We’ve all seen the same story play out time and time again –
A first time filmmaker is eager to get their feature off the ground. They spend months, maybe years, writing a script and raising a small budget any way they can.
They go off and shoot their film, struggling through an intense production process before moving into post, where they will spend many more months (or sometimes years) getting the cut just right.
After what has likely been a multi-year battle to get their film made, it’s finally done. The process is not over, but at least the work is complete.
And with that, they submit their film to festivals, cross their fingers and hope it will become a festival darling that incites a bidding war from buyers.
It’s a nice dream, but the only problem is, it almost never plays out that way.
Yes, we’ve all heard the lottery ticket stories about a micro-budget feature that blew up at a top tier festival and was sold for millions of dollars… But for every story like that, there are thousands and thousands of films that never got to see the light of day.
Filmmakers spend a lot of time thinking about those few anomalies. Those films that for whatever reason – talent, timing, or blind luck – beat the odds, got recognized at a major festival, and actually hit it big.
Those are nice stories to talk about with friends, and they can certainly be inspirational. But the stories we should really be learning from, are the failures.
No two success stories are alike, so there is no sense trying to replicate someone else’s success by following their exact path. It just doesn’t work like that – every film and every filmmaker needs to find their own way.
But stories of failure on the other hand, can offer us a lot more insight into the pitfalls of making movies. And unlike success stories, which are almost entirely unique, failures almost always follow the same pattern.
From my vantage point, the vast majority of filmmakers that fail, haven’t actually seen their films through to completion.
They viewed the finish line to their film as the finished product, when really, that should have been looked at as the mid-point in their journey.
Practically every filmmaker I’ve ever worked with (and I’ll put myself in this category) has at one point truly believed that just finishing their film was the end of the process. So in that sense, it’s no wonder that so many films fail…
Imagine running a marathon that was 10 miles longer than you thought it was. Do you think you’d have a better chance of succeeding if you understood the challenge from the get-go? I certainly do.
There are no guarantees in film, no matter how great of a movie you make, or how much you plan. But you can increase your odds by simply understanding the playing field – something most filmmakers never do.
It’s astonishing to see the blood, sweat, and tears that filmmakers will put into their work. They will sacrifice their personal health, money, relationships, paid work, all in the name of their art.
But then when it comes time for the second half of the process – marketing and selling the film – they are all out of gas. They haven’t even factored it into their process.
That intense drive and energy that was once the fuel for the film itself, is now nowhere to be found. And without anyone else pushing for the film to get seen by the world, the film will likely never find an audience.
This leads the filmmaker behind the project to question whether or not they ever want to make another film again. And unfortunately, the vast majority do not.
I don’t mean to sound bleak here. I truly am a huge optimist and I do believe most filmmakers have it in them to succeed. But that success can only come if they are willing to do the work. Not just on the creative side, but the business side too.
There will always be a few lucky films that get into a major festival and have a relatively easy path to distribution. But for the many thousands of others that don’t, there are so many other paths too.
For some filmmakers, the goal may not even be to sell their film. They may simply want to use it as a calling card to land an agent, or perhaps use it to raise money for a larger project.
I’m not going to tell you what goals to set for yourself or your film, as everyone’s needs are very different.
What I will say though, is without effective goal setting, you just aren’t giving yourself the chance to succeed.
The goal can no longer be to simply finish a film… The film is just your launching off point.
Noam Kroll, www.noamkroll.com June 2018 Copyright © 2018 Creative Rebellion Inc., All rights reserved.