Your Product is You!

That’s right, you are the product. You’re not a PC, you are Apple. People go to find a laptop that has the ram, the connection ports and the touch screen/ fold-y tablet thingy they want. Or they get the cheapest thing they can find. (OK, people don’t really buy laptops any more, that market is in the toilet, but bare with me) People buy  Apple products because they know it will be forward thinking. They know it’ll have a cool slick interface, it’ll talk to all their other apple products and other people will think they’re cool and have a couple extra bucks. You don’t wanna be HP slinging the same laptops Dell and Sony sell in different colors. You wanna be Apple. So what about your films?

It’s Not Films?

It’s an easy assumption to conclude that as a filmmaker, your product is films. I mean filmmakers literally produces films. So of course the first thought is that films are your product. Naaa.

In reality, your films are ancillary products of your filmmaking, your story telling. A filmmakers ultimate stock lies in his potential as a filmmaker. The question isn’t, ‘how good is Moe’s next film going to be?’ The question is, ‘What kinds of films can Moe make if I help him make this next film great?’ The distinction is orientation: people are investing in you, not your movie, but a good movie idea will help. For example, your Christian friends who know you to be a good Christian are happy to see you make a Christian movie, but if your next film is a porno, they won’t want to invest in your films anymore because they can’t trust you. Even if the first Christian movie was great, and your next Christian movie has a great pitch too. Some people might see this as an extreme or niche example, but the point is, people are investing in your character, and many will invest regardless of the project if they like you.

Just like a good company, people want to invest in you. Just like a company, if the leadership is erratic, people don’t want to buy that stock. If money is mishandled, people won’t want to buy that stock. If the executives are a circus, people will want to watch, but they won’t want to buy the stock. People will invest in solid companies that have long term potential even if they start off selling light bulbs, but end up with a portfolio in nuclear power plants. Or if they start selling books online and end up owning 20% of all internet sales and 30% of all internet business services. (GE and Amazon for those of you who don’t follow the stocks.) People invest in good companies, not cool gadgets. You have to be like a good company, not a good film.

A Lot of Films are Just Products

It’s easy to see where the confusion comes from. A lot of ink gets spilt about how much money movies make and how ‘successful’ filmmakers are based on those numbers. But if you think about it, a successful filmmaker isn’t one who makes a popular or profitable movie, it’s the one who makes a comfortable living making the movies they want to make. If no one will give your money to make your next movie and if no one will hire you to make your next movie (before you end up homeless..) then you’re not successful.

So with this context, the question isn’t “can you make a great movie?”, the question is ‘Do people trust you with their money?’

Audience

What about ‘Audience’? Isn’t everyone talking about how having an audience is everything? Well, it’s a lot. Most directly if you have an audience, you can ask them for money to make your next project. Between crowdfunding, Patreon and selling merchandise and ‘access’, you have plenty of opportunities to trade fame for film financing.

Does that make your audience your ‘master’ that you have to constantly please? Absolutely. But again, the audience isn’t so much buying your product, they’re buying you!

Industry

How does the Hollywood Industry fit into this? The industry is paying you to produce a product, and they want their product without you getting in the way. They want the project completed, they don’t want a bad ‘feeling’ about you when it’s done. Project goes over budget? They don’t want to feel bad about you when it’s done. Film flops at the box office? They don’t want to remember bad things about you when it’s done. Is there a big scandal around the project? They don’t want to feel bad about you when it’s done. If they don’t feel bad about you when it’s done, they’ll work with you again.

Pick a genre, pick a role on the film, and you’ll find plenty of folks in the industry, in the unions who screw up projects all the time and they continue to get work. I won’t name names, but we all know of an actor or two who seem to be bad actors in one or two movies a year, year after year. I don’t mean the actors that get lots of peoples money but not your money… I mean the ones who are in financial bomb after bomb, and every film hey have is panned by the critics and lose money at the box office. Or the directors who, you look up their IMDB and they have a long list of studio produced losers. It’s not the movies that get made! People in the industry want to work with people they want to work with. The movie industry is buying you too!

So what?

So now we get into the platitudes: Be nice to everyone, you never know… Build your audience, it’s the first step. Be genuine. Be you. At the end of the day, you are the product. Find who wants to buy it, and get to selling.

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