IFH 124: What is Your Film Really Worth?

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So you are thinking of making an indie film or you’ve just finished making one…now what? When filmmakers go on the long journey of making a feature film they rarely ask the question that could make or break the success of the movie,

“What is my film worth in the marketplace?”

Before you begin the process of making your film ask the following questions?

  • What is your film worth?
  • Who is your market? Is it in a genre that can sell itself without stars?
  • Do your actors have any market value overseas or domestically?
  • Does the budget justify all of the above?
  • What’s the tipping point as far as the budget is concerned for a drama or comedy with no stars?
  • What is your distribution plan?
  • Have you spoken to a distributor yet to see what they are looking for?

In this episode, I discuss the questions that most filmmakers don’t want to ask themselves but knowing the answer is imperative.

Alex Ferrari 3:44
So guys, today is our Christmas episode of the indie film hustle podcast, I'll probably just be doing a flashback for the rest of the week, probably towards the end of the week. Because I'm gonna take a little bit of time off just a day just a little bit of time Don't worry, I'll be back. But But yeah, I'm gonna probably do one more episode before the year is out. Maybe a New Year's Eve. special little special surprise I got for you guys in New Year's Eve but this is the last one of this week. So soak it up people because I'm gonna take a little vacation with my family and relax. And when I say relax, really I'm working a lot but but I am going to take a little time off to enjoy the holidays as I expect all of you to do as well. Now guys, I've got extremely exciting news which I can't share with you yet because I am bound by paperwork that I can't tell you. But I have huge news about this is Meg and I will be able to tell you about that news after the new year. But for right now, just know that Meg is loved, and she will be seen soon. I am also currently working on my next movie, which you guys will be hearing about after the new year. Last year, I said I was gonna make one movie on my New Year's Eve or New Year's Day episode. And how I made one it was it's pretty amazing. And this year, I'm going to try to do too, I know it's not I'm gonna at least one for sure. And then maybe start a second one towards the end of the year. I'll let you guys know how that works out. But that will be my early New Year's resolution, because I'm crazy. And this is how the way I roll. But I am excited to talk to you guys about the new the new project I'm going to be working on it's something that I think a lot of the filmmakers out there will really appreciate. So more on that in the coming months. Now. We are here today to ask a question that a lot of filmmakers don't want to ask, because it's a scary question. But I'm here to help. I'm here for you guys to ask this question. And really be honest with yourself as filmmakers, as artists, as business people as entrepreneurs, because that's what you guys are your entrepreneurs, your business men and women, and filmmakers, your artists and business people. And that's how you have to look at this if you don't, you're dead. And I've told that many times on this podcast, but the question is, what is your film worth? Now that question could be asked at multiple points throughout the production process, preferably at the pre production or even screenwriting process, as opposed to I just finished my movie now What the hell do I do? You know, this is a question that many filmmakers don't want to ask because it might stop the magic ride of making their movie because they've been trying to make it for so long. They've been trying to make their movies for so long, that they, they're just like, I don't want I don't want to talk about the I don't wanna talk about the I just want to make my movie, I want to make my art. And that's where a lot of filmmakers fail. Most actually, filmmakers fail that way. And that was mistakes I've made in my past with my past projects as well. You don't ask that question, what is your film worth? Because it is if you're going to go out there and put it out in the marketplace? What is it worth the film festivals? What is it worth to distributors? What is it worth to the audience that you're trying to sell this movie to? Now, if you're making art films, and you don't care about making money, that's a different story. Probably not listening to this podcast, if you are that person, if you are, if you are the person who wants to actually make money, make a living, make a sustainable living and a career out of making your own art making your own films, then this is the podcast you're listening to. So before you begin the process of making a film, you have to you have to ask the following questions. Who is your market? You know, you can't compete with Hollywood, you can't hit broad demographics. I don't want to hear Oh, you know, it's 18 to 25. No, it's not 18 to 25, you're an indie filmmaker, you can't aim at those kinds of demographics, you don't have the resources, or the reach to reach all 18 to 25 males who like comic books, you can't do that, you're not going to be able to do that. What you need to do is understand your specific niche, you have to understand where and who your audience is, who are you going to market this to, prior to ever shooting a frame, you have to understand this, that a lot that alone will add will let you know what your film is worth by your ability to be able to get to that audience. So knowing your audience is step one, being able to get to that audience is the second part of this process. And I'm going to go through a bunch of these questions. And at the end, I'm going to kind of give you more of a breakdown of what your film is actually really worth. The next question is, is your film in a genre that can sell itself without stars, you know, horror and action have been that those genres for a long time, they travel very well. You don't need to speak the language to be scared or thrilled by action. So those generally speaking are the genres that sell the easiest. Now, with that said, when you're creating a whore, historically, it's been very cheap and easy to create whore. Because you know, you need a scary house, you need a scary story. And you can scare the hell out of people without a lot of dialogue. And you don't need a lot of production either you're not production value or a lot of cost and to create production value. So that's why a lot of filmmakers start off with horror movies Evil Dead same Raimi did Evil Dead the Coen brothers did something like blood simple, which is not a horror movie, but it's it's it's a thriller without question. But that those are generally genres that work very well. But in today's world, there's a gluttony of horror movies, and a gluttony of action movies, but I think more horror than, than action, from my experience and from my research, so Before you jump on board, again, it all depends on the budget of the movie, if you're making a $5,000 horror movie, make a $5,000 horror movie, you're making $150,000 horror movie, there's other things you have to take in consideration before you plunk down that kind of money. But I'll get to that in a minute. So and also are these genres that will sell without stars. So those two genres have historically been able to sell without stars, a period drama, without any major stars in it is, you're just not going to sell it's going to be very, very difficult to sell. So dramas, comedies don't really work really well overseas. So understand that you've pretty much cut out the rest of the planet, if you're going to do a comedy, understand who your audience is, and who your demographic is. So you know, family movies do very well domestically, because there's not a tremendous amount of family movies. faith based movies do extremely well, because there's not a gluttony of those kinds of movies. And there's a big audience and a niche of people who want to get that kind of content. But you have to ask that question, Is this something that's going to sell without stars? Because with stars, you know, you put Will Smith in a movie, look what happened this past weekend, with collateral beauty, amazing cast, made $7 million $7 million.

And then same cast, but the audience just was not buying it, they didn't want it. So cast as an order automatically mean something, it means like you put will in a action packed movie, or a big temple movie, who probably do a lot better than the Oscar bait that he's been doing recently, which has not been working out for him. And I love a lot. I think he's a very talented actor, and he's done some amazing films. But just to point out that stars don't always mean any everything. But in the indie world, it definitely means a lot. You know, even if, if you had Will Smith in your little indie drama, guess what, and you and you made that movie for a million dollars, you're gonna make your money back purely on his star power. So understand the genre you're in and ask yourself, does it sell with or without stars? Now, do your actors have any market value overseas, or even domestically? Because you have to ask the question as well. A lot of times you'll you'll hire actors that you think have a market value and it's going to be able to help you sell your movie but in the reality it isn't there's there's there's an actor who will remain nameless, but whoever's if you guys have been listening to this show, you know who I'm talking about, who's been on a lot of movies, he does probably about 15 20 million or 20 million, but 15 or 20 features if not more a year, so he's pretty much diluted his brand to the point where he wants was worth something domestically and overseas but now because there's so much product of him you know, I go to district you know, friend of mine What goes through distributors like Oh, man, I can't use that guy, I've got three other features with that guy doesn't really mean anything anymore. So you got to be careful with that understand what your market value is for the stars that you have. Sometimes, TV actors who have not done a lot of theatrical work or film where you know a feature film work, have huge followings overseas, and have or huge followings period. Look at the movie for lovers only by the Polish brothers, I've talked about that movie many times is one of the inspirations for this is mag that they had Stena caidic in it, and she is she's done a few movies, but she's not a theatrical, you know, star and she doesn't have a theatrical, you know, resume, she's more TV, TV, movies and things like that. But she was she had a huge rabid following. And they were able to make a movie with very little money, if not no money, and release that themselves. And they made over half a million dollars, purely on the fact of it was a Polish Brothers movie. And because of Stan, and her and her rabid fan base. So again, you have to ask yourself those questions like what kind of market value does your stars have? And do they have any kind of market value overseas, or online, the new world is not just television and features, but also YouTube influencers, people online that have huge audiences that you can sell to, and so on. So there's you just have to understand who you're putting your movie and what kind of value they bring to the movie, other than their talent. But these are questions you have to ask, does the budget justify anything I've spoken about? So that is the biggest, biggest mistake I see filmmakers make that they'll go Look, I just spent a quarter of a million dollars making a movie with no stars in it. I'm like, Well, what kind of isn't an action? Is it like, no, it's a drama, or it's a comedy. I'm like, Are you kidding me? You're done. You'll never make your money back. You'll never ever, ever, ever, ever make your money back in today's market. It's not gonna happen. So did that justify the $250,000 no matter how beautiful the movie Look, it could be a work of art. But to break through all the noise, you're gonna have to do something extremely interesting, extremely revolutionary. For you to even get some notice, and a perfect quote I heard from Um, I think I think we talked about this in another interview, but I'm not sure where I heard it from. But the quote from Quinn Tarantino is like, indie films are, you know, independent films are like waves on the shore, they just keep coming, and coming and coming. And, you know, no one really pays attention. Well, Quinn says, like, you don't have to, you don't want to be one of those waves, you want to blow up the beach. And that's what you want to do with your film, you have to do something so out there, so unique that you get noticed. And that is one of the key things that you would have to do to justify a $250,000 movie dollar film, with no stars in it as a comedy, or as a drama of some sort or thriller. It doesn't justify that budget, you have to figure out what that justify. So what is a drama that has no stars justify in today's world, and all depends if you have an audience, if you have a niche, if you have an audience you can sell to, it could be one budget, you know, if you've got five or 6 million followers, and you've sold to them before and you know, you can make easily a million dollars, and that's not out of reach, then you could justify half a million dollar budget easily without question. You know, if you could justify seven or $1,000 budget, you know, if you're if you really feel comfortable, that a million dollars is something that you can get. So that's where the justification for a budget comes in. So if you have no stars, and you want to make a little indie drama, well then make the movie for five grand, make it for 10 or 15 grand, because if you don't make your money back, it's not going to kill you, you know, I wouldn't go more than 50 grand on a project like that, even then I think it'd be a little too much. You know, it depends on the Edit, there's a lot of variables to it depends on the director, it depends on who's involved depends on the star, all that kind of stuff. But let's say no stars, first time director making their first drama, man, you should make your movie for 10 or 15, grand, 20 grand, you know, and that's it, don't try to make something huge, right out the gate, it's gonna be it's gonna, it's going to be very tough to recoup that money. And what people in this business like, and investors like is someone who can make their money back, and someone who can make them a profit, and someone who can make successful film after successful film. So if you make a $5,000 movie, and you sold it for 10,000, well, hell, you just doubled your money. So the next move you make for 10,000, you sell for maybe 25,000, holy cow. Now the next move you make for 25,000, you sell it for 75,000, and so on, and so on, and so on till you start feeling and justifying these budgets going up, up and up. A lot of times filmmakers just don't understand that. And they'll just go and grab the biggest budget they can because they can, you know, I know a lot of filmmakers that I know right now, they're making movies for a million dollars, you know, with no stars in it, I'm like, you're never gonna make that money back, you know, or $2 million, you're never gonna make your money back. And now and sometimes that might be the end game. By the way. I know that sounds crazy. Sometimes it's a tax write off for the investor, and they just want to have the experience of making the movie and being a producer on the movie. I wish I knew these people, because I wouldn't be making movies all the time. So if anyone's out there who really doesn't want to make any money with their movie, with movie investing, please email me.

At [email protected] I'm more than happy to work with you on a project, it's going to be wonderful, we're gonna have a great time. And and you know, if you give me a million dollars, I'm gonna make probably about 10 or 15 movies with that. But if you really seriously want to make a million dollar movie, that's just the, you know, a deal breaker. Well, I'll do it if you want me to, if there's no, don't reason for us not to make our money. I'm laughing guys, because it does happen. But it's rare. But if there's anybody out there, please email me. Another thing that that will answer that question that what is your film worth is what is your distribution plan? You know, a lot of people say, Oh, I'm gonna submit to Sundance, and that's my distribution plan. You're an idiot, you don't do that. You have to actually think about how you're going to sell this movie. You know, have you spoken to the distributor? Before you made this movie to see what they're looking for? You know, many smart filmmakers have done that, that they actually go to a distributor, they go, Hey, I'm thinking about making a movie. I've got $100,000, who do I need to put in this movie to sell it? And can you Will you buy it? Or would you know somebody who would, and all of a sudden, like, Well, you know, this actor has this value this, if you get this actor, this actor and this actor, I can pre sell it overseas like that, or I can pre sell it domestically like that purely on the power of the actors. Regardless if the movie is good or not. This is the business of the film business guys. So again, depending on what your goals are, you know, you should talk to a distributor. My goals with this is Meg were very specific. So I never spoke to a distributor. I know who my market is for. This is Meg. I know how I'm gonna sell it. I know what kind of distribution plan I am creating for it. And it's you know, and if other things come into play great. If they don't, I've got a plan. And that's one thing you guys have to have as a plan. Please think about this. These are all important these questions, guys. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now some people's films on the surface seem like they have no chance of making their money back. Like there's just no, no way. So like a perfect example I'm going to use is range 15, a film called range 15. I'll put a link on it in the show notes at indie film hustle.com Ford slash 120. For a range 15. They make they raised about a million dollars in a Kickstarter campaign that they did for their film. It's a zombie action movie, with some stars in it now, the stars being William Shatner, Sean Austin, and I don't know if there's, I think, Danny, I think Danny Trejo, I'm not sure. But those were the guys that they were able to get. But they were able to afford those guys purely because of their budget. But they're very specific example. And I'm really trying to get the filmmakers on the show because I, I their their story's amazing. But those guys had an audience, they own a apparel company. There is military owned, and it's aimed at military, Fire Department, police people, those kind of that kind of audience. And they've been making YouTube videos and all this kind of stuff. And they said, hey, let's go make a movie. They raised this money, because their audience was rabid, and they wanted it. And then they decided to go on and self distribute the film themselves. And they made millions, millions of dollars off of that, on the surface, you show me a movie that you have William Shatner, Sean Austin and Danny Trejo, and it costs a million dollars. And it's an action zombie movie with no other stars, these guys make basically cameos. So there's no other major stars in the main cast, I would say there's no way in hell that they'll make their money back. It's just they've lost their money. But because they understood their audience, and that they could sell to their audience. They justified that budget without a problem. So that was so smart. And so key to their success. Another example I'm going to use is one of my mentors. And one of the reasons why I started this podcast was Pat Flynn, over at Smart Passive Income comm pat, pat released the book of his he wrote a book, and he has a huge audience. I mean, he's a massive, massive audience, the man makes obscene amounts of money every, every month. And he has a very, very big podcast following. He's one of the major podcasts in the business and internet marketing category. And he went out to a bunch of distributors and said, and they said, Hey, we want to give you you know, want to release a book by you. Because, of course, you know, book distributors are no different than film distributors. They like, Oh, you have an audience. Great. It'll be easy to sell to them. We'll take it for you. We'll take it from here now. And then. And then he's like, Well, wait a minute, why am I going to give you I have access to my audience, I talked to my audience, why in god's green earth would I give you 60% or 50% of my income from this book. So he decided to self distribute it, self release it, and he's made, and you can go to his website, and you can actually see how much money he's made over the months from his launch, he's made 10s of 1000s of dollars, I think he's already broken over $100,000. For a book that he wrote himself, he created the audiobook version, he created the printed version and created the Kindle version. And he did the whole thing by himself and released it by himself. But he knew his audience, and he knew they can make more money selling to his audience than he could if he went through a distributed distribution company. So the question that we're here to answer guys is what is your film worth. So before you go down the path of making a film, and spending a year to putting it all together, raising the money, all this kind of stuff, you have to be honest with yourselves, guys. And anytime you think you like, Oh, you know what, it's a half a million. It's really probably 200,000. Even if you could justify half a million, just always go lower. Make your movie for as low of a budget as humanly possible while maintaining the production value and quality that you want. But you got to do it really low guys, because every dollar that you make less for is less money that you're gonna have to pay back. So if you made a movie or 700,000, but if you could actually make over 500,000 that's $200,000 in your pocket, once the movie makes 700,000 or 800,000 or a million dollars, that's all extra money in your pocket, guys. So do your first few movies really low budget and start experimenting, make a movie like Mark duplass says make a movie for 1000 bucks. And when you're with your friends, and then the next time and when you're done making that $1,000 movie, put it on the festivals do you put it up on Amazon Video direct and start selling it you can sell it right now you can put your movie right now on Amazon Video direct and you have it on the biggest marketplace in the world. And then you can drive everybody there and they can buy it, rent it or see it for free with prime And you get advertising revenue as well. There's multiple ways you can make money with it. And there's many other ways and I've talked about podcasts on how you multiple revenue streams, you can make four year movies as well, but make it 1000 bucks. You know, when I made my, when I made my first short film, I made it for 8000 broken, and we were able to generate over $90,000 selling DVDs Why? Because I knew my market. And even if I didn't make money on it, I knew that 1000 bucks was gonna kill me. You know, it was money out of my pocket, I wasn't have to pay it back. Just do your budgets as low as possible. But you have to ask the question, what is your film worth. And if you have certain casts involved, if you have certain genres involved, and you have certain distribution plan plans involved are in place, you can justify a higher budget, but always err on the lower side. And I'll leave you guys with one story about Robert Rodriguez. You know, Robert, as you know, is very well known for making his movies very affordably. And when he made his first movie, Spy Kids, his first family film for Spy Kids, that movie made, I think I made like 120 $340 million domestically, something like that. And he made over $22 million in the world of studio movies. $22 million is nothing now this is a while ago. So when they went to go do the sequel, they're like, Oh, we want to give you a whole bunch more. And he's like, Nope, I don't want any more. I want to do for another 22 million, I'm good. That's an amazing amount of restraint. And the man is extremely smart. Because he's like, you know what, I'm gonna make it for this money. And no, I can make it for this money, why am I going to put myself at more risk? getting another 20 million another 40 million into it, because it justified it, because he made 140 in the first one. So the studios were like, well, if we give them 60, this time, he might be able to make $200 million. Well, Robert understood that he's like, you know what, I'll make another kick ass movie for give me 22 million, I'm good. And they did. And that movie made 80 million. Now mind you 80 million still good bump, but it wasn't as much as before. And if you would have made it for 60 million, it wouldn't have been as big of a hit as it was. So then when they made the third movie, they made it for about the same money. And that one made another 100 and some million dollars. But my point is that he had the discipline at that level, to say, Nope, I don't want any more money, I can make it for this, because that's what's going to make you successful. We just had on the show, Joshua Conwell who made his first movie for $6,000. And you know, he still has not made his money back on it. And he knew what he was doing. It's a friend, it was a drama, about French speaking drama, shot entirely in Los Angeles, you know, so it's a foreign movie shot here. And it just, you know, he thought it could make some money. But at that budget level, he's like, I'll take the risk. And he didn't, he's not made his money back. Now, if he would have invested $100,000 into that movie, which a lot of filmmakers do, and found money from family from friends and all this kind of stuff. And he would have made four grand, he, I think he would have been done, he wouldn't have been able to recover from something like that, it would have been very, very difficult. But because he was able to make that movie for such a low budget that lent that because he made that movie at that price range, he got hired to do a TV show, or a Hulu show. And then that led to his next feature, and so on, and so on and so on. But he was smart enough to make his movie for a budget that he knew he could either retain he could either get his money back, or if he lost his money, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. So ask that question before you get started on this journey, guys. What is your film worth? I hope this was informative for you guys. I hope I wasn't too preachy, or too in your face, but I'm here to help guys. I want you guys to succeed. I want everybody listening to this podcast, to be able to make a living as filmmakers. In today's world, there's no excuse. This is not the 40s, the 50s or the 60s, where you had no choices. There is endless amounts of opportunity, endless amounts of resources, and these endless amounts of ways to make money with your art. And it's my job here and my my goal in life is to preach from the top of the mountain. And hopefully you guys not that I'm at the top of the mountain, but you know what I'm talking about from the highest peaks. So everyone and all the filmmakers can listen that you are able to do this, but you have to be smart about it. Have a fucking plan, like I said in Episode 88 which is still one of the most popular podcast episodes I've ever done. If you haven't listened to it, and you want some motivation. Listen to Episode 88 at indie film, hustle, calm forward slash 088. So guys, I want to wish you guys all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, happy holidays. And I'll be with your families. Enjoy the time you have off and get ready for 2017 because I have a feeling it's going to be an interesting year, to say the least. But I think it's gonna be an amazing year. I know it's gonna be an amazing year for me. I have it all planned out. And of course, when you plan the universe laughs at You, but I do have a plan and I do think that it's going to be an amazing year for indie film hustle for the podcast, and also for myself as an artist as a businessman, and as a as a human being, and I wish you guys all the best wishes. And as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.

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