Growing up I definitely never thought of myself as an entrepreneur. Yet, if you’re an independent moviemaker, chances are that at some point (if you haven’t already) you will need to shift from looking at yourself as a pure artist to a businessman of some sort. I’m not talking about becoming some stiff in a suit. I never went to business school and trust me that’s not what I’m advocating at all. (I mean, this is coming from someone who got into movies because of Jean-Luc Godard.)
I’m just saying that being an independent moviemaker suggests that you have a certain amount of freedom and unless you are honest about how much movies cost and the importance of recouping what you spend, at a certain point you probably won’t be making movies anymore. Or you will, but in a way that’s much more dependent. This is a large and at times really nasty pill to swallow. (I’m taking more than my share of big doses of it right now.) Self-releasing is all about being an entrepreneur. It’s a monumental risk. And even some of the certainties don’t seem so certain.
Just like every director should probably do some acting to become more sensitive to the entire craft, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea if every moviemaker distributed a movie at some point during his or her career—if for no other reason than to make one empathize with the challenging job every distributor faces.
Let me tell you what I mean exactly: We are opening the movie theatrically in the Shreveport area. The money came from this area, and we shot the entire movie here. However, what does that really mean for us? In other words, how many people in the area can I count on to pay money to see the film in the theater? I honestly don’t know. And this is where things get complicated. In order to open the movie properly in Shreveport, there are upfront costs. These costs can only be recouped if enough people pay to come and see the movie. (And remember, this is my safest market. In fact, I don’t think it ever really gets any safer than this.)
So those costs I was mentioning: First off, I have to hire a local PR film. Without them, it’s unlikely that I would be able to build the necessary awareness for our theatrical opening. Also, as I mentioned in a previous post, I have already had to pay the MPAA to rate the movie. Otherwise, two of the three main theaters in the area would not have even considered playing it. Lastly, depending on what theater(s) ends up showing the movie, I might also have to pay them an up-front rental fee if it is a four-wall situation. This is scary. What if only 500 people come and see the movie? That is a lot of capital that I have fronted and can no longer expect to recoup.
I never thought of myself much as a risk-taker. In fact, I really don’t like risk very much at all. And if you told me 10 years ago that as an independent moviemaker, I would have to be part artist/part entrepreneur, I wouldn’t even have known what that meant. But now I don’t think there is any way around it: You want to be an independent moviemaker, you better learn how to run a business. You might want to be an artist that people can’t wait to throw money at to create something, but, when you wake up, you will have to decide if you can roll up your sleeves and become an entrepreneur or forever talk about this pipe dream of making movies.
After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of The Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors.