Indie film financing and movie submission reminds of what it would feel like dancing nude on stage (much respect for exotic dancers at Lewis Flynt’s Hustler Club! ). You show up to pitch your film project and need to be able to dancing to a film investor’s music. Really their stage and not yours as an indie filmmaker seeking film funding. They want you to make a sellable movie which appeals to movie distributors therefore the production can make money.
Most traders I’ve met with are not thinking about putting hard money into indie art house films because individuals are tough sells to film distributors and overseas film purchasers aren’t usually interested in seeing all of them. The dialogue and scenes associated with certain art house type films don’t translate well to foreign buyers and movie viewers. Actions, horror and skin does not need subtitles for people to follow the story is what Trying to find told by distributors. Talking head movies can make no sense to viewers that don’t understand subtle lines spoken in a foreign language.
Independent movie financing continues to change as indie movie distribution gets more financially shaky. The place it’s hitting indie movie producers hardest is right in the source – film financing. Movie investors right now aren’t feeling enthusiastic about putting money into movies that do not have bankable name actors. This is simply not like so-called indie movies that have A-list actors or are produced for millions of dollars. Those type of indie film passion projects you can make once you’ve made it in the entertainment business at the studio level.
Indie film traders and movie distributors won’t anticipate you to have an A-list actor, however they do want producers to have stars (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 is where most indie movie producers are taken out of the water because they have an unidentified cast of actors. Plus there is a glut of indie movies being made because technology has made it more affordable to make movies.
The bright-side is that entertaining indie movies are being made that might not otherwise actually have seen light of day just before. The downside is meaningful movie submission (getting paid) for indie produced films continues to shrink as indie films being made rises (supply and demand 101). I spoken to one movie distributor that caters to releasing independent films and they informed me they receive new film submissions daily.
They were honest saying they will get very sellable movies plus ones that are less than appealing, using so many movies out there they no more offer a majority of producers advance cash against film royalties or pay a lump cash “buy-out” to obtain distribution rights. Their business point of view is most indie filmmakers are just happy seeing their movie launched. The term they used was “glorified showreel” for an indie filmmaker to show they can make a feature film. So , they acquire many of their movie releases without paying an advance or even offering a “buy-out” agreement.
Not really making a profit from a movie does not make financial sense for film investors that expect to see money made. When people put up money to produce a movie they want a return on their investment. Otherwise it’s no longer a movie investment. It becomes a film donation of money they’re giving away with no anticipations. I’ve been on the “dog and horse show” circuit meeting with potential film investors and learning invaluable classes.
I’m in the habit now of talking to indie movie distributors before writing a screenplay to see what kinds of films are selling and what actors or even celebrity names attached to a potential project appeal to them. This is not like chasing trends, but it gives producers a sharper picture of the sales climate for indie films. Sometimes vendors will give me a short list of stars or celebrities to consider that match an independent movie budget. Movie product sales outside of the U. S. are in which a bulk of the money is made for indie filmmakers.
Movie distributors and film phone sales agents can tell you what actors and celebrity talent is translating in order to movie sales overseas at the indie level. These won’t be A-list titles, but having someone with some type of name is a great selling point to help your own movie standout from others. Short cameos of known actors or celebrities used to be a good way to keep skill cost down and add a bankable name to your cast.
That has changed lately from my conversations along with distribution companies. Movie distributors at this point expect any name talent attached with have a meaningful part in the movie instead of a few minutes in a cameo part. Cameo scenes can still work when there is a visual hook that holds the attention of viewers in some way. Yet having name talent say a few lines with no special hook is just not fly anymore.
Another way to make an indie film in need of funding more attractive to investors is to attach skill that has been in a movie or TV show of note. Their name being an actor might not be that well-known yet, but rising stars that have made an appearance in a popular movie or Television show can give your movie broader attractiveness. If you cast them in a supporting function keep working days on the set right down to a minimum to save your budget. Try to compose their scenes so they can be chance in one or two days.
When you’re harrassing to serious film investors they are going to want to be given a detailed movie spending budget and distribution plan on how you intend on making money from the film’s release. The particular Catch-22 that happens a lot is that the majority of movie distributors that cater to releasing indie films won’t commit to any kind of deal until they’ve screened the movie.
There is not built-in distribution like with facilities budget films. Film investors which are not traditionally part of the entertainment business can get turned off when a producer don’t have a distribution deal already in position. They don’t understand the Catch-22 of indie filmmaking and distribution. This is where a show producer really needs to have a solid pitch that explains the financial dynamics of indie film distribution.
Most film investors will pass on a good indie movie producer’s financing pitch that mentions self-distribution in it. From a movie investor’s business perspective it requires entirely too long for an indie movie to generate money going the self-distribution route. It’s like the old school way of selling your movie out of the trunk of your car at places, great it’s done online using electronic distribution and direct sales via a weblog. That’s a long grind that most traders will not be interested in waiting around for. Moving one unit of a movie at a time is too slow of trickle for investors.
A possible way around the Catch-22 is to reach out to movie distributors when you are pitching to film investors. Having a firm budget number and achievable cast attached you can gauge to find out if there is any meaningful distribution interest in the movie. It’s always possible a supplier will tell you that they would offer a good advance or “buy-out” deal. They often won’t give you a hard number, but even a ballpark figure of what they might offer can let you know if your budget makes financial sense in order to approach movie investors with.
I understand one savvy indie movie producer that makes 4-6 movies a year upon very reasonable budgets and knows could possibly be already making a profit from the advance money alone. The film royalty payments are a bonus. The maker keeps budgets extremely affordable and streamlined at every phase of production. Once you have a track record with a distribution company you know what you can expect to be compensated. Then you can offer film investors a percent on their money invested in to the production that makes sense.
Social networking to indie filmmakers lets you hear elaborate happening with movie distribution from other people’s real life experiences. A cool matter I’ve been hearing about is that you can find film investors that won’t put up cash to make movie that is going to be self-distributed, but they will roll the dice on a feature that is going to specific movie festivals. Not the art home film festivals. The ones that are very style specific like for horror or action films. Like Screamfest Horror Film Festival or Action upon Film (AOF). Film buyers go to these events and meaningful submission deals are made.
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Independent film funding and movie distribution are parts of the entertainment business all filmmakers will have to deal with and learn from every experience. I was in the hot chair today pitching to a film investor. I’ve streamlined the budget as much as I could without making the plot reduce steam.