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8 Jun 2017

True Confession of an Independent Movie Producer on Film Financing and Distribution


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Posted By Ron B.

This true Slice of Americana Films confession of an independent movie producer on film financing and distribution is being exposed to readers that want to be in the entertainment business, are in the entertainment industry, or are curious about the entertainment scene that thrives outside of the heat of the celebrity spotlight. I am only one of a large group of growing independent movie producers that push to make films to stroke their creative fire and make a living. Making indie movies is both a frustrating and thrilling entertainment adventure.

One the most frustrating roles of any film producer comes down to finding film funding to produce an indie film with a cast that does not include at least A or B list celebrity. You are pitching film investors on a production written by new screenwriter that does not have Hollywood celebrities attached, and that is being visually helmed by a first time director or one that is not a household name yet. That can be a difficult pitch to movie investors. Society is fascinated with celebrity lifestyles and movie investors want to see A or B-list talent in their movie.

You can be armed with a fantastic screenplay, dynamic unknown actors, movie director with style, and your passion as an indie movie producer attached, but without sellable points for the project chances of securing film funding will not come to fruition. I have been in that spot as indie movie producer. How did I push past it?

Naturally, as an indie producer I was made aware quickly that without one A or B list star attached to a project I had to include scenes that any viewer could easily understand even without audio, so to speak. I turned up the sex, nudity, and violence because that always sells and it fit both the projects I was producing. The scripts were written to accurately portray human flaws, strong subject matters, and graphic content based on plots depicting characters living lurid and unsafe lives.

Whatever type of project you have there is going to come a point, unless you are independently wealthy, where you are going to be confronted as an independent movie producer that you are going to have to compromise on what will be show in order to get film investor backing. In one case I had an interested movie investor tell me flat out that she wanted the Sid Kali project to have a European film nudity flavor. She read the script and knew it well. The on-camera nudity and sex scenes should be tasteful, but hot in her opinion to appeal to an international audience of buyers and not only US viewers. I assured her that I would and she invested with her boyfriend.

The lesson learned is to always find different hooks for your movie that makes it attractive to the film investors you are pitching for funding. It could be a film investor is passionate about something that can easily be folded into the screenplay to appeal to them. Talented screenwriters, independent movie producers, and film directors are masters at being able to work in a plug or scene for specific investors. To me it is just like product placement done in major studio movies, but at the indie level it is a more personal pitch to individual movie investors.

Once an indie film producer secures film funding for a project there is a high that is indescribable. Each producer feels it different. For me that euphoria and rush quickly disappears because now it is time to fire up filming. You are already mentally drained from the exhausting money hunt and now all areas of physical production start. Next thing you know issues start to appear on location that can range from equipment issues to cast and crew friction. Now your mind is thinking, "I am in the shit!" As an indie movie producer it is your sole professional ass on the line for the cash invested to complete the film.

Actors and crew can quit anytime during an independent film shoot. There is nothing immediately you can do as a gutsy film producer if they are not committed to honoring their actor's agreement or crew agreement. This is not a studio production where you have the luxury of hiring an entertainment attorney to sue. The reality is there is not the time or money to go through that. Going to film investors that have bankrolled an indie movie to tell them production has shut down and you need more money to hire an entertainment attorney will end your career early.

An indie film producer is basically on their own to correct problems and make sure the move gets done no matter what hit the fan, unless they are dead. That is not the ego of a film producer's mind on display; it is a fact that they have to push on to finish the project. When things turn out golden you are a superstar to film investors, cast, and crew. When it goes to hell, you are a cockroach in the eyes of people. The adventure of an indie movie producer is not for people afraid of risk.

You are hands are now burning with a hot finished movie that needs a deal that leads to meaningful movie distribution. Digital movie distribution deals have indie movie producers buzzing. That is the direction that the show is going and how indie film producers will generate real revenue from their entertainment. Digital film distribution still is not a golden goose for indie produced content. Hollywood studios with deep cash pockets are trying to figure out how to make it for their big budget entertainment.

Like with any new technology you are going to have companies pop up that target independent movie producers. It makes sense. Without the talent and risk taking moxie of independent movie producers there is nothing for any distributor to sell outside of mainstream entertainment. Imagine how boring entertainment would be with only mainstream viewing choices.

This is where frustrating angst turns to the thrilling aspect of being an independent film producer at the best possible moment. DVD as a format is not dead, but is slowly being replaced. I view declining DVD sales as good news for indie movie producers. The film business reality is there are distributors that cater to indie entertainment that regularly screw producers over financially by using DVD manufacturing costs and marketing fees as their weapons during accounting for royalty statements. Not all indie distributors are like that, but one is too many. A majority are fair and honest with their accounting practices to pay producers.

But greedy piles, crooks, liars, and two-faced people exist in any business where money is to be made. Sadly, describes life in many ways too. Giving away films for free or being scammed by a movie distribution accounting on royalty payments is what kills indie movie producers. I read online that filmmaker Michael Moore is suing Harvey and Bob Weinstein, alleging that the two brothers used "classic Hollywood accounting tricks" to reduce his profits from his work. Only the people involved know the real truth, but you have to think if a successful millionaire film producer is worried about unfair royalty payment accounting practices, any indie movie producer better make sure they do not get taken advantage of.

The truly thrilling part of being an indie film producer at the right time, which is now, is that digital movie distribution is delivering indie entertainment to a global audience. This leads directly to increased viewers and increased money for indie produced content. Profit is not a bad word in my film producer's book. I am not independently rich or can afford not to turn a profit from the movies I produce. I view digital movie distribution as the most accounting transparent platform to distribute indie entertainment and generate money for film investors, as well as the content creators. These were the ramblings of indie film producer Sid Kali.


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