When I was in Sydney, Australia to lead a two day workshop on producing for Screen Australia, I was asked by Screen Hub journalist Andrew Einspruch what the best way for an indie filmmaker to make money these days. I replied:
I think the question should probably be something a little bit different, or they’re going to get trapped along the way.
The answer to that question is finding the aggregated and underserved communities and addressing them directly with what they are starved for. That has kinda been the history of independent film, at least in the States. The clearly definable demographics. The rise of New Queer Cinema was not just a cultural phenomenon, but it was a wise business practice. It was a group of people with high discretionary income that were already gathered, that had ways to address them directly and engage them socially.
It works the same, essentially, for Tyler Perry. Middle class, church-going family black audience in America being underserved for years. And he had ways to reach them directly and was well rewarded for it.
Even movies as diverse as Fahrenheit 911 and Passion of the Christ – same sort of thing: underserved, pre-collected audiences with ways to address them directly.
And now, we can drill that down, like single liberal-leaning wooden boat enthusiasts living on the coast. You can reach those people. And if they’ve been underserved, and they gather, then providing them more of what they want or what they can’t get hold of is good business practice – as long as you are basing your costs around what the size of that audience is. You need to factor all that in. That’s how a filmmaker can make money.
But, I’m not sure that would be rewarding on a long term basis for the creative spirit. The good business practice in the long run is very similar to what is also most nourishing of that creative spirit. And that is asking of one’s self, “How do I maintain a productive, prolific creative life? How do I make sure that I produce material on a regular basis?” And I think that is sound business practice, as well as being something that will become rewarding.
Not all of that content is going to be monetised. Most of it is going to be used to engage with audiences. By focussing on having an on-going conversation, we reward and transition audiences into different forms of engagement.
For example, the music business thought, at one time, that their business was on the pre-recorded product, and things like live shows were ways to drive greater sales of that product. Now they’ve turned that 180 degrees around, recognising that in a world of cultural abundance, and an excess of leisure time options, people crave the authentic and unique experience.
If we are able to provide content and engagement to a core audience that starts to identify with that relationship as part of their identity, the breadth and variety of those forms of engagement also come with a different level of pricing. We can create engagement that is also event-based, even if our main form of expression is linear and pre-recorded.
Screen Hub is “The daily online newspaper for Australian film and television professionals.” Their web site for the link is http://www.screenhub.com.au.
Andrew Einspruch’s indie Australian film company Wild Pure Heart Productions has created the feature film Finding Joy and the documentaries 2012: This Sacred Earth and 7 Days with 7 Dogs, and is currently working on the low budget feature The Farmer. Andrew can be found on Twitter as@einspruch and at andreweinspruch.com.