DISCLAIMER: This blog post refers to films that are feature length and made to be sold. This does not refer to short film art projects meant for festivals.
You don’t have enough money for name talent.
Name talent sells your film. Sorry. Sure there are some exceptions, but those exceptions are typically Tier 1 Festival winners. Without name talent, your film has little value in the international market. Without international market value, it becomes very difficult to sell your film.
Your budget only allows to pay crew less than minimum wage.
Paying crew less than minimum wage for an extended job is flat out unacceptable. Not only does this hurt your reputation as a producer, your product suffers as well. When you’re making a film to sell, a certain level of quality is expected. Underpaid crew either won’t have the skill to provide quality or they just won’t work to their potential.
You don’t know your target audience.
If you can’t identify the audience for your film, who do you expect to buy it? Let’s even put money aside for a second. Who are you making the movie for? Who are you speaking to? We live in a time where there is an over saturation of content. How do you plan on viewers finding you if your film isn’t speaking directly to anyone?
You plan on Netflix buying your film.
Is your film premiering at Sundance? No? Is it premiering at any major festival? No? Ok, yeah Netflix most likely won’t buy your film for what you’re expecting or even at all. Netflix is buying out the films at top tier festivals and acquiring less films from straight submissions. If they are acquiring from submissions, it is for way less money than you need to make your money back on your movie.
You don’t have any money to market your film.
My favorite is when people think they’re going to get a distribution deal that does all the marketing for them. Funny thing is that most distributors expect YOU to cough up most of the marketing money. I say most because I’m talking to the under $500K feature not the ‘Moonlight’s. Many producers sign deals with sales agents that have $50K – $100K in “marketing fees”. Yeah, want to know what those marketing fees really entail? A $500 poster and a $1000 trailer (if that) as well as taking your film to markets (they’re doing it anyway with or without your movie) and including it in their catalogues (again, doing it anyway with or without your movie). So as you can see, no real marketing happening here because they aren’t selling to viewers, they’re selling to distributors.
So sure, you can listen to all the “Indie Film Enthusiasts” out there telling you to just pick up a camera, spend a$50K and shoot something. But then you’ve just wasted $50K by making a film you don’t have enough money to sell.
Ever hear the phrase it takes money to make money? Yeah, well that phrase serves big time in the film world. I’m not saying you need $1 million to make a movie. That’s far from what I’m saying. What I’m saying is to STOP and have a plan. So many filmmakers have this f**k it, I’m just going to make my movie mentality.
Fine. Make a short film. If you’re raising money or including investors, you’re making a profit that needs a plan to then be sold and make its money back.