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By Hammad Zaidi | December 18, 2012

Hi everyone. Happy Holidays and welcome to “Things To Do Before 2013, Part 2.” Today we’re going to explore five more tactics to help jumpstart your 2013. So, before you punt on the rest of 2012 like 98% of Hollywood is doing this week, (or has already done last week), check out these five moves.

Research the Budgets of Similar Films
While many filmmakers routinely inflate their budgets on IMDB, websites like,, and are all very accurate when it comes to reporting actual budgets. So, you should bounce around those sites to find the budgets of films like the one you’re dying to make. While wrangling the correct budgets of your comparison films is important, so is choosing the right films to compare against yours. What I mean is that if your film has a $2.3 million dollar budget, you should try to keep your comparisons to films with budgets under $2.5 million. Comparing the box office returns from a $15 million, $10 million or even a $5 million dollar film, to one under $2.5 million, is fiercely unfair, because the P&A budgets and social reach of a much larger film will obviously create greater returns. Thus, the more realistic you are with your numbers, the more seriously you’ll be taken.

Research Box Office History of Similar Films for Your Business Plan
One of the biggest mistakes made by many filmmakers in their business plan is only listing highly successful films to compare their film against. I know that sounds crazy, but trust me on this one. Investors are not stupid people, and most of them know that having a hit indie film occurs less frequently than a leap year does. Even if they are not aware of their horrible odds to ever see their investment back, much less make a profit; their lawyers; accountants and financial advisors will make sure they are aware of the risk they’re taking on investing in your film.

Thus, don’t insult your investors’ intelligence by only listing films that went through the roof. Instead, you should list an array of films, including ones that set the box office on fire, a few slightly better than average performers, and at least one film that didn’t do so well. Don’t worry; the “hit films” will skew the numbers upward, so they’ll still look like a good investment. In fact, I’d say that “more realistic” numbers would serve you better than inflated ones. This is because investors usually only give their money to people who they think know what they’re doing, and there is no better way to impress an investor than having a sound financial outlook.

Research the Most Recent Fees Earned By the Actors You Want
It always blows me away how often indie filmmakers overpay for their talent. One thing to remember when it comes to making offers to actors is that their “quote” is merely that, a quote. Before you overpay and ensure your film indie a dire financial future, you should try everything you can to find out how much money the actor(s) you want earned on their last few indie projects. Mind you, what they got paid on recent studio films may not be what they agree to on smaller films. For example, back when Bruce Willis was an A-list leading man, his “studio rate” was $15 million per picture, but his “indie rate” ranged from $8 million to “so low, that it never gets reported,” per picture. Obviously, Bruce Willis only takes “money that’s too low to report” for scripts he can’t live without making, or a director he can’t die before working with. But, the fact that people like him have multiple pay scales should inspire you to do as much research as you can on how much you should offer.

Research the Genres of Similar Films that Sold Recently
Knowing what kinds of films in your budget range preform well is crucial to your film’s success. While the tastes of the viewing audience change, they do so about every decade, not every year. For example, the 1990’s spawned a litany of indie horror flicks, many of which cashed in at the box office, or at least on DVD. Then, by the late 1990’s, raunchy comedies started to engulf the indie film market. However, the last few years have trended toward indie sci-fi films raking it in. Of course, indie action films and thrillers have the best shot at achieving breakeven or better, while small, starless romantic comedies and dramas virtually always tank. Remember, I’m just citing trends here, and trends are never the end-all; be-all, so other genres can do well at any time. The bottom line is, your film’s genre is quite an important choice, especially if your film is your first, and/or the one you’re trying to launch on.

Rank Your Projects From the Most to Least Sellable
This task will prove to be easy if you only have one project. How, if you have, two, three, or more projects that are on your slate of “things to get green lighted in 2013,” you should figure out which ones are closest to selling, and/or getting funded. The hardest part of this task is going to be to separate the film(s) you’re dying to make versus the ones that are closer to achieving financing. Hopefully, they’ll be one in the same. However, if they differ, try to view all of your projects from the standpoint of your audience. In other words, imagine that you’re a moviegoer, who is reading about your projects online. If you only had the money, or time, or both, to see one of your projects, which one would earn your hard earned dollars? Of course, if you love your projects equally and you can’t decide, feel free to reach out to family and friends to ask them which one they would watch first. More than likely, the one you love most probably isn’t the most mainstream or commercial, but the most mainstream and commercial project, is the one to most likely get funded first.

On that note, I thank you all once again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again on Christmas Day – if the world doesn’t end on the 21st! By the way, I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.

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