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Techniques for Independent Production
The challenges of creating Digital Cinema and other narrative forms.


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Old November 4th, 2007, 06:57 PM   #1
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Was it all worth it?

I'm aware that a lot of users of this forum have pumped sums of money into making short and feature length films. I'm wondering how many of you have made your money back in regards to the initial budget you started with and if so how was the income generated. I ask this question as i eventually want to make my first feature and im a realest and very aware that it has a good chance to be overlooked or even straight out flop, but still i would find it very hard to have just spent say 10,000 ($20,000) on a movie that only ends up on youtube. I imagine sharing personal financial gains and losses is a touchy subject so i appreciate any feedback given.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 07:12 PM   #2
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Well, this answer won't help you much, but I haven't made much back from my filmmaking (aside from the occasional prize here or there-- more fun than fortune), and in fact lost quite a bit (nothing horrible, though).
But, sure, it was all worth it. That's why I do this.

If you really are in this for the money, get out. There are much easier ways to make a profit than in an industry that is so competitive and just plain difficult-- not only hard to do well, but also VERY hard to make something that audiences really like, even if made well (you see that all the time in hollywood, too).
If you just love filmmaking and know you want to make your career out of it, go for it.

That's really the distinction.

The odds are simply against anyone becoming big in the industry and to have a chance you'll have to be especially good.

Paraphrased from something (no idea what): "there are plenty of starving poets"
(And some who make a good living, too.)


However, there are of course ways to use video/film to make money-- make corporate videos, shoot weddings, etc., and you can make money without too much competition. You still need some skill and luck, but that's the way to go for a profit.


We'll see what others who have actually made it (or not) through this. I haven't gotten to a point yet where I'm able to comment on that, or worried about it. I like doing this, and I'll keep doing it-- regardless of the profit. If I start making lots of money too, well that's just great. If not? It's fun.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 07:32 PM   #3
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I definetly agree with what your saying, this is something i love and will pursie regardless. I'm about to start my first real short, i've been putting it off for ever due to fear of it not looking as good as i plan to be honest, but I've spent years reseraching, planning, listening and watching everything on how to make a good film. Of course the main ingredient of actually doing it is missing but this is next. Im planning to put some money into it so that it is as good as i can get it, and im happy knowing this is a project where there will be no money back from.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 08:17 PM   #4
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well, even with the money coming in, very slowly, i still do not brake even. but hey....over all the years, i have met wonderful people, before and behind the camera. since i selected certain groups/ actors events, my family has seen quiet a lot of different things one would not see normally.
whatever i do incl. all my equipment is by choice, so i can't complain...lol
(i could, but who would listen?)
i would do it again, but would add editing.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 09:03 PM   #5
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This is art, not business, so if you need to make up for your costs when filming it, you may want to wait and save up, or do something else instead. It's certainly no guarantee. But there's no reason you couldn't make your costs back, or even make a good profit. Just not a safe gamble, if it will be a major financial burden.
If you've got the budget, though, and it sounds like you enjoy this, go ahead and hope for the best.
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Old November 4th, 2007, 09:03 PM   #6
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What I have gained from making my short film -

Loads of contacts, both in and out of industry.
Full time employment in a production house, through the people I met in the process of producing the short film.
Something for my reel I am very proud of, that I will always enjoy.
The experience of seeing my film on a big screen, getting huge laughs and thunderous applause.
A few awards at small local festivals, which while not life altering where certainly life affirming.
A small sale of the film to a local cable channel, which returned less than one tenth of the actual production cost (which would in turn be less than one tenth of the theoretical production cost were it not for all the favors and people who helped me out.)

Absolutely worth it - I would suggest.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 02:05 AM   #7
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I can't speak for shorts.

I have no idea how anyone make money on shorts.

However, I know a little bit about features. I have one friend who makes horror features for $5k a piece, and she makes money on 'em. They get direct to video distribution and she gets between $7k and $10k a piece for them. So even at the bottom end, people can make money.

You have to make a feature to know how to make a feature. It's a big chunk of organizing and getting one made will teach one heckuva lot. My advice would be to make a feature that you finance yourself and get it made and made well. That way you can approach investors for a good chunk more money next time out.

The trick to making an inexpensive feature well is treating exactly as if it was an expensive feature. Get a good script. Don't hire your friends. Just because a female character is goodlooking doesn't mean the actress doesn't need to know how to act. Get a real DP and a real editor.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 04:07 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daniel Ross View Post
This is art, not business,...
Uhhh... keep in mind the quote "they call it show business, not show 'art'."
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Old November 5th, 2007, 08:23 AM   #9
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This is art, not business,

Boy are you in for a rude awakening once you graduate school and enter the real world!

I couldn't imagine paying $5k, $10k, $20k of my own money to shoot.
In my little world, people pay me to shoot!
That's how you get things like a nice house and cars, and send your kids to college.
Paying your own money to make films, is like having a really bad drug addiction.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 12:24 PM   #10
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Paying your own money to make films, is like having a really bad drug addiction.
I have not made a feature, but I have invested what is to me a lot of time and money on shorts. My rationale is that I want all the experience I can get so I can be confident when I try to enter "the system". I like film but I can't indefinitely afford to fund them myself. If you want to make films that people see in the theatre (not some small art house) then I see no choice but to join the system.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 02:05 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Daniel Alexander View Post
I'm wondering how many of you have made your money back in regards to the initial budget you started with and if so how was the income generated.
I haven't seen a bean yet, but I have seen plenty of smiles of people's faces.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2593737/

I would recommend first shooting "two people talking in a room" ( of which my effort can be found on archive.org http://www.archive.org/details/adultcontacts )

Shoot a two or three contiguous day shoot before you embark on a feature, unless you have an excellent line producer and assistant director already lined up.

About half way through any shoot you'll just want it to be over (to paraphrase, I think, Trauffaut - but so true).

You might not make much money but you will begin forging your reputation. A reputation can be a very very valuable thing.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 05:51 PM   #12
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It's good to see peoples feelings regarding this matter, it seems that alot of people have gained good experience and networks rather than money. I think my route for making films will be by shooting commercial/corporate videos to finance my efforts. Although short and even feature films can cost a huge amount of money for little or no money back, i believe the final piece will be a priceless tool for getting investors for future films and providing a visual demonstrate to potential clients what your capable of. Something that money can't really buy.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 06:11 PM   #13
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Again, I think the big reason people don't make their money back on ultra-low budget features is that are casual about the shoot. I really honestly think that if you're shooting low budget and you put the same level care you would put into a big budget feature, you can make your money back and more.

Don't scrimp on pre-production. Don't decide an okay script is good enough. Don't cast your friends - unless they're hella fine actors. Get plenty of coverage. Have interesting locations. Hire a great DP and a great editor - which is much easier to do with not much money if you have a great script and real actors. If you do those things, and you're conscientious you'll make money.

We do post-production and I see lots and lots and lots of indie efforts. Most indie filmmakers take a lot of shortcuts they have no business taking. They'll write their own script because they have a cool idea even though they've never written anything professionally in their life. They'll decide to work with amateur actors because they don't how to deal with professional actors. They'll do 25 master shots, run out of time and get no coverage.

I think I'm gonna write a book on how to make a first rate film for under $50k.
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Old November 5th, 2007, 08:35 PM   #14
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i make shorts because i enjoy it ... all have been shot on FILM ... in the future will shoot em with RED 103 ...
if you want to make big $$$$ it's not in shorts !!!

the few persons that i know that made $$ off their 1st feature - produced them for under 40k ... the one's that spent 60-350k -well they got good write off's .... those that invested in 2-7 mil films ( one even got oscar ) well, they have never seen a dime to date ....
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Old November 5th, 2007, 08:38 PM   #15
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I'm dropping $10,000 on a documentary feature. The good news is that much of that is equipment, which can be reused for other features.

I don't know if I'll make the money back. I do know that being able to say "I've produced and directed a feature-length documentary" does open some doors later on.
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