Advantages of Joining a Film School

The film industry perhaps has the stiffest competitions that any industry can provide. You can have talent, contacts and the resources to get into the inner circles of the industry and still not make it. None of this work well alone and they don’t even work well together if the most important thing is missing – discipline. If you think you have enough talent to sail through, think again. There are numerous facets to the industry that you may remain ignorant about till you join a film school.

Leading film schools offer multi-disciplinary courses which would give you a wide range of options to choose from. From acting, editing, cinematography to directing you have the whole wide world of entertainment to specialize in. Some schools offer select courses and focus on either one or a few disciplines. While others have an umbrella approach where they start from basics like film history and film theory and go to advanced courses where you can specialize in a particular branch like production or acting.

Advantages of Joining a Film School

Courses – Film courses range from acting, directing to even writing. In a film school you will get a disciplined approach to each field and graduate from the basics to the advanced courses giving you an in-depth knowledge for future.

Network – The entertainment industry is very closely interlinked. Everyone knows everyone here. Most schools create opportunities for their students to meet eminent personalities and the key people behind them. This will be your first stepping stone to creating your own contacts.

Internships – At the end of the courses, the schools put you onto paying internships in the film or TV industry where you learn the ropes from rung one. Your creativity can then find fruition in multiple areas and help you get into various careers with animation studios, film studios and production companies, television channels as well as advertising agencies.

Career Options

Film making – Film school training will help to get easy entry into a career of film making. You will learn all aspects of making a movie from shooting and development, physical production to post-production. It will also include training in financing, distribution and film marketing.

Acting – A focused course in acting is aimed at bringing out the natural talent and blends it with discipline, professionalism and creativity. Many seasoned actors have found their first footing into the industry after their film school training. Many television production houses directly recruit from films schools to get fresh faces for their shows.

Television technology – With the onslaught of television channels there is no dearth of programs to create and manage. You can get training in all aspects of broadcasting technologies, television production and marketing.

Animation and gaming – Animation and game design are the newest big things in cinema and entertainment. With a film school training you can learn the latest digital techniques to create animated films or games in 3D or 4D. These courses usually start with cel animation and then go on to digital courses giving you all-round training.

Technical courses – These include a wide range of disciplines from visual art and design, cinematography, editing, sound and audio engineering.

Writing – Creative writing courses in the film industry can lead to several career options – screen writing, film criticism, film journalism and writing film and television reviews.

The Appeal of Investing in Films

Are films a good investment opportunity? I think they are for the right kind of investor. Here’s why. I have written this in a Q&A style to answer the major questions that prospective investors ask about whether to invest or not.

1. Why is film investment an attractive investment opportunity? Is it because of the high return or because of the nature of business?

For many investors, the high return is a big draw, because films do have the potential for a very large return, though there is a very high risk with a lot of big “Ifs”. A film can do extremely well if it has a good script, good acting, good production value, has a budget that fits the type of film this is, and strikes a chord with distributors or buyers for the TV, DVD, foreign rights, or other markets. Then, if the film goes into theatrical release, it has the potential to have an even larger audience, though theatrical is not the primary source of income for most films, just the big blockbusters, since the theater owners take about 75% of the box office unless a film goes into a long-term release and there is a high costs for prints (though an increasing number of theaters are going digital). The value of a theatrical release is more for its promotional value for gaining other kinds of sales, except for the huge blockbusters.

Despite the potential for high returns for some films, investors in it for the money have to realize that any film investment is a big risk, because many problems can develop from when a film goes into production to when it is finally released and distributed. Theses risks include the film not being completed because it goes over budget and is unable to get additional financing or there are problems on the set. Another risk is that the film is not well-received by distributors and TV buyers, so it doesn’t get picked up. Or even if a film gets a distribution deal, the risk is that there is little or no money up front, so the film does not see any further returns. So yes – a film can have a high return, but an investor can lose it all.

As a result, for many investors, other key reasons for investing are more important. They believe in the message of the film. They like and support the film producers, cast, and crew. They like the glamour of being involved with a film, including meeting the stars and going to film festivals. They see their investment as an opportunity to travel to distant locations for filming and for promoting the film. And they see investing in the film as a tax write-off, much like giving to a charity.

2. What kind of investment returns can investors can expect, since many independent productions are not designed for big screens, where are the sales coming from?

If all the stars align, and there is a good film done with a reasonable budget and distributors, buyers, and an audience responds, the film could readily earn 4 to 10 times its cost, making everyone very happy. A low-budget indy scenario for this level of return might be a film shot for $50,000-200,000. It might get $500,000-750,000 for a TV sale and earn $1-2 million more through DVD, streaming, and foreign rights sales, even without a theatrical release.

For most films, the main value of a theatrical release is the PR value of getting the film known, so buyers will want to purchase or rent the DVD and TV buyers will want to show it on one of the premium cable movie channels. Also, most films don’t get a theatrical release, and the funds are earned through other channels.

3. What kind of movies can usually generate good profits, since the recent Oscar Awards show that a big investment does not necessary mean big returns?

Some of the big blockbusters that pass the $100 million threshold can certainly make a profit from a successful theatrical release, both in the U.S. and abroad. But whether they make a profit depends on their budget. Because of the high salaries of stars that are typical in these films and other high cost items, such as special effects, many blockbusters still may not make a profit. Thus, dollar for dollar, many low-budget indy films may be a better investment, since the multiples are higher with a success; there is more likelihood that a low-budget indy, which is done well at a reasonable budget, will be sold and make back it’s money, and the potential for loss is much less.

4. Are documentaries a good investment opportunity?

Good documentaries are an especially good investment opportunity, since the costs of making documentaries are much lower than for feature films. They can be done with a much smaller crew – even two or three people in the field – one for the camera, one to handle sound and lighting, and another to coordinate arrangements and ask good questions in the field. Post-production can be easier too, with fewer takes and less film to edit for the final cut. Many documentaries are done with a budget of $10,000-50,000, which can easily be recouped 5 to 20 times over with DVD, TV, and foreign sales.

5. Are there any legal or regulatory restrictions preventing individual investors to participate in film investment opportunities?

Generally, if you’ve got the money to invest, the filmmakers will find a way for you to legally to give them the money. Various vehicles include nonprofit corporations, LLCs, private placement memorandums, and loans. A typical requirement is that the individual have the funds to invest funds that might be lost in a risky venture and is advised of the risk of the investment.

6. What are the key risks behind film investments and how do you prevent them?

The key risks behind film investments is the potential to lose it all if the film doesn’t get completed or doesn’t find distribution. The best way to protect yourself is to assess the potential of the feature film or documentary going in; assess whether the budget and expected return seems to be reasonable for the project; and assess whether the producer, director, and others on the film seem to have the experience to complete and market the film

7. How much will be the initial investment required to invest in a film production?

An initial investment can range from a few thousand to several hundred thousand, depending on the film and the way an investment is structured. For example, some indy filmmakers doing low budget films have found creative ways to get funds by inviting investments of $1000-2000 from those participating in the film, such as the actors and crew members. Others have divided up investment packages into $5000 each for 20 investors to raise $100,000. Still others have looked for a few big investors, who can contribute at least $20,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more.

Once there is some investment in place, there can be other sources of funds, such as GAP funding and incentives from states and cities in the form of rebates after filming is completed. VC funds are also a possibility, particularly after there is some initial investment in the film, if the film’s budget will be at least $1-2 million.

8. With modern technology advancements, what are the opportunities for independent and emerging film producers; or are these developments more of a threat due to piracy and competition?

There is a growing opportunity today for indy and emerging film producers to get distribution in alternate ways, such as through the Internet, self-distributed streaming downloads or DVD sales, play on mobile devices, and sales of DVDs or streaming rights to Netflix and Blockbuster. While piracy has always been a concern, new technological fixes can help to prevent this, such as locks to prevent duplication or more than one or two showings of the film. Other protections can come through licensing a film for distribution to platforms like iPhones, which have their own protections against copying.

Certainly, there is more and more competition, because more and more people can make films today, though the big studios and distributors still dominate in the theatrical arena and they have the money to make the big films with big stars and special effects. But the new technologies for production and distribution offer so many more avenues to create and market indy films at a much lower costs. So there are naturally many more films out there from many thousands of producers.

But with creative promotion, filmmakers can help their film stand out among the clutter. They can creatively use the social media, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter to let people know about their film. They can gain recognition on the film festival circuit. They can get endorsements from well-known people. They can mount an e-mail PR campaign to the media. They can rent theaters to set up showings in different cities. They can put on events with their film as a centerpiece. And they can make themselves available to appear on radio and TV shows, as well as for interviews with reporters for the print media. In turn, all of these activities can help to sell their film to distributors and buyers for TV, DVD, foreign, and other sales, while attracting a growing audience for the film, making distributors and buyers even more eager to promote the film.

So, yes, indy films can be a great investment for certain films. And whether you make money or not, an investment can open u p many opportunities for more involvement in the film industry and for having fun.

Copyright © Gini Graham Scott 2010. This article can be shared with others personally if the whole article is included, along with the bio at the end of the article. Please contact the author directly for republication rights.

Difficulties Implementing Technology Threatens Industry

It’s no secret that new types of technology can create problems, but apparently HDTV has created some unforeseen problems with consequences that could be surprisingly far reaching. The problem that HDTV has created is namely the fact that many local TV stations are refusing to let satellite TV companies and cable TV companies use their HDTV signals without paying for them.

According to federal law TV providers can’t use the content from local TV stations without permission. And historically, that permission has been granted to sat casters and cable TV companies in exchange for some pretty nominal fees or for promotional consideration.

HDTV has changed that. Instead of providing HDTV signals in the same way that standard def signals have been provided in the past local TV stations- and in many cases that large companies that own a bunch of TV stations- are now demanding significantly more money in exchange for their content. Some figures estimate that TV stations want up to fifty cents for every household that their content is provided to. While this may not sound like much money, when you multiply it by all of the households that the content is supplied to and figure that several stations in any given market are requesting similar amounts of money, that adds up to a pretty significant sum.

The extra money that the TV stations and the companies that own them want is supposedly justified by the fact that HDTV programming costs more to produce than standard def programming. That’s because of the fact that sets for HDTV need to be built bigger in order to accommodate the wider viewing area of the High Def camera, and HD programming requires new and expensive equipment for the filming and editing of HDTV programming. Even local stations have to make upgrades in order to broadcast their news programs and any other local programs in High Def. Of course the other angle of this request for more money could also be attributed to the growing corporate trend of trying to milk profit whenever and wherever possible.

Of course the cable TV and satellite TV companies are trying to resist this any way that they can. They say that they don’t have the obligation to pay in order to carry the channel for two reasons. First, they never have in the past, and second, that same program content is available over the air for free so why should they- and by extension their subscribers- pay for that same content.

Many industry insiders are crying foul about this whole problem though for several reason. (And these are the farther reaching consequences mentioned earlier.) For one thing, many people are claiming that because the subscription services aren’t providing these channels, the subscribers can’t get their local channels. (This seems like a weak argument because, as already pointed out, those channels are already available over the air for free. Apparently the subscribers in question are too lazy to set up an antenna. And if they can’t receive the signals with an antenna, then it’s debatable whether or not those channels are really local for them anyway!) The other major problem is that there’s a fear that if people can’t get their local channels, then they won’t be satisfied with their HDTV sets and then won’t recommend the sets to their friends. That in turn will slow down sales of the sets and jeopardize the planned conversion to digital TV in 2009.