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09/14/2001 - Independent Filmmaking

How to Produce Movies for Television

"Those who suppress freedom always do so in the name of
law and order."

-- John V. Lindsay, former Mayor of New York City

Independent Filmmaking

Are independent filmmakers and production companies truly independent? Or is the word
?independent' really a misnomer.

Consider the present-day facts: Independent producers enjoy freedom from decision by committee. If they decide to tell more personal stories, intimate dramas, or quirky tales who's going to say ?no' to them if the money people say ?yes.'

The major studios don't know how to make unique films and what's more, they don't know how to market them. That gives the ?indies' the lattitude to find and fulfill a need in the market place.

Tiny stories are better suited to independent filmmaking. The majors will readily admit that they don't know how to sell or market ?small' pictures. If they can't make money on the picture, they simply won't do it. There are rare exceptions of course to this rule. Whenever a superstar has a pet project that he or she wants to star in and perhaps direct. In those instances, the majors bite the bullet and do the movie because they don't want to offend the star and perhaps jeopardize their ongoing relationship.

Financing Small Pictures

Today, more than ever, there's money around to finance independent films. The situation is healthier than it has ever been. The lenders are more open to funding indie films because there are a number of success stories out there that can not be denied.

Cultivating Investor Relationships

As a filmmaker, you'll only get one shot with an investor. It's very important not to blow that shot. Be honest. Let your potential investor know the upside and downside. Do it right the first time and you'll find that your investor will stay on board for your next film.

Glamour Investors

Avoid people who are enamored with show business. The investors that you want to deal with are solid business people who understand that the entertainment industry is at best a
high risk proposition. Informed investment sources include venture capital firms. Be prepared to present a Business Plan to them for their consideration.

Banks used to be a good funding source but the state of the global economy has made many banks become weary of loaning funds to independent filmmakers. For example, Chase Securities was deeply involved for a number of years with the film industry but they have cut back on their participation. The same applies to Union Bank, Imperial Bank, and Natexis Banque which is based in Los Angeles. All of these financial institutions are still funding filmmakers but to a far lesser extent.

Major independent filmmakers with a track record such as Joe Roth, the former studio head of Disney and Fox, has obtained a multi-million credit line from Chase Bank for his own indie company Revolution Studios. Roth knows how to play the game. In order to direct and produce "America's Sweethearts," he frontloaded this production with major names which included Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and John Cusack.

There are always new funding sources which emerge. Some of them stay the course; others fold early-on. The Gabriel Film Group is a new and very well-financed releasing organization which recently opted to back director-writer-producer Linda Yellen's latest feature film, The Simian Line. This independent film stars Lynn Redgrave, William Hurt, Cindy Crawford, and Harry Connick Jr. and is slated to be released in October. The Gabriel Film Group was open to distributing a film with star names. Linda Yellen came along, forearmed with a star package which appealed to the powers that be at Gabriel.

Timing has everything to do with it. Marry the project to the right funding source and you too will have your day in the sun.

"The lessons of life are taught until you breathe your last breath,
then the true test begins."

-- AJ Melten


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