Let’s take a moment to talk about the economy (insert Debbie Downer noise here): The state of struggling small businesses across the country mirrors that of independent moviemakers trying to produce and find distribution for their films. In the current era of 3-D blockbusters, going to the movies is just another way for Americans to escape their woes at home. Sure, the experience is fun, but while Step Up 3D is the next biggest release, the indie movie market is left in the gutter.

One site that works to help fix this problem is indieProducer.net—a place for independent moviemakers to network and get the word out about their upcoming projects. Unfortunately, the site is no exemption from the financial hardships being faced by many. We caught up with indieProducer founder Kerry David to find out more about the company, its struggles and what fans of quality indie cinema everywhere can do to help.

Kate Ritter (MM): Tell us what indieProducer.net can accomplish for moviemakers.

Kerry David (KD): IndieProducer.net is the number one social networking site for moviemakers. If you are looking to connect with dedicated moviemakers, find collaborators or just post your work—including films, shorts, photos, resumes, headshots, casting requests or crew needs—then indieProducer.net is for you. We also have quarterly networking events that we call iP Schmoozefests, where we invite VIPs in the entertainment industry down to talk with you in a relaxed party environment. Networking is key in our industry and it’s difficult to meet people that count. We provide that forum while also encouraging our members to mix with their peers.

MM: What types of contests and events do you offer and how do they work to achieve that goal?

KD: Once a year we hold a screenwriting contest and a short film contest. The winners receive a variety of great prizes, but the most valuable prize we offer is a one-on-one meeting with an executive in the same genre as the winning project. We have amazing mentors attached to iP that really invest in our winners, such as Oscar nominee Stephen Rivele (Ali, Nixon), Damon Ross (DreamWorks SKG; Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Nacho Libre), Sonny Mallhi (The Strangers, The Lake House), Ray Strache (Fox Searchlight Pictures; Cyrus, Little Miss Sunshine, Crazy Heart), Rob Corn (“Grey’s Anatomy”, “Ally McBeal”)—the list is endless! We strive to not only promote the winning project, but also to expose our winners to industry heavyweights who in turn can work with them. We promote the winning projects through our Website and newsletter and add the winners to our professional databases for future work.

MM: You’re a successful producer with such titles as Agent Cody Banks (2003) under your belt. What made you want to start indieProducer?

KD: It was during the development stages of Agent Cody Banks actually. It wasn’t until I started out on my own (after having worked for Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman) that I saw the chasm between the studio system and the indie world. There was definitely an air of “them and us.” And there wasn’t enough of “us” as far as I was concerned. There is power in numbers and I knew there were many indie moviemakers who felt the same, but how to connect them? I’m pleased to say it’s changed a lot since then, but I really felt that the independent moviemaker needed a voice, needed a peer group and nothing existed like it back in 2001. So I started iP to create that network.

MM: The business has been functioning successfully for the past 10 years, but is now struggling in the current economy. What are the biggest challenges you are currently facing?

KD: The biggest challenges we face currently are partly my own doing. I always wanted indieProducer to be a free site for moviemakers; an inexpensive way to find the answers to many of the industry questions while connecting with other moviemakers. It’s a lovely idea to have a free site, but for iP to continue on it has to be run more like a business in order to cover the expenses we have and to start paying our volunteers for their work. Having said that, even with this economic crunch we will continue to offer the best services to our members at the lowest possible prices.

MM: What are some of the actions you’ve taken to remedy the situation?

KD: Recently we ran a very successful drive asking iP members to donate to the site. Not much, just a minimum of $3, and anyone who donates more than $5 receives two free PDFs courtesy of the New Media Film Festival and a successful article I wrote about navigating Hollywood called “Getting to the ‘Yes.’” Anyone who donates $50 or more also receives free consulting services from two companies associated with iP! We were really overwhelmed with the response we got, not only from donations but from other companies such as MovieMaker who wanted to help us in other ways, such as free services for donations, cross promoting our sites and site affiliations.

MM: How do these struggles represent what is going on in the indie movie business in general?

KD: It’s indicative of the indie world for sure; creative individuals having to think outside of the box in order to survive and thrive. Whether it’s using sites like kickstarter.com or indiegogo.com to ask people for donations in raising funds for projects, to us asking iP members to donate for the service indieProducer has provided them over the years, it’s the same situation. But it’s a good one; it’s saying, “I really want to do this, but I need some help!” Indie moviemakers have always helped each other out, it’s what I love about this peer group. But now more than ever we are asking each other to give a little more and I believe it’s working.

MM: What can indieProducer supporters do to help?

KD: The best thing indieProducer supporters can do to help us is to tell people about our site and promote our iP Short Film Contest and iP Screenwriting Contest, as this is how we find great new talent to promote and how we derive most of our revenue throughout the year. We are dedicated moviemakers and we want to help other moviemakers shine; our contests allow us to do that while they help us sustain the site. We are also still receiving donations and, however small, we are truly grateful for each and every one.

MM: In what ways do you see indieProducer continuing to evolve in the future?

KD: Currently I am in talks with a software builder to provide a distribution platform for independent moviemakers who can’t find a platform to showcase their films and for them to be able to profit from it. We will charge a one-time fee for moviemakers to post their project and they can decide how much they want to charge people to view their film from our site. I’m excited about this prospect because we are now in 111 countries and reach 80,000 moviemakers worldwide—it’s a great opportunity for indie moviemakers to be seen. It’s only in the discussion stage right now; we are looking to see how expensive it will be to implement and how much to advertise the new service, but it’s at the forefront of our plans.

MM: Where do you see the organization in another five years? Another 10 years?

KD: I think that indieProducer has the capacity to be around for as long as there are independent moviemakers wanting to be seen and wanting to connect with other indie moviemakers. We have a two-year business plan that involves some pretty bold moves for iP—but one step at a time, let’s see if we weather this year! MM