6 Critical Steps of Filmmaking Business Revealed

The fact that filmmaking is both an art and a science rarely eludes those in the industry. Unfortunately, the critical element that escapes the attention of most is the actual business of filmmaking. Actors like Meryl Streep, Robert Downey Jr., and Sandra Bullock were able to rise to the top and find sustainability in their craft because of their business acumen.

Producers, directors, production designers, and even grips, gaffers and best boys all must understand the basics of business to survive. Most have learned that 80% of their work comes from their previous project, while the remaining 20% comes from networking during breaks, hiatus and down time.

In the film and television industry every person is a branded product/service. Some are stronger brands than others, but all are brands even if by a default setting based on ones personality and work ethic. Those who understand that their brand must produce like a corporate product; the business of filmmaking can become profitable.

I’ve found that everyone in film and television can become profitable when they properly execute the 6 critical steps in the filmmaking business.

1. Set a Goal: Picking one specific end-point or achievement for the year is better than setting two or three weaker goals. The goal must be achievable, clear and the object of your ambition with obvious benefits. It can be put into a clear goal statement for the purpose of focus and must suggest some form of measurement that reveals when the destination was met or accomplished. It can also be a multi-year goal, but profitable businesses require at least one goal per year to maintain sound business practices.

SAMPLE 1: Actor Ms. Royale, set a goal to star in a feature film within three years.

SAMPLE 2: Actor Ms. Poplar, set a goal to obtain 1,000 fans.

2. Establish Measurable Objectives: All good goals can be measured in multiple ways. To fulfill the goal, objectives must be set that assesses all the important ways the goal can be measured. Most goals produce 1-3 measureable objectives.

SAMPLE 1: Actor Ms. Royale, set the following objectives:
A). Star in a short film that is submitted to 40 award festivals.
B). Win a Best Actor award for her role in the short film.
C). Send publicity about award to 100 feature casting directors, producers, and directors.

SAMPLE 2: Actor Ms. Poplar, set the following objectives:
A). Develop relationships with 50 arts and entertainment news editors.
B). Hire a publicist to create 12 newsworthy press releases.
C). Create a fan page and fill it with 3 posts per week.

3. Assess S.W.O.T.: Once the direction is set and its clear how to measure the results, the most important thing is conducting a true assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, and doing the same for the competition. Since the competitive information is being assessed from your viewpoint, it’s important to label the competition’s strengths as threats, and their weaknesses as opportunities. It’s also important that all S.W.O.T. inputs be truthful for the sake of developing powerful strategies.

SAMPLE 1: Actor Ms. Royale, drafted the following assessment:
STRENGTH: Years of modeling, commercial and television experience.
WEAKNESS: Not known among the film community and never tracked fans.
OPPORTUNITY: Can easily win head to head talent competition against Ms. Poplar.
THREAT: Politics within existing networks might block her entry.

SAMPLE 2: Actor Ms. Poplar, set the following assessment:
STRENGTH: Standout attractiveness, charismatic personality, well networked and had role in a highly visible film.
WEAKNESS: Is a beginning actor with little instruction.
OPPORTUNITY: Can use politics and a large fan base to help promote ticket sales and block Ms. Royale from acquiring roles.
THREAT: Once she learns how to network, Ms. Royale’s experience might overshadow or dominate in the market.

4. Develop Strategies: Up to this point our competitive information comes from intuition, observation and market conditions. Tying the information to our S.W.O.T. and by using the ability within our network, fan base or entourage forms the development of our strategies. All great strategies are specific and tied directly to one objective.

SAMPLE 1: Actor Ms. Royale, created the following strategies for the objective of starring in a short film submitted to awards:
A). Network with award winning writer/director to create an award winning short film.
B). Network with cast and crew to pull together a high quality low budget short.
C). Raise funds to cover festival submissions.

SAMPLE 2: Actor Ms. Poplar, created the following strategies for the objective of developing relationships with A&E news editors:
A). Hire a publicist to create press releases.
B). Offer “exclusive” interviews laced with name-dropping.
C). Develop campaigns to co-promote the editors and their rags.

5. Create an Implementable Action Plan: Every specific strategy will have a minimum of one action plan. Larger and more comprehensive strategies may require additional action plans to clarify achievements in various markets or channels. The action plan is developed to the level of including all resources, timetables, and activity punch lists necessary to accomplish the task. The more critical or the larger the strategy, the more action plans are required to meet the overarching objective measurements.

SAMPLE 1: Actor Ms. Royale, created the following action plan to fulfill the strategy of networking with an award winning writer/director to create an award winning short film:

The action plan included:
A). Names and contact info of award winning writer/directors.
B). Specific dates and times to contact each writer/director.
C). Questions to ask the writer/director.
D). A drafted working arrangement or deal memo.
E). An outline of emotions needing to be exhibited by the main character.
F). Notes taken to determine best person for project.

SAMPLE 2: Actor Ms. Poplar, created the following action plan for the strategy of hiring a publicist to create press releases:

The action plan included:
A). Names and contact info of recommended publicists.
B). Specific dates and times to contact each publicist.
C). Questions to ask the publicist.
D). A drafted working arrangement or deal memo.
E). An outline of promotional ideas or angles on stories to discuss.
F). Notes taken to determine best person for project.

6. Evaluate Your Performance Regularly: Schedules and objectives can’t be met without some form of evaluating the effectiveness of the plan and any related market changes requiring adaptability. These assessments must be honest and suggest plan B’s and market counter measures when needed. The evaluations are more than just a postmortem, as they must engage ideas for improving and advancing the strategies.

SAMPLE 1: Actor Ms. Royale, evaluated the following activities from her action plan:

A). The successful selection of an award winning writer/director.
B). The brainstormed story concept and its match to the emotions needing to be exhibited by the main character.
C). The establishment of a writing schedule for the first draft.
D). The review of the next action plan, its timetable and required resources.

SAMPLE 2: Actor Ms. Poplar, evaluated the following activities from her action plan:

A). The hiring of the publicists.
B). The brainstormed outline of press releases for the first quarter.
C). The development of a new action plan to generate photos for the press releases.
D). The discussed style of the writing.

The key to the business of filmmaking is to make sure each step does what its supposed to do.

Goal – Set the direction and vision for the general accomplishment.
Objective – Turn the goal into something measurable so the work process is functional and operational.
S.W.O.T. – Understand the true facts about the brand, competitor and market to facilitate working strategies.
Strategies – Programs or initiatives that direct and influence specific tactical actions.
Action Plans – The blue print of daily tactical activities including dates/times, resources, and other detail necessary to execute strategy.
Evaluation – The documenting of the outcome for postmortem discussions and expedient adjustments.

Those who are able to put these elements in writing, perform the work, and analyze the effectiveness of each step are the ones who will dominate the industry within a short time frame. People and businesses come and go in the film and television industry, but those who stay are successful because they understand the business.

Copyright © 2015 by CJ Powers
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