As I've said before and as I'll say again, I have a great respect for filmmakers, because they are so passionate about what they do. If you aren't passionate about making amazing films, you shouldn't be in this business because there are so many other people out there who are so passionate about what they do.
Filmmakers create startups all the time: every new film you create is a startup. Each time you start the filmmaking process you have a different business proposition (whether that's a scripted horror film or an unscripted political documentary), a different crew of people to work with (based on where your film will be shot and edited, among other things), and a different set of challenges to deal with (access, locations, cast, crew, and plenty more). Yes some of these things are scalable (e.g. finding good people and keeping them around for the next project) but there are also many times when you'll have to start from scratch again and again.
One thing that is relatively similar time and time again is the sales process. But even that is changing as Neflix, Amazon, Apple, Youtube Red, Hulu and HBO continue to evolve. This begs the question: are filmmakers properly equipped for fundraising for and selling films? Is it necessary for filmmakers to be salespeople, or should they just leave that to other professionals? These are questions that I've grappled with for some time now and have thought through in great depth. And thus here are my conclusions based on different stages of film production:
1. If you have connections at any studio or new media outlet to fund your film, of course use these connections. But in general, especially for up and coming filmmakers, this will be incredibly rare. I'm talking like a 1 in 1,000 chance of getting funding for your project from a studio. (Nobody has ever funded a project of mine!) And that 1 in 1,000 might not even be the most talented filmmaker. It will likely be someone who has a connection in the film business. Like other businesses, nepotism runs rampant in film.
2. Sales Agents and Distributors exist to bridge the gap between filmmakers and the monstrous corporations that will ultimately distribute your film. However, just because you sign with an agent or distributor doesn't mean that your work is done. It is still on you to promote and PR the crap out of your film. You must create demand for this product as you must for any other product. And getting sales agents/distributors on board is a challenge, but more on this later.
3. If you can't sell your film on your own, find someone who can. The worst tragedy of filmmaking is to think you have put your time, effort, money, and skills into creating a wonderful project that only a handful of people will view. This said, the director/producer team on such a film might not have the outside connections or sales skills to get your film watched by the right people or sold. If you think this is you, write me a note and I'll have a watch to see if I can help you!
More observations coming soon...