Making money in independent film making and low-budget films.

This was from a post of mine on the filmmaker magazine forums before they were all spammed up by drug sellers. What’s happened to them; I’ll need to check? Anyway, I thought I’d post it here too. I was discussing with another film maker, who was planning his distribution strategy, the reality of low-budget films being downloaded and shared without any sort of payment to the makers and the frustrations this involved. This was my response:

“I think with an ultra-low budget film I would be happy to recoup my investment and break even. To me this would be a success. If I made a small profit, I would view it as a bonus. Do you think your projects have the potential to do this? If you have three in post, it suggests you are already pro-active and probably have plenty of ideas for future films. Ideally, you would want everyone to pay a little to see your movies and for all the hard work that you and the team will have put in. But, that just isn’t the reality right now, in some instances, with all the download sites available.

For a lot of film-makers operating at the low to no budget level, the rewards will not be financial but will come in the form of experience, confidence, knowledge and maybe reputation, with the added possibility of being offered future ‘paid’ work. Tying yourself up in mental knots about how much money you won’t be making, will only stifle your creativity and your problem solving ability.
For a film to be downloaded 42,000 times is, arguably, a form of success? No? Then how do you combat this situation? Mm. Tricky. There are a lot of people thinking about it, with better brains than me. Swallow it? I think the least you can do is splash your website name (I assume you have a website for your movies?) all over the credits, both beginning and end. If you get downloaded a lot, that should drive some curious traffic to you. But then you need something there to hold people’s interest. Think of ways you can monetise your website to add extra income. Posters, T-shirts, DVD’s, advertising, other website exclusive pods. How about a film for watching in instalments? What about a donation box if they liked your film?

“Please help hungry and soiled film-makers”

I sometimes wake up in a cold sweat knowing that film-making and film distribution is going through important changes and we happen to be stuck in the middle of it. Interesting times. Maybe we should have been born twenty years ago? But then, no digital, no internet, no film-maker forum. We’ve got to be forward thinking.

Why bother you ask? Don’t, if you want to make money. At ultra-low budget level, It’s a distraction. It’s the wrong focus.

In general, we need to start thinking differently. Mini-studios, our own equipment, red-cam’s, green screens, web-distribution, our own t.v channels, more brainpower devoted to marketing but that’s up a level or two. How serious do you get? I’m going on too much. You’re a producer, I’m sure you know all this and were probably feeling a little dispirited when you mailed. I sympathize, I do, so I apologize if I’ve stated anything too obvious.So why bother? Because you love it, you know you do! Keep working, keep making films.”

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