Do you have what it takes to be an independent film producer?
Don’t scoff. With basic business chops, a willingness to take strategic risks, and an eye for creative talent, you can make a go of it in the admittedly high-stakes world of film production. Just ask these indie luminaries.
As is so often the case, getting started is the hardest part. Here’s what you need to do to raise capital for your production venture and attract behind- and before-the-camera talent.
Make It Clear You’re Willing to Take Risks
About that willingness to take strategic risks: make sure everyone and their sister knows it. Even outside brash production capitals like New York and L.A., a little hubris goes a long way — as long as you can deliver the goods.
Tap Your Creative Network
Networking is the lifeblood of any independent film producer’s career, but starting from scratch is tough. Compile a list of every creative person you know or have known, assuming no bridges have burned in the interim. Reach out to this existing network with contact-appropriate requests: audition invitations to folks you know have done bit parts in the past, for instance. New York-based creative entrepreneur Ryan Nivakoff advises budding producers, regardless of age or career status, to exhaust their existing networks before pounding the pavement elsewhere.
Wear Multiple Hats
Tech startup founders wear countless hats. Why should production startup founders settle for one or two? The more range you show your early backers, the more bullish they’re likely to be on your prospects. If that means hopping in front of the camera a few times, or pulling double duty in set design, so be it.
Flex Your Grant Writing Muscles
Nonprofit foundations and public arts organizations may be interested in your independent film production work — really. But they’ll never find out about it if you don’t tell them. Review the basics of grant writing for creative projects and either set aside time to write your own grants or hire a capable grant writer willing to handle that side of your business development operation.
Don’t Be Afraid to Lean on Family and (Non-Creative) Friends
Early on, your friends and family members may well be your biggest boosters. Don’t be afraid to ask them for their support — and make it clear that you see said support as temporary, not unconditional.
Attach Credible Names to Your Projects
No, you’re not going to draw A-listers right off the bat. But any cachet helps. Without going on any wild goose chases, make an effort to land some bigger fish for your early projects.
Trawl for Corporate Support (But Mind the Tradeoffs)
For-profit corporations are more than happy to support independent film projects, and not just through foundation spinoffs. Before you seek out corporate backing, though, establish clear ethical parameters — for instance, that you’ll avoid product placement. There’s no wrong answer here, as long as you can satisfy yourself that your creative vision remains uncompromised.
Your Creative Dream Is Closer Than You Think
Who says you can’t run your own independent production house?
You’re capable of more than you think — provided you take seriously the assignment you’ve given yourself and work diligently toward its completion. Attacking these two crucial to-dos — raising capital and attracting talent — is a critical first step on your path to being your own creative boss.