What Filmmakers Can Do If They Have No Money
I refuse to accept that all we need is money to solve our problems and I have come up with a way to work “the money problem”. As an indie film coach, I generally focus on the business side of filmmaking, but when one over-emphasizes this they can go years with doing nothing.
Here are some thoughts:
I don’t need to convince you that our mindset matters, there are too many studies out there that prove this as fact.
I have searched for the answer to why do we give money so much power? Breaking it down to its bare essentials – it’s just a means for an exchange. That’s it.
STOP giving it more power than that.
STOP giving it power over you. We stop cold in our tracks when faced with those that have it and could grant us our deepest desires – bringing a film to life.
STOP letting it dictate your calling. I believe we have a calling on our lives and the world needs our stories told. Yet, many hold that if I work a 9-5, not in the film industry, I am not a filmmaker. Who says?!
I have no study to prove this, but if I took a poll of what the demographical make-up of indie filmmakers is, I bet I would find a median age of 35 and it’s generally split equally between men and women. This is based upon data we do know about the gaming industry. Meaning most of us to need to carry a 9-5 that pays the bills and live out our calling on weekends. Which is a win! It allows those precious moments on set, to be just that, precious. And keeps you in the responsible category, allowing you to pay your bills. Walt Disney said,
“We don’t make movies to make money, we make money to make more movies.”
This is us, this is indie, this is the Hollywood Outsider. Your mindset will allow you to do things OR it will keep you not doing. You will either be a Film Enthusiast or an actual Filmmaker. You decide which.
Hollywood sees you as just another competitor. They want each of us indies to view each other as the same – a competitor. The truth is, we indie filmmakers could not create enough content out there to feed the masses. We are better together than we are apart.
Now I am not anti-Hollywood. They have done a lot of good. I am, however, anti the elitist system.
TO SHORT OR NOT TO SHORT
There was a time where I was very anti-shorts. They simply were not economically viable. You spend money and there was no way to monetize them. Now, however, people are consuming so many things at various lengths. I cannot even tell you the length of the last episode of a show I watched on Netflix. Platforms are now buying short-form content, making it an option.
When I was in my “no short” phase. I had a feature film that a line producer told me I could only do for $1.5mil. Of course, raising that amount of capital to a guy like me was next to impossible.
Because I needed to hit a home run or nothing, I went years without creating – I was a film enthusiast. I talked a good game but did nothing. As I looked for an investor, I was also looking for that 1 investor to write the check. The indie film world is about hitting singles, not home runs.
Now I’m all for doing the occasional short quick film competition, but when I say, “short film” you need to understand that I mean an intentional epic short film. This is my goal over at Indie Film Coach. Production is the fun of filmmaking, so let’s stay in it. Yet, every film, including shorts, cost. There’s food, insurance, and time. All of them in and of themselves costs.
People are willing to do a short in “sprints”. A film is a marathon of a commitment so doing it for “free” is not on the table. Whereas a short is a sprint and free becomes an option IF it is intentional and epic.
Most films, including shorts, wipe out. Be a finisher and you will rally people to you. Everyone loves a great story and wants to be a part of something, even if it’s a short film. WHY?
- Shorts defeat time loss. During that 7-year feature time, shorts keep you on set.
- Shorts give you a reel and a body of work to show a potential investor. I had an investor come on board, simply because I just kept moving forward and they knew I was going to do it with or without them.
- If writing is re-writing, why do we filmmakers think we are going to knock it out of the park with only 1 film. We need opportunities to practice our craft, take risks and simply get better. The more you do something, the better you get.
- Shorts help us hit singles. Stop going for the home run.
Every indie should have 3 projects, we are in fact producers (yes, every indie is a producer from an actor to writer to crew members).
- Studio film – this is the film that is a blue-sky. You are writing with no limits. Only a studio could afford this story and you should have it.
- Indie film – this is a film that is a great story, but with the budget in mind. I generally say, “I can back into any budget” as an indie. I typically have two budgets. My higher end budget of what I want and my minimum budget of what I need to make it happen. Why? Because if you only hold to that one high-end budget, you might only be left as a film enthusiast.
- Epic Intentional Short – this is not a short quick film competition. This is a great story for the short-form medium. An epic intentional short should advance your reel (as well as others you rope in) and be produced well to highlight your talents when you do get the money, you can handle yourself on set.
Being ready also means having your 1) Business Plan, 2) Pitch Deck 3) Site and 4) a Great Script ready to go along with getting a film mentor. This is where I have found a niche as an Indie Film Coach. If you do not have a mentor yet, I’m here! We all need someone to pick up the phone with. Searching YouTube videos are good for a lot of things, but not all of them.
- Watch your mindset – it matters. Having a 9-5 is smart and responsible.
- Hit Singles – you do this by doing intentional epic shorts; meaningful shorts with quality and purpose. Treat them like the real deal to fine-tune your craft.
- Be ready – have 3 projects ready to roll or that you are developing. Your Studio Film, your Indie Film, and your Intentional Short.
The biggest thing I can leave you with is not a money solution but a filmmaking one, and that is “don’t’ be passive.”
I look forward to seeing what you come up with!
About the Author: Ron Newcomb is an Indie Film Coach helping filmmakers on their filmmaking journey.
Filmtrepreneur Library: Required Reading
- Independent Ed: What I Learned from My Career of Big Dreams, Little Movies, and the Twelve Best Days of My Life
- The Declaration of Independent Filmmaking: An Insider’s Guide to Making Movies Outside of Hollywood
- Like Brothers: The Rise of the Duplass Brothers
- Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
- Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player
- The Cheerful Subversive’s Guide to Independent Filmmaking: From Preproduction to Festivals and Distribution
- Produce Your Own Damn Movie!
- Get Your Free Filmmaking Audiobook
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