Independent vs. Studio – “Don’t Be Tricked”

In Book, Communication, Movies, Networking, News, Technology on July 26, 2013 at 10:41 am

Before embarking on your filmmaking journey, ask yourself, “Am I a producer-filmmaker or am I a producer-dealmaker?” There’s a difference.

The Producer-dealmaker is exotic.  He puts together mega-million-dollar deals, hires people with large salaries, and makes big-budget studio features.  On the other hand, the producer-filmmaker gets a script , moves the decimal point two spaces to the left on a studio budget, purchases some unexposed film stock, gets some friends, and makes a low-budget film.

This book (From Reel to Deal) focuses on the producer-filmmaker approach used by people like John Sayles, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee, Kevin Smith, and Robert Rodriguez, who’ve launched amazing careers. But first I’ll address the producer-dealmaker approach, if only to acquaint you with the seduction of the big-dollar studio deals that almost always lead to a dead-end.

Qui Films_Independent Benefit


Studio Production_Caveat
The producer-dealmaker approach has glamour, is expensive to play and is fraught with dangling golden carrots. And, 999 times out of 1000, the beginner who pursues these carrots gets tied up in a costly web of prepayments, pay-or-play checks, and attorney fees that he can’t afford, and gets detoured from the goal of making his first film.

A classic dealmaking “golden carrot” is:  You’ve pitched your project to either a foreign sales company or theatrical distributor for funding, and they state, “We’re in for half the budget.” They’re lying. If a company ever gives you “50 percent of the budget” line when pitching, respond, “Wonderful!” Let’s cut the budget in half and start shooting tomorrow.”  Now, watch how they wiggle.  What they’re really saying is, if you can raise the first half (used for the physical production), then their contract (non cash) will finance the marketing and promotion (after they see the finished project), guaranteeing them first position on recouping funds, and the ability to cancel the deal if the film funds, and the ability to cancel the deal if the film you make doesn’t meet their standards.

Another “golden carrot” is, “We’re in if you can get a name attached.” Sounds simple. All you have to do is get an actor with a credit or two to give you a “letter of intent” showing interest and you’ll secure financing. The point, however, is that anyone can get a letter from an actor declaring that he/she is interested. Every actor is interested in every single part as long as he/she gets paid. So what? That letter, which is not contract is absolute garbage in Hollywood.

What you want is a “firm commitment,” a contract from an actor that states he/she will set aside X number of days, 4 to 12 months from now, to be in your film and will work nowhere else in the world during those days for which he is to be paid Y salary. The salary will be large, and the actor, through his agent, wants a 30-50 percent deposit of it up front. If you want to shop an actor’s name, you have to pay for that privilege. Otherwise, you’re pissing in the wind; no distributor or foreign buyer, will give a hoot about your “interested stars.” They want guarantees (aka firm commitments). And guarantees cost money.

To get this guarantee in writing is called a “pay-to-play” agreement…

First make a film, then make a deal.

The problem with filmmakers who never make a film, is they spend their entire lives trying to make a deal. Hollywood doesn’t finance first-timer nobodies. Here’s the bottom line.

Want $20,000,000? Make a $2,000,000 feature.
Want $2,000,000? Make a $200,000 feature.
Want $200,000? Make a $20,000 feature.
Want $20,000? Make a $2,000 Web feature.

This is how Hollywood works. It’s not complicated.

So where are you going to start? At the most, only 1 percent of the people reading this book are rich enough to gamble $200,000-$500,000 to shoot their first (35mm three-week shoot) feature. The other 99 percent probably had a hard time parting with the money to buy this book. Then you’ll be shooting a $20,000-$50,000 feature for the Web.

Therefore, start from the bottom. Be a producer-filmmaker. Prove your talents. Forget about being a producer-dealmaker. Stop chasing the deal — just make the film, and if the film you made is great, you’ll make a deal. But your first film must be great. Good is not good enough. Only great will launch your career. And since you won’t have money for name actors, exotic locations, stunts, and special effects, you will find yourself being totally story dependent. Thus, to succeed as a producer-filmmaker you will, on your first film, be totally script dependent and must prepare by first reading at least 20-30 screenplays of successful movies that you’ve seen. Don’t read these 20-30 scripts and you are guaranteed to fail.

[Reference Source: Reel To Deal by: Dov S-S Simens]

Interested in making your script a reel reality and filming it in the Dallas/Fort Worth [TX] metroplex or in Phoenix [AZ]?  Contact us:
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  1. Qui Films all the way baby. Hey-Hey! It’s a great day to reel some footage!:D

  2. I worked on the documentary WHOLE PEOPLE with Qui Films & ShimDot Productions. It was a lot of fun and a huge learning experience (personally and professionally). After seeing how MUCH some amputees put into a day, I had to re-evalute my daily agenda. I can surely do more. Officially #Inspire. I surely hope the project sells and takes off. I’d love to see it broadcast on OWN.

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