How have I not been to the IFP Filmmaker Conference before?  It’s such a wealth of resources and people right in our own backyard.  This week I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the conference and took five meetings with industry insiders during their Meet the Decision Makers day.  Overall, I’m very impressed with how much information is available and how well the conference was put together.  Rose, the producer of the event, kept sessions on time and flowing and programmed an event of relevant panels that did a great job of arming independent filmmakers with pertinent information to help them in a challenging and ever changing industry.  Here are a few of my most memorable take-a-ways.

Number One – DO WORK!

A major theme of all panels and all meetings was that now more than ever, the filmmaker needs to work their ass off in a number of disciplines if they hope to get their movie made and seen.  I know this doesn’t seem like a revelation but to many it was.  Obviously making a good independent movie takes a ridiculous amount of work, but that’s just where the work begins.  These days a successful indie creator not only has to be a great filmmaker, but also must serve as a financial wiz, die hard marketer, social networker, distribution expert, designer, web specialist, festival guru, travel agent and more.  All this obviously leaves many filmmakers wondering when they’re going to all this work.  Unfortunately, there’s no good answer here and this means that many great films will get made that are never seen because no one is doing the legwork beyond getting the movie made.  Don’t let this happen to you.  If you’ve gone through the trouble of dedicating your life (and probably your wallet) to making your film, don’t stop there.  Keep working.  Ask favors, read books, send the emails, make the calls, go to IFP, make connections, all in an effort to get your movie seen by as many people as possible.

Number Two – Stay Current.

I was about to say, lots of things are changing, but that’s not true.  Everything is changing.  In the film world and more specifically the indie film world, nothing is as it was ten or even five years ago.  Distribution, finance, production techniques, equipment; everything in our realm is different and will probably be different again by the time I get this post up.  Do whatever you have to do to stay up to date with it all.  I’m buried in the indie film world and yet I somehow hadn’t been introduced to TUGG or Slated.  Two great emerging technologies that stand to really have a positive impact on our industry.  It’s a great example as to why events like IFP’s Filmmaker Conference are so important.   Read more, connect more, talk more to your peers, not to mention establish more relationships with your peers, so you can have a fighting chance of keeping up with the evolution of this business.

Number Three – It takes a Village.

The natural culmination of number one and number two is that you have a better chance at success if you don’t go it alone.  Surround yourself with great people.  It’s the same with any endeavor really so this comes as no surprise either, but the indie films that succeed have great teams behind them.  Often times we get caught up in our own projects and because we dedicate so much time, money, effort, etc into birthing these screen gems, we have a hard time letting others in.  Do it.  Take a step back.  Accept help.  Seek it out.  The more people who are experts in their own field that you can involve in your project, the better.

The room fills up as another panel is about to begin. 

The room fills up as another panel is about to begin. 

So while those tid-bits give you a few things to think about, let me also pass along a couple concrete and actionable pieces of advice that were echoed on more than one occasion during IFP.

  • You need to be fanatical about growing your email list.  This is essential for when you want to rally your audience when you have a finished film.
  • If you’re creating a film you must have a Facebook page for that film.  Having a robust Twitter following is a plus too.
  • If you’re blessed to get into a top tier festival like Sundance or TIFF, hiring a publicist for the event is a must.

There is certainly more to be gained from IFP’s Independent Filmmakers Conference than I can offer up here, so next year you should plan to go.  In the meantime, IFP has been generous enough to post up videos of all of the panels this year so check them out.