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in Filmmaking
on May 31, 2009

On his 401st Blow blog, Noah Harlan unfurls a lengthy and detailed (charts and all!) post entitled “This is the Right Time to Make Movies.”. He’s not referring to creative issues, like the wealth of things in the world that contemporary filmmakers can be reacting to or be inspired by, but rather the evolving media economy and how viewer trends, monetization potential, and distribution efficiencies may make this moment a good one for sharp-eyed movie investors.

I particularly liked these two paragraphs:

In a business plan for a traditional company you will have sections that deal with barriers to entry for your competitors, market demand and a void in the market that needs filling. Recently I was talking with an executive at a cosmetics company about a new line of products they were launching. She explained in remarkable detail each part of the market that was currently being served and then showed the specific niche that they were looking to step into. She laid out the rising demand in the segment, the other products that existed and what her company would bring that was different and compelling to the consumer. In essence, she explained how many people wanted her product and how FEW other people were providing it.

In film, our business plans have tended to put forward a nearly opposite argument. We have tried to show our investors how MANY films that are like ours exist and make money. We try to make our product seem as similar to other products in the market as possible (while maintaining that we’re unique enough to be marketed). If you’re making a small horror film you’re going to cite SAW and BLAIR WITCH and others to say to potential investors: “little films can make money so invest in a little film”.

Harlan ends with five points, one of which he generously credits me with helping him clarify: “Whether you are making a traditional 90-minute feature or a ‘new media’ work, we are ALL in a new distribution model. As filmmakers we need to not cling to the arguments of past success but instead look at the future and show where our products can exist and thrive.”

In a sea of downbeat entertainment business news, Harlan’s is a refreshing counterargument. Check it out and post — here or there — your comments.

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