I have been falling behind on my blogging; I admit it. Luckily, information never goes away. Nor is there anything like a shortage of things that need to be said. We have so many hurdles to jump in the indie film world. Or is it walls to break down? Even after we made it through once, the same challenges face us again. Even when one or two lead the way, the path gets overgrown immediately, and the rest seem to be lost all over again. So here's to the better late, than never camp, a post on some old but still relevant news...
There is a good post from several weeks back on Spout "Five Thoughts on Independent Filmmaking from SXSW". There's a lot in it that merits further discussion, but one thing said by indie distrib Richard Abramowitz leapt out at me: “It’s always a delicate situation to talk to filmmakers about finding their audience beforehand,” Abramowitz said on a panel about self-distribution. “Presumably, you’re making art. To think about the end user in that particular way is kind of a corruption of the process. It’s the producer’s responsibility to work off the director and understand who the audience may be.”
This could be considered a nicely condensed version of Brent Chesanek's post(s) here several months back, and certainly captures the thoughts and attitudes of many I know and have heard. I get it. It makes some sense to leave art to the artists, business to the business types, marketing and distribution to the relevant experts, right?
I don't feel this attitude captures the realities of the time. In my humble opinion, and particularly for the independent filmmaker, you are not being responsible or realistic if you keep thinking your job is simply to build it (and then to trust that they will come). You need to build the paths and bridges to get the people there. You need to have the pen to keep them there once they have entered the field. You need to have the apparatus to help them tell their friends and family to join them.
You don't need to do it alone though. You just need to find the right people to collaborate with and a plan on how to get them to work with you (money helps). Sure it would be great to find a producer who knows all of this already (and yes this is what they should be teaching in producing programs at the "film schools"), but I have always found there to be far fewer producers than there are writers and directors who are looking for the help. Presumably all filmmakers work a very long time prepping their films. Unless they are working in the studio world, all filmmakers invest a tremendous amount of time without any promise of financial return. With all that energy and effort, doesn't it make sense to figure out how the work may actually reach an audience?
I am not a marketing expert, but my thoughts on marketing have helped get many of my films made. Before pitching the financiers, we try to come up with the different handles on how we will get an audience in to see our film. This effort is for naught if they don't respond to the script in the first place, but once they want to meet, I better have an answer to those standard questions of who is the audience and how do we reach them. If I can come up with ten or fifteen decent approaches, the financiers assume their marketing team can up with a host of even better strategies.
Every step in filmmaking and marketing is a collaborative effort; it is our responsibility to help our collaborators do their jobs better.