The Big Tiny Dream

If you’re hoping to start producing your own movies, you should check out, a quite interesting experiment in patronage.

After checking out kickstarter and reading for several hours about the state of the indie film business, I had a long conversation with my wife about what I think of as my Backup Plan.

My actual plan is to keep writing screenplays until someone decides to pay me for doing it. I will then write a bunch of gun-for-hire stuff, save up all my dollars, pay off all our debt and the mortgage, and be financially liberated to continue pursuing my goal of making movies.

Since you can’t in any sense guarantee a dream like that, I also have the following dream. It comes in multiple steps:

1. Return to Winona Lake, IN.
2. Somehow raise $5000, through kickstarter or some other group of schmucks.
3. Trick some people into spending a week of their vacation helping me make a single-location movie for free.
4. Self-distribute said movie.
5. Profit.
6. Repeat, with slightly more money.

I think anyone can see that the major logical gap is in steps 4-5.

There are several variations of how to accomplish self-distribution. Here is my current favorite, again with steps (steps are easy to read).

1. Don’t go over budget.
2. Pre-market your film with blogging, social networking, target-marketing, teasers and ancillary media, and pavement-pounding.
3. Persuade everyone in your town to come to the movie by virtue of its being home-grown and featuring people and places they all know.
4. Profit-split with the theatre or your other venue of choice.
5. Hit the small local film festival circuit hard, making sure to sell DVDs and other swag at every showing.
6. Having (hopefully) built up a lot of excitement in other cities, take your movie on the road, four-walling or profit-sharing with exhibitors.
7. Leverage this success to find investors for your next film.

Once again, there are lots of gaps in this process, but you hopefully get the idea.

Since editing the movie about which I recently blogged, I have been thinking quite a bit about truly independent filmmaking and self-distribution, and I think this may be the route I eventually end up spending the rest of my life taking.

The indie producer who makes a small movie and thereby breaks into mainstream Hollywood seems to be disappearing in favor of the “blue-collar” regional filmmaker who makes a living producing films but never gets rich.

Anyone planning to take the independent route would do well to rethink all her assumptions.

I know I am.
Ryan Elainska