Welcome to the burgeoning world of the micro-budget independent filmmaker, where the budget is often determined by the amount of room left on a credit card, the production schedule must accommodate everyone’s day job, and the odds of anyone ever seeing a profit approximate the odds of winning the lottery.
Making a film at any level is an expensive, time-consuming, and arduous undertaking. Doing it without a major studio’s imprimatur and without big money backing you is like swimming the English Channel or scaling Everest – it can be done, but not without powerful commitment and tremendous effort.
Huge, star-driven Hollywood blockbusters with budgets in the hundreds of millions and well-funded, star-driven independent films benefit from wide media coverage, star fan bases, large marketing campaigns, and seemingly endless resources. But micro-budget independent films have none of these advantages. Without the individual support of each fan, they wither and die.
What follows are ten simple ways you can help support that independent filmmaker who is out there struggling against impossible odds to create entertainment for you.
1. See the movie!
It is important to actually go and see the movie. Indie filmmakers work hard to draw audiences to their film. Every person in a seat matters. If you decide to wait until the movie hits Netflix, you run the risk of the movie never getting to Netflix. Go see the movie as soon as an opportunity presents itself.
2. Support the film on social media.
The more people that follow a film, the easier time the filmmakers have of getting distribution channels to take them seriously. A simple way to make a big difference is to “Follow” or “Like” the movie on as many social media platforms as you participate in. So follow them on Facebook, Twitter, IMDB, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.
3. Rate the film fairly on IMDB.
The Internet Movie Database is the primary site for information about movies. While a films rating on IMDB cannot actually tell you if the film is good or bad – especially for micro-budget films – a good rating from you does help the film establish itself. Filmmakers appreciate a fair rating. If you hated the film or don’t feel you can in good conscience give it a reasonable rating (5 or higher), then don’t rate it at all. There is nothing to be gained by slamming a small-budget independent film. Some people, for example, will hit a small-budget film with a lot of 1’s, sometimes when they haven’t even seen the film, but this is just a childish slap at the filmmaker. Be mature. Rate the film fairly.
Of course, if you liked the film, consider writing a short review detailing why you liked it. Unlike with big-budget films, there is a good chance the filmmakers themselves will see your comments.
4. Give them your email.
If the filmmaker have a mailing list, join it. Even if you aren’t interested in receiving updates. The number of people on a film’s mailing list helps a small-budget indie film establish its credibility, and most filmmakers do not inundate their list with emails. An occasional email is a small price to pay for independent film.
5. Like, share, and comment on posts.
Whenever you see a post on social media about the film, don’t just read it. Like, share, and comment on it. All three are significant in increasing the films exposure. It takes a couple seconds of your time, but it does a world of good for the film.
6. Tell them you like the film.
If you like the film, tell them. Micro-budget filmmakers do not have huge marketing companies compiling public opinion for them. If you don’t tell them what you think, they won’t know. Remember, they invested everything they had in an attempt to appeal to you. If they succeeded, tell them. It’s polite. Like saying, “thank you” when a stranger does you a favor.
7. Donate to their crowdfunding campaign.
You don’t have to give a lot to do a lot. Giving $25 to some multi-million dollar Hollywood project is inconsequential and often those filmmakers can get money elsewhere. But giving $25 to a micro-budget filmmaker can make a huge difference. When big stars ask you for money, they often already have access to money; they just don’t want to spend it. When a micro-budget filmmaker asks you for money, they’ve often already spent it and are merely trying to offset some of their own personal financial losses.
Even a single $1 makes a difference.
8. Attend at least one local screening.
If there is a local screening, go see it. If it is playing at a film festival close to you, go see it. Nothing brings joy to an indie filmmakers heart faster than a full theater, and indie filmmakers in your area depend on support from the local community. You may pay a few dollars more than you might at the Cineplex, but you get to meet the filmmakers and actors and help support independent film. I promise you, they are not lining their pockets, they are recouping losses.
9. Buy a copy.
When the film is offered for sale, either through conventional outlets or through the film’s website, buy it. Get a DVD, or a Blu-Ray, or a digital copy of the film. It may cost a few dollars more than a blockbuster in the cut-out bin at Wal-mart, but those dollars many times go directly to the filmmakers and right into the next film. When you consider that some indie filmmakers never see a dime from their efforts, every opportunity to get money to them is worthwhile.
10. If you didn’t like the film…DO NOTHING!
Some people go out of their way to belittle or bring a film they didn’t like down. This has very little impact on a mainstream blockbuster, but it can be devastating to a micro-budget filmmaker. If you don’t like the film, forget you saw it and move on. You have nothing to gain by insulting or downgrading the film. It is a childish attempt to seem superior. Don’t like the film? Do nothing. Think of it this way: Some stranger spent tens of thousands of dollars making you a cake you didn’t like. You may not want to eat it, but why would you go out of your way to insult them? Be considerate. You are dealing with real people and your callous disregard for their work can actually hurt them.