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Reflections of a Black Independent Filmmaker

Reflections of a Black Independent Filmmaker DVD sales in the age of Internet and Blu-Ray Doom and Gloom. That’s was the pervasive feeling at the last AFM in Santa Monica. As someone who made my small urban movies on the fringe, I never really felt the pressure as most of my mainstream counterparts. The urban genre always had a built in audience, and not just black people as you would think. Because the African-American audience and to a large part the “Hip-Hop” generation is normally under represented as far as selections at the multi-plex, home video has always been fertile ground for black filmmakers. In fact is been something we depended on.

Under attack. The film business is now on the same precipice, that the music industry found itself on 10 years ago. Shifting attitudes about the delivery systems meant the end of the CD Album as viable way to monetize the music business. The first to be hit was the small independent record labels, followed by the big record companies. One by one the giants continue to fall. This change is now being seen in the DVD market.

Because of bandwidth issues and problems with uniform codec standards with video software, video delivery via the internet was always difficult. Thus protecting DVD sales from the shifting attitudes about delivery until now.  Mobile media (ipods, laptops, cell phones) and generation of internet savvy users is changing everything.  Ultimately, Redbox, Blockbuster, Hollywood video are in trouble.  And no, this is not a shift in format preference. ie …VHS to DVD or DVD to Blu-Ray. It won’t matter if your program is presented in HD or not.  This added to the glut independent features, makes it a buyers market. Think about it. You got independent features out there shot for 1-3 million dollars for distributors to cherry pick from. And even those titles they buy for pennies on the dollar. Advances for 30-40K are now more common place, or in most cases, no advance at all.

What can you do? First, embrace the technology. Digital filmmaking changed independent filmmaking forever. So, if you haven’t used the technology, you should it as a means to push your production cost as low as possible. The cheaper your film the less money you have to recoup for your investors. Which translates to more choices when deciding on a distributor. Two, include the DVD marketing money in you budget.  The days of the studio financing the marketing campaign for the DVD of your film were generally a certainty if they decided to distribute your film. But, with the economy being what it is and the DVD market shrinking, the only way to guarantee a solid distribution deal, and again have a lot of options, is to come to the table with your own marketing money. In fact most dirstrib’s will give better backend percentages for your film and you’ll take the aspect of “creative accounting” by the distributor out of the equation. Lastly, don’t skimp on the DVD bonus material and extras. When people rent or purchase DVD’s, they want that extra value. Independent films which are still found primarily on DVD and not Blu-Ray. Studio’s mainly put bonus material on their Blu-Ray discs in order to drive those sales of the home video releases of their theatrical release.  Bonus material (commentaries, behind the scenes, stills, music videos) will help convince the cost conscience consumers who are seeking value to purchase or rent your DVD.Ultimately, planning is your best tool. I hope this helps.  (Original post on ScriptShark)

Greg Carter has produced 13 feature films and documentaries, 8 of which he has also directed and 6 he wrote.  In recognition of his outstanding contributions to film and the community, Greg has been inducted into the Texas Filmmakers’ Hall of Fame and has received numerous awards, including Best Director and Best Film 30th Parallel Film Festival (“Fifth Ward”); Gold Remi for Best Feature World Fest Houston International Film Festival (“Resurrection: The J.R. Richard Story”);  and Best Docu-Drama San Diego Black Film Festival (“Waters Rising”); When his schedule permits, Greg enjoys teaching filmmaking which has included teaching filmmaking to underprivileged youths through his association with SWAMP. He founded the Fifth Ward Young Filmmakers’ Project in 1992 receiving an recognition from the Mayor of Houston for his public service and contribution to the community.

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