationships that are needed to for you to make your film. You could make the greatest film in the world but without key relationships you'll end up with a film sitting on your shelf gaining dust.

My father once pointed out to me the story of Tom Sawyer having to white wash the fence. I have pointed this story out to tons of people when it comes to filmmaking and building your career. I believe how it is applied is the key to your success in the biz.

Tom is told to paint the fence. This is his goal/project. But instead of complaining or even asking for help he instead greates a sense of "implied value" that draws the attention of his friends. By the end everyone is paying him to paint the fence for him.

My point: create some implied value right of the begining about your project. Find a simple, cost effective way that you can express who you are as a unique artist, draw in people and they will want to work with you because their inspired by the beauty of your artistry. And you don't have to break the bank in order to do it. This is what I am doing with The House:"

From Sheri Candler, "great post David. I hope you don't mind that I am NOT picking you apart. And I love everyone else's comments too. The audience building mentality is finally catching on!! YAY! and about David Baker's comment, he is right. This is going to be so much more work than just making the film. Many would be filmmakers will turn back and the field will not be as crowded as it is now. Guaranteed! Those who have an audience and continually cultivate it and feed it with interesting content will be the survivors."

From Darrell Kiedo, "Okay, I for one think Robert Rodriguez (inspiring and viable today), the market has and always will be evolving, now same as when Robert Rodriguez produced his film that inspired soo many of us. Look, the studio's and powers that be have been trying to pay as less for more since Charlie Chaplin, and in talking to many Producers from Monster to Big Fat Greek Wedding (which were also independents by the way Nobody knows what a movie can achieve - we put the puzzle together and yeah market it, audience in mind, but 2010 has and is producing it's own Oprah effect in regards to the internet, social media and a world wide presence. I am producing a micro-budget movie and I am expecting a large following with the cast/story/ studio pickup(hopefully)/underground/ viral/ and web-based marketing. We'll see what happens but I think you guys are selling the market place short. Yeah, it's changed but it's always changing - We as filmmakers, actors, creators, live adapt & grow. We (the Dawn) shortened title, have a multi-international cast, two cities, A star-less but extremely talented cast, one of the best Independent production teams and Four Countries represented in this film. The possibilities are endless. Anyway that's my rant - It boils down to hard work which is why I'm up at 4:30am starting my day with this blog. The next 6 hours trying to raise money, the 4 after that with talent for film, the 3 after that connecting with more investors and potential sponsors. Sleep? Maybe after the Premiere.

(From Darrell Kiedo: Actor/Screenwriter, "Before The First Dawn" based on the Book "The Black Actors Guide To Not Working In Hollywood" by same available via or Barnes and Noble Bookstore or Co-Produced with Glimpse of Dreams LLC. Producer Richard Jacob: 202-812-9906 Fax 866-593-7941 for more info."

And finally David Baker. I am going to bolden one section here that really stands out to me in his commentary. I couldn't agree more with David's point.

"I think its paramount that we know our audience, who they are, where they are, how we will get to them cheapy or for free, before you even write your first scene.

I never really did that with my current film Mission X, as it was made for nothing as a knee jerk reaction to losing £500,000 for a horror film.

However, I knew my personal aspect to the story would still have to get an audience. But I also knew with hard work, in worst case, I could find my audience on thousands of military sites like airsofters, paintbllers, and other war movie lover groups.

Got the corman attitude of making a personal film, but wrapped in a genre. Just like horror that is easy to find groups of people, as so many horrors have been done. And of course it makes sense to do a sequel I had etc etc.

For my next film, Death Movie, the one I lost the £500,000 on. I got that money from the distribution proposal, not the script. The investors never even saw the script. They saw a simple pitch, and a mobile-drive-in roadshow concept, which will also partner with a lot of brands to do screenings this year.

My point is, I could NEVER even be inclined to write a movie, without knowing who my audience is, and how I will get to them. It is kind weird because for years after my first film, the problem was “How do I make the movie” Then “How do I distribute the content"

The distribution itself, is not really a major problem now as we know. At least to kick start yourself career on the first ladder. Now the problem is, how to I get those precise “eyeballs” to see my work for no money, or very little.

So every project I write now, has always had a brain storming session about how I get to my audience before I write. If I dont pull off the Mission remake, I will do a micro budget sequel, and sell it to the audience for the first.

And the 2nd one will have more viral wild action vidoes, so it might turn the first film into a prequel.

Anyway. I agree with your blog. I dont even think the future is about our films anymore, in terms of how we build a career, its from all the other potential revene streams that can spin off from it.

I hear a lot of filmmakers so desperate to make their first film, and I just know they are going to be in so much distress when they realise the REAL world in this biz. A world that really is only for the truly passionate, and 7 days a week until you die dedicated.

We all think we work hard, I thought I did on my first industry funded and distributed film, but damm, that was a slacker ride compared to the time I put it now, and I will have to keep this up until I die if I want this as a career.

On an upbeat note. I see it as a GREAT! Time. I can see the future. Its tough, but it should be to make a career out of a job like this. And agree that its not about the back slapping attitude of “I made a movie” Filmmakers need to be industrious. Get a bit of the Rodrguez attitude of cranking your talent out there, building a personal brand.

On a final note. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, and many other pioneers had a vision, when there was really nothing to invisage. A crazy vision they realised and made happen.

My point. If filmakers cant see the amazing opportunties ahead of us, then they should not be in this biz, as I hear too much downbeat stuff. But yes, agree, too many are living in lala land about the practical realities. Filmmaking is only one half.

Ok, too much yakety yaking from me. I'm off!

Love your blog, film courage, and I have no doubt I will love your movie too when I get to see it.



Monday, February 1, 2010

Build The Audience and The Movie Will Come

We all know the ‘Field of Dreams’ mantra..."If you build it, he will come" (often misquoted as "If you build it, they will come") Most artists and industries have operated off this philosophy for years and most continue to do so. We, the independent filmmaker, are no different. We blindly have faith that if we make our movie the audience will be there waiting.

Today’s market is saturated with filmmaking hopefuls. Thousands of films are sent off to the top film festivals each year, with filmmakers praying for acceptance and recognition. These festivals have served as the key gatekeepers in the film business for the last two decades. The festival machine has fueled the careers of our predecessors.

The game has changed.

Everywhere I turn, everyone is trying to figure out what the new business model is going to be. All of my peers are talking and writing about this everyday. How are we as independent filmmakers going to sustain ourselves. How do we carve out a career. This is something I certainly ponder everyday.

There is so much being written about this from various sources on a daily basis that it is hard for me to keep up. I believe I have some useful and practical ideas that will be helpful to you.

The answers and the tools are right in front of us. With the right mindset we will see more filmmakers with sustainable careers. Before I continue, I should note that I make ultra low-budget films which I believe is the starting ground for all us.

The staple of what I am writing about here is the subject of this post. If you are looking to enter this game and sustain yourself from this point forward you must focus on...

Building Your Audience Before You Make Your Film.

So many filmmakers will go out and raise money for a six figure film ($100,000 or more) without a clear cut audience to turn to once the film is completed. It may work for a minute few but for the majority this is suicide.

It is getting easier and easier to build an audience online through blogs, video blogs, audio podcasts, short videos, web series, twitter, facebook, youtube, etc. I am not going to go into how to build an audience. For the purposes of this blog, I will say simply that there are numerous resources at your disposal and that it is essential for you engage in conversation with your supporters. If you are not building your audience/network/support system/fans/followers etc. you will get left behind by those who are. This isn't something you can dabble in, it is something to work on everyday.

Let me touch on another idea I believe should be part of your mindset, then I will come back to a tool that serves as a gauge to your fanbase. This tool will show you if have been effective in building your audience. It will show you if you have support for your film before you make your it.

Do Not Focus On Making Your First Feature Film, Focus On Making Your First 5 Feature Films.

The leap from short films to a feature film is dramatic. I, for one, have experienced the difference and it is significant. I know many filmmakers who have yet to make this leap. I believe most filmmakers become so consumed on making their first feature that they lose sight of the bigger picture. I certainly fall into this category myself, though I am working my way through it.

Despite the challenges of making a feature film. If you are going to have a sustainable career you cannot put all of your might into your first film. You will find yourself trapped.

Think about how you are going to finance and recoup the money on your first five feature films. I am not speaking in wishful terms. Let me repeat that, you should be thinking about how you are going to finance and recoup the money on your first five feature films. You should be thinking the way Robert Rodriguez was 19 years ago. There are so many brilliant aspects to his book Rebel Without a Crew. It is easy to get seduced by his story of writing his film in a laboratory, then going down to Mexico to film his movie for $7000. If you go back and read the book, studying his mindset and his career path you will see that he would have had a film career with or without Hollywood.

His plan was not to start with one feature, but with a trilogy of action films. Each one to be bigger than the last. His plan was to make the first for less than $10,000 yet carry the value of a $100,000 film. He knew his market was the Spanish home video market and that in a worst case scenario he would be able to sell the film for $25,000. This would net him $15,000 profit. He would then take that money and make the next film better. You get the idea.

Two examples of filmmakers using this philosophy today are Dale Stelly and Joe Swanberg. They are making films for a specific audience. They are making their films cheaply so that their money is recouped. Each film improves upon the last while they build their audience film by film. They both have a film career.

With all this talk of sustainability, I asked myself, what would it take right now for me to make films that open up a revenue stream for me going forward. My first feature Night Before the Wedding has a ways to go before it breaks even. Let alone making me money and creating a viable revenue stream. Meanwhile it is stress on my shoulders and my wallet.

I can say that NBTW will eventually break even and will be a revenue stream for us. Though it is going to take more time, more energy, and more work. I just have to continue to ride the course.

Having said that, there is hope for me on my next film, Goodbye Promise. I have an opportunity with GP that I didn't have with NBTW. I am going to lay this out in my next blog.

Here are my final thoughts for this blog...

I have the answer for what would be huge for me sustaining my career from this point forward. It is also something that would help me gauge the fan support I currently have. It is something that many filmmakers are already taking advantage of...and it is something that I now believe becomes essential for every independent filmmaker before they make their next film.