So, you want to be a commercial filmmaker? Something you may not know is that it is a LOT of work. But much of it is the “not fun” part of running a business to be able to be a commercial filmmaker.
Kurt Lancaster has written a couple of books (Like the popular “DSLR Cinema: Crafting the Film Look with Large Sensor Video Cameras [Paperback] by Kurt Lancaster”) and Kurt does a phenomenal job in his new book “Production House Cinema – Starting and Running Your Own Cinematic Storytelling Business” (official CRC publishing page) in giving you the overall requirements for running a successful business.
And, please do not forget this is a business!
I know you want to have fun shooting and directing, but you must also face the fact that you can not support yourself or a family working for fun. You have to be able to make money and you want to make enough to make a profit. No profit, no fun, no life.
Kurt’s book isn’t just about the business side – it covers a lot of the creative aspects of filmmaking. And tho this is aimed at commercial filmmakers, frankly, there is a lot in here for creatives as well.
What I found most intriguing is that Kurt chose to model two superb examples of businesses instead of just setting it up as lecture. In many of the classes I’ve been taking on business and marketing, the masters will tell you to learn processes and to model successful examples in your industry and in “Production House Cinema” Kurt does exactly that so you don’t have to go do the studying on your own. It is a brilliant way to teach.
Kurt chose Stillmotion – Patrick and Amina Moreau were very cooperative in sharing many of their lessons gained in growing from a small wedding filmmaking team to shooting for the NFL and beyond. Of course, the Stillmotion team does their own training which is wildly popular with filmmakers called MUSE (find out more about that here).
Kurt also included many lessons from Zandrak Productions – a team I was not familiar with before i started reading the book but quickly learned how they’d grown quickly and do some great projects.
I wanted to focus on the chapter #5 Making Money because in 2016, i really focussed on changing planet5D from being a business (poorly) run on a spreadsheet to one that uses many proper business processes and manages to turn a profit… something we all hope for and many small businesses simply hope and pray they’re making a profit – gauging the success of the business based on the amount of money in the bank account – which does not work well, believe me I’ve learned that one!
Late in 2015 I started working with an accountant i had met while taking some small business entrepreneur training. And frankly, she’s changed my life! Really. I now have a much much better grasp of where planet5D LLC is and have gotten a tight grip on expenses. No more hoping and praying for me!
And while i’m at it, if you’re really serious about running your business with making a profit in mind, buy and READ the book “Profit First” and if you’re really serious, find an accountant that is certified in the processes taught in the book (and if you are looking for some help in the USA, look up my accountant at VividNumbers.com – she will turn you around!). The idea of thinking of PROFIT with every action you take in your business is really life changing (I said it again because I mean it!).
This is the one thing where I don’t think Kurt went far enough. Of course, in a book with a heck of a lot of ground to cover, most of the topics could be entire books themselves and chapter 5 is a great start and again something most filmmakers don’t think enough about, but I would supplement Kurt’s chapter with the “Profit First” book if you’re really serious about running a successful business. Oh, and get an accountant! I know you don’t want extra expenses… but heck you’re going to hire experts to help shoot/edit/produce the films, so why not hire experts to help with the business side? You don’t want to learn to be an accountant after all right?
With chapters on creativity, gear, and the logistics on running your business to make enough money to feed yourself, as well as 3 case studies that help with crowdfunding and more, this really is a one-stop fount of knowledge for starting and running your business. I would highly recommend any commercial filmmaker pick up the “Production House Cinema” by Kurt Lancaster.
What's in Production House Cinema?
Table of Contents
Foreword by Patrick MoreauIntroduction: The Business of Cinematic Storytelling in a Video Production House
PART I. CREATING AN INDEPENDENT VIDEO PRODUCTION HOUSE BUSINESS
1. Telling versus Showing: The Tools of Cinema in Client-Based Storytelling
2. Creating a Vision: The Cinematic Style Video Production House
3. Making it Legal: Filing an LLC, Writing Contracts, Using Music, and Getting Insurance
4. Building Presence: The Portfolio Reel and Website that Reflects Your Style and Vision
Part II. RUNNING AN INDEPENDENT PRODUCTION HOUSE BUSINESS
5. Making Money: The Cost of Doing Business, Generating Income Streams, Setting Up Invoices, and Planning Your Taxes
6. Developing a Client’s Story: Making a Connection, Finding the Story, and Writing a Pitch, Proposal, and Budget
7. Cinematic Gear: What You Need and What it Does
Part III. CRAFTING THE CINEMATIC STYLE CASE STUDIES
8. A Book Promotion Case Study: From Key Words to Storyboards in Stillmotion’s My Utopia
9. An App Promotion Case Study: Directing with Spontaneity in Zandrak’s Moodsnap
10. Side Projects: Finance and Distribute Your Passion Films
Appendix: Sample Contract and Forms
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(cover photo credit: snap from the book cover on amazon)