ACTORS – When you audition, ask about the plan and distribution. If they can’t afford to pay you, but plan on sending to several film festivals…. then something is wrong. Do the math. Each film festival costs $25-50 whether the movie makes it in or not, and because of simple odds (thousands of submissions, tens of slots….) the movie won’t get into a lot of film festivals. If the filmmakers can’t afford to pay for decent meals, how in the hell can they afford to submit to film festivals?

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t do the movie. That’s not my point at all. I guess my point is just BE REALISTIC. Know that you are doing it for the experience. There are pearls in the clams occasionally, and you won’t find them if you don’t look. There are some good movies and good directors, but it may take time and a few movies before this first time filmmaker becomes one.

DIRECTORS – Plan for the entire movie. Budget for the entire movie. That includes money to MARKET the movie. There is this common mistake that you spend all of your money MAKING the movie, and then it sits & collects dust because you find out that everything costs more than you thought. Plan for it. Whatever you THINK it will cost, have double the money. Did you really think that because you shot your “film” on digital video that it would be that much cheaper? That’s insane.

Be realistic. The chances of getting INTO Sundance are slim, and winning anything or getting distribution is a pipe dream. First of all, DV shorts with no stars are generally as valuable as rat feces. There is no real distribution and short films, even with stars, have very few outlets for display – and even more rare are places that pay for them.

Film festivals are great, but they are expensive. Plan ahead for the money you will spend on submitting to film festivals, and know that you may not get in. They don’t refund your money when you don’t get in. And also as an FYI – audiences at a regular film festival average about 12-75 people, most of them the other filmmakers and casts and crews who got their movie accepted. Unless your movie is about filmmaking, this may not be the best audience or judge for your work.

Make movies for the experience to start. Don’t be delusional. Want to help yourself, your movies, and the actors who starred in it? Get some exposure. Get your work seen by as many people as possible. Put your shorts on the Internet, Public Access TV, or anywhere you can. Get your actors seen by as many people as possible. That’s the least you can do.

You have to ask yourself why you made the movie or got involved with a movie. Was it to get famous or make money? HA! You’re better off buying lottery tickets. You’ll have better odds in a casino. Did you make your movie to tell a story? GREAT, now share it with people, in as many venues as possible. Film festivals are good, but expensive. Have options.

Visit Peter John Ross at the Sonnyboo Productions website.

Posted on August 5, 2003 in Features by


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  1. James on Mon, 24th Sep 2012 9:47 pm 

    As a film maker, I was looking for an article on Independent film cliches, what I got was an blog of “can’t bee”. This article is definitely mis-titled.

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