The Film Business

Coke vs. Pepsi vs. Your Indie Film


Image by: Sean MacEntee

There aren’t many ways that an indie filmmaker can compete with mainstream film production value, and certainly can’t compete when it comes to marketing funds and advertising campaigns. Most indie filmmakers are lucky if they have the funds left over from their production to create posters, postcards, or other key art for their movies even though they should have been budgeting for those things before their productions anyway, but that’s another article entirely.

So what is this article about? In business competition is encouraged. For every Coke there is a Pepsi, for every Wal-Mart there is a Target, and for every Betty there is a Veronica (gratuitous Archie reference). Don’t be discouraged if you see that M. Night has a new movie coming out in theaters that’s based on the same topic, idea, or theme as your indie film. Use that marketplace demand to your advantage! Don’t go and rush to be the first person to the theaters with your film, because quite frankly you just don’t have the resources to compete with anything at the local AMC Theater. What you can do is use the tentpole films as market research in your film’s business and marketing plans (yes, you should have those).

Two great examples of film companies that are in the business of making second-tier movies based off the hit flicks in the theaters are The Asylum, creators of the TRANSMORPHERS movies that capitalized off of the success of the TRANSFORMERS films, and Full Spread Entertainment and director Lee Roy Myers who created a chain of high production value, eerily accurate porn parodies based on successful movies and television shows (for a great example check out the SFW trailer for their THE BIG LEBOWSKI: A XXX PARODY…You’d think this was a flat-out remake of the original).

So what if your porn parody or TRANSFORMERS rip off is too late to the market and their second-tier counterparts are racking up the box office? Does that mean your film is doomed to sit on the shelf? Nope, you forgot about the relatively niche fans and patrons of products like Dr. Pepper and Kmart. These stalwarts of the business world aren’t the biggest or most in demand, but they’re resilient and have smaller, but dedicated fanbases. In film terms these would be the cult hits. If you can’t make it big, make it cult. This is just as much a business of longevity as any other. Get your film out there, make it part of your ever-expanding catalog, and keep creating because even if you aren’t playing in theaters, aren’t on VOD, or on BitTorrent. If the product is good people will still try to find ways to see it. It’s very easy to get discouraged that you’re not the biggest or most successful filmmaker in the world, even the indie film world, but if you stick it out, add to your resume, and cultivate that devoted audience person- by-person, you’ll have the chance of becoming the next Leigh Scott. The goal shouldn’t be to hit it big, but just to be a working filmmaker.

It’s about longevity in this business. If you need examples of the Coke v. Pepsi v. Dr. Pepper theory, you need look no further than the careers of Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, and Lloyd Kaufman. Lloyd Kaufman’s Troma production company have been around for around 37 years, and while they don’t make the most theatrically successful movies on the planet, they certainly have their devoted following, and continue to work year after year. Don’t strive to be the best if you don’t have the resources, just strive to continue to be in the business of making movies.

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