How to Find Someone to Emulate in the Indie Film Business

Previous ... Next

When you are trying to accomplish something hard in business, one of the first questions mentors ask is, “Who else has done what you are trying to do?”

I have gotten this question a lot over the years as we’ve fumbled our way through building a sustainable independent film company. Often I hear myself answer, “No one.”

This feels true, but I have to step back and honestly evaluate. Is this really true?

Less than 5% of independent films achieve profitability. A slightly higher percentage may garner cricital acclaim and awards. Occasionally an indie breaks out at the box office, is bought by a studio, or is heralded a festival darling.

But there is no repeatable strategy. I think this is what I mean by “no one.” No one has created a replicable, reliable, independent (non-studio) strategy. Films get lucky.

Pieces and parts of success stories can be emulated but only with varying success. Marketing differs from film to film and depends on the content of the film, audience demographics, changing delivery methods, and intangibles such as viral campaigns.

But still I have to ask, what am I missing? Is it really true? Is “no one” the answer?

And then…

I remember scattered stories along the periphery of industry consciousness. Stories of people under the radar, intentionally doing their own thing — as if unaware the system exists. If asked to join, they scoff at the idea, answering, “Why, when what we are doing is already working?”

And in those few words, the clue… they have figured out sustainability.

Looking deeper into their process, the answer is audience. Their audience. An audience they took time to build. Over years and years.

They did not find a magic pill or make up a clever, campy campaign.

They spent years honing their craft, improving, and connecting — until they had an email list of “ten thousand followers”. At the completion of each project, they hold a series of screenings for their loyal fans, sell merchandise, and make a sustainable profit. Not millions, but enough. Enough to have a real business and a replicable model.

I know that is the answer. Audience. And time.

It is not magic. It is not sparkly. Not superstar, not fancy.

It is grounded, reassuring, consistent, nurturing and kind.

Yes, I wish I knew this ten years ago when we made our first film, but maybe we weren’t ready to truly serve an audience.

This is what we will aim to build and nurture going forward.

♡ Annie

Photo by Diogo Nunes on Unsplash


Leave a comment