Advancements in technology have spurred incredible growth in the independent film industry, and more and more filmmakers are managing to make profitable films regardless of the margins. However, without careful planning and dedication, filmmakers can put themselves at risk. Blindly starting production without a solid plan can cost you a lot of money and plunge you into bankruptcy. So, what should you consider before diving in?
How to Avoid Going into Debt
Some filmmakers procure financing for their projects through talent agency financing, independent distributor financing, end-user financing, borrowing completion funds, or setting up studio development production deals. Most of these involve a cut of project’s proceeds, and any slip up will culminate in debts. Putting into consideration the ideas below will minimize this risk.
Debunk the "Overnight Success" Myth
Most aspiring independent filmmakers fantasize about making a hit on their first attempt. There's nothing wrong with having such thoughts, but it should not be your primary motivation. Taking this path can encourage overspending and could ultimately lead to going deep into debt. If you look at all the successful startups today, their backstories always include their early struggles despite having an aura of overnight success. Devise a strategy and plan for failure if you have to. Success takes time.
Make Awesome Films
For this to happen, in-depth research and patience are key. Read widely, watch other successful independent films, talk to professionals, and become an expert on what you want to do. Do not rush things as it will require months or even more than a year for you to find that Eureka moment. Knowing your subject backward and forward actually reduces the chances of going into unnecessary debt.
Strategize for Distribution
Once you settle on a particular project to undertake, decide on the appropriate distribution platform such as the Internet, television, DVD, or cable. This will factor into your final budget significantly. Next, make that distribution plan part of your pitch. Investors need to understand what they get out of investing in you and how you intend to make that happen. How you get your 'product' to 'market' is as essential to the success of your film as its script.
These are just starting points intended to get you thinking about your project with some level of business sense. For in depth (and excellent) resources to take this next step seriously, we recommend "The Insider's Guide to Film Finance" by Philip Alberstat and "The Art of Film Funding" by Carole Lee Dean