The film-making business is a very tough field to enter with “Goliaths” in Hollywood dominating the industry with much larger budgets than any newcomer has access to. However, there are niches, measures, and ways to side step Hollywood and be successful in the early stages of your film-making career (even your first film). Awareness to the issues most newcomers have will give you a HUGE advantage towards financial success.
5. Theatrical Release – There is a thin line when deciding whether to release your film in theaters, especially when you have a low budget. Choosing not to strongly decreases the amount of exposure your film will get. However, most films lose money in theaters, so on a small budget, how much can you afford to lose? By only choosing a small amount of theaters, and rolling out into more as the film grows popularity and success, you can mitigate a large amount of theatrical release risk. Note: Do not be afraid to pull the film the moment it starts to drop off.
4. Lack of (Solid) Business Plan – There are two sides to every story, even film-making: Creative vs. Business. Both sides are equally important. It is true that without the creative side, the film would not exist, but without the business side, you will lose money. Because most independent films are started by creative people with a vision, it is rare they want to spend their time planning the business side. Without a clear plan of where you are going, it is very easy to lose sight, stall, and have the film fall through the cracks. Note: Almost all investors will require not only a business plan, but a solid one.
3. Over Spending – Hollywood, as the Goliath’s in this industry, has the access to huge budgets that most independent film-makers can’t even dream of. High budgets allow for better quality, more marketing, and large distribution, but can often be a plague for the film’s success. For every Avatar, there is a million John Carter‘s. Due to the split up of profits between theaters and distributors, film-makers keep roughly 1/4 of the film’s revenue. So for every $1 million you save, it is as if you are making $4 million. Note: Keep the budget’s tight, we have heard to many horror stories of budgets inflating during production.
2. The Script - The backbone of the film is the script. It will be the first thing production companies will see, investors will want to read through, and at the early stages, is the film. Too often, writers bring a script that has not been fully worked out to a production company, expecting it to work itself out as production takes place. No company will green-light a film with a flawed script, and it will always be broken. Note: Make sure it never contradicts, work through a storyboard, take it to multiple non-biased editors, make sure the Protagonist is likable and relatable, etc.
1. Funding – Money and investors are hard to come by in the film industry. Because they are “high risk, high reward,” most investors are weary of investing in films. Most films are financed by a film fund, or a combination of government grants, tax shelters and incentives, and debt and equity finance. Although there are several options, they are hard to come by and can often leave a movie stalled in production (if it can get to production). Explore all options and be creative when financing your film. Note: Veronica Mars met its goal of raising $2 million in less than 11 hours on kickstarter, and totaled $5,702,153 from 91,585 backers.
As you can see, film-making is difficult even with a great movie idea. There are plenty more obstacles than have been mentioned, but being aware of these will give a HUGE advantage.
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