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Scott Thibodeau February 20th, 2009 10:25 AM

Recommendations on starting a production company
 
Hi all,

Been awhile since I've posted but I find myself in the same position that many others are in these days...out of work. I was given notice yesterday that in 4 weeks time I'd be on the street. I work in IT so work is usually not difficult to come by but it's forced to examine why I work for others when I have the skills and wherewithal to go it alone. I think The Who said it best:

"Meet the new boss, he's the same as the old boss."

Over a year ago I shot a small travel documentary while traveling down the west coast and throughout the southwest of the United States. I'm an off the beaten path traveler who shoots from his VW bus. Well, I want to complete that project, put it on the market and move on to other ones once summer rolls around. The grand scheme has me traveling through Central America and producing a doc on each country that I pass through. I'm kind of treading water right now on the business aspect of it.

My main interest is to shoot, edit and sell through Amazon, Ebay and my own website. I'm trying to keep everything as simple as possible because my main concern is to share the locations, people and cultures with others and I don't want to get bogged down in dealing with contracts, legalize and the rest of it.

Should I start a production company to release my DVD's through? Are there things I should know before I start? Does anyone else have experience producing their own documentaries and then selling them through the Internet? Any suggestions, recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers all,

Scott

Jay Gladwell February 20th, 2009 10:57 AM

Scott, sorry to hear about your recent situation. In technical terms... that sucks!

I don't know your personal situation, and that's just was well. However, under your current circumstances, I would strongly encourage you to save your money until another job comes along.

Investing in any video project at this time would, I fear, do nothing more than deplete your already limited resources.

Best of luck to you!

Scott Thibodeau February 20th, 2009 11:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jay Gladwell (Post 1015181)
Scott, sorry to hear about your recent situation. In technical terms... that sucks!

I don't know your personal situation, and that's just was well. However, under your current circumstances, I would strongly encourage you to save your money until another job comes along.

Investing in any video project at this time would, I fear, do nothing more than deplete your already limited resources.

Best of luck to you!

I guess my point with losing the job was that it has pushed me back into the right direction. I will find more work and I will save more money but it has also reminded me that I work for someone else and that's not ideal for me. I need to work towards getting off the grid and back on the road. My main interests are travel and education, sharing the world with those who are not in a position to see it. DVD sales would allow me to continue doing this. That's what I'm working towards. So I will be saving money and I will continue to be a responsible adult but I also want to do what's right for me. Besides, I live in Winnipeg, it's freaking -40 some days! ;)

Jay Gladwell February 20th, 2009 11:42 AM

Scott, thanks for the chuckle. Please, understand, I didn't mean to imply that you weren't a responsible adult. Sometimes, with new found freedom, we lose sight of things in our exuberance.

I sincerely hope you will be able to realize your dreams, whatever they may be!

Keep warm!!!

Jacques E. Bouchard February 20th, 2009 01:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scott Thibodeau (Post 1015150)
Hi all,

Been awhile since I've posted but I find myself in the same position that many others are in these days...out of work. I was given notice yesterday that in 4 weeks time I'd be on the street. I work in IT so work is usually not difficult to come by but it's forced to examine why I work for others when I have the skills and wherewithal to go it alone.

Sympathies on the imminent unemployment. i was i IT as well (Digital VAX/VMS computers the size of refrigerators) before becoming obsolete and going into screnwriting/filmmaking.

As far as shooting in foreign countries, I couldn't tell you exactly what the legal aspects are. But you'll need release forms from all the principals (people you'll be interviewing) as well as permissions from the location owners if you hope to sell your documentary to a broadcaster. There may be more (or less) that you'll need but I've never made a documentary. You don't need to form a company, but I would recommend incorporating eventually (before you release the doc).

One thing I can tell you for sure, however: do not turn to this as a short-term form of employment. It could be several years from now (if ever) before you make any money on the sale of the documentary. It took me at least five years before I could make a living from screenwriting, during which time I had to rely on all sorts of different sources of income to make ends meet. Even now there's no protection against lean years, and just this morning I was debating taking a regular office job that would give me the financial security I've been lacking for 12 years.

However, if you can live the bohemian lifetyle, it beats any steady paycheque. Just make sure your house is all paid up first. ;-)


J.

Mick Haensler February 22nd, 2009 09:30 AM

I think the current economic situation has a lot of folks reevaluating things. Go for it. I think we were all given passions for a reason and to not pursue them in leu of a safe and "responsible" route I feel is actually irresponsible!! I've never met a happy successful person who got that way by playing it safe. That being said, you gotta eat. Balance is tricky. It sounds like you have the IT skills to job around a bit to make ends meet though so probably not an issue.

I'll go with ya!!! I shot footage for a documentary in Guatemala a few years back and fell in love with Central American culture. The doc never got made but it changed my life so I guess the purpose was fulfilled.

Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media

Lori Starfelt February 22nd, 2009 04:39 PM

We edited a documentary entitled Consciousness that was 12 hours long - a six DVD set that the producer sold on a couple different sites. We haven't spoken to him in several years, but I do know that he sold several thousand in the first year. But I also know that is not the norm.

It's easy to start your own production company and start shooting. Put up a website and list your DVDs for sale on Amazon. It's driving people to your DVDs that is hard to do. I don't know how you turn it into a money maker from the get go.

That's what you have to think through. What are you going to deliver that the audience has never seen before? And how are they going to find you? Is there a niche market you can hit and advertise to?

Sorry about the job loss but it sounds like you may do something more gratifying in the short run, even it burns through your cash.

Andreas Schmidt February 23rd, 2009 08:48 AM

Doing a similar thing. . .
 
Hello,

I love travelling as well and I did a similar thing then you. On purpose I quit my job and travelled once around the world. I am currently creating a documentary about it. I hope to sell it as well and get the travel cost back. At least a portion of it.

I have no general or specific advice on a production company. I think its great if you do what you love to do.

Let me know if you have any specific questions
Cheers
Andreas

Drew Curran February 23rd, 2009 10:46 AM

I was given notice yesterday that in 4 weeks time I'd be on the street. [/QUOTE]

Scott,
I'm in exactly the same boat! I was made redundant in Jan 09. To be honest I'm seeing this as a wake-up-call. I've been wanting to start my own video/film production service for over 4 years, but I was too 'comfortable' in my well paid job. I worked in the construction industry, so I don't have many options to seek employment there. Here in the UK its dead on it feet. What better time to do something I'm actually passionate about.

I know times are hard, with a world wide economic downturn, and its not hard to find people who want to tell you it won't work.

Here's my plan: I feel that the companies I want to target are fighting for fewer jobs, and therefore need a strong presence in the current market. They will also want to be ready for when things start to pick up again, so advertising now will help them in the future. Thats where I come in, producing promotional videos and films. I'm also concentrating on promoting myself. I'm keeping a list of potential clients that I can approach. I'm tendering for video services and have won one to date.

Perhaps something like this could fund your documentaries? Hang on in there, and give it a go!


Drew

Dylan Couper February 23rd, 2009 11:59 AM

Hey Scott
Here are some quick answers:

Quote:

Originally Posted by Scott Thibodeau (Post 1015150)
Should I start a production company to release my DVD's through?

You should incorporate a company in order to gain a much better position for tax purposes. A secondary reason would be to limit your personal liability.

Quote:

Are there things I should know before I start?
Yes. You need to know that the only important skill is marketing. Marketing will be responsible for 90% of your success. The quality of your production will account for only 10%. If you plan to sell through amazon (createspace), you better start reading marketing texts.

Also, you should know that Createspace/Amazon actually suck for what you intend. They provide very little in the way of tracking tools (critical to marketing), and are more geared to making money off you by charging you to advertize/market, rather than to make money by helping you sell more discs.


Quote:

Does anyone else have experience producing their own documentaries and then selling them through the Internet?
Yes. I'm doing more or less the same thing, except in a different genre.

Quote:

Any suggestions, recommendations would be greatly appreciated.
For the price of a pitcher of ale at the Yaletown Brew Pub, you can pick my brain for an hour and I'll tell you everything I've learned about the Amazon/self distribution route.


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