Indie film financing and movie distribution reminds of what it’d feel just like dancing nude on stage (much respect for exotic dancers at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club!). You show as much as pitch your movie project and need to have the ability to dance to a picture investor’s music. It’s their stage and not yours being an indie filmmaker seeking film funding. They want you to create a sellable movie which interests movie distributors and so the production could make money.
Most investors I’ve met with are not enthusiastic about putting hard money into indie art house films because those are tough sells to movie distributors and overseas film buyers aren’t usually enthusiastic about seeing them. The dialogue and scenes of certain art house type films don’t translate well to foreign buyers and movie viewers. 123 movies Action, horror and skin does not require subtitles for individuals to follow along with the story is what I’ve been told by distributors. Talking head movies could make no sense to viewers that don’t understand subtle lines spoken in a foreign language.
Independent film financing continues to improve as indie movie distribution gets more financially shaky. The place it’s hitting indie movie producers hardest is right at the foundation – film financing. Film investors right now aren’t feeling worked up about putting money into movies that not have bankable name actors. This is simply not like so-called indie movies which have A-list actors or are produced for millions of dollars. Those kind of indie film passion projects you may make once you’ve made it in the entertainment business at the studio level.
Indie film investors and movie distributors won’t expect you to have A-list actor, however they do want producers to possess actors (B-list or C-list or D-list) with some name recognition or celebrity. The initial question film investors and movie distributors ask is who the cast is. This is where most indie movie producers are blown from the water because they have a not known cast of actors. Plus there’s a glut of indie movies being made because technology has made it less expensive to create movies.
The bright side is that entertaining indie movies are being made that could not otherwise ever have observed light of day before. The downside is meaningful movie distribution (getting paid) for indie produced films continues to shrink as indie films being made rises (supply and demand 101). I talked to at least one movie distributor that provides releasing independent films and they explained they receive new film submissions daily.
They certainly were honest saying they get very sellable movies and ones which are significantly less than appealing, but with so many movies out there they no longer offer a majority of producers advance money against film royalties or pay a lump cash “buy-out” to secure distribution rights. Their business viewpoint is most indie filmmakers are just happy seeing their movie released. The term they used was “glorified showreel” for an indie filmmaker to show they could produce a feature film. So, they acquire many of the movie releases without paying an advance or offering a “buy-out” agreement.
Not creating a make money from a video does not make financial sense for film investors that be prepared to see money made. When people set up money to generate a movie they need a get back on their investment. Otherwise it’s no longer a video investment. It becomes a picture donation of money they’re giving away without expectations. I’ve been on the “dog and pony show” circuit ending up in potential film investors and learning invaluable lessons.
I’m in the habit now of speaking with indie movie distributors before writing a screenplay to see what kinds of films are available and what actors or celebrity names mounted on a potential project appeal to them. This is simply not like chasing trends, but it gives producers a sharper picture of the sales climate for indie films. Sometimes distributors can give me a brief list of actors or celebrities to take into account that fit an independent movie budget. Movie sales outside of the U.S. are where a almost all the amount of money is good for indie filmmakers.
Movie distributors and film sales agents can inform you what actors and celebrity talent is translating to movie sales overseas at the indie level. These won’t be A-list names, but having someone with some type of name is a great feature to simply help your movie standout from others. Brief cameos of known actors or celebrities was once an effective way to help keep talent cost down and add a bankable name to your cast.
That has changed lately from my conversations with distribution companies. Movie distributors now expect any name talent attached to truly have a meaningful part in the movie rather than a few minutes in a cameo role. Cameo scenes can still work if there is an aesthetic hook that grabs the eye of viewers in some way. But having name talent say a couple of lines without special hook won’t fly anymore.
Another way to create an indie film in need of funding more attractive to investors is to install talent that has been in a video or TV show of note. Their name being an actor mightn’t be that well-known yet, but rising stars which have appeared in a favorite movie or TV show may give your movie broader appeal. If you cast them in a supporting role keep working days on the set right down to the absolute minimum to truly save your budget. Make an effort to write their scenes so they can be shot in a couple of days.
When you’re pitching to serious film investors they will want to be given an in depth movie budget and distribution plan on what you intend on earning money from the film’s release. The Catch-22 that occurs a lot is that many movie distributors that focus on releasing indie films won’t commit to any deal until they’ve screened the movie.
There’s not built-in distribution as with studio budget films. Film investors which are not traditionally area of the entertainment business will get turned off when a producer does not have a distribution deal already in place. They don’t understand the Catch-22 of indie filmmaking and distribution. This is where a movie producer really needs a great pitch that explains the financial dynamics of indie film distribution.
Most film investors will pass on an indie movie producer’s financing pitch that mentions self-distribution in it. From a video investor’s business perspective it will take entirely too long for an indie movie to generate money going the self-distribution route. It’s such as the old school method of selling your movie from the trunk of your car or truck at places, nevertheless now it’s done online using digital distribution and direct sales using a blog. That’s a long grind that many investors will not be thinking about hanging around for. Moving one unit of a video at a time is too slow of trickle for investors.
A possible way across the Catch-22 is to reach out to movie distributors when you are pitching to film investors. With a company budget number and possible cast attached you are able to gauge to see if there is any meaningful distribution interest in the movie. It’s always possible a distributor will show you that they’d offer an advance or “buy-out” deal. They generally won’t provide you with a hard number, but a good ballpark figure of what they could offer can tell you if your budget makes financial sense to approach movie investors with.
I understand one savvy indie movie producer which makes 4-6 movies a year on affordable budgets and knows they’re already creating a make money from the advance money alone. The film royalty payments really are a bonus. The producer keeps budgets extremely affordable and streamlined at every phase of production. After you have a background with a distribution company do you know what you are able to be prepared to be paid. Then you can offer film investors a percent on their money invested to the production which makes sense.
Social networking with other indie filmmakers lets you hear what’s happening with movie distribution from other people’s true to life experiences. An awesome thing I’ve been hearing about is there are film investors that won’t set up money to create movie that is going to be self-distributed, but they will roll the dice on a function that is going to specific film festivals. Not the art house film festivals. Those that are extremely genre specific like for horror or action films. Like Screamfest Horror Film Festival or Action on Film (AOF). Film buyers attend these events and meaningful distribution deals are made.
Independent film financing and movie distribution are areas of the entertainment business all filmmakers will have to cope with and study on each experience. I was in the hot seat today pitching to a picture investor. I’ve streamlined the budget around I can without making the plot lose steam.
The jam I’m in as a company is there are hard costs that can’t be avoided that include plenty of gun play including two rigging shots where baddies get shot and are blown backwards off their feet. Badass action films need experienced and seasoned film crews to pull-off hardcore action shots off clean and safe. The cast I want to hire has the perfect appeal and name recognition with this indie action movie to rock viewers. There’s nothing that may get lost in the translation in this film for foreign film buyers and movie viewers.
What I do believe got lost in the translation with the potential film investor today is if I keep taking out below-the-line crew to truly save money I’m going to want to do rewrites to the screenplay to get action scenes. These are selling points which will hurt sales if they’re written out. But it’s my job being an indie filmmaker to balance a budget that interests film investors. We’ll see how this goes. This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing fade out.