These days it seems that if you can cash in what's left of a 401k (assuming there's something there as of late) or if you find a bank who's willing to give you a second mortgage (good luck with that) AND you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, you have just laid the ground work to become an independent filmmaker/producer. According to The New York Times writer Michael Cieply's Independent Filmmakers Distribute on Their Own article, the current waive of independent filmmaking and distribution is indeed independent. Studio execs buying up film rights at chic festivals ain't what it used to be. The representation has dwindled and offers are few.
As many of us know, the independent (and even not so independent) film market is at a strange place right now. The movie market hasn't quite figured out how to make money in a viral world (if anyone has figured this out, please let me know. I won't tell a soul). Mr. Cieply writes "Here is how it used to work: aspiring filmmakers playing the cool auteur in hopes of attracting the eye of a Hollywood power broker. Here is the new way: filmmakers doing it themselves — paying for their own distribution, marketing films through social networking sites and Twitter blasts, putting their work up free on the Web to build a reputation, cozying up to concierges at luxury hotels in film festival cities to get them to whisper into the right ears."
Marketing on line isn't as easy as it appears either. It seems like everyone and their mother is a filmmaker these days, putting their clips on youtube, Facebook, etc. That isn't enough. The web is inundated with content. What makes your content stand out? What makes your film worth paying a streaming fee or taking extra time to go to the funky film theatre to see it during it's 4 day run? There are all sorts of theories on how to make your film special. The first one is to make an awesome, compelling film with fascinating characters, but everyone thinks their film is just that. Even if it is, how do you get people to hear about it and watch it in order to spread the word (or Tweet as the case may be)? Some answers can be offered up through a growing film sales and finance consultant market. They won't give you money, but if you do get that second mortgage, you can pay them to create a great plan for you.
Unfortunately this blog doesn't have any easy breezy answers to this hot topic either. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and who will be left standing. No doubt the business will find ways to adapt, but the internet age in video is still new so it will take time. During that time many filmmakers will go in debt and a few of them will pay back that debt, make a profit and make another film. Let's hope it's us.