Indie film financing and movie distribution reminds of what it’d feel 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 certainly to be able to dance to a film investor’s music. It’s their stage and not yours being an indie filmmaker seeking film funding. They desire you to create a sellable movie which appeals to movie distributors and so 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 require subtitles for individuals to follow 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 change as indie movie distribution gets more financially shaky. The place it’s hitting indie movie producers hardest is right at the origin – film financing. Film investors at this time aren’t feeling excited about putting money into movies that do not need bankable name actors. This is simply not like so-called indie movies which have A-list actors or are produced for an incredible number of dollars. Those type of indie film passion projects you may make once you’ve made it in the entertainment business at the studio level.
Indie film investors and movie distributors won’t expect you to have A-list actor, but they do want producers to have actors (B-list or C-list or D-list) with some name recognition or celebrity. The very first question film investors and movie distributors ask is who the cast is. This is where most indie movie producers are blown out from the water because they’ve a not known cast of actors. Plus there’s a glut of indie movies being made because technology has made it more affordable to produce movies.
The bright side is that entertaining indie movies are increasingly being made that might 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 suits releasing independent films and they said they receive new film submissions daily.
They certainly were honest saying they get very sellable movies and ones that are less than appealing, but with so many movies out there they no further offer a lot of 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 definition of they used was “glorified showreel” for an indie filmmaker to produce 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 making a profit from a video does not make financial sense for film investors that expect to see money made. When people put up money to make a movie they desire a reunite on the investment. Otherwise it’s no further a video investment. It becomes a film donation of money they’re giving out with no 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 talking to 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 interest them. This is simply not like chasing trends, but it provides producers a sharper picture of the sales climate for indie films. Sometimes distributors will give me a short listing of actors or celebrities to take into account that suit an independent movie budget. Movie sales not in the U.S. are where a almost all the amount of money is made 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 kind of name is a good feature to simply help your movie standout from others. Brief cameos of known actors or celebrities used to be a great way to help keep talent cost down and add a bankable name to your cast.
That has changed lately from my conversations with distribution companies. Movie distributors now expect any name talent attached to have a meaningful part in the movie in place of a couple of minutes in a cameo role. Cameo scenes can still work if you have a visual hook that grabs the attention of viewers in certain way. But having name talent say a few lines with no special hook won’t fly anymore.
Another way to produce an indie film in need of funding more appealing to investors is to add talent that has been around a video or TV show of note. Their name being an actor mightn’t be that well-known yet, but rising stars which have appeared in a favorite movie or TV show can provide your movie broader appeal. In the event that you cast them in a supporting role keep working days on the set right down to the very least to save your budget. Make an effort to write their scenes to allow them to be shot in a couple of days.
When you’re pitching to serious film investors they will want to be given a detailed movie budget and distribution plan how you plan on earning profits from the film’s release. The Catch-22 that happens 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 which are not traditionally part of the entertainment business will get put off whenever a producer does not need a distribution deal already in place. They don’t understand the Catch-22 of indie filmmaking and distribution. This is where a movie producer really needs a good pitch that explains the financial dynamics of indie film distribution.
Most film investors will give an indie movie producer’s financing pitch that mentions self-distribution in it. From a video investor’s business perspective it requires entirely too much time for an indie movie to generate money going the self-distribution route. It’s like the old school method of selling your movie out from the trunk of your vehicle at places, but now it’s done online using digital distribution and direct sales with a blog. That’s a lengthy grind that many investors will not be interested in hanging around for. Moving one unit of a video at the same time is too slow of trickle for investors.
A possible way round the Catch-22 would be to reach out to movie distributors when you are pitching to film investors. With a firm budget number and possible cast attached you can gauge to see if you have any meaningful distribution curiosity about the movie. It’s always possible a vendor can tell you that they would offer an advance or “buy-out” deal. They often won’t provide you with a hard number, but even a ballpark figure of what they could offer can let you know if your allowance makes financial sense to approach movie investors with.
I am aware one savvy indie movie producer which makes 4-6 movies a year on very affordable budgets and knows they’re already making a profit from the advance money alone. The film royalty payments really are a bonus. The producer keeps budgets extremely affordable and streamlined at every phase of production. After you have a track record with a distribution company you know what you can expect to be paid. Then you can certainly offer film investors a percent on the money invested to the production which makes sense.
Social networking with other indie filmmakers allows you to hear what’s happening with movie distribution from other people’s true to life experiences. A very good thing I’ve been hearing about is there are film investors that won’t put up money to produce movie that will probably be self-distributed, but they will roll the dice on a function that will probably specific film festivals. Not the art house film festivals. Those who are extremely 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 aspects of the entertainment business all filmmakers will need to deal with and study on each experience. I was in the hot seat today pitching to a film investor. I’ve streamlined the budget around I can without making the plot lose steam.
The jam I’m in as a company is you will find hard costs that can’t be avoided that include 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 do want to hire has the perfect appeal and name recognition with 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 money I’m going to have to do rewrites to the screenplay to get action scenes. They are selling points that’ll hurt sales if they are written out. But it’s my job being an indie filmmaker to balance a budget that appeals to film investors. We’ll observe this goes. This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing fade out.