2017/10/31

How to Save Movies

I've written before about Hollywood's hatred for their own audience and their resulting financial woes. Today, rather than spend another post forecasting the American film industry's demise, I think it's high time to suggest an actionable plan to make sure the forces of Christendom and the West will fill the vacuum left by Tinseltown's debauched and dying elite.

After all, we don't want to see the rats scurry from the ship they sank to the newly arrived rescue boat for want of alternatives.

Luckily I've spent years immersed in the indie movie scene, talking in-depth with startup film makers at cons and festivals. I also have considerable online marketing expertise. Drawing on that experience, I humbly present the following plan to enable dissident film makers to take back the US film industry.

Compared to self-publishing, film making has more and higher barriers to entry. Thankfully, advances in technology and changes in the market--especially lower equipment prices--have significantly lowered many of these barriers for indie film productions.

The highest hurdle to be surmounted before a movie can be made is money. After studying the situation, I'm convinced that the money problem can be overcome through the strategic choice of genre.

Here are the three best genres for indie film makers to focus on:

Documentaries
documentary
Bring up movie making to most people, and they'll immediately think of actions films, effects-heavy science fiction epics, or comedies. These are some of the most expensive and difficult film genres to work in. Stunt work, practical and special effects, and name actor salaries can easily break an indie film's budget. Comedies are cheaper but require the greatest skill to write and perform.

If you want to make an end run around most of these obstacles, consider making documentaries. While not as glamorous as other types of film making, solid documentaries can be, and have been, made on the cheap. Unlike indie film productions in other genres, documentary film makers have a good track record for securing wide distribution.

Getting started on your own documentary can be as simple as picking a subject, acquiring a decent handheld digital video camera, and conducting interviews. Consumer editing software is now capable of turning out professional-quality movies without the need to take out a second mortgage.

Want to take your documentary game to the next level? Recent documentaries have been successfully paid for by relatively modest crowdfunding campaigns.

Another aspect of documentary film making that shouldn't be overlooked in light of the culture war is the unique ability of documentaries to openly and convincingly present arguments for a particular set of ideas. The simple fact that your movie is a documentary will completely preempt accusations of peddling message fic, even though documentaries, like all other kinds of movies, present narratives.

A documentary can make a compelling argument with little more than the correct choice of interview subjects, a little extra spent on appealing graphics, and above all careful editing.

Plus, don't overlook the fact that there exists a sizable market full of avid viewers who binge watch documentaries and are always looking for new content to consume.

In short, if you have little film production experience and less disposable cash, consider starting your movie making career with a documentary.


Horror
John Carpenter - Halloween
Hollywood had long harbored a love-hate relationship with the horror genre. On one hand, horror films are considered low rent, and there's still a stigma attached to working on horror productions. Few normies are aware that major stars like Kevin Bacon, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Aniston got early breaks by landing schlock horror roles.

On the other hand, horror movies are insanely lucrative. Browse this list of the most profitable films ever and count how many of them are horror movies--sometimes in the same series!

Horror movies are only slightly more expensive than documentaries, they're far easier to write than comedies--although that could be my survivorship bias showing--and they don't rely on big names to draw in audiences. By and large, horror fans will forgive mediocre performances as long as you give them a good scare.

Although, getting a name actor for your production is not as difficult as you might think. There's a whole generation of venerable character actors whose stars have faded somewhat since their heyday in the 80s and 90s who've proven willing to help out fledgling film makers. Hit the convention circuit. find your favorite horror icon's booth, and offer to buy him a beer. Or contact his agent and ask about salary requirements for a few days' work. Chances are, you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Producing a professional-looking horror movie entails higher equipment costs than a documentary, but those costs are nothing like they were just ten years ago. Even a state-of-the-art RED camera is within the budget of a rather modest production.

The main difficulty with horror films is securing distribution. One creative solution to this problem is to pick a fifteen minute segment of your script that tells a story with a definite beginning, middle, and end. Shoot that sequence as a standalone short film, and show it at conventions, festivals, and pitch meetings. Your fifteen minute short will serve as a trailer or demo reel to catch distributors' interest and raise funding to finish and promote the movie.


Drama
Con-Men
If your creative impulses run more toward the mainstream and artistic end of the genre spectrum, producing a professional caliber drama is not beyond your reach. A Glasgow director recently made a high quality crime drama for £3,000.

In terms of the cost of admission and return on investment, note that Reservoir Dogs snagged a place on the most profitable movies list above.

Drama is generally more challenging to write than horror, but it can be produced even more inexpensively. A cleverly written drama can get away with a minimal number sets, or even just one. Construct your movie like a stage play with a small cast of well-developed characters, and throw a real-world problem at them.

Dramas are also ideal for guerrilla-style film making. Want to do some location shooting? Grab your camcorder and hit the street. [Disclaimer: I do not advocate any form of illegal activity.]

Ed Wood


The meta-level: Why settle for one?
To take these concepts to their ultimate logical conclusion, you could go for broke and make all three kinds of movies at the same time.

Here's an example. Put together a horror movie consisting of found footage recorded by a black and white security camera in a convenience store as a lone cashier works the graveyard shift. You only need one camera and one set.

At the same time, get a RED cam, a camcorder, a 16mm camera, or all of the above to shoot a drama with the same cast at a couple more locations. You can even reuse the same convenience store set, disguising it by shooting from different angles and in color.

While the horror and drama productions are underway, have another unit on set filming a "making-of" documentary about the dual movie project. Release the documentary on its own, or include it as a bonus feature to entice audiences and distributors.

In short, you get triple the return from what's essentially one production.

For more indie film making tips, check out Rebel Without a Crew by director Robert Rodriguez.

Robert Rodriguez - Rebel Without a Crew

There you have my plan for rebuilding the movie industry after Hollywood burns itself to the ground. True, startup film makers who turn their efforts to indie documentaries, horror movies, and dramas won't be producing tent pole blockbusters anytime soon. But this model should enable a number of small studios to get off the ground and start building audiences quickly. And have fun while doing it.


Speaking of horror, my award-winning SFF/horror series is on sale for less than 9 bucks, and the first mind-blowing installment Nethereal is just $0.99. These books go back to full price tomorrow, so take advantage of these deep discounts today!

The Soul Cycle - Brian Niemeier

12 comments:

  1. With the way cleared of more and more gatekeepers everyday, I think anybody with a couple of buddies to bounce ideas off of should do so. This is the ideal moment to throw a couple G's and a few weekends at a fun project. Even if what you've got at the end isn't very good, it will have likely taught you a lot and will have been a lot of fun to do.

    Hail Victory!

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    1. Exactly. I used to attend a small local film festival that a couple of indie outfits would submit movies to every year. The first one or two were pretty rough, but their rate of improvement amazed me. The last couple of years, they were turning in films I'd stack up against anything Hollywood puts out any day of the week.

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    2. This right here is what keeps Hollyweird and it's affiliated SJWs on the Coasts up at night.

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    3. The fact that a) we're on to them, and b) we don't need them is finally sinking in.

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  2. Brian, my brother has brought up a good point in terms of Conservatives retaking the movie industry. We need to start making Westerns again. They are the all american film genre. Manifest Destiny, high adventure, epics of a grand sweeping scope rivaling any fantasy book series and the greatest of romances. Is there anything more American image than John Wayne as a cowboy? They are our great American film genre and we've barely had any in the last thirty years.

    I know Westerns are fairly expensive but I'm sure it could work.

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    1. You're absolutely right. I've been on something of a Western binge lately. Hollywood doesn't make many of them anymore because it's the hardest genre to shoehorn a Leftist message into.

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    2. Westerns don't NEED to be expensive though. The expense comes from the action set pieces, set construction and settings like Monument Valley. If however you had a Western take place on the Prairie, any old field would do. Or it could be set in a single location like Hateful Eight. I'd also add that while the South West is the iconic locale for westerns, part of what makes it a western is that it is set on the frontier, but all of America was at onetime the frontier.

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    3. This is the perfect chance for Westerns and Noir. Hollywood can't get either right anymore and a savvy group could stand to carve out their own niche very quickly with them.

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    4. We might soon see the advent of two parallel film industries. On one side you'll have indie studios making the equivalent of mid list films while Hollywood just puts out bloated, expensive CG-fests.

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  3. Brian

    Great post. One idea since many smaller and midsized Hollywood studios will fail, it'll be possible to get professional equipment a cheap price. More importantly,would be to buy the unrealized/unpublished scripts. Take a look at them and rewrite any that have potential but problematic narratives (I.e. anti flyover sentiment,etc)
    Those scripts would be a big help to start filming
    xavier

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    1. Brian,

      Thanks. The scripts to me are the most important thing. It occurred to me some time ago when I read about the history of RKO. A successor company owns all the published and unpublished scripts.
      It struck me that studios are sitting on billions of unrealized scripts and I was surprised that they didn't go to the archives and dust off those old scripts. Sure most suck or need a rewrite but still.
      Anyways, that to me is the real wealth and I bet that there some real gems in those archives.
      xavier

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