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 up to pitch your movie project and need to be able to dance to a picture investor’s music. It’s their stage and not yours being an indie filmmaker seeking film funding. They need you to make a sellable movie which interests movie distributors therefore the production will 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 want subtitles for folks to check out 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 improve as indie movie distribution gets more financially shaky. The spot it’s hitting indie movie producers hardest is right at the origin – 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 that have A-list actors or are produced for an incredible number of dollars. Those type of indie film passion projects you possibly can make once you’ve caused it to be in the entertainment business at the studio level.
Indie film investors and movie distributors won’t expect you with an A-list actor, however they do want producers to have 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. That is where most indie movie producers are blown out of the water because they have an as yet not known cast of actors. Plus there is a glut of indie movies being made because technology has caused it to be less expensive to create movies.
The bright side is that entertaining indie movies are increasingly being made that could 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 one movie distributor that caters to 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 significantly less than appealing, but with so many movies on the market they no longer offer most 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 term they used was “glorified showreel” for an indie filmmaker to show they are able to make a feature film. So, they acquire many of these movie releases without paying an advance or offering a “buy-out” agreement.
Not creating a make money from a film does not make financial sense for film investors that expect to see money made. When people set up money to produce a movie they need a return on their investment. Otherwise it’s no longer a film investment. It becomes a picture donation of money they’re giving away without expectations. I’ve been on the “dog and pony show” circuit meeting with 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 forms of films are selling and what actors or celebrity names mounted on a potential project appeal to them. This isn’t like chasing trends, but it provides producers a sharper picture of the sales climate for indie films. Sometimes distributors gives me a brief list of actors or celebrities to take into account that fit an unbiased movie budget. Movie sales outside of the U.S. are where a majority of the cash is perfect for indie filmmakers.
Movie distributors and film sales agents can tell 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 sort of name is a great selling point to greatly help your movie standout from others. Brief cameos of known actors or celebrities was once a great way to 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 really have a meaningful part in the movie rather than a few momemts in a cameo role. Cameo scenes can still work if you have a visual hook that grabs the interest of viewers in some way. But having name talent say several 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 add talent that has been in a film or TV show of note. Their name being an actor might not be that well-known yet, but rising stars that have appeared in a well known movie or TV show can 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 absolute minimum to save lots of your budget. Try to write their scenes to allow them to be shot in 1 or 2 days.
When you’re pitching to serious film investors they may wish to get a detailed movie budget and distribution plan on how you plan on earning profits from the film’s release. The Catch-22 that takes place a 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 is not built-in distribution just as in studio budget films. Film investors that are not traditionally the main entertainment business will get switched off each time a producer does not have a distribution deal already in place. They don’t understand the Catch-22 of indie filmmaking and distribution. That is where a movie producer really will need 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 film investor’s business perspective it takes entirely too much time for an indie movie to generate money going the self-distribution route. It’s such as the old school way of selling your movie out of the trunk of your car 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 thinking about hanging around for. Moving one unit of a film at a time is too slow of trickle for investors.
A possible way around the Catch-22 would be to reach out to movie distributors when you are pitching to film investors. With a strong budget number and possible cast attached you can gauge to see if you have any meaningful distribution fascination with the movie. It’s always possible a provider can tell you that they would offer an advance or “buy-out” deal. They usually won’t give you a hard number, but a ballpark figure of what they may offer can let you know if your financial allowance makes financial sense to approach movie investors with.
I am aware one savvy indie movie producer which makes 4-6 movies per year on affordable budgets and knows they’re already creating a make money from the advance money alone. The film royalty payments certainly are a bonus. The producer keeps budgets extremely affordable and streamlined at every phase of production. When you have a background with a distribution company guess what happens you can expect 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 that 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 characteristic that is going to specific film festivals. Not the art house film festivals. Those that 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 areas of the entertainment business all filmmakers must handle and learn from each experience. I was in the hot seat today pitching to a picture investor. I’ve streamlined the budget as much as I will without making the plot lose steam.
The jam I’m in as a company is there are hard costs that can not 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 want to hire has the perfect appeal and name recognition for this indie action movie to rock viewers. There is 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 save lots of money I’m likely to want to do rewrites to the screenplay to take out action scenes. They’re selling points which will hurt sales if they are 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. That is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing fade out.