It happens to me every year right after the Raindance Film Festival and British Independent Film Awards I overhear and read a lot of terribly misleading and inaccurate information about the state of independent cinema.
What annoys me is that these negative comments are generally from know-it-alls who spend their time flirting around film festivals and never actually do anything except whine and complain.
Allow me to debunk the common misconceptions.
1) Distribution Deals Are Dead
Wrong – all the deals and more are there waiting to be had if your film follows the basic simple rules: that it tells a story, that it is reasonably priced, that you have cleared all the rights, especially the music rights, and if you have proper marketing materials. All films have an income potential. The trick is to ascertain what that income is, and then make your film for less.
At this year’s 19th Raindance Film Festival we saw an average of one in three of the 100 features shown get offers of distribution. One film had five offers, each one for well in excess of their production budget.
2) Best Filmmakers Have the Best Social Media Presence
Wrong – usually the best social media experts have the best social media presences – and ever so occasionally, one of them makes an average-at-best movie that grabs all the headlines. These debut filmmakers suddenly find themselves thrust under the glare of publicity everywhere from SXSW to Sundance to Cannes where they espouse their ‘secrets’ – usually never to make a film again.
3) Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity prove no budget movies can make a fortune
Wrong – both Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity had zillions of marketing dollars behind them. Which proves that any product, movie or otherwise, will be a commercial success if the marketing nous and budget is behind it.
4) Cult Status is earned
Wrong – it is manufactured. The success artists are the ones that learn how to tell anyone and everyone that they are outstandingly talented geniuses. And they learn to do it in a way that the gullible public mops up.
5) Conventional Wisdom No Longer Applies
Myths arrive from sweeping generalisations, as above, and show a common form of weak logic. Filmmakers who approach filmmaking with logic instead of blind ambition or emotion will be better placed to avoid the mythology surrounding the film industry.
As with any new venture, be it artistic or commercial, analyse your research carefully before venturing into a new project. Make certain any assumptions in your business plan are backed with data. Chances are musch better that you will land on your feet after you leap.