Monday, November 24, 2008

An Honest Approach to Creation

The state of the Indie Film Community is in constant flux, and distribution is even more unpredictable. Several people throughout the community have varying views and opinions on the issue, and each of them reflect one common thought that we have yet to address: We can’t all win.

The first thing to do when starting any indie film production is to ask yourself the three most important questions that will decide the future of your project;

1. What kind of project is this?
2. What makes the project viable?
3. Who is my audience and how do I reach them?

These questions have no official “right” answers, and everyone who asks these questions of themselves and their project will naturally have vastly different answers, but I’d like to help layout some possible guidelines. In order to do this, we have to be brutally honest with ourselves.

1. What kind of project is this?
- Obviously, every project is not going to be There Will Be Blood or The Dark Knight. When it comes to Indie film, there are two films that I believe function well as opposite ends of the spectrum. Ask yourself, is your project more like Juno, or The Puffy Chair? Is it somewhere between? This leads us into question 2.

2. What makes the project viable?
- Looking at Juno, the budget was well above 1 million dollars, there were several recognizable actors attached as well as a reputable director and a good soundtrack. The project had a full crew, a moderate overhead, and because of all these factors, the production value of the film was very good. It was a quality film targeted for Theatrical Distribution.
- Looking at The Puffy Chair, the budget was small (15k), there were no mainstream recognizable actors or directors attached and there was a very, very, very small crew. The script was good, the story was good, the acting was good.

Chances are, your project is in line with one of these two films. Both went to film festivals, both did well, but, and this is key, both had experienced crew. Recently it was stated by several reputable sources that submission to Sundance has gone from 350 films to 3,500 films. Its no great secret that the contributing factor to that is cheaper and more efficient technology.

Not every film submitted is going to be of quality caliber. Most submissions are made on a shoestring budget with borrowed money, no credible talent, no marketing plan, no target in mind, and poor sound and lighting.

I’d love to be of the mindset that anyone can make a film, and, technically, that is the case, but not everyone can make one well. I will always support anyone in a film making endeavor, always, but I will also help them to understand their project, which brings us to the 3rd and last point.

3. What is my audience and how do I reach them?
- Some films, due to subject matter, come with built in audiences. Documentaries have their own niche, and their various topics have theirs. Narratives are divided into Genres, and each Genre has its own niche as well. Where does yours fit? If you don’t know, ask. Or, even better, do your own investigating. Does your project remind you, in some way, of another indie film? Look into how that project did, learn what they did, what worked and what didn’t, use it to your advantage. Share your information.

Have a festival plan, have a marketing plan. Find out if there are any organizations that might be interested in a theme, plot point, character or aspect of your project. See if they’d be willing to help you reach a greater audience, if there is any kind of collaboration possible. Brush up on the area you’re shooting in, see if there is any kind of local PR you can get involved in.

By researching the work of others, you get a better idea of what to do yourself. But you have to be honest; as film makers, one of the responsibilities we have is to be responsible for our funding. More often than not, we are stewards of other people’s money (our investors) and we have to make sure they recover what they put in. We can not afford to kid ourselves with our own projects. Second, and even third, opinions are important. As a whole, we can not afford to lose our integrity, we must strive to maintain and build on our community. We have to let Egos go, we can’t be selfish. Indie film itself is based on the belief that there is a community of talented, qualified and devoted people who work with each other to embrace and develop an art-form that they love. Let us not forget that, or we will fail.

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