Do You Want to Make Art or Do You Want to Make Money?

Updated: May 21, 2020

The most common answer we hear from indie filmmakers is: "Well, I want to make art and money."

That's fair. So let's ask it this way: "If your films don't make money, will anyone care about your art?"

The film industry thrives because of the businesses within and surrounding it. The decisions that the industry makes are business decisions regarding how and when to leverage intellectual property and established brands for the purpose of making a profit. Industry outsiders see films as works of art supported by talented cast and crew. Though on the surface this is absolutely true, behind the curtain is a machine that is designed to make money and to ensure its own survival.

Let's talk about intellectual property (IP). This is where the art is. IP is leveraged by the industry to create new lines of business based on a suite of IP-based products. The art that you are trying to sell via your latest screenplay, feature film, or short film concept is not considered valuable IP unless it can be leveraged to create a new line of business. After all, the industry is not starving for creativity. It has that it droves. What it's seeking is the next idea that can be leveraged for profit.

So where do you fit in? Well, your art is IP. The question is, is it valuable to the industry?

The value of your IP can be defined in a few key areas:

  • Story Quality - This is a first principle as the reputations of distributors, studios, and production houses are riding on it. Your story can't just be good, it has to be so good that the industry can't ignore you.

  • Brand Integration - Recognizable brands (e.g. bankable cast and industry franchises) promote product awareness and consumer engagement. If you or a studio can get a notable actor attached, this increases the probability of downstream profit.

  • Audience Appetite - Audiences that are known to consistently seek content representative of their wants, needs, and desires serve as ideal target markets. This is why genre films (e.g., horror, holiday, and action) are most notably profitable: They fill an existing and insatiable need for content.

When valuing IP, distributors and studios will consider all of these factors together because it is the combination of these factors (and others) that help to determine the probability of turning a profit.

When you look at your IP (i.e., your art), do you see the value as described above? Have you received objective feedback on your story that would suggest that it is undeniably great? Have you written your story in such a way that it feels like a perfect match for a notable actor or could be used as a marketing piece for an established franchise? Is there a specific targetable audience that needs this content in order to fulfill some internal want, need, or desire?

Asking the question, "Do you want to make art or do you want to make money?" is a little unfair, and we get that. The point of the question is really to start a conversation with you about how important it is to identify the money in your art. Every filmmaker we've encountered wants to make a career out of filmmaking but most of them seem to ignore the value part of the equation. If you want to sell your art, it has to be something that the industry wants to buy. When you realize that, filmmaking becomes less about fulfilling an internal desire to make art and more about fulfilling the industry's desire to make a profit through the lens of your art.

We invite you to take a look at your current projects and consider the value that your art presents to the industry. To make this worth your time, enlist the help of industry experts and partners to take an objective look at your work. Consider their perspectives and find opportunities to improve where possible. This valuation of your IP will help you determine your next steps and whether or not your path to profitability is clear.

Making art and making money are both within your reach. The difference is that art is about you and money is about business. To reach your goals, be sure to pay attention to both.

As always,

Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.

If you're looking for someone to help you on your creative journey, feel free to reach out to us. We'd love to work with you!

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