This uncensored confession of an independent movie producer is being shared with readers that want to be in the entertainment business, are in the entertainment business, or are fascinated by the entertainment business that thrives outside of the glitz of celebrity. I am only one of many independent movie producers that work hard to make movies to feed their creative passion and pay their bills. Producing indie movies is always frustrating and extremely thrilling at the same time.
One the most frustrating jobs of any movie producer is finding film financing to produce an independent film that does not have known actors attached to the project. You are asking movie investors to back a project written by an unknown screenwriter that has no bankable celebrities attached, and that is being visually guided by a first time director or one with limited credits. That is a tough sell. The world is fascinated with celebrity and film investors are no different.
You can have a dynamite script, talented unknown actors, film director with vision, and your desire as an independent movie producer on your side, but without some kind of hook chances of finding film money will not happen. I have found myself in that position as a producer of independent entertainment. What did I do?
Honestly, as a producer I knew without stars attached to a project I had to include visual elements that would translate to worldwide audiences. I kicked up the violence, sex, and nudity aspects because they fit with the two projects I was producing. Both screenplays were written to realistically depict strong subject matters, human flaws, and graphic content based on characters that lived lurid lives.
Whatever type of project you have there is going to come a point, unless you are independently wealthy, where you are going to be confronted as an independent movie producer that you are going to have to compromise on what will be shown in order to get film investor backing. In one case I had an interested movie investor tell me flat out that she wanted the project to have a European film nudity flavor. She read the script and knew it well. The on-camera nudity and sex scenes should be tasteful, but hot in her opinion to appeal to an international audience of buyers and not only US viewers. I assured her that I would and she invested with her boyfriend.
The lesson learned is to always find different hooks for your movie that makes it attractive to the film investors you are pitching for funding. It could be a film investor is passionate about something that can easily be folded into the screenplay to appeal to them. Talented screenwriters, independent movie producers, and film directors are masters at being able to work in a plug or scene for specific investors. To me it is just like product placement done in major studio movies, but at the indie level it is a more personal pitch to individual movie investors.
Once an independent movie producer secures film financing for a project there is a rush that is indescribable. Each producer has a different reaction. That euphoria and high quickly disappears because now it is time to go to work. You are already exhausted from the grinding money hunt and then all stages of production begin. Next thing you know problems start to develop on set that can range from technical issues to cast and crew difficulties. Now you are thinking, “I am screwed!” As the independent movie producer it is your ass on the line for the money invested to complete the film.
Actors and crew can quit anytime during an independent film shoot. There is nothing immediately you can do as a gutsy film producer if they are not committed to honoring their actor’s agreement or crew agreement. This is not a studio production where you have the luxury of hiring an entertainment attorney to sue. The reality is there is not the time or money to go through that. Going to film investors that have bankrolled an indie movie to tell them production has shut down and you need more money to hire an entertainment attorney will end your career early.
An independent movie producer is basically alone to fix problems and take care of business to finish a project. That is not the ego of the movie producer’s mind coming out, it is a simple reality. When everything turns out good you are a superstar to cast, crew, and movie investors. When it goes to shit, you are a dung beetle in the eyes of everyone. The life of an independent movie producer is not for the timid.
Now you find yourself with a completed movie that you want a film distribution deal for. The hot indie entertainment buzzword is digital movie distribution. That is definitely where it is going and where independent movie producers will make money for their projects. As of right now digital movie distribution still is not up to speed to include indie produced entertainment in real cash revenue. Studios are still trying to figure out how it is going to work.
Like with any new technology you are going to have companies pop up that target independent movie producers. It makes sense. Without the talent and risk taking moxie of independent movie producers there is nothing for any distributor to sell outside of mainstream entertainment. Imagine how boring entertainment would be with only mainstream viewing choices.
This is where frustration turns to the extremely thrilling part of being an independent movie producer at the best time possible. DVD is not dead, but is slowly fading out. I look at declining DVD sales as a positive for indie producers. The truth is there are movie distributors that cater to independent cinema that will try to screw producers over financially by using DVD manufacturing and marketing fees as the weapon every chance they get. Not all are like that. Many are honest and fair with their accounting practices.
But there are always crooks, liars, thieves, and piles in every business you will deal with. That is a given in life as a whole. Giving it away for free or being shortchanged on royalty payments owed is not an option for me. I read Michael Moore is suing Harvey and Bob Weinstein, alleging that the two brothers used “classic Hollywood accounting tricks” to screw him out money he was owed. I have no idea on the real truth, but it shows if a millionaire filmmaker is worried about not getting paid, any independent movie producer better watch their ass too just in case.
The thrilling part of being an independent movie producer at the right time, which is right now, is digital movie distribution is opening up indie entertainment to a worldwide audience. This leads to more viewers and more money being earned by filmmakers. Profit is not a dirty word in my producer’s book. I am not independently wealthy or can afford not to make money from entertainment I produce. I see digital movie distribution as the best platform to distribute independent content and make money for investors, as well as the creators. These were the ramblings of independent movie producer Sid Kali.
There are other how-to books on making movies, but not many are as personal, entertaining and informative as this one is. All killer, no filler! Filmmaking Tactics That Work!