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Independent Film Making Page 5

For the independent film, it is obvious that word of mouth is essential for the success of the film. Because the budget of the film is a major factor in production, it is safe to assume that the thousands to millions of dollars that a studio may spend to promote their feature will not be available for independently produced films. 

The Blair Witch Project was a very successful film at the Sundance Film Festival and word spread like wildfire that it was the scariest and most original film to be released in recent years. Due to this praise the film was sold and when it hit theaters the success was overwhelming. 

Films like Boys Don't Cry, The Usual Suspects and Life is Beautiful were not released into that many theaters and did not bring in that much money from the box office. After receiving Oscars in their respective years, the shelf life and gross profits these movies will obtain from rentals and sales should prove much more lucrative. 
Distribution
Once a picture has finally been completed and is ready for the public, the responsibility of selling the film remains. One major key to being successful in filmmaking is distribution. In simplest terms, without distribution, no one will ever see your film. Your job is to create a marketable product that can be successfully distributed. 

Do not waste your time and resources sending your film or proposal to everyone. This will end up costing you a lot of money and all you will get in return is a lot of rejection. Many independent films will not interest a traditional distributor. There are many reasons for this, ranging from the subject matter being too specialized or difficult to market, to the film being inappropriately designed for a distributor's target audience. You want to find distributors who carry films or videos similar in genre to the one you have made or are trying to make. This route will provide your best chance of success. 

Once a distributor has screened your film either in his or her office, at a screening room or at a film festival, he or she will let you know if they want to distribute your film. Do not take the first deal that comes along although you will be pressured to do so. If there is one distributor that shows interest there may be many, so shop around. 

Remember that once you sign a deal, it will be in effect for many years to come. Make sure you are making the best deal you can with the best distributor for your film. When you talk to different distributors, have them to tell you how they plan on marketing your film. See what kind of real commitment they are willing to give. Get a sense of their abilities to promote and sell your specific film. Be sure to get all conversations and exchanges documented in your deal memo. 

Talk with other producers. No one will be more willing to talk about his or her own experiences with a distributor than another producer. Before making a deal with a distributor, particularly one you've just met, contact other producers whose films are represented by the prospective distributor.
Make sure you are passionate about making this film... Have distributors see the film in a good setting with an enthusiastic crowd
Independent filmmakers whose films have been shown widely agree on several things that you need to do to make a successful film. These include: 
1. Write, find or option a great script that attracts great actors. 
2. Make sure you are passionate about making this film. 
3. Be persevering, tenacious, enthusiastic. 
4. Get a good casting director. 
5. Spend money on promotion. 
6. Find someone who can help you get attention at Sundance such as a producer's rep (who may command 7.5% of any advance you get). 
7. Have distributors see the film in a good setting with an enthusiastic crowd. Load the seats with your friends if you have to. Don't sell them; rather let them discover you. 
Marketing
Every step of the filmmaking process involves marketing. Whether you like it or not, become conscious of this fact and then use your creative powers to enhance the possibilities for your film's success. You will communicate your vision to various constituencies to enroll their participation (as either co-contributors or viewers). You will know that you have to position your film differently for each group, appealing to their desires and needs. 

For someone producing an independent film seeking to assist in the marketing of the picture, advertising is one of the most critical components. The more information the producer knows about the process the better. As with everything else, the more active and aggressive the producer is in promoting the picture the better. 

From the beginning of the marketing and advertising process, the producer should have in mind what social groups the film will appeal to most. He/she should be very knowledgeable about the film as a whole, and who will bring about the biggest response to it. With all this in mind, the advertising of the film can take on a much more focused approach, which will save both time and money. On the other hand, ideally a producer would find a way to cross the lines drawn by all social groups; the more people that go and see the film the better. Realistically though, not every film is for everyone. 

As you develop your ideas make sure that you know who your audience is. Too frequently producers say they are making something for everyone. What that really indicates is that they probably haven't thought very hard about their audience at all. You can't afford to market to everyone. It's critical to find out whether your ideas, once made into films, will have a market. This is probably the most important but neglected aspect of the filmmaking process. 

There are about 45 or 46 companies that release films. Some of the major studios today are Warner Brothers, Fox, MGM, Paramount and Dreamworks. There are also many so-called mini-majors, which are companies that finance films but then distribute those films through other companies. Examples of these mini-majors are Castle Rock and Interscope. Still others are micro-distributors and may only release one or two films.
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