Saturday, March 14, 2015

Calling for The Executive Mind in the Lo-to-No Arena

Lots to catch up on and I'm sorry I just won't do all this context justice.  I am definitely saying that if you are new to the craft, embrace the business as soon as you can.  Lean into the challenge of job creation.  Accept the fact that careers are meant to support quality of life and the craft of filmmaking is a disservice to itself when it is engaged in pure acts of martyrdom.  The economy is still struggling and sustainable jobs are especially challenging to find and maintain for people devoted to the arts.  Filmmaking takes all you've got and is not a hobby.  

Here are some great articles:
These articles offer recent information, examples and insight in service to independent film and, for my purposes, start-ups in the lo-to-no budget space.  


There is an impressive message echoing for content creators.  But filtering what that message actually means to each of us is complicated when accessibility and saturation in the market are mingled.

From thought leaders like Ted Hope and Emily Best, and with resounding support from Ethan Hawke, it's clear that the goal for independent filmmakers is to retain the right to passion over adherence to the bottom line.  Freedom to create freely is the ideal beckoning through an age of technological innovation and greater connectivity.  Honoring and serving this goal takes a conscious effort.

A new era of empirically-established best-practices is locking down the standards for what succeeds and what doesn't.  That progress uses all the fundamentals like "show, don't tell" and relies heavily on outreach consistency to establish impact for what you're selling.  Additionally there are varying ways to implement crossover strategies when looking at different online platforms for promotion.  Narrowing this down has a lot to do with how well you know your audience - a science we're all trying to learn.

As for competition, it's my observation (with respect to all the diligent and talented creators contributing today) the content out there largely remains your average mix of mildly surprising to semi-satisfactory work.  Part of this is due to saturation but what stands above others does so for a reason and that smaller group shares traits you should take time to analyze (as an example, reliance on established elements such as a popular video game franchise or named actors from a cancelled but cherished sci-fi show maintains that derivative creations remain highly plausible where as original content can do with a properly prepared campaign to create that credibility).  

There is room for risk, for braver stories and edgier adventures but our community is testing the waters and building its skill-set along the way.  On the other hand, not being 'good enough' is not really an excuse if confidence is your challenge.  Neither is not being prepared when there's literally too much information out there to collect to support your project.  Marketing and distribution must become intrinsic to lo-to-no budget productions.  Create, but not in a bubble.  Make a film but uphold the sensibilities that allow you to make more.

What has yet to be established is sustainability.  I estimate a fully equipped team of independent filmmakers needs to generate millions of dollars worth of contributions and favors to earn median income and support their content.  Prior to that you and the team are surviving off craft services and dodging your land lords.  If you don't contract for subsequent productions then you lose cohesion and that much needed shorthand which can compensate the quality gap when operating with few resources.  The entrepreneurs of the group should prioritize quality through sustainability and scalability.  Protect and support the jobs you create.

What begins with a group of 5, each wearing many hats, must become a battalion for productions to be effectively developed, produced, marketed and distributed at the rate needed to compensate for their cost in labor, equipment, fringes and overhead.  Working for free for a $10,000 short doesn't support a career unless that content is heading toward serialization at $100,00 per episode or more.  If you must take this risk, do so as if the fairy-god investor is never going to come and it's up to you to keep the ship sailing. 

What else can be sold to off-set the team's dependence on narrative if not the obligatory and debilitating employment we're all trying to escape?  There must be more immediate ways to keep the machine going.

To my educated peers, hesitant to test the waters and unable or unwilling to fund more traditional education, now is a time for optimism. The farther ahead you look the less impressive the short term challenges are (like wrapping your head around a solid pitch video for Seed & Spark).  Work harder to stay informed and use the information you find.  Teach each other.  Save your concern for the far more unyielding summit of financial independence.  We have to accept and innovate upon the revelations already becoming common sense rather than go on ignorantly re-inventing the wheel on our own.  I've just seen too many friends and acquaintances "launch" without preparation.  We can all do better for ourselves and one another.

The independent industry is calling upon us to engage in the great experiment toward sustainability in order to better officiate a paradigm shift in how creators survive and content is consumed.  But it can't happen without organization.  It's not that filmmakers should just consider leading audiences into new models of entertainment - I believe it's become our duty.  It's all in flux and our relationship with the people is the only thing that will create stability.  If we don't put the pieces together and test ourselves and our content against it, the entire potential may become subject to higher powers invested in once again narrowing the streams of revenue.  

With so many thought leaders in place, what the movement really needs is organizers and executives turning the information into action plans and fully manifesting a no-budget machine that can grow.

For your next lo-to-no project, recruit a PMD and a progressive Creative Producer and/or entrepreneurial Director, do your research and share your results.

Takeaway
  1. The market is accessible so embrace it
  2. You most likely can't do it alone so build a team for the long haul
  3. None of this is relevant without a story so put your ideas in ink
  4. You must develop a symbiotic relationship with your audience
  5. Thinking further and grander will support your inclusion of systems and best practices to-date
  6. Balance learning, reflection, action and flexibility always

Let's get what we came for,
Carlos 

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