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in Filmmaking
on Sep 9, 2009

Ted Hope has an essential post this morning, “Ten Steps (Plus One) for how to Survive the Current Indie Producer Hell.” Reading it I almost thought of it as a sequel to his 1995 Filmmaker piece, “Indie Film is Dead,” which remains one of the best things we’ve published. (Reading that earlier piece is both fascinating and depressing. The more things change….)

There’s a tiny bit of tongue-in-cheek in this post because, frankly, these steps are virtually unattainable for the vast majority of producers out there, as some of the commenters in Hope’s comments thread argue. Here are the first four steps on Hope’s list:

1) Cut all your budgets by 60% — but recognize your fee is going down by an even greater percentage;

2) Meet all the marketing, distribution, publicity, social network, widget & app designers, web strategy, & transmedia story world builders you can possibly meet, because “producing the marketing and distribution” of all your films under $4M has become part of the producer’s job description — but recognize that is going to be a major time-suck on your schedule;

3)Aggregate viable projects under $500K to build a new media distribution apparatus, recognizing the lack of fees and time suck involved — but that the low budget is required to experiment with new platforms with unproven financial models and a multitude is necessary to learn;

4)Continue to try to get one of 10 or so available slots for prestige specialized film budget over $10M so you can actually earn a fee, but recognize the odds are really really low that yours will be the one out of 500 or so that are competing with you;

The cruelest edge of Hope’s satire, however, is that it’s not really satirical. Each individual point here is pretty much an accurate reflection of some part of today’s business. So, what’s the answer then? Pursue some or all of these strategies? Or perhaps the definition of the indie film producer that Hope is riffing on — somone who has “slates,” has a ‘staff,” who sees producing as a fundamentally linear profession — has gone away. Maybe the most important point is number 9:

Try to give back to a younger generation who are much different than you (other than their interest in film) because if things don’t make some substantial changes soon, their won’t be a film industry for you to work in either (i.e. we’ve all done the same things for too long and the system is broken and we don’t seem to know how to fix it) and besides, maybe you will learn something;

Read the rest of the list at Hope’s blog and comment there or here.

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