Filmmaker’s Dilemma

“I just want to make movies! I don’t care about the business end of things.”

“Business corrupts art.”

“If I make an amazing movie and submit to film festivals it will play well and I’ll be offered an amazing distribution deal.”

Ever hear any of those comments before? I sure have. All the time, in fact. And it seems that MOST filmmakers actually believe in one or all of those. But they’re all terrible ideas, and they’re all detrimental ideas that will stall your career as a filmmaker.

How many feature films are completed every single day where the filmmaker has absolutely no idea what they’re going to do with it next? Maybe they’re deluded and think a distributor will call them up and offer them an amazing deal. But guess what? Even indie films with A and B-list actors and substantial budgets generally aren’t offered amazing deals. The number of films that ever break even is an intensely sobering low number. It’s tiny. Frankly, it’s a terrible time to be an investor in independent film if you plan on making money.

So, as filmmakers, what do we do about that? Give up on our passion to tell amazing stories? Try and make “no budget” movies by calling in favors and feeding people mac and cheese on set? Have our buddies handle post and hope for the best? Actually, that’s exactly what a lot of people do, and in almost every single case it produces low-quality films. And at the end of the day you still don’t know what to do with the film.

There’s a better way.

We have to  change our approach and shift our thinking (hence the name “Shift Films”). We need to identify the elements that we traditionally have the least control over and turn those into our strengths and become something we have the most control over. We become business-minded and audience-focused. Without our audience we are powerless and there’s nobody to share our stories with. Without some business sense we can’t communicate our vision with the audience and present our films to them. We have to control the distribution process and  custom tailor it to our audience. We maximize profit from self-distribution– no more distribution middle-men. It’s time for indie films to start breaking even, and even make a profit. Film production needs to become a sustainable business for filmmakers. Our audiences deserve it. We’ll never get there under the current system in place.

Shift Films has the mission statement that’s two-fold.

We want to help define and refine the “Filmmaker Blueprint” which is a template of approaches and tasks that filmmakers need to follow to control their feature films from inception all the way through distribution. We’re providing a place to share information and collaborate with others, and a starting blueprint. You’re the second half of the equation. This blueprint is “open source” and for the benefit of everyone in the filmmaking community, not just our own production company. We need your help refining the process, identifying problems, and finding solution. We don’t think filmmakers should compete with each other. The world is big enough for everyone’s story to be told. Let’s help each other find success.

The second half of our mission statement is to operate a film production company called Shift Films that uses the Filmmaker Blueprint to produce profitable feature films in a sustainable and repeatable way. When we say sustainable we aren’t talking green (although that’s a great way to approach projects). We’re talking about financially sustainable project where you never ask cast or crew to work for free. Every phase in the Filmmaker Blueprint is backed up by the money  needed to complete it.  As our own film production company, we’ll be eating our own dog food, so to speak. We’re the guinea pig.

So that’s the pitch. We invite you to participate actively in the discussion forums and help us improve the blueprint.

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