Every filmmaker wants to see their work on the big screen. However, given the state of the indie film theatrical market, very few filmmakers can pull it off outside of the festival circuit. Especially for their first films. It requires a lot of skill, and an idea that appeals to a wide audience, ideally an audience you already have an in with. So how do you scale your films to that point? Well, this blog can get you started.
In order to get a theatrical run for your film in today’s day and age, you need a distinctive voice, flawless technical execution, great writing, an audience you know how to reach, and some level of recognizable name talent. But those things don’t come cheap. Here’s a roadmap starting with what you an do as soon as you finish reading this blog.
1. WATCH A LOT OF MOVIES.
2. MAKE SHORTS AS QUICKLY AND CHEAPLY AS YOU CAN
In order to develop both your Voice and your skills, you need to churn out some content. Assuming you’re working full time, you may want to try to make 12 limited to no budget shorts in in a year. One per month. This will let you hone your skills and develop your work. Don’t spend any money on this.
3. GET CRITIQUE ON YOUR WORK.
The Filmmakers Subreddit as well as many groups on Facebook offer the ability to share your work for the purpose of critique. Getting critique from other filmmakers will help you both develop your network, as well as your skills. This can be a tricky prospect, but I've seen some decent feedback happening on the R/Filmmakers Subreddit.
4. SCALE UP FOR A BIG SHORT.
Now that you’ve honed your craft and developed your voice, you should try to make something of a calling card. This time, instead of spending a month on it, spend 3 months on it. Limit yourself to a few locations, but get a bigger crew and spend a little money on this. Continue to grow your presence on social media while you’re at it.
5. SUBMIT THAT SHORT TO FESTIVALS TO BUILD YOUR BRAND.
You need more that rapid iterations to scale your brand. You also need validation. Start submitting to local fests so you can attend them and build your network. As you’re submitting, make sure to continue to build your brand and your engagement on social media. Do everything you can to get press once you get into festivals. You probably won’t get major press, but you should definitely reach out to the smaller local papers.
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6. START WRITING YOUR FIRST FEATURE, WEBSERIES OR OTHER SALABLE PRODUCT.
As you’re doing this, start fleshing out the concept for something bigger. Something more than skill building. Something you can actually sell.
7. AFTER YOUR FESTIVAL RUN IS DONE, DO ONE LAST SHORT.
This one is for all the marbles. Make the short in the same genre and generally same feel as your feature. It doesn’t have to be a proof of concept short, or the short to get the feature financed, it has to show you can pull off a feature. Spend between 3 and 6 months making it perfect.
8. SUBMIT THE FILM TO GENRE FESTIVALS AND BIGGER FESTIVALS.
Now that you’ve got what will (hopefully) be your last ever short, time to start making relevant contacts in the corner of the industry you seek to inhabit. Submit your film to the relevant festivals, including one or two big ones then finish your big project script.
9. CROWDFUND YOUR NEXT BIG THING.
Yeah yeah yeah. I know everyone hates crowdfunding. However, if you do it right, you can fund a large portion of your movie for free, and get a huge piece of validation to help you close distributors and investors.
10. SHOOT AND EDIT YOUR FIRST FEATURE
Expect this to take a year, but make sure you finish it well and in a technically adept way so that you can get distribution.
11. SUBMIT THE FILM TO ALL THE FESTIVALS YOU GOT INTO BEFORE, PLUS THE MAJORS
The reason you did your last two festivals was to make contacts, time to start calling them in. Submit your film, travel to all the ones you can. Only wait for one major before giving your premier to a tier 2 festival.
12. GET DISTRIBUTION FOR YOUR FEATURE OR WEBSERIES
This product won’t do you much good if no one can buy it. Distribution is hard though and it helps to have good people on your team. If you’re already here, check out my submissions portal through the button below.
13. MARKET YOUR WORK
After the festival run is done, make sure you work with your distributor market your movie. If they’ll let you this process will take a while
14. REPEAT STEPS 9-13
Make another feature. If you can, double the budget. Go back to the same people you worked with before if you liked them and they did well.
15. MAKE A BRAND FOR YOUR COMPANY
You should also consider monetizing your intellectual property in another way, like starting to brand your production company by creating T-Shirts for your crews, and other perch for your friends.
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16. HELP OTHERS MAKE THEIR FIRST FEATURE
If you want to be successful you’ll need to have a strong network, and weird considerable influence. No one can survive as an island in this industry, and helping others build their resumes and work can pay huge dividends.
17. GET AN AGENT, OR REPEAT STEPS 9-13 AGAIN
If you want to scale up, you’ll need help. An agent can help you immensely. You’ll need to live in a hub to get one, or at least have a MAJOR win at some film festivals.
18. RINSE AND REPEAT STARTING WITH STEP 9.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single roadmap to make this work. No one could give an 18 step process for foolproof success in any industry, and the film industry is particularly tricky.
The best we can do is more a flowchart and a series of steps until you can catch a big break. The real key is making a sustainable life while you wait for that break. It’s not easy, but it can be possible.
If you liked this, share it. It helps a lot. Here are a bunch of different ways to do it via a Third Party HTML plugin.
Also, join my mailing list. There’s a resource package with some great templates to help you succeed and festivals, link in the top/left button. I'll be announcing some new things to directly help filmmakers grow their career in in the very near future, and those on my will be the first to know.
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My name is Ben, I'm an Entrepreneur, Producer's Rep, and Author. I'm the founder of Guerrilla Rep Media, Co-Founder/CMO of ProductionNext, and founder of Producer Foundry. Together, the organizations seek to help make filmmaking a more economically sustainable endeavor. I am dysic, I have capitalization issues, and the blogs are often unedited. opinions all my own.
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