I remember a not so distant time where filmmakers would openly brag about how much money they spent on their indie films. It was commonly a topic of conversation at film festivals, and industry mixers. Funny enough, those conversations seem so archaic within the last few weeks as the world struggles to make sense of its future. The world is changing whether we as filmmakers like it or not. Business as usual is the strategy for absolute failure.
This past March, the entire world lay witness to one of the most “economically” decisive blows to the entertainment industry and filmmaking. Due to this tragic global pandemic, the greatest companies in our industry became huge financial liabilities overnight, and are still paralyzed a month in. Within a flash, movie theaters shuttered across the globe, event venues and theme parks were closed, and the strategy for motion picture production and distribution changed forever. Filmmakers and studios are now asking themselves the hard questions on budgets, and are scrambling to find ways to produce new content in an era without the power of the box office.
With any crisis, humans learn things. This global crisis has exposed our industry’s insensible business ideology like never before. Movies are costing too much money to produce. Costs are too inflated, and only the characters above the line truly see the financial rewards of such wasteful spending. The business model based on the “hundred of million dollar movie” is almost certainly unsustainable in a market where the demand for higher quantities of product and speed are more important than ever. With the industry having to rely primarily on streaming platforms to monetize content for the foreseeable future, producers should be asking how we could make more content for less, and keep more people working over longer periods of time. Overnight, smaller budget movies seem to be put into greater perspective.
It has always been my belief that the most rewarding pathway to becoming a film director, producer or screenwriter is through micro (low) budget filmmaking. A filmmaker can build their talent, gain exposure and find their voice, without creating a financial calamity for themselves and others. Micro budget filmmaking is a safer landscape of exploration and resourcefulness. I truly feel these virtues will be of greater importance as we move past this crisis. Being financially resourceful, flexible and strategic are going to be necessary survival skills in the weeks and months to come. Micro budget filmmaking might just as well be the most important experience you can have. The next we brag about our budgets, we might as well be bragging on how little they were.
Be safe, healthy and prosper.
-Kelly Schwarze, Indie Film Factory, LLC
Author of “What Film Schools Don’t Tell You” available on Amazon