Eight Changes in Indie Film

By Abe Schwartz
 
From the April 27, 2011 edition of the Huffington Post.
 
I attended Dov Simens' 2-Day Film School back in early 2006 in New York after graduating from Penn State. I enjoyed the class a lot, and Mr. Simens played a big part in inspiring me to write, produce, and direct my own low-budget feature, Bad Batch.
 
A lot has changed in the world of independent film in the past 5 years, so when I caught word that Dov Simens has upcoming classes in LA and NYC [and London], I figured it would be a good time to find out which changes he feels are most noteworthy.
 
I had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with Dov, and one of the first things he pointed out was that the fundamentals of filmmaking are still very much in place: The script is still the script, directors still direct, actors still act, and it's essential to work with investors, guilds and unions. All that being true, here are 8 noteworthy changes from the past 5 years and Dov's thoughts on each: 

2 Day Film School with Dov Simens1. NEW CAMERAS

DSLRs and cameras like the RED are making it much more affordable for anyone to shoot high quality images. Film has always been more of a mystery. You'd call up Kodak, rent a film camera, send to the lab, then two days later you'd see dailies. Now, the mystery is gone, and the move from film to electronic formats is ushering in an explosion of first timers.

2. BUDGETS AND #'S OF FILMS BEING MADE

Dov pointed out that there are essentially four budgets of feature films that have long been considered profitable: mega budget, medium budget, low budget, and micro budget.

Mega budget is the studio feature film priced at around $50-100+ million. Films in this price range have grown and become more profitable, though now it's even more important for any mega budget film to have broad global appeal (ie., Rio The Movie). Studios are now making less movies, but they're mega budget "tentpole" films engineered to appeal to the masses.
 
What are no longer automatically profitable are the $2-20 million character-driven stories. There will always will be the hedge fund billionaires and sultans who want to get into the movie biz, and they'll be there to finance films in this budget range. Typically, they'll then discover that the profits aren't what they'd hoped, Billionaire X moves on to new ventures...then a new crop of pop up and the cycle continues. The movies that seem to fare the best in this budget range in 2011 often involve vampires and big laughs, not just just stars like Ray Liotta or Anthony Hopkins, a la 2006.
 
Low budget films, or films in the $300K-1 million range, are having a much tougher time being consistently profitable as compared to 2006. DVD has peaked but it's still very good for films in this price range for making money back. Low budget films are disappearing and are being replaced by many, many micro budget indies in the $5-100K price range.

Raindance Film Festival Submissions 3. 3D IS NOT A GIMMICK ANYMORE

It's less expensive now to shoot in 3D. 3D television sets are here, and a new generation is learning to make movies in both 2D and 3D. It's safe to say 3D is here to stay.

4. NEW ANCILLARY REVENUE STREAMS

Premium On-Demand, VOD, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Apple TV, Google TV, etc, etc. These revenue streams were not in place 5 years ago. It's essential for micro budget filmmakers to figure out how to create a mystique surrounding their product and tap into these new revenue streams.

5. GOVERNMENT TAX INCENTIVE MONEY FROM STATES AND NATIONS

Five years ago, it was mainly Canada, Australia, and England offering rebates and refunds to film productions. Today, there are about 30 nations that either offer incentives, rebates, grants, interest-free loans, etc.
 
Since 2006, app. 40 of the 50 states have created their own programs to compete with Canada, etc., and each state offers something different. Louisiana, Mass., Conn., and Michigan seem to currently be the best, offering 25-42% rebates, refunds, tax incentives, credits, and more.

Write and Sell the HOT Script 6. GROWTH OF THE PRODUCT PLACEMENT INDUSTRY

Tivo and DVR allow us to zap commercials with reckless abandon, making it even more vital for corporations to get their products in the movies.

7. CROWDFUNDING PLATFORMS

While Dov is in support of crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo, he believes there's a gray area that no one's discussing in regard to the SEC. People are making donations to film projects, but technically they're making investments. What happens when Kickstarter funds the next Paranormal Activity or The Blair Witch Project and people who've chipped in want their fair share of the gross

8. FILM FESTIVALS ARE MORE IMPORTANT TO A FILM'S SUCCESS

Festivals offer the first platform for the micro budget film to show to acquisitions executives that people in the demographic are buying tix, that the film works in front of an audience, and that there's a buzz post-screening. Thing is, while there are 2000+ festivals, acquisitions executives only show up to about 15 of them. (Think: Sundance, Toronto, Telluride, Berlin, etc.) While small festivals have merit as cultural events, they're counter-productive for someone looking to sell their film. The festivals that acquisitions executives attend are looking to host world premieres. So, if you already premiered at the Omaha Film Festival (or wherever) and maybe even won an award, you should certainly feel validated. However, you just gave away your world premiere to a festival where no acquisitions execs attend, and now Sundance, Toronto, etc., won't touch you.
 
Dov Simens is teaching his world-renowned 2-Day Film School in Los Angeles on May 7-8, in New York City on May 14-15, Vancouver on May 28th, and in London on June 18-19. Please Note: This will be Dov Simens' only European seminar in 2011.

To read the article at the Huffington Post: Click Here 

About the 2 Day Film School

"Inspiration! Why waste 4 years at a film school? I took Dov's 2-Day Film School and launched my career as a writer who controls his scripts." - Quentin Tarantino
.
Learn to Write, Produce, Direct, Finance, Shoot, Market and Distribute Your Own Feature in Just 2 Days. Guaranteed.
.Please see below for several recent attendee reviews.
 
What do Quentin Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, Kirk Jones, Will Smith and Baz Luhrman all have in common? All are former students of Dov Simens' famed 2-Day Film School, and have gone on to write and direct critically and commercially successful films. Dov's students have gone on to gross over £8 billion at the box office, and direct and produce such critical and commercial hits as Inglourious Basterds, Sherlock Holmes, The Karate Kid (2010), Hancock, Australia, X-Men, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Snatch, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Fuel (documentary), Sin City, Moulin Rouge!, Reservoir Dogs, Insomnia, Meet The Parents and more.
 
In the new Hollywood, writers and filmmakers are now multi-hyphenate professionals: writer-producer, director-writer, etc. Why waste 4 years and £100,000 at a pretentious film school when Dov Simens delivers the real information you need to write, produce, shoot, direct, finance, market and distribute your own feature film (35mm, Digital, HD or 3D) in just two intense days, whether your budget is £5,000, £50,000 or 
£500,000.
 
Your Tuition includes:
The 2-Day Film School class taught live by Dov Simens
100-page Producer's Workbook
Producer's Diploma
Graduation Certificate
 
Discover what over 75,000 filmmakers, producers, directors, writers and actors have discovered about the secrets of low-budget filmmaking from Dov Simens, voted "America's #1 Film Instructor," as Dov celebrates 20 years of bringing his class to the U.K.
 
For more information and/or to register:
 
Raindance Film FestivalWhat They Are Saying
.
 It's a joy to watch a man like Dov Simens teach because he's so good at what he does.
- The Los Angeles Times

 "I am one of your past students. Several years ago we were taking about my project The Outlaw Prince and I asked you that even if I researched and wrote the finest screenplay possible, 'Made it Great!' as you say, what really were my chances of ever seeing it made into a movie. You replied, 'Well Rob, what are the chances of it ...getting made if you don't do it yourself?' I never forgot that and it was one of the things that has keep me going since first starting the script back in 2003.  I just wanted to thank you for your candor and let you know that in 2008 I finally signed an option deal with Dark Horse Productions and the graphic novel was just released and sold out before it even reached the stands. With God's help, I hope to see the movies following soon.God bless!"
- Rob Hughes (posted on Facebook)

"I took your 2 Day Course in Los Angeles several years ago. Best course on anything I've ever had. Dov is a totaly rock star when in comes to relaying candid and honest information about the craft of being a film maker. Highly recommended to all!"
- Devon Kyle (posted on Facebook)

"Words cannot express the transformation you undergo in just 2 days with Dov! He is truly inspiring and worth his weight in gold!" -
- Sally Lourenco, editorial director (posted on MediaBistro)

"Best teacher and mentor...Thank you for your help!!!"
--  Pepi Sharkov - Bulgaria (posted on Facebook)

"Dov is the best instructor I've ever had. He is not only from the industry, he is the industry! It was the best investment ever!"
-- Monique Wegmueller (posted on MediaBistro)

"I am extremely grateful for Dov Simens who transferred me from a world of apsiration and dream, to a ground game that works! Thank you! Dov's class splashed a bucket of fire into my belly!"
 -- Ang Ortiz (posted on Facebook)
 
"Dov's 2 day class was the best investment in the last 10 years! I learned so much."
-- Monique Wegmueller (posted on MediaBistro)

"The London class was out of this world. You answered all the questions, I wanted to ask, without moving my lips!.. Thank you :)"
- Lee John (posted on Facebook)

"Awesome class! There was a wealth of information that motivates and makes the maze of moviemaking clear as day."
-- Barbara Benitez (posted on MediaBistro)

"I am personally very thankful I met you Dov. Your teaching and wisdom has proven invaluable. You have helped me pursue a lifelong dream; imparted amazing wisdom (on many subjects) and done so in a good and unforgettable way."
-- Dale Windle (posted on Facebook)

"Dov demystified the secrets about movie-making in a straightforward manner. He is worth every penny and more."
-- Elke Weiss (posted on MediaBistro)
 
"Thanks to you, Dov, I'm on my way to a microbudget 3D feature. Thanks for inspiration and motivation."
- Jack Tracy (posted on Facebook)
 
"Inspiration! Why waste 4 years at a film school? I took Dov's class and launched my career."
-- Quentin Tarantino
 
"Dov's class turned me from a world class actor into a world class actor and producer."
-- Will Smith

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Eight Changes in Indie Film