Monty Python’s 3 Lessons For Filmmakers

Monty PythonMonty Python is one of the entertainment industry’s iconic brands.

Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin formed a comedy troupe branded Monty Python and launched Monty Python’s Flying Circus in September 1969 on the BBC.

The group’s influence on comedy has been compared to The Beatles’ or Elvis Presley’s influence on music.

They are now embarking on a fundraising effort for their first movie together since 1983’s The Meaning of Life. It’s called Absolutely Anything. The movie took two years to finance and started shooting on March 24th, 2014.

There are three important lessons Monty Python can teach independent filmmakers 43 years after their first show.

1. Python Understands New Media

Certain self-appointed gurus proclaim that ‘trans-media’ is the newest trend. These dilettantes were upstaged by Python.

If you really want to see the ultimate trans-media case study, look no further than Monty Python:

Their works spawned stage and cabaret shows, music concerts, a musical (Spamalot) and movies – works with different entry points to the story, and works which crossed over every conceivable media.

And what of new media?

Three years ago Python launched its own YouTube channel where Python’s skits and sketches have had millions of views. Have you seen their YouTube page? It’s a textbook example of how to build a successful YouTube channel.

Look at the Monty Python YouTube channel here.

The secret to Monty Python’s success too, rests in that they developed a successful personal brand.

2. Python Knows How To Use Independent Finance

Their new movie, Absolutely Anything, has all the elements of a true indie breakout hit: Terry Jones script, a stellar cast including all the original Pythons AND Robin Williams AND Simon Pegg, PLUS studios practically salivating over the project and offering the Pythons a bit more than their budget for the worldwide rights to the movie.

Some people would take the cash, get the movie made and be happy with their fees.

Not the Pythons. They know that with their brand recognition, and with their stellar cast, they will get more bucks AFTER the film is made. How many indies have fallen into the trap of taking a quick buck up front, only to gnash their teeth later when their films hit?

That’s why Monty Python put together a simple instructional PDF on how the money works, explaining the facts of life in the film industry in simple language that anyone with a few bucks to invest could understand.

3. Python Understands Publicity And Marketing

Using alternative finance is a gamble without the backstop of a sound publicity campaign.

Python has managed to effectively raise industry awareness of their film (articles in Variety and Total Film, as well as cleverly employing the likes of The Guardian and the notoriously edgy Perez Hilton (whose website gets nearly twice as many visitors as the BBC) to bring their work public attention.

Then their producers and financial advisers distributed a 13-page document outlining the proposition they show to potential private investors – like you.

By studying this document, independent filmmakers the world over can learn how to emulate the success of Python by using their easy-to-understand template.

You can read this document here.

Fade Out

Nothing is new. There are only Seven Stories.

What makes Python unique is how they take “the same old story” and retell it in such a bold, fresh and innovative way.

You can do it too.

Elliot Grove

About 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, and Raindance.TV in 2007.

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.

This summer, Raindance Film Festival barked on a groundbreaking tour of Britain: 10 films in six cities with the Festival Screening Partner, VUE Cinemas.

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. Read articles by Elliot Grove.

You can see an interview with Elliot here:
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