Monday Prescription – Are you using the best feature filmmaking model for YOU?

Hi Film Folk,

The Film Doctor Team bring you another Monday Prescription – this week we tackle Film Business models (budget-size, script, talent attachments), and how to determine the right one for YOU.

Film Doctor - Business Models

The Film Doctor team have seen it time and time again. Filmmakers tearing their hair out trying to make their first feature, trying to EMULATE formulas used by OTHER producers or directors or FOLLOWING the advice of industry seniors who believe THEIR advice to be the ‘correct way’.

This is an argument of rules vs. exceptions. The filmmaker will argue ‘but Tarantino/Rodriguez/Leigh/Kubrick (the exceptions) did x/y/z and managed it’ and the senior will say ‘but they are rare cases, thousands of others haven’t and director/producers who are NOT stars make films THIS way’ (the rules).

Whichever side of the fence you’re on, you will NOT ever know (nor will they) unless you MAKE a feature film. And you can ONLY do this by using a template that specifically fits with YOUR current skill set, contacts and situation. So FORGET what you’ve heard other famous people have done AND what industry seniors are telling you if they are not achievable within your current circumstances.

YOU decide what’s relevant to you, no-one else. All you can do is keep your ear to the ground, hear as many different stories and ways and then implement one that works for YOU!!!

Making a film is a mixture of USING what you currently have and CREATING an environment to make a film. Only YOU know what you currently have and only YOU can create that environment project (are you getting the ‘YOU’ theme yet??)

Today the Film Doctor team share a list of popular filmmaking models for you to scan through. Take a look and see which ones may best suit you and your skills/situation. Don’t see one?? Keep LOOKING/LISTENING. Attend events where filmmakers/distributors/producers share how they did it. You’ll find one and then you can get on your way!!

NB/ The following models/financing ideas will only fit if your script, genre, concept, contacts/friends network allows it. Use them according to your filmmaking preferences and your resources!

FILM DOCTOR - Monsters


Are you a VFX whizz? Is sci-fi/fantasy your genre? Well, no prizes for guessing what we’re going to suggest here and, chances are, you’re already doing it! Create a high-concept screenplay based around a small number of characters and locations and let your post-prod do the talking.

OK, that’s a little reductive. If you’re a lousy writer then you’ll want to collaborate with somebody who has a strong sense of character, structure and plot or look around and try and pick up a low-budget friendly spec script. You WON’T get too far without a great script.

Follow in the footsteps of Marc Price (Colin) and Gareth Edwards (Monsters) and wow audiences (and studios) with your big-budget wizardry on a shoe-string. Listen to this great podcast between Film Specific’s Stacey Parks and Ryan Colucci, who had two very VFX-heavy projects that achieved financial/distribution success recently at the AFM.

Just make sure you have adequate time/team to dedicate to that post-prod!!

 Film Doctor - Peter O'Toole


Now we all know that MAJOR talent attracts finance. But let’s assume that you’re not best friends with Pitt or Depp or Streep and you’re starting from nothing. Let’s also say that you don’t have the cajones to hassle their agents to death/get them for a reasonable price.

What are your options?? Well, you’ve got two either side of who is big now. Who MIGHT be big and who WAS ONCE big.

Scour IMDB and other movie resources to see who’s on their way to being fresh and who isn’t working a lot, or on the contrary is doing a LOT of indie movies lately!

Of course, you do not have HAVE to have actors that were ‘big’. They can be well respected character actors or have a following elsewhere. The important thing is that they ADD VALUE – if not for pre-sales then at least in securing distribution.

Make sure you’ve ‘run the numbers’ through the necessary channels with your producer to ensure you’re not overpaying or working with someone who won’t quite do the trick in adding value (EVERY SINGLE actor friend of yours will say they’re on the rise – that’s fine if they are but if they have limited credits and haven’t built up a fan-base then they can more or less be considered an unknown and unable to add value to your project!)

The whole point of this particular filmmaking model is to help finance it in the first place (MAKE it) and get distribution (RELEASE it) – so make sure you’re picking actors that are worth it!!

You better make sure that your script and concept and characters contain things that will attract those actors then!

NB/ Make sure to spread your risk by having several actors of value in your project. Perhaps one might not cut with distributors. The more the merrier!

Film Doctor - fish Tank

Low Locations

Perhaps VFX isn’t your forte, chasing actors isn’t your thing and your premise isn’t particularly high concept anyway – AND you want to make a movie.

Well, having not having any of the above isn’t exactly a fast-track to distribution/financing but this article is about filmMAKING models (not distributing), so what are you left with??

Keep it simple. Write your script (or buy one) with very few locations. As Dov Simens says ‘take a load of kids to the woods and chop ’em up’. It doesn’t have to be rocket science. Think Saw and Paranormal Activity. There really ISN’T anything standing in your way to make projects like that!! Just write/find a script and shoot it well!!

Don’t like ‘genre fare’??? Well you don’t have to. There are a whole host of filmmakers who made their start with drama (kitchen sink or otherwise). Check out Fish Tank, the work of John Cassavetes, Rainer Werner Fassbinder or any of the mumble-core movement. It might not give you the ultimate rocket to studio movies (if that was your aim) but you can build a solid indie following and get momentum on your side!

Film Doctor - Following 

Weekending and Favours

For some, it’s not the equipment or the story that poses a threat to filmmaking dreams but time! What if you simply can not financially afford to take time off work AND it’s just not your style to get yourself in debt??

Then write a script/build a team that allows you to shoot over a period of weeks (on term breaks or weekends or holiday pay).

Christopher Nolan shot Following over a year on weekends, with a team of actor friends. He made his time and money work for him (more on that here).

Kevin Smith shot Clerks over a 3 week period (no breaks) with a team of friends/family in the store he worked at (free location)  while maxing out 10 credit cards and posing as a student to get equipment discounts.

Stanley Kubrick was actually signing on during the making of Killer’s Kiss (they closed production early every Friday so he could visit the welfare office).

PULL in favours! FIND ways of making your circumstances and the opportunities around you work for you!!


Film Doctor - Clerks


Don’t forget the above will only work if your circumstances and preferred style allow it. FIND what suits YOU.  Just you and a camera?? Look into Tarnation and how it was made. With the right network, innovation and execution, you can achieve anything and get your film made and out there!!


‘Monday Prescription’ No. 84 – Study how other films were made/packaged and what best suits your current situation. Make your resources work for YOU. Don’t have resources? GET them. Don’t WAIT for the perfect circumstances to happen to you. Don’t let preconceptions or what ONE other person has done stand in your way! Find a suitable model and DO IT.

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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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