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All I hear is how terrible the challenges facing independent filmmakers. Coming back from the Cannes Film Festival this spring I ran into two veteran British film producers who between them had produced nigh onto 60 features, been nominated for or won several Oscars and who by any standard are considered to be highly successful. They both were very negative about the future of the film industry and the prospects of making films like they had been over the past thirty years. ‘Independent Cinema’ is dead they argued.

I beg to differ.

No segment of the media industry has had as many changes since the Millennium as the film sector. Technology and film production has changed. Film distribution has changed. On top of that, rapid currency fluctuations have played havoc with film producers cash flow forecasts.

Here are the seven basic challenges facing fimmakers since the Millennium, and what I believe to be a effective strategic position to take for success.

 1.  The digital revolution has flooded the marketplace

Fact: Cheaper digital production methods have helped create more product than buyers.

Strategy: Make certain your movie is genre specific. Genre is the only way that a film buyer and the marketing manager of a distribution company can quickly visualise the movie poster, trailer and marketing campaign. Never forget that distributors buy genre, not drama.

2. Online distribution is becoming commonplace

Fact: On Valentine's Day 2005 the co-founders of Youtube.com registered the name at www.whois.com. Youtube revolutionised film distribution and has changed the way consumers watch movies and television. The impact of illegal online distribution has also had the same impact on the film industry as it has the music industry.

Strategy: Develop a hybrid distribution strategy that encompasses traditional cinema/DVD/television releases with online distribution.

3. Hollywood is bankrupt of ideas

Fact: The gaming industry has influenced story telling techniques and filmmaking techniques. These new storytelling techniques dominate.

Strategy: Successful filmmakers are most likely artists who consider themselves visual storytellers using moving images to tell their stories. Incorporation of gaming techiques both in terms of storytelling and visualisation will make movies stronger.

And what of apps? Where a new video game can now cost $20m to develop and market, an app can be built for next to nothing.

 4. Cinema distribution is still healthy but it is different somehow.

Fact: Not only has image and sound capture been dramatised by advances in digital technology like DSLR, but cinema distribution has been affected too. Britain now has the world's first fully digitised cinema chain – The Apollo Cinema. A digital screen does not need expensive 35mm film prints, films can be emailed to a cinema screen’s hard drive and films can be scheduled easily with a click of a mouse. Cinema exhibition has also benefited from 3D technology. Like it or not, screens will be demanding 3D product. In America it is estimated that there will be an astonishing 25 million homes equipped with 3D TV screens by 2013.

Television networks are struggling to find enough HD content for their HD channels, let alone their new 3D channels like Britain's Sky 3D.

Strategy: Successful filmmakers will learn how to communicate with television and cinema owners to deliver saleable content in the format which will deliver maximum revenue.

5. You can’t fund them like you used to

Fact: The Euro economic malaise has translated into public sector budget cuts, dampening the political appetite for using public money to fund films.

Strategy: Filmmaking should be commercially viable without the need for public funding, and film budgets need to stand the scrutiny of investors seeking cost-effective production, as well as a reasonable rate of return.

6. Producers struggle to get development funding

Fact: Development funding is hard to get. Yet without proper development, movies will continue to suffer from weak storylines.

Strategy: Until the script is fully developed, a movie should not be made.

7. Film producers don’t necessarily need to be involved with social media.

Fact: Social media is here to stay and a strong social media strategy is something that is becoming an essential part of a film’s package.

Paranormal Activity may have cost a mere $15,000 to make. What Paramount bought was not the film, but the social media strategy that the filmmaker Orin Pelli developed around his film.

Strategy: The film industry will embrace any filmmaker, writer, director or producer who has a strong and clearly defined social media strategy.

Elliot Grove
Elliot Grove founded Raindance as a thought experiment: Can you make a film with no money, no training and no experience, he asked? When people like his first intern Edgar Wright started making movies he started the Raindance Film Festival to celebrate their work in 1993, the British Independent Film Awards in 1998. Elliot has produced over 150 short films, and 5 feature films. He has written eight scripts, one of which is currently in pre-production. His first feature film, TABLE 5 (1997) was shot on 35mm and completed for a total of £278.38. He teaches writers and producers in the UK, Europe, Japan and America. In 2006 he produced the multiple-award winning The Living and the Dead.
In 2013 he relaunched the production arm: Raw Talent with the cult film director Ate de Jong. Their first venture was the psychological thriller Deadly Virtues: Love.Honour.Obey. finished late 2013.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuojHslYwKk

Here you can watch the 2015 BIFA's from the red carpet to all the awards. Elliot's interview is at 1:27:00

He has written three books which have become industry standards: RAINDANCE WRITERS LAB 2nd Edition (Focal Press 2008), Raindance Producers' Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking (Focal Press 2013) and 130 PROJECTS TO GET YOU INTO FILMMAKING (Barrons 2009). He was awarded a PhD in 2009 for services to film education. His first novel THE BANDIT QUEEN is scheduled for publication next year.

Elliot teaches several courses at Raindance including Lo To No Budget Filmmaking and Writer's Foundation Certificate.

Read articles by Elliot Grove.

5 thoughts on “7 Challenges Facing Independent Filmmakers

  1. The script is the foundation stone to everything- it's your product. You don't go into a room with a half-baked idea about a vague product & look for backing from money people- make the product as tight as possible & use that to make your pitch as coherent as possible. Ideas are hard to come by. Good ideas even harder. Original ideas are gold dust. Make sure you have ideas- if you don't have ideas then find another career. Come up with an original idea then write a tight script around it- then you have done everything you can to prepare yourself for the pitch. Forget the US Hollywoodization model as well. The UK indie filmmakers should be looking to the Continent, to France, Denmark & other European countries or even Iran- low budget filmmaking with strong well scripted narratives that can punch well above their weight.

  2. The film industry is a lucrative business that needs great ideas you can't find in open source, but in creativity,self discovery,imagination and loyalty to what you believe will work for you. A journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step; begin small, but eventually the sky will be the limit.

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