Updated: May 21, 2020
In this series, we consider how the four major steps outlined in The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss relate to indie filmmakers. In this post, we discuss "Step IV: L is for Liberation".
For the indie filmmaking community, we're going to approach Liberation from a different angle than what you'll find in the 4-Hour Workweek. This is because we're talking to you as filmmakers, not as people trying to find creative ways to minimize the day job to focus on filmmaking (if you want those tips, you definitely need to read Tim Ferriss's book). For this discussion, we're going to focus on how to liberate yourself from outdated and unproductive thinking that may be holding you back.
As Executive and Advisory Producers, we've met with hundreds of filmmakers over the years in a variety of settings. We've witnessed their passion first-hand and have always advocated for their success. But the sad thing is, when we leave those conversations, we're convinced that most of those filmmakers are doomed to fail. Now, this isn't because we think that their work isn't any good, that they don't have talent, or that they won't finish their films; it's because they still believe that the industry is on their side. The truth is: it isn't.
It's not that the industry wants indie filmmakers to fail. It's that the industry isn't betting on your one film's success. There is a harsh reality that indie filmmakers refuse to face and, through our work, we are trying our best to reveal it. Here are a few of those harsh truths:
Film festivals are simply celebrations of filmmaking. They are not a gateway to success no matter how many laurels you may receive. Sales agents and distributors can only leverage laurels from the top ten festivals in the world and, even then, the winning films have to fit into a slate while leveraging branded IP (intellectual property) to make them valuable.
Film distributors deal in slates, not in individual films. The success of a distributor is based on minimal level of effort per film and maximum return per slate. By carrying a large portfolio of films, they are able to aggregate hundreds to thousands of small profits into a significantly high return on investment. In the event that one film is a breakout hit (with no additional investment on their part), their payoff is that much better.
Making a film isn't the end of the road. Sales, marketing, and audience engagement are your responsibility, no one else's. Distributors do not profit by spending money on marketing your film. Their process and their financing simply don't allow it. If you don't take on this responsibility, you'll soon come to feel like a cog in a machine.
Traditional distribution deals don't favor the filmmaker. Minimum guarantees are a thing of the past and exclusive deals are reserved for Hollywood. The top streaming platforms split profits with distributors at an average rate of 60/40 with 60% going to the distributor. The distributor then splits the remaining 60% with you at 50/50 (to include their fees). In the end, you'll receive 50% of 60% which is 30% (not including their fees). The average indie film will be rented far more than it is purchased, with an average rental cost of $5. 30% of $5 is $1.50. Plugged into a simple equation, it would take 100,000 rentals of your film to make $150,000. In a saturated market, 100,000 rentals with no marketing by your distributor is a steep hill to climb so the path to profitability can be extremely long.
We don't say these things to frighten you. In fact, we're saying these things to free you. Once you've taken the blinders off and can see the world for what it is, you can finally chart your own path to success. It's like Neo taking the red pill. Remember, all we're offering is the truth, nothing more.
We hope you take this advice to heart and really begin to consider how you can take control of your own destiny. When it comes down to it, no one else holds your success in their hands unless you give it to them.
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!