Independent Film Scene Gets Crowded

At this weeks Tribeca Film Festival, during a panel in the “Meet the Filmmaker” series, Edward Burns put the exclamation point on what is now a verifiable trend in Independent Film today.  His message to those in attendance: Forget about Hollywood, do it yourself:

I was shocked. Even after the success of “The Brothers McMullen,” I’ve never had a moment where I could take my script, go out to LA and have a guy cut a check. I’m telling you, we had to scrape together every penny we ever got. It’s painful. Anyone that cuts you a significant check – they now are your partner. Even if it doesn’t, they believe that it entitles them to real participation and collaboration. They’ll change the title on you, ask you to rewrite certain scenes. I got to a point, where I was like: “Brothers McMullen” is probably my most acclaimed movie, my most financiallysuccessful, and it’s one of the films I made with only the participation of my collaborators, my friends, my actors and my crew.

I know how to make a movie for $25,000. If I do that, no one can tell me what to do. If I’m going to fail, I want to fail on my own terms.

Burns revelation should not come as too much of a surprise to most fans of the film-making industry.  After all, one of the most active filmmakers in social media today, Kevin Smith, pulled off one of the most intriguing maneuvers in recent memory.  That he accomplished this feat at one of independent films biggest stages, the Sundance Film Festival, gives this trend even more traction.  After playing his latest film Red State to a standing room only crowd, Smith got up on stage with fellow-producer Jon Gordon  and he sold the film for $1 to … his fellow producer, Jon Gordon.

Media folks in attendance felt the sleight of hand by Smith was more like a classic bait-and-switch.  Smith explains people just don’t pay attention:

I VERY specifically said – I plan to pick my distributor in the room – auction style. Then, EVERYONE ELSE said I was selling the movie. But I never said that. So long as we don’t spend on marketing, every penny after that becomes profit. No more of this ‘The movie cost $4mil to make but needs to earn $50mil at the box office to break even.’ That ALWAYS bugged me: I’d got out of my way to make flicks for as little as possible, then watch folks spend more to market it. So with only 1 flick left that I want to make, I figure why NOT gamble a bit. Because, like I said: if this works out the way we’re hoping, we’ll have a model we can use with not only HIT SOMEBODY, but any SModcast Pictures we make after it – which would be YOUR flicks, not mine.

Think about it – never before has been creating a  movie been so accessible to so many for so little money.

But – these are two Hollywood-types who have money, or at least who can find it much more easily then you and I.  What about the little guy?

Consider our representative little guy, for lack of a better term, filmmaker Paul Osborne, who is best known as the writer/exec producer of cult hit TEN ‘TIL NOON and director of the acclaimed film festival documentary OFFICIAL REJECTION. He’s also an occasional contributor to MovieMaker Magazine.

Indie Film Director, Paul Osborne

In his blog, Just Shut Up and Shoot (http://justshutupandshoot.blogspot.com), he explores yet another trend that helps true independent filmmakers find the ever-elusive funding…crowdfunding.

In essence, Crowdfunding takes a page from the age-old idea of “pre-selling” a movie, but instead of a situation involving regional distributors in foreign territories purchasing rights in advance of principle photography, the filmmaker is pre-selling directly to the audience.  Such pre-sales are then used, in whole or in part, to fund production.  It’s a wonderfully simple idea.

Now, crowdfunding is a relatively new phenomena, but it is easy to see how it could work.  For example, let’s say I have roughly 500 contact in my social media networks, and each contact donated $40.  That would bankroll the production of my modest film at $20,000.  If I really wanted to get creative, I could have the same 500 people commit $20/month for a year to give me a budget of $120,000.

For the true independent filmmaker, this is the type of fiscal creativity to see their vision come to fruition…couple this with the increasing advent of technology and acceptance of digital media in the film industry.  Now all you need is Canon-5 camera, a flash drive, and flash drive audio recorder and a Mac to edit it when you’re down shooting.  Put it all together, and another term comes to mind:

Game-changer.

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