Should film be harder to break into?

Seems a silly idea. But it’s true. Those in power want to remain in power and they’ll do so however they can. Only letting in certain people at a time who can help sustain their power (profit).

Darwin coined the term “Survival of the fittest”. And the concept is simple. If you look at the world it’s most certainly true in business. And filmmaking is certainly a big business. Add to that the huge number of people who would like to break into the business and at some point you have to start turning people away. There is just too many people looking to get in and so much money to make and market new films.

As much as us indie filmmakers loath Hollywood for it’s formulaic films, we have to understand their priorities. The big studios are out to make money. This is why they make the same types of movies over and over again. But every once in a while they gamble on something new and sometimes it pays off big and somtimes not at all.

We indie filmmakers and our films are at time the gamble. But in order for things to go in our favor we need to be the fittest. This means our films need to be of the same marketing caliber as a major studio release. They need to be able to sell our films to the public and the public has a limited attention span as well as only so much time in a day/week to watch so many movies. As sad as that sounds the public wants to see something they can count on to entertain them. This is where the sick cycle comes full circle.

1. The public wants a movie they can count on to be entertained because they are paying $10 to see it and only have so much money/time to watch movies.

2. The entertainment industry wants to make the biggest return they can on their investment. Which means giving the public a rehash of what they’ve already done and sold before. The public liked it, so it’s a good bet it will sell again in a slightly modified incarnation.

When you look at the filmmaking industry from this perspective it becomes very sad and makes an indie not want to have anything to do with the industry.

But lets say you do want to break in. As an indie filmmaker myself I’ve been examining this heavily.
I’ve figured the following to be a good idea of what you need to break in:

1. A good movie (now there’s a start), it needs to be able to hold a 7th graders attention span. This means lots of action or just something interesting to look at.

2. A star. People like to go see familiar faces. The first thing my parents always ask me when I tell them about a movies I saw is “Who’s in it”. For years my reponse was “who cares, it had a good story, great camera work, and good performances. But then again I’m a filmmaker. The mass majority of the consumer whoring world wants to see Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan get together again and again. But getting a star might now be possible.

3. Know someone in the industry. The world is all about communication and relationships. You have to know someone to get anything done. Whether it’s calling a plumber for for sink or contacting the agent of a movie star.
The problem is figuring out how to meet someone. The easiest way to meet someone is through a referral but that’s the hardest thing to get. You have to know someone who can be the referral. There are countless other ways, but most of us bet on someone in power seeing our film and taking it from there. Which is why we send our films to festivals. hey if I knew myself I’d be in a better position.

4. Shoot film. Constantly I hear about films being made on DV or some digital format. But all the films that have gotten mass attention on those formats have been by already recognized filmmakers. I’ve got nothing against digital, I shoot it myself because I can’t afford film half the time. But I’m starting to realize distributors are using format now as a way to weed out stuff they don’t want to bother distributing. It’s easy for them to look at the picture and say “It’s video, no one will take it seriously” and then pitch it out the window. Even with affordable HD camera on the horizon for indie filmmakers, soon HD will just be another format to pitch out the window.

With a movie being shot on film it shows that the filmmakers had to have at least some experience making movies and some preparation/budget behind the production. Hey I don’t like it either, but it comes down to that survival of the fittest speech I gave above.

5. Sound like a Film. So many indie films sound so fucking horrible. Hey I’ve made them myself and working to correct it. But the truth is we all need to make our movies sound a little better. That means better micing on location, foley work, full score, noise reduction when needed and some good catchy songs even if they are from indie bands (who we should support).

6. Study camera movement and lighting . There is a great series out there called Hollywood Camera Work ( which explores the setup and theory behind camera angles, movement and shots like those used in Hollywood films. It’s not bad at all. Even if you’re the disgruntled indie who hates Hollywood this is cinematic language here so study up.

In the end the more your movies look and sound like a Hollywood movie the more the public wants to see it and the easier it is to sell.


I'm an independent filmmaker and one of the people behind Scape Films View Profile

Posted in Filmmaking

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