A Blueprint for the Next #Indie Generation by Ben Hicks of @Fandependent

A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT
INDIE GENERATION

 

Ben Hicks- FILMMAKER/BLOGGER

We are on the brink of what may turn out to be the most exciting era in the history of independent film. A history that has slowly evolved from the power going from the studios to the artists.

This evolution has gone as follows:

Studio Produced Films and Studio Distribution – (The Golden Age
of Hollywood)

 

Studio Produced Films (with artists in control) and Studio Distribution –

(The New Hollywood)


Independently Produced Films with Studio Distribution –
(Independent Film Era)

 


Independently Produced Films and Independent (self)
Distribution – (Today)

 

Now since Independent (self) Distribution doesn’t enable filmmakers to effectively recoup their budgets and sustain themselves as filmmakers, this era has been met with lots of criticism, skepticism and debate. But what we have to realize is that we are still evolving our techniques. We are currently in a transitive state. A transition that will take us to the next exciting step in the history of film independence.

Independently Produced Films and Independent (group) Distribution.

 

In the last post I also outlined what Independent (group) Distribution is and why it is a path that could offer more control over your future (and possibly more money) than Studio Distribution. I also talked about why it would give you more leverage and enable you to make more fans and money than Independent (self) Distribution. On top of all of that, I think it would simply be a more exciting enriching experience to do all this with a group of your peers as opposed to doing it all alone.

You can read more on why I feel this path is more exciting and beneficial than any other option in the history of film here. But here’s a quick recap of what a Film Collective (Independent (group) Distribution) is.

Independent (group) Distribution is when a team of independent filmmakers unite under one Film Collective, in order to effectively distribute their collective works. A Film Collective is nothing more than a trademarked name and logo that the Film Collective’s members share. No one is the owner of the Film Collective and the Film Collective does not own any of the films, the filmmakers do. Each filmmaker is only responsible for their films, and are not involved creatively or financially with any other filmmaker’s work. Each Film Collective’s member must have their own production company from which each individual filmmaker’s films are produced through, and which any and all money earned through the Film Collective is paid to. Each Film Collective member’s films should share similar characteristics to help distinguish their films from other distribution companies, and all films (and film related merchandise) should be available for viewing and purchasing on the Film Collective’s website (although not exclusively).

For film fans it would provide a place where they could easily find, connect with and support the types of films they personally like. It would take out the struggle for having to search through an ocean of content and provide a one stop shop to view, support and connect with the filmmakers and films they truly enjoy.

So how does one start a film collective? What does one have to do to get from here to there? Before I go into detail on what it will take to form a successful Film Collective, we first have to define what “success” is?

In this brand new era of filmmaking, we can no longer compare ourselves to the filmmakers of the past because their models for success were greatly different than the bars of success for today’s indie filmmakers. We have to embrace the fact that the internet can now connect us to an audience like never before in history. The internet allows us to have our films seen by millions of people overnight, all over the globe, with the push of a button. So why are we still trying to emulate the successful paths a select group of filmmakers marched down while the internet was still in it’s primitive stages?

If we look at the photos above the one thing they all have in common is that the filmmakers are all very young looking and new to the film business. As each new generation of filmmakers came along, they rattled the cages of the way things used to be done and created a bold new path for themselves. Now it’s our turn. We are the next indie generation and we have to move on from these nostalgic bars of success from the past and create a bold new path for success, a path unlike anything seen before in film history. A path that is distinctly our own.

Here are the old and new bars of success

The Old Bars of Success were:

1) Validating yourself as an Independent Filmmaker by getting into a good film festival (Sundance, Cannes, Toronto etc.)

2) Getting a distribution deal.

3) Getting your films into theaters resulting in exposure, “credible” reviews and a growing fan base.

4) Being able to continue making films and earn a living through studios who finance and believe in your work.??These are the NEW Bars of Success

These are the NEW Bars of Success

1) Validating yourself as an Independent Filmmaker by getting tens of thousands of views on the internet.

2) Earn fans, reviews, credibility, exposure and money by engaging and interacting with fans, selling your own merchandise and getting your film seen and spread  with the help of your fans.

3) Leveraging the demand for your films so you can negotiate fair deals with online platforms (amazon, hulu, netflix etc.), and so you can negotiate with movie theaters, to have your film screened, resulting in “credible” reviews, more exposure, money and more new fans.

4) Being able to continue making films and earn a living through fans who finance and believe in your work.

So let’s start breaking it down. What do these old and new models have in common? At the core the new and old bars of success are exactly the same.

1) Validation

2) Earning Money.

3) Theatrical Screenings and Credible Reviews.

4) Sustainability.

Deep down it is really only these four things that we are looking for. I think most of us don’t really care how we attain these bars of success, we just want to be able to make enough money to sustain and continue making films. Right? We have been looking backwards so longingly because the indie filmmaker success stories of the 90’s were able to attain all of these bars of success but we have yet to see models and filmmakers that have been able to pull off this list today.

In this post we’re going to break down each bar of success and then talk about how forming a Film Collective can enable us to effectively achieve each bar in a radical new way which will allow us to sustain with a level of creative freedom never before possible.

Now I must point out that these bars of success can only be accomplished sequentially. You can’t get to bar three without accomplishing bar one. Many unknown filmmakers are making their first film and hoping it will sustain them as an artist. We can all get to that point but we have to realize that in both the old and new bars of success there are steps that must be accomplished in order to get there.  But don’t worry, I think you’ll see that forming a Film Collective will make the path towards sustainability easier and more rewarding than ever before.

THE FIRST BAR OF SUCCESS – Validation

 

Validating yourself as an Independent Filmmaker by getting tens of thousands of views on the internet.

In the 90’s, it was the festival seals that use to be the only way to get validation as independent filmmakers. An official mark that not only validated your work, but also you as an artist.

So what is the internet age equivalent to the Sundance festival seal? Today validation can be attained by far more people than ever before, from far more independent voices around the globe. Validation today exists simply with your view count.

Now I’m not comparing your view count with getting a distribution deal at Sundance, I’m JUST talking about getting into the festival and having that festival seal attached to your film. How many views is that worth? Would you prefer to have your film get into Sundance and get that festival seal as validation (without a distribution deal), or would you prefer to have 10,000 people see your film online in a week? If 10,000 views doesn’t do it for you how about 50,000 or 100,000? Think about how many views you feel a Sundance seal is worth to you. If it’s over a million I suggest you look back at some past Sundance Film Festival lineups and look up some films that never got distribution. How many of those films have you ever heard of? How many people do you think actually saw those films?


The Internet Stigma.

Now if the new validation is getting tens of thousands of views on the internet why is it that so many filmmakers refuse to post their feature films online? It baffling to me why an unknown filmmaker wouldn’t put their feature film online for free? In both the new and old bars of success, validation must come before you can make money. Charging people to see your film before you have been validated as a filmmaker is the equivalent of charging people for your unknown band’s CD without allowing them to hear what your music is like. We have to get over the idea of our films having value, no matter how much it cost you to make it. Because to be honest, if you’re an unknown filmmaker, your film has zero value. In a time where we can watch any film in the entire history of cinema online, give me one good reason why I should pay $2.99 to watch an unknown filmmaker’s film over a free Akira Kurasawa film I’ve never seen before.

An unknown filmmaker’s film has zero value. The only way to add value to your work is to be validated as a filmmaker. The only way to be validated as a filmmaker is to have your film seen. So for an unknown filmmaker to charge $2.99 to see their unknown film is the equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot.

But putting your film online for free doesn’t mean you won’t get any money, in fact it has helped some filmmakers make more than any distribution deal offered to them. Filmmaker Nina Paley put her film, Sita Sings the Blues, online for free and to date it has made over $50,000 through donations and DVD sales. On her youtube page alone, the film has been seen over 400,000 times and on top of all of that, she now has a NAME and a fan base. Her film was THEN accepted into countless film festivals, she got a review from Roger Ebert and the next time she puts out a film she will have thousands of people eagerly awaiting, and most likely willing to pay a buck or two, (if they know the money is going to the filmmaker) to check out her latest film.

Now tell me which move makes more sense: charging $2.99 for your first film as an unknown filmmaker and get a small fraction of the views, fans and cash because nobody knows who you are and have no real good reason to pay for your film, or, put your film online for free, and if it finds it’s audience, validate you as a filmmaker overnight as well as connect you with loyal fans wanting to check out and support all of your future work?

Now I know $50,000 doesn’t sound nearly as sweet as a million dollar buy out from a distributor but bear with me. This should be the last film you have to post online for free, and if you have an effective Film Collective. your next film, and all subsequent films should be able to make much more than any distribution deal.

Short films are no longer our calling cards. In today’s ocean of content, I feel it’s the first feature that is the new calling card. So get your film out into the world. Allow people to find it and spread the word. Your film isn’t for everyone so the quicker you get it up and available to the masses the quicker it will take for your fans to find out about you and your Film Collective.

Now while getting your film viewed tens of thousands of times is something you can do on your own website (through Independent (self) Distribution), I want to point out that as we have seen, Independent (self) Distribution works for the first one or two bars of success but has lots of trouble with the third and fourth bar. By forming a Film Collective we can accomplish each bar of success but again we must start from the bottom and work our way to the top.

So how do we start a Film Collective?

In short, all we have to do is:

a) Join forces with 3-5 other like minded filmmakers.

b) Create a logo.

c) Build a website.

Technically, these steps are not that difficult to execute, but there are some things that have to be carefully considered before jumping ahead.

a) Join forces with 3-5 other like minded filmmakers.

Forming a Film Collective should be like forming a band. Technically all you need is a drummer, guitar player, bass player and a singer. There are plenty of them out there but you should choose a group that fits together well. A collective of artists who share similar sensibilities and can compliment each other well. This formation shouldn’t be rushed or taken lightly, and if done incorrectly, could cripple any potential your Film Collective might have before it even starts. Some egos may get bruised in this process but we have to realize we can’t form Film Collectives with people just because we know them, or because they already have a lot of fans. We also have to realize that an overabundance of filmmakers on one collective will negatively affect it, as well as a lineup of films that have vastly different audiences. So who do we team up with?

There is nothing in this post that needs to be taken more seriously than this info I’m about to say. This is the one bit of advice that MUST be followed in order to form a Film Collective that works. It is something that isn’t technically difficult in any way. The toughest part about it is being honest with ourselves and our filmmaker friends. The true test to see if you should be in the same Film Collective is…

You really like their films (be honest) and they really like your films (seriously, they love it).

If you, and all the other filmmakers involved in the Film Collective, truly like each other’s work, then everyone involved will see the benefits almost immediately. Why?

Because our films are a reflection of all that we believe, wonder, question, find funny, maddening and inspiring. If you really like a person’s films, I imagine you’d also probably like the person who made it. And by bringing together like minded filmmakers, you’ll also be bringing together all of your like minded fans.

This is truly the most difficult part in all of this. After this, the rest is merely technical. Nothing too difficult lies ahead and if you are able to join forces with filmmakers that inspire you, while at the same time create a home for fans who like all of your collective work, then and only then, will you be on the fast track towards sustainability.

b) Create a logo.

After you’ve teamed up with 3-5 filmmakers you really like, the next step is creating a logo for your Film Collective. This is a logo that should be put at the beginning of all your films and trailers. A logo that should be on all your DVDs and posters. A logo that should be the domain name for your website.

The goal here is to have a logo that works as effectively as Pixar’s logo. A logo that can excite hardcore fans as soon as they see it at the beginning of a trailer. Why does Pixar’s logo work better than Paramount’s logo? As soon as we see that little lamp we have a good idea for what kind of film we are about to see. If you like Pixar movies, chances are, you’ll check out the newest one. If you don’t like Pixar movies, you probably won’t. With Paramount it’s less clear what the film will be like and tough for an audience to gauge if they’ll like the film or not. This is also why if you start forming a collective with every filmmaker you know on facebook, then it will be impossible to establish a feel for your logo because audiences will have no idea what kind of films the Film Collective puts out. If they find some films amazing, some terrible and some okay then there is no reason for a fan to follow what your Film Collective puts out. They’ll have just as good of a chance of finding a film they like by searching for trailers on youtube or browsing for films on Amazon.

c) Build a website

Again, nothing too difficult. Most of us (if not all of us) have websites for our films and we all know how challenging it is to keep the content fresh so people can continue to come back. By forming website for your Film Collective you will start to see the benefits over Independent (self) Distribution almost immediately.

First, you need to create a blog which every filmmaker in the collective can access and post videos, photos and any other info they want to share. This should become everyone’s main blog to post from about your films. You don’t want fans flipping back and fourth from your production company to your Film Collective to find the latest news on your project. Commit to the Film Collective and have that be the first place fans can go to find out new info on your film. This will not only draw everyone’s collective fans to one place but it will also give them a reason to check back with the Film Collective’s website more frequently, simply because 5 people will post more stuff than one person.

Second, you need to post all of your feature films on your Film Collective’s website exclusively, and for free. Don’t put your film on amazon, don’t put it on apple tv, don’t put it on youtube don’t even put it on your production companies website. POST YOUR FEATURE FILMS EXCLUSIVELY ON YOUR FILM COLLECTIVE’S WEBSITE FOR FREE. You can have your shorts and trailers on youtube and vimeo etc. but always refer people who see that content to your Film Collective’s website in order to see the full feature. Why? I’ll get into that more later.

So now you have teamed up with 3-5 like minded filmmakers, you’ve created a logo which plays at the beginning of all your trailers and you have created a website where people can check out all of your films exclusively and for free. Now what? Do you have a following? Do your films have tens of thousands of views? Did the last film you posted on your site get tens of thousands of views overnight? If you have a loyal following that is eagerly viewing your latest films as soon as you post them, you are ready for the second bar of success.

If you haven’t found your audience and aren’t pulling in the views in the tens of thousands then recruit another 3-5 like minded filmmakers and do the exact same thing. Incorporate them into your blog, post their films exclusively on your website for free and continue doing so until you are able to hit these kinds of numbers.

For some Film Collectives it may take 3 filmmakers, for others it might take 15. Either way, follow these steps until you can gain a loyal fan base and then move on to…

THE SECOND BAR OF SUCCESS – Earning Money

Earn fans, reviews, credibility, exposure and money by engaging and interacting with fans, selling your own merchandise and getting your film seen and spread with the help of your fans.

If your Film Collective’s latest free film is pulling in tens of thousands of views overnight, and all of your older films are now getting close to views in the 100,000 range, you are now able to start charging people for your work. Why?

Because what  you have done is successfully created a home where a growing number of like minded film fans can easily find and connect with filmmakers whose work they are choosing to watch over all the other films in cinema’s history. You have not only validated yourself as a filmmaker, but you have validated your Film Collective as a whole. This is no small feat and you should be appreciative of these fans. You must also let them know that in order for the Film Collective to continue producing films you must make more money to sustain. So once you have an loyal audience I’d start to charge $1 to stream all your Film Collective’s future films.

I don’t think any fan would have a problem paying $1 to a filmmaker they like, especially if they know that dollar is going directly to the artist. You can also charge more for downloads or selling DVDs for those who are not afraid to pay a little extra for a better quality version, but make your film as accessible as possible to your fans because in my opinion, the more people that see it, the greater your chances for expanding your future audience.

To maximize the buzz of the newest filmmaker’s films, I would make the day of their film festival premier the same day the film is available exclusively on your Film Collective’s website. That way you can more effectively capitalize off of a festival’s buzz and draw in a lot of potential new future fans to all of the filmmakers work in the Film Collective. Eventually you should have filmmakers applying to be a part of your Film Collective because once you are running, new filmmakers will quickly understand that being accepted into a established Film Collective will become much more valuable than being accepted into any film festival.

This now begs the question, how many filmmakers do we recruit for our Film Collective? Do we ever stop recruiting? The answer is yes but the exact number of filmmakers will vary depending on the Film Collective.

Check out the new super indie section called “the garage” on mubi here. There are over 2,400 films/shorts/music videos there. It is an overwhelming amount of unknown films made by unknown filmmakers. An amount so large that it makes it almost impossible to navigate through. Think of your Film Collective sort of like a restaurant menu. If a menu has 50 pages of items, it makes the decision overwhelming and is actually quite mind numbing. The overabundance of choice can sometimes turn someone off completely and make them feel lost. On the other hand, a menu with 15 items is quite manageable, aesthetically attractive and makes the ordering experience quite painless. It also is following a growing number of popular websites that have a “clean” aesthetic. I feel that the Factory 25 website is wonderful. It has a number of films that isn’t too much or too few. It is a body of work yet it isn’t an intimidating ocean of content that has films from every range of the spectrum. It is a manageable amount of films that give the impression that if I really liked these films I could actually watch them all. An exciting thought that isn’t even possible when you look at the lineup of films in mubi’s “garage”.

So to answer the question, “how many filmmakers should there be in a Film Collective?” I’d say, have as few filmmakers as possible that can, as a group, comfortably put out about 4-8 feature films a year. This group of filmmakers should be small enough to remain personal, yet large enough to gain important leverage necessary for the third bar of success.

The key isn’t to make as many films as possible. The key is to create a team of filmmakers that fans can feel connected to. A team of filmmakers that consistently put out a handful of films every year that fans can get excited about and support. If your collective is putting out 40 films every year, it would be information overload. Not only would it be hard to feel a connection with each filmmaker but it would simply be hard to watch and support every film the Collective puts out. If your Film Collective only puts out a film a year, then you won’t be able to move on to the next bar of success simply because in order to gain leverage necessary to get into theaters and negotiate fair deals, you need to put out films more consistently.

So I’d imagine, in order to put out 4-8 films comfortably, every year, you’d need to recruit anywhere from 12 to 25 filmmakers. Any more then that and I’d imagine it would be detrimental because it would be difficult for fans to feel connected to such a large number of filmmakers. So the speed at which each filmmaker can put out content is something that should also be considered. It also reinforces the importance of having a group of filmmakers that you are all inspired by. A lone filmmaker that doesn’t fit well with the rest of the group, and perhaps puts out a mediocre product every year, can quickly water down the Film Collective’s body of work as a whole and deter many potential future fans. On the other hand if you have 20 amazing filmmakers that all take 10 years to put out films, then you may find yourself at a disadvantage simply because you’ll need a lot more filmmakers to fill the 4-8 film a year quota which is crucial in order to attain the third bar of success, yet harmful for the Film Collective because you’d need so many filmmakers and it would be hard for the fans to feel connected to them all.

Okay, so once you are able to charge for content and are in the process of recruiting (or have finished recruiting) enough filmmakers to put out about 4-8 films a year, now you are ready for the third bar of success. But first I just want to talk a bit about other potential advantages to forming a team of like minded filmmakers and how forming a Film Collective can greatly reduce the work load we experienced when we were self distributing our films.

Teamwork

When we were doing Independent (self) Distribution we were responsible for keeping up our blogs, facebook pages, twitter feeds, e-mail newsletters, designing and manufacturing DVDs, posters, shirts etc. But now with 12-25 filmmakers in your Film Collective, you can divide your tasks and responsibilities for distribution into far more manageable bits.

Instead of doing everything, what if you were solely responsible for only one of these roles: twitter feed manager, facebook page manger, e-mail newsletter writer, new recruit screener, new recruit contact, website updater, dvd manufacturer, merchandise shipper, poster/tee-shirt silk-screener, film fest submitter, indie publicist, theatrical contact, theatrical organizer etc. By splitting up all these responsibilities not only can a Film Collective become a well oiled machine but it would also allow every filmmaker to have more time to focus on their films and more time to have a life outside of the film world.

Now before we start assigning duties, we should first see what each individual filmmakers strengths are and discuss which aspects of distribution each filmmaker actually enjoys and would like to do.

In short: What aspects of distribution don’t feel like “work” to you?

I personally don’t enjoy, and am not good at, keeping up with social media sites like facebook and twitter. Some filmmakers are phenomenal at it and enjoy it. I’m not one of those people. What I do enjoy (and would enjoy doing more of) is creating physical products: silk screening posters and tee shirts, putting together and binding hand crafted books or magazines, manufacturing DVDs and cover art etc. So now instead of making each filmmaker do everything, take advantage of the Film Collective as a whole. Share the workload and take advantage of everyone’s personal strengths and interests. That way, everyone involved will not only pull their weight, but specialize in an area that is enjoyable to them personally, which will create a superior final product in every aspect of distribution. And with a film collective around 20 people, you could even divide those responsibilities in half, or perhaps rotate. The key here is to make the distribution process as less of a chore a humanly possible and I honestly feel that with so many like minded people working together, you could not only make distribution bearable, you might even be able to make it fun.

Another exciting advantage is the idea of equipment sharing. Why should all 18 filmmakers each buy a camera if they’re only going to shoot a film once every other year? What if one person bought the body of the camera while another person invested in lenses and another person invested in lights? By splitting up the expenses and sharing gear with each other we could also have more tools at our disposal while spending the same amount of money as we would if we were doing everything ourselves.

What’s next?

Okay, so now you have built up a solid group of like minded filmmakers. With each new film that comes out, filmmakers are getting tens of thousands of views a day and are getting $1 a view directly. The shared workload allows the Film Collective to keep moving forward as some filmmakers release their latest films, others work on their next films and also allow enough room for everyone between projects to have a life outside of film to start families, go to college, build a house etc. without grinding the Film Collective to a halt. You are a validated Film Collective that has a loyal fan base and can pull in enough money to pay off your budgets and possibly turn a profit on each film. You are a collective that still plays all of your film EXCLUSIVELY on your Film Collective’s website and now it is time to apply some of your hard earned leverage.

THE THIRD BAR OF SUCCESS – Theatrical Screenings and
Credible Reviews

 

Leveraging the demand for your films so you can negotiate fair deals with online platforms (amazon, hulu, netflix etc.), and so you can negotiate with movie theaters, to have your film screened, resulting in “credible” reviews, more exposure, money and more new fans.

Once you have an effective Film Collective able to produce 4-8  films each year, that tens of thousands of fans are willing to pay $1 a view for, now you are able to apply some of your leverage to negotiate with theaters and online platforms which will help everyone gain more fans, exposure, credibility and cash.

As I said in the last post, it’s extremely difficult trying to get our single film into theaters but what do you think would happen if you went to a theater and said, “Hi, I’m a filmmaker who works for an artist owned Distribution Company. We are a collective of award winning independent filmmakers with thousands of devout fans, and our films have been viewed over 700,000 times online. If you would like to do business with us we can guarantee 4 to 8 films a year for theatrical screenings. We do our own promotions and in the past, our numbers show that 70% of our screenings get sold out while another 10% usually sells close to 80% capacity.” I think you will find that there would be a much larger amount of theaters willing to screen your films if they were offered that proposal.

Another plus to having the Film Collective is that if you are all spread out across the United States, you can individually approach theaters in your area and together create a theatrical run across the states. You could essentially have someone putting up posters, selling DVDs and curating your film in up to 25 different cities without ever leaving your apartment. What if each Film Collective member premiered each film in their own cities and sold not only merchandise to the newest films but all the films in the Film Collective. Essentially your film could premier in 25 different cities while you only do 1/25th of the work.

Now the reason I said to play all of your films on your Film Collective’s website exclusively is because in order to negotiate and strike a fair deal with outlets such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon etc. You need to first prove that your content is worth something. Once you have proven that, then and only then will filmmakers get paid what they deserve. As I detailed in the last post there is a LOT of money that can be made from these companies if you have content that is in demand. Also by keeping everything on your site, you could essentially even ask for more money and offer one of the companies and exclusive partnership. How much money? If you didn’t read my last post I suggest you check it out here. These numbers are startling and as more and more people start watching films through Comcast, Netflix etc. these numbers will only continue to go up. (Currently Nich indie films are pulling in almost $800,000 a month for Comcast alone.)

So hopefully after all of this you can clearly see that by joining forces with like minded filmmakers, you will be able to open doors that were not available to you if you Independently self Distribute your films. By joining forces you can more quickly validate yourself as a filmmaker by pooling together the combined fans of every like minded filmmaker in the collective. Once you’ve validated yourselves as filmmakers and the Film Collective as a whole you can start charging for your content, while letting the fans know that this money is critical in order for the Film Collective to continue making films. Once you have proven that your films can make money, you can then use your leverage to get your films seen in theaters and strike deals with larger companies to get fair percentages off your work and possibly even have them bid against each other. If you are doing all of this you will now make it to the fourth and final bar of success, sustainability.

THE FOURTH BAR OF SUCCESS – Sustainability

 

Being able to continue making films and earn a living through fans who finance and believe in your work.

I said much of this in my last post so I apologize for repeating myself but with this new found freedom also comes new responsibility. If I were you I would put at least half of the money you make into your production company and divide the rest up with your cast and crew. The money in your production company is essentially your budget for your next film. The money that goes to you is essentially the money you have to live off of. Hopefully that money will be enough so you can work on your art full time and then when the time is right, you’ll have $500,000 ready to go to make your next film truly independently.

Do you have to follow this model? No, I can’t tell anyone what to do but if you want to get into a cycle where you are able to continuously create an uncompromised body of work, this is what you’re going to have to do. You have to invest in yourself and in your films. Now I can already hear the critics squawking about no one wanting to put their own money into their films. If you are in a Film Collective I wouldn’t think of it exactly as “your” money. I would think of it as money your fans gave you in order for you to continue making uncompromised work. As this last step of the evolution of Independence unfolds, you can no longer think of yourself as just a filmmaker and your fans just as fans; you have to think of yourself as your own micro-studio and your fans as your financiers. You have to consider your next project and make sure you have enough to continue making films. If you squander that opportunity you will then have to go through more traditional paths in order to make films, paths that don’t offer you the opportunity to create a body of uncompromised work.

If this sounds silly or ridiculous to you then I guess I’d question your motivations to become a filmmaker in the first place. To me personally, all I want is to live a comfortable life and make the films I want to make. It’s as easy as that. Forming a Film Collective could enable that to happen. If you’re strictly in this film business to make money, that is fine but this is obviously not the path for you. This is an option where the idea that is trying to be expressed is more valuable than the money it makes. An option where your future ideas are worth investing in with your fans hard earned dollars, because you know without them your ideas would never be able to see the light of day.

We are a species whose creativity sets us apart from all others on this planet. Creativity has always been the precursor to innovation and change. It was the Wright Brothers passion and creativity that enabled man to fly, not the idea of how much profit could be made as a result of it. Creativity is vital for us in order to evolve as a species and by doing something as simple as forming a group with other like minded filmmakers you could have an opportunity to use every creative bone in your body and try to express yourself more freely than ever before. In addition to all of that, you’d also be taking part in a beautiful trend that is happening across the U.S. A trend in which people are choosing to go to farmers markets instead of chain stores, buying a CD off of a musician on kickstarter as opposed to illegally downloading it for free, it is a trend in which people are consciously going out of their way to give their money to the people who help their community, not the corporations that profit off of it.

So get out there and start approaching the filmmakers you truly respect and are inspired by and start making the first exciting steps for the Next Indie Generation.

Thank you all for your time,

An exciting future awaits.

Ben Hicks has lived in California, Florida, Chicago, Tokyo and now lives by the ocean in Taiwan. For cash he’s taught English, sold knives, washed cars, moved furniture, plunged strippers toilets and countless other jobs. His hobby is making films. To date, Ben has written and directed two award winning short films and helped co-found Elephant Dreams Pictures and Fandependent. Currently Ben is in the middle of making his first feature film, Kids Go Free to Fun Fun Time.