Indie film financing and movie distribution reminds of what it would feel like dancing nude on stage (much respect for exotic dancers at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club!). You show around pitch your movie project and have to manage to dance to a video investor’s music. It’s their stage and not yours being an indie filmmaker seeking film funding. They want you to produce a sellable movie which appeals to movie distributors so the production will make money.
Most investors I’ve met with aren’t 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 need subtitles for individuals to follow along with the story is what I’ve been told by distributors. Talking head movies will make no sense to viewers that don’t understand subtle lines spoken in a foreign language.
Independent film financing continues to alter as indie movie distribution gets more financially shaky. The area it’s hitting indie movie producers hardest is right at the source – film financing. Film investors right now aren’t feeling excited about putting money into movies that not have bankable name actors. This isn’t 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 possibly can make once you’ve made it in the entertainment business at the studio level.
Indie film investors and movie distributors won’t expect you with an A-list actor, nevertheless they do want producers to possess actors (B-list or C-list or D-list) with some name recognition or celebrity. The first question film investors and movie distributors ask is who the cast is. This really is where most indie movie producers are blown out of the water because they’ve an as yet 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 increasingly being made which may not otherwise ever have seen 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 told me they receive new film submissions daily.
These were honest saying they get very sellable movies and ones which are less than appealing, but with so many movies available 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 simply happy seeing their movie released. The definition of they used was “glorified showreel” for an indie filmmaker to produce they can produce a feature film. So, they acquire many of the movie releases without paying an advance or offering a “buy-out” agreement.
Not building a profit from a video does not make financial sense for film investors that be prepared to see money made. When people set up money to make a movie they desire a reunite on their investment. Otherwise it’s no longer a video investment. It becomes a video donation of money they’re giving away without any 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 talking to indie movie distributors before writing a screenplay to see what kinds of films can sell and what actors or celebrity names mounted on a potential project attract them. This isn’t like chasing trends, but it provides producers a sharper picture of the sales climate for indie films. Sometimes distributors will give me a quick listing of actors or celebrities to consider that suit an independent movie budget. Movie sales outside of the U.S. are in which a bulk of the money is perfect for indie filmmakers.
Movie distributors and film sales agents can let you know 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 sort of name is a good selling point to greatly help your movie standout from others. Brief cameos of known actors or celebrities used to be a good way to help keep talent cost down and put in a bankable name to your cast.
That’s 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 in place of a couple of minutes in a cameo role. Cameo scenes can still work if there is a visual hook that grabs the attention of viewers in certain way. But having name talent say a couple of lines without any special hook won’t fly anymore.
Another way to create an indie film in need of funding more appealing to investors is to install talent that has been in a video or TV show of note. Their name being an actor might not be that well-known yet, but rising stars which have appeared in a popular movie or TV show may give your movie broader appeal. In the event that you cast them in a supporting role keep working days on the set down seriously to the very least to save lots of your budget. Try to write their scenes so they can be shot in 1 or 2 days.
When you’re pitching to serious film investors they will want to get a detailed movie budget and distribution plan on what you plan on earning money from the film’s release. The Catch-22 that happens a whole lot is that many movie distributors that cater to releasing indie films won’t commit to any deal until they’ve screened the movie.
There’s not built-in distribution just as in studio budget films. Film investors that are not traditionally the main entertainment business can get deterred whenever a producer does not have a distribution deal already in place. They don’t understand the Catch-22 of indie filmmaking and distribution. This really is in which a movie producer really needs to have a solid 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 much time for an indie movie to generate money going the self-distribution route. It’s just like the old school way of selling your movie out of 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 an extended grind that many investors won’t be interested in waiting around for. Moving one unit of a video at any given time is too slow of trickle for investors.
A possible way round the Catch-22 would be to touch base to movie distributors while you are pitching to film investors. With a strong budget number and possible cast attached you are able to gauge to see if there is any meaningful distribution curiosity about the movie. It’s always possible a distributor will show you that they would offer an advance or “buy-out” deal. They often won’t give you 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 very affordable budgets and knows they’re already building a profit 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 track record with a distribution company you know what you are able to be prepared to be paid. Then you can offer film investors a percent on their money invested into the production which makes sense.
Social networking with other indie filmmakers enables you to 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’ll roll the dice on a function that is going to specific film festivals. Not the art house film festivals. Those who are very 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 aspects of the entertainment business all filmmakers will need to deal with and study from each experience. I was in the hot seat today pitching to a video investor. I’ve streamlined the budget around I will without making the plot lose steam.
The jam I’m in as a manufacturer is there are hard costs that can’t be avoided offering lots 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 wish to hire has the perfect appeal and name recognition because of 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 think got lost in the translation with the potential film investor today is if I keep taking out below-the-line crew to save lots of money I’m going to want to do rewrites to the screenplay to take out action scenes. These are selling points that may hurt sales if they are written out. But it’s my job being an indie filmmaker to balance a budget that appeals to film investors. We’ll see how this goes. This really is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing fade out.