Indie Film Financing and Movie Distribution – Dancing Nude

Indie film financing and movie distribution reminds of what it would 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 to be able to dance to a film investor’s music. It’s 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 so the production can make money.

Most investors I’ve met with are not interested in putting hard money into indie art house films because those are tough sells to movie distributors and overseas film buyers aren’t usually interested in seeing them. The dialogue and scenes of certain art house type films don’t translate well to foreign buyers and movie viewers. Action, horror and skin does not need subtitles for people to follow the story is what I’ve been told by distributors. Talking head movies can 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 source – film financing. Film investors right now aren’t feeling excited about putting money into movies that do not have bankable name actors. This is 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 investors and movie distributors won’t expect you to have an 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 first question film investors and movie distributors ask is who the cast is. This is where most indie movie producers are blown out of the water because they have an unknown 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 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.

They were honest saying they get very sellable movies and ones that are less than appealing, but with so many movies out there they no longer offer a majority 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 just happy seeing their movie released. The term they used was “glorified showreel” for an indie filmmaker to display they can make a feature film. So, they acquire many of their movie releases without paying an advance or offering a “buy-out” agreement.

Not 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 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 types of films are selling and what actors or 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 distributors will give me a short list of actors or celebrities to consider that fit an independent movie budget. Movie sales outside of the U.S. are where a bulk of the 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 great selling point to help your movie standout from others. Brief cameos of known actors or celebrities used to be a good way to 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 instead of a few minutes in a cameo role. Cameo scenes can still work if there is a visual hook that grabs the attention of viewers in some way. But having name talent say a couple of lines with no special hook won’t fly anymore.

Another way to make an indie film in need of funding more attractive to investors is to attach talent that has been in a movie or TV show of note. Their name as an actor might not be that well-known yet, but rising stars that have appeared in a popular movie or TV show can give your movie broader appeal. If you cast them in a supporting role keep working days on the set down to a minimum to save your budget. Try to write their scenes so they can be shot in one or two days.

When you’re pitching to serious film investors they will want to be given a detailed movie budget and distribution plan on how you plan on making money from the film’s release. The Catch-22 that happens a lot is that most 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 like with studio budget films. Film investors that are not traditionally part of the entertainment business can get turned off when a producer does not have 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 to have 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 movie investor’s business perspective it takes 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, but now it’s done online using digital distribution and direct sales via a blog. That’s a long grind that most investors 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 while you are pitching to film investors. With a firm budget number and possible cast attached you can gauge to see if there is any meaningful distribution interest in the movie. It’s always possible a distributor will tell you that they would offer an advance or “buy-out” deal. They usually 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 to approach movie investors with.

I know one savvy indie movie producer that makes 4-6 movies a year on very reasonable budgets and knows they’re already making a profit from the advance money alone. The film royalty payments are a bonus. The producer 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 paid. Then you can offer film investors a percent on their money invested into the production that makes sense.

Social networking with other indie filmmakers lets you hear what’s happening with movie distribution from other people’s real life experiences. A cool thing I’ve been hearing about is that there are film investors that won’t put up money to make movie that is going to be self-distributed, but they will roll the dice on a feature that is going to specific film festivals. Not the art house film festivals. The ones 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 will have to deal with and learn from each experience. I was in the hot seat today pitching to a film investor. I’ve streamlined the budget as much as I can without making the plot lose steam.

The jam I’m in as a producer is there are hard costs that cannot 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 want to hire has the perfect appeal and name recognition for this indie action movie to rock viewers. There is nothing that can get lost in the translation in this film for foreign film buyers and movie viewers.

What I think 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 take out action scenes. These are selling points that will hurt sales if they are written out. But it’s my job as an indie filmmaker to balance a budget that appeals to film investors. We’ll see how this goes. This is indie filmmaker Sid Kali typing fade out.

Things to Talk About With a Girl! You Will Never Be at a Loss For Words After This Point

Now that you have got the chance to talk to a girl you are shaking in your boots worrying about what to say to her. After all, it is emphasized everywhere how important a good conversation is. Talking about sports is definitely not going to work especially if she is not into it and talking about fashion or clothes too much does make you sound a little gay. So, here are a few things that you can talk about with the girl that you like.

Interests and hobbies
It’s always good to try and find out what her interests are. If she has any particular hobbies find out about those and talk about it. Even if you don’t know anything about a hobby of hers which might be gardening, then you can always ask her to elaborate and educate you.

Work
Find out about her job profile and her work like. Talking about work can be good as there is a lot to say. You can discuss work roles, job assignments, people at work, whom she likes and whom she does etc. Similarly you can tell her what you do, what your career goals are and funny anecdotes from your work place.

Preferences, likes and dislikes
Try and find out what her preferences, likes and dislikes are. It could range from her favorite restaurant or an issue she feels passionately about. This conversation range is immense as you can talk about current affairs, politics, social issues and causes, animals, colors etc. You have to learn to agree with what she has to say, well mostly. If some of your beliefs are diametrically opposite don’t use this chance to straighten things out and try to change her point of view though.

Movies
Movies are a good topic as conversation starters. You can ask her about the type of movies she likes to watch, her favorite movie and movie star or movies that have genuinely touched her. You can go on and on with this topic as almost everyone loves to watch movies. You could even fix up a movie date by talking on this topic.

Crazy things ever done
Find out about the craziest things that she has ever done and tell her about some of your crazy stories. This can garner a few good laughs and warm her up to you.

Television
Find out about the television shows that she enjoys. See if you have something in common that you can talk about here or tell her to tell you about what she likes about any show.

Travelling
If you have been travelling or if she likes to travel you could talk about different places that you have visited or would like to visit.

How To Sell Your Indie Movie With iTunes, Amazon and Netflix For Maximum Profit

If you’ve made a feature film, congratulations! As an independent filmmaker, you’ve just accomplished a feat that many find impossible. But behind all the excitement, you and I both know there is one nagging question on your mind. And it is the same question asked by every independent feature filmmaker. You’re wondering: “How am I going to sell this thing?”

That is a good question. And if you’re crossing your fingers for a huge paycheck and a three-picture Hollywood deal, what I’m about to tell you is going to be very different than what you had hoped for.

Thanks to technology, any person with a thousand dollars can grab an HD camera and create a backyard indie. And while this does not guarantee quality, it does create a market flooded with cheaply produced movies. Couple this with a decline in traditional sales channels and your odds of finding a profitable deal have become increasingly challenging.

For most filmmakers, this revelation comes as a shock. After all the work you put into making your movie project a reality, the prospect of putting a no-deal DVD onto a bookshelf and failing to get a return on investment is discouraging. And if it wasn’t for the internet, I’d probably tell you that a career selling life insurance wouldn’t be too bad.

But I have good news! Like you, our first feature was met with empty distribution promises and crappy deals. So by necessity, we started selling our title on Amazon as both a physical DVD and a video on demand download. At first, none of the producers liked that idea. I mean, even if a traditional deal sucks, at least there is still validation of seeing your title on the shelves at the local video store…

Then we made our first sale. We thought it was an anomaly. How could we possibly make money with our movie? We had no stars. We had no formal distribution. And most people on earth had never heard of our title (including you.) But then we made another sale… And then a third… And then a dozen…

That was 2006. Since that time, our movie has sold in ways we never imagined. As a result, every four months I get a nice check. And while it’s not enough money to buy my retirement, I can’t complain.

This success was enough to convince me that making money as an indie filmmaker is no longer about the BIG pay day. These days filmmakers need to create good work, find their target audience and focus on selling movies consistently over time. As a result, I now believe the modern moviemaking model is to eventually create multiple streams of movie income.

For many filmmakers, this sort of talk might be crazy.

Think about it. In years past, filmmakers only self distributed their movies when they had to. It wasn’t a choice! But these days, filmmakers can choose to self-distribute, because 9 times out of 10, making your title available on Amazon and iTunes and other popular VOD marketplaces can potentially pay more than a traditional deal. Because a deal that pays zero is not a deal. (Of course I’m expressing my opinion.)

The following “How To Sell Your Movie” checklist will provide you with a broad overview of how to market and sell your movie without the middle-man. Also, wherever I thought it would help, I have mentioned some of my partner companies. This means if you utilize any of these services, there is a possibility I will receive compensation. This will not affect your purchase price. That said, let’s get started!

How To Sell Your Movie – Check list

1. Create a website specific to your movie. Research various hosting companies and grab hosting for your site and reserve your domain name there. When you purchase your hosting, a domain name is usually included in the purchase price.

2. Branding is the marketing equivalent of matching your belt with your shoes. Don’t make your marketing complicated. Make sure your colors, logos, posters and fonts are consistent.

3. Most filmmakers make a crazy website with all sorts of bells and whistles. Your website should be simple. You should have a trailer, an about page, a buy now button, links to your social networks and an audience list.

4. Out of everything I mention, getting people onto your opt-in audience list is most important. An audience list will allow you to collect a name and email address of your visitor.

5. Take a moment to think about your target audience. Hopefully you have a marketable hook for your movie, and a plan for reaching your target demographic. If not, figure it out!

6. Get your movie selling as a Video on Demand rental and download. Upload your movie to the many VOD marketplaces, such as iTunes, Amazon and NetFlix. To make this easy, research a company called Distribber. Tell them I sent you.

7. You can sell DVDs too. Amazon’s Create Space makes this easy. And even though it’s more expensive, I advise you to stay out of the shipping business. Let CS manufacture your DVDs and fulfill your orders on demand. This way, you can focus on increasing your sales, as well as your next movie projects. Not shipping.

8. Your trailer is your sales tool. Upload your trailer to YouTube as well as other, popular video sites. Make sure your trailer mentions your website. Put your focus on optimizing YouTube. Why? Because YouTube is both a social network and the second largest search engine on earth (also owned by Google.) It’s worth it!

9. Write press releases related to the availability of your movie. Include back links to your site. Send the release out via one of the online press release submission sites. In addition to this, don’t be afraid to call magazine editors and journalists who write for your target audience. As they say, if you don’t ask – you don’t get!

10. Join online forums related to your target market. Create a profile, complete with a signature link to your website. Now, whenever you join a conversation, you’ll spread your links.

11. Just because you’re in a forum doesn’t mean people care about you or your movie. If you join conversations without adding value – or if you become one of those spam happy people who talk about your movie and fail to add value to the discussion, you will be seen as a spammer.

12. If the idea of contributing to forum conversations annoys you, then just pay for advertising on the site. The whole point is to increase awareness of your movie and get prospective audience members to your site.

13. Create a Facebook page, a Twitter account and join the popular social networking sites. Again, you’ll want to build a fan base for your movie. And to manage it, try http://www.Ping.Fm This tool allows you to update all your social networking sites at once, which is cool!

14. The purpose of using social networks is to connect with your target market, spread word about your movie and once again, lead people off the networks and onto your Audience list.

15. The reason you can not rely solely on social networking for your audience list, is because many of those sites have gone out of vogue. I lost 10K “friends” on one of them. As a result, I estimate this tip is worth $100,000.00.

16. Additionally, have your webmaster put a button on your website so people can tweet, bookmark, and share your movie website with friends on their social networking sites. (Can you please click the tweet button at the top of this article?)

17. If you have the budget, purchase some offline advertising in publications related to your movie. To find related publications, go to a book store and look for magazines. Also, try Google.

18. All of these methods are intended to get people back to your website. The purpose of your site is to get people to watch your movie trailer and click the BUY NOW button. Anything that distracts these visitors must go!

19. You’ll soon realize that most people will not buy your movie on their first visit to your website. If they don’t click, then at least try to get them to opt into your audience list. Then you have a chance of getting them to buy later.

22. Out of all the people who click the BUY NOW button, many won’t buy. But some will!

23. Consider using that money to purchase more advertising and then repeat the cycle. The goal is to keep investing and reinvesting the money until you produce a self sustaining machine.

24. Sales will tend to level off after a few years. This is the normal. When this happens, find some other filmmakers with a movie geared towards the same target audience. Offer to promote their movie to your audience list. If these other filmmakers have an audience list too, ask them to promote your movie. Be willing to pay them a cut of your profits.

25. Time for your next project. But unlike before, you’ll have a strong mailing list at your disposal. And as a result, you can now ask yourself the following magical questions: “How many VOD downloads do I have to sell to recoup my investment? And how am I going to sell them?” Answer those questions, and you’ll also be talking the talk with your investors.