This one goes out to all the struggling independent filmmakers – you know who you are. If you are a caffeine-addicted, insomnia – suffering, mentally conflicted person who never leaves home without a notepad and a script – I’m talking to you.
Even though sometimes you think to yourself… “Why didn’t I choose an easy career… like becoming a Doctor or a Lawyer,” you know deep down inside that you wouldn’t have it any other way. After all, the pain of pawning your grandmother’s pearls didn’t compare to the satisfaction of seeing your movie on the big screen.
You probably already understand that making it as a filmmaker – whether it’s in the mainstream or in the independent market – is very freaking hard. It’s like trying to get to Oz, except there is no yellow brick road.
You are cursed with these amazing ideas that turn into stories, that are conceived in your brain, and develop within you, start kicking inside you, wanting to be born. Then you JUST HAVE TO give birth because the kicking won’t stop… so you go through a long laborious birthing process that leaves you drained of energy and up to your elbows in debt. And then you look at your beautiful creation, and all you can think of is…” Now what?”
When you finally have your movie in your hands… that’s when things start getting confusing. You suddenly find yourself in a labyrinth of pitching, promoting, selling and distribution. So you don’t know where to start, and it feels like the walls are starting to close in on you, and you think you’re never going to get out.
Breathe, there is a way out.
Getting your movie noticed is hard not because there aren’t enough ways to make this happen, it is hard because there are a too many ways.
Below you will find some advice from Brian Levy – CEO, Founder of New School Media, Chris Brinker – Producer, Boondock Saints, Russell Ackerman – Development Executive for Guillermo del Toro, and Will Russell-Shapiro – Producer, Aversano Films.
These four gatekeepers of Hollywood, hosted a Pitch, Package and Promote panel during the San Diego Film Festival, offered invaluable advice to a group of award-winning, passionate and dedicated individuals – who, just like you – have a great project in their hands and don’t know where to take it. Here is what they said.
#1.) Be the next best thing… Hollywood still wants great stories.
There is hope. So many people (myself included) have at one time or another bad-mouthed Hollywood for making “blockbusters” and seemingly not producing cinema of substance. This is a myth! Hollywood has produced and does produce movies with substance… they actually want to! Don’t you feel better already? Each of the four panelists agreed that everybody in Hollywood is looking to find the next big thing, the next great story. Their desks may be stacked up to the ceiling with scripts, and they may be getting scripts thrown at like grenades in a battlefield… but they are still searching… why? because they know a good original story when they see one. As Levy put it… “The cream always rises to the top.”So first of all, make sure that your movie or script is original and you may have the chance to get it noticed by a gatekeeper.
#2. ) Be persistent, very persistent. Without being annoying.
This is easier said than done. Being persistent, without being annoying is almost an oxymoron. But Levy said that it can be done. I would trust Levy.
Think about it.
Influential people get dozens, if not hundreds of people contacting them daily. How can you avoid sounding the same and doing the same as everyone else? Ackerman gave an example of someone who sent him a short film, and they loved the concept, so they bought into the story. Using an actual short film, or video can sell your story better than words can.
Don’t give up.
People working in the industry know what persistence really means. They respect persistence… they’ve lived it. During the panel, Brinker told us that sometimes it means having to go through twelve hour days, seven days a week for years, in order to get where you want – which is what he did. So the next time you meet a distributor, producer, director, scriptwriter be careful not to appear to have a sense of entitlement, as if just because your story is good, it should get sold automatically! It is not their job to hear your complaints, it is their job to hear your story idea and consider it. Which brings us to the next point…
Find other ways.
If you already tried, a few times, to get the attention of a gatekeeper, try a new directions. Sometimes going straight to the source can lead you nowhere. Take advantage of any contact you have with their PERSONAL ASSISTANTS or INTERNS, they may be able to help more than you think!
#3.) Always be prepared.
If you already have a movie – always, always, ALWAYS have your press kit ready. This is primarily used for film festivals, but it’s good to have a really good one to share with the press and contacts. If you don’t have a movie produced yet, have an AMAZING tag line, log line and synopsis prepared. Have a SHORT PITCH down and MEMORIZED.
There is no worse feeling than having a great story, getting caught in an elevator with George Lucas, and then not doing your idea justice.
Here are some examples of great tag lines:
“In space, no one can hear you scream” – Alien (1979)
“Man, is the warmest place to hide” – The Thing (1982)
“Stealing, cheating, killing… Who said romance was dead?” – True Romance (1993).
These tag lines make you want to have 45 million dollars throw down don’t they?
And they HAVE to be THIS good. Sometimes a tag line is all you’ll have time to give.
#4.) Distributing: If they’re not coming to YOU, go to THEM.
The fact of the matter is that sometimes you have to do the work yourself. If you want your movie to be sold and distributed, research companies and/or people who are buying work that is similar to yours.
- Self- promote and distribute! Here are a few ideas:
- Use IMDB to see who distributes movies similar to yours. Call the distribution companies!
- Use a resource like Pivotshare.com to monetize your content.
- Post your video on Vimeo or Youtube! You never know what can go viral these days.
- Sell DVD’s on your movie’s website. Sell them when you go to film festivals, sell them to your aunts and uncles. Get your movie out there.
You’ve heard it so often, but much of your success is not dependent on your ideas, but who knows your ideas.
- Get involved in the filmmaking community: festivals, seminars, classes, shoots and social networks. Try filmkin.com, for example.
- Don’t be afraid to move to L.A., as Levy said , “If you’re a writer, and are serious about writing, you have to move to LA.” Build relationships with producers, agents, directors and actors…
- Don’t take actors for granted. Great actors love great stories. They may just be the people to push your movie to the next level. Certainly don’t be afraid of approaching A list or B list actors, you never know!
#6.) Be prolific.
Whatever you do, don’t stop. The more movies you make, the more scripts you write, the more times you get ignored, the more you’ll learn about what it takes to break into the business. Ackerman said “momentum dies fast,” so don’t lose it. Don’t stop working when you don’t have success. Most importantly, don’t stop working when you’ve had SOME success. It’s harder to keep an A than to make an A.
There is really no formula to getting your work noticed. More often than not, it is about preparation, perseverance and taking matters into your own hands. I hope this has helped some of you, and or at least had some effect on your motivation! Is there any other topic you could use more insider information on? Let us know… and we’ll get our Inpector Gadget on FOR YOU.