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July 30, 2008

Creativity, Uniqueness, Vision, Voice and very Low Budget

Reading the post from established screenwriter John August about his experience loosing his virginity, as a Director with the film The Nines: Sundance, The Nines, and the death of independent film make me smile, it was not a traumatic experience, maybe because since a few months ago my mindset as a screenwriter has been changing , or migrating to a territory called Guerrilla Filmmaking.

After reading John's post, I was more than convinced that maybe Independent Filmmaking is in a crisis, but Guerrilla Filmmaking (which is independent too) is not! Actually this is a perfect moment to do it...

Mark Gill gave a keynote speech last month at the L.A. Film Festival Financing Conference, this is an excerpt

  • Of the 5,000 films submitted to Sundance each year — generally with budgets under $10 million — maybe 100 of them got a U.S. theatrical release three years ago. And it used to be that 20 of those would make money. Now maybe five do. That’s one-tenth of 1%. Put another way, if you decide to make a movie budgeted under $10 million on your own tomorrow, you have a 99.9% chance of failure."

Now if you decide to gather 15 K from family and friends and make your creative, unique, edgy, visionary guerrilla film (yes it need to be all this, that's the only requirement) think on Following, the first film of Christopher Nolan made with 7 K, you will have a chance to strike a DVD deal, maybe a Cable deal, if you decide to include your friend that is a well know model from Philippines, maybe you can have theatrical release in Philippines, your film can end up having a profit of $ 150 K, you want to share some love with your 4 actors and your 6 ($ 20 K) person crew and you want to return the money to your investors plus a 100 % profit to them ($ 15 + 15 K), you are going to end up with 100 K in your pocket, but you're going to ask your investors help for your next film, you need just $ 7,500 this time, so since you made them win $ 15 K, they will give it to you, you will put $ 7,500, from your own money and you will start to shot your next film.

You finish your project in a year and a half with $ 92,500 in your pocket and financing for your next guerrilla film, while the traditional indie filmmaker took 3 years to make only $ 12,500 more than you and maybe now is that he will start to find the funding for his next film.

John August entry it's really good, it culminates with a question and an answer:

       Should anyone bother making an indie film?

  • I know that a lot of this article comes off as a downer. The odds of getting your scrappy indie in front of paying audiences are pretty low, and the odds of really making money at it are subterranean. But I stand by my earlier observation that there’s a lot of success to be found in that high failure rate. The Nines didn’t make a big splash, but it has a fair number of super-fans, including some filmmakers and critics. It has led to new opportunities for me and its stars, and a solid credit for the folks who worked on it.
  • Financially, the movie is a wash. I’ve never publicly stated its budget, but it was low enough that no one got hurt. And from the distributors’ perspective, the upside of undermarketing is that there’s not so much to earn back. For all parties, you can calculate the “opportunity costs” many different ways. I certainly could have made a lot more in my day job writing movies for other people, but in the long run, The Nines was probably more rewarding.
  • My advice? You should make an indie film to make a film. Period. Artistic and commercial success don’t correlate well, and at the moment, only the former is remotely within your control.
  • If I had to do it all over again, I would have made the same movie but completely rethought how it went out into the world. I would have challenged a lot of the standard operating procedures, which seem to be part of an indie world that no longer exists. The Nines would have likely made just as little at the box office, but could have made a bigger impact on a bigger audience. Ultimately, I think that’s how you need to measure the success of an indie film’s release: how many people saw it.



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Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

Allen Taylor

All of the projects look great! You make it so simple to this.Thanks!

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