An Indie Filmmaker’s Manifesto
The room goes dark. Everyone gets silent, and the only sound you hear is the rustle of popcorn.
The studio logo fades up on screen, and you smile in trusting anticipation.
Then you are taken on a journey. It might make you laugh, it might make you cry, it might make you think. It might last for 5 minutes or it might hold you, gripped, for two hours.
But when the credits roll, you are not in the same place as you were before.
You are, somehow, changed.
And I find it fascinating that while everyone shared the same moment, they will describe it slightly differently. It will be both a common connection and unique experience, all at once.
The first time I was able to help people feel that connection, I was honored.
I was also hooked.
When I first started, I edited stories on film, cut by hand.
Today they are told on screens that you hold in your hand.
This is your advantage, if you are willing to step up.
Stay with me, and you'll see what I mean.
I believe what is being taught across film schools today, and what is perpetuated by the “industry” is woefully outdated.
I’m not talking about the techniques of your craft - being a good storyteller is a prerequisite. Thousands of wannabe filmmakers enter the workforce each year, so if you aren’t continually practicing and improving your art, you are at a disadvantage.
Besides, anyone who knows me could tell you I would be the last one to say it’s okay to stop short of producing the best work you can.
Plus, there are plenty of more experienced people who can teach you the production aspect of storytelling on film. (...not just schools, there is a lot to be said for good, old on-set experience).
But today, that’s not ALL you need to be able to do.
You have at your fingertips the ability to reach your audience directly. And I believe that you now also have that as a responsibility.
Because your stories help people put words to their feelings. And the more people that see and hear your stories, the more they have a chance at connecting with one another.
So they’ll feel less alone.
I believe your audience needs you. But no one will care more about getting your work in front of them than you.
What I’m saying is; if all you want to do is make your art, and abdicate the responsibility of helping it reach its intended audience, you are being lazy.
Sadly, most storytellers are lazy. They want someone else to see their work and offer to market it for them.
I hear it all the time. “I just want to create the stuff. There are other people that will take care of the selling. They just need to find me.”
I’m sorry, but waiting to get discovered isn’t a reliable plan for success.
Waiting to get discovered isn’t a reliable plan for success
Maybe lightning will strike and you’ll get into a top tier festival and studios will clamber over themselves to bid on your film. Maybe you’ll win the lottery, too. Some people do.
But the odds are a bazillion to one that you won’t.
If that is all you want to do, though, then you should probably stop reading right now. You won’t like what I’m going to say next...
It takes effort to be a successful storyteller.
And that’s exactly why this can be your great advantage, because most people won’t put in the work.
But those that do, will profit.
A more reliable journey to finding a success with your stories and your films can be distilled down to three principles.
The exact tactics may vary, because every person and every company is unique.
But you can look at successful studios, large and small, and they all follow the same pattern. They all follow these same principles.
Consciously Create A Compelling Brand
To stand out in the minds of your audience, you have to be known for something.
Consumers are, as a whole, pretty risk averse. They choose what they already know. So your job is to get them aware of who you are. To get them to recognize you.
You need to have a compelling brand.
Unfortunately, most creators get a logo designed and call it their brand.
Your brand is much more than that. Your brand is, in essence, your reputation. It’s how people talk about you when you are not in the room.
When you look at your brand in that light, you can see that you may actually have one - whether you create it or not. If you let others form it for you, however, it may not be a strong brand, or it may not represent you the way you want. So you might as well consciously create it yourself.
The best way to do that is through consistency. Making sure that each action you take and each thing you produce is aligned with your vision, and your values.
Because when you consciously make those choices, each little action adds up. You will be building a strong brand presence.
And with that consistency also comes familiarity.
You may not achieve Pixar-level notoriety, but amongst your key audience, people will begin to trust the quality of work associated with you. They will wait in anticipation for what you do next.
Then, when your logo fades up on screen, they will smile in trusting anticipation.
That can become the foundation of a solid, long term business.
Take Responsibility for Building Your Audience
This is where the old model of the entertainment industry is really broken. Gatekeepers after gatekeepers decide if, when and where your work is to be seen.
When you depend on others for getting your stories in front of an audience, you become dependent on someone else for your success or failure.
You need someone else’s permission to succeed. ☹️
The antidote to this is to learn how to target and reach your own ideal audience. Because when you understand the basics of how to market your own work, you take back control over your success.
Learning to market your work is not “selling out.” It is accepting that you and you alone have responsibility for your own future.
Plus, it’s a skill that will serve you your entire life, no matter what business you eventually end up in.
Having the confidence that you can reach your audience and make sales is attractive to potential investors and partners. It changes the conversations you’ll have.
And it will make your life easier. The effort you put in now to build your own audience will pay you back on your next project. You won’t have to start from scratch each time, because you’ll have a base of fans to build on.
An audience list that you own can become an asset for your business. A small number of true fans can sustain a creative career.
Manage Your Business with a Growth Mindset
First, it might help to explain what I mean by a growth mindset. A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or beliefs that you hold. A growth mindset, is one where you believe your talents can be developed, through hard work, good strategies, and coaching from others.
The opposite of that is a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset believes their talents are innate gifts, and hold fast to what they already know.
They stay in their ‘comfort zone’ and therefore, never grow.
As a ‘creative’ sort, you may be thinking that "business" probably isn’t natural for you. So you may have to get out of your comfort zone a little.
You have to want to grow. You have to be willing to ask for help.
Because building a business, especially one based on your passion, is not a straight path. Anyone who tells you differently is lying to you.
I have built, succeeded and failed in many businesses. And each failure taught me a lesson on how to proceed.
At the core of this principle is the ability to stay relentlessly focused on the goal, without being attached to the way you get there. Successful businesses are always measuring, evaluating and adapting.
This is what will turn your hobby into a business.
As I said, it takes effort to be a successful storyteller, but the rewards are great.
Because ultimately, having control over your business means you are less dependent on others to pursue your craft. And isn’t creative independence what you crave?
Even Bigger Rewards
Seeing you build a successful business from your craft has other rewards as well.
I’ll let you in on a secret:
It’s your stories, and the connections they foster, that will heal the world.
It’s that simple. And that important.
And why, when it really comes down to it, that I teach these 3 principles.
This is the big picture.
This is what I believe to be the most effective and fastest approach to building a sustainable business from your craft.
It’s my goal to see you get out of the dark and start making better connections.
- To differentiate yourself
- To build a base of raving fans
- To see your revenue grow and gain creative independence
If you believe, as I do, that the time to rewrite YOUR story is now, then you are in the right place.
And I’d be honored to assist you on your journey.
About Greg Koorhan
Greg Koorhan is a film director, best-selling author and co-founder of Crossbow Studio, a production company specializing in uplifting stories that inspire, educate and entertain.
With 30+ years of marketing and brand-building experience, Greg is on a mission to help more creative entrepreneurs like you reach your ideal audience and build inspiring businesses from your craft. Read more about his story here.