Indie film financing and movie distribution reminds of what it would think that dancing nude on stage (much respect for exotic dancers at Larry Flynt’s Hustler Club! ). A person show up to pitch your film project and need to be able to dancing to a film investor’s music. They have their stage and not yours being an indie filmmaker seeking film financing. 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 these are tough sells to movie distributors and overseas film purchasers aren’t usually interested in seeing them.
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The dialogue and scenes of certain art house type films don’t translate well to international buyers and movie viewers. Motion, horror and skin does not need subtitles for people to follow the story is what I’ve been told by distributors. Talking mind 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 economically shaky. The place it’s hitting indie movie producers hardest is right in the source – film financing. Movie investors right now aren’t feeling excited about putting money into movies that do not have bankable name actors. This is simply not like so-called indie movies which have A-list actors or are created for millions of dollars. Those type of indie film passion projects you can make once you’ve made it in the entertainment business on the studio level.
Indie film traders and movie distributors won’t anticipate 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 plus movie distributors ask is which the cast is. This is where most indie movie producers are blown out of the water because they have an unfamiliar cast of actors. Plus there exists 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 submission (getting paid) for indie created films continues to shrink as indie films being made rises (supply and demand 101). I spoken to one movie distributor that suits releasing independent films and they told me they receive new film distribution 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 more offer a majority of producers advance money against film royalties or pay out a lump cash “buy-out” to obtain distribution rights. Their business viewpoint 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. Therefore , they acquire many of their movie releases without paying an advance or offering a “buy-out” agreement.
Not really making a profit from a movie does not make sense financially 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 objectives. I’ve been on the “dog and horse show” circuit meeting with potential movie investors and learning invaluable classes.
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 even celebrity names attached to a potential project appeal to them. This is not like running after trends, but it gives producers a sharper picture of the sales weather for indie films. Sometimes vendors will give me a short list of actors or celebrities to consider that match 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 plus celebrity talent is translating in order to movie sales overseas at the indie level. These won’t be A-list names, but having someone with some type of name is a great selling point to help your movie standout from others. Short cameos of known actors or even 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 at this point expect any name talent attached with have a meaningful part in the film 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. But having name talent say a few lines with no special hook is not going to fly anymore.
Another way to make a good 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 however, 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 part keep working days on the set down to a minimum to save your budget. Try to create their scenes so they can be photo 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 plan on making money from the film’s release. The Catch-22 that happens a lot is that most movie distributors that cater to liberating 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 that are not traditionally part of the entertainment company can get turned off when a producer does not 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.
The majority of film investors will pass on an indie movie producer’s financing message 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 method of selling your movie out of the trunk of your car at places, but now it’s done online using electronic distribution and direct sales via a blog. That’s a long grind that most traders will not be interested in waiting around for. Moving one unit of a movie at the same time is too slow of trickle with regard to investors.
A possible way around the Catch-22 is to reach out to movie distributors while you are pitching to film investors. Having a firm budget number and achievable cast attached you can gauge to see if there is any meaningful distribution desire for the movie. It’s always possible a provider will tell you that they would offer an advance or “buy-out” deal. They usually won’t give you a hard number, yet even a ballpark figure of the actual might offer can let you know in case your budget makes financial sense to approach movie investors with.
I am aware 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 progress 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 compensated. Then you can offer film investors a percent on their money invested in to the production that makes sense.
Social networking along with other indie filmmakers lets you hear exactly what is happening with movie distribution from other people’s real life experiences. A cool factor I’ve been hearing about is that you will find film investors that won’t put up money to make movie that is going to be self-distributed, but they will roll the chop on a feature that is going to specific film festivals. Not the art house film festivals. The ones that are very style specific like for horror or action films. Like Screamfest Scary Film Festival or Action on Film (AOF). Film buyers attend these events and meaningful submission deals are made.
Independent film financing and movie distribution are regions 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 trader. I’ve streamlined the budget as much as I can without making the plot get rid of steam.