20 Aug Survey Results
The surveys that we recently conducted were designed to present a quick snapshot of current views and directions in the realm of indie filmmaking. The responses obviously are specific to the present time frame; a year from now it would be extremely interesting to conduct another round and compare the two. I strongly suspect that the changes will be fascinating.
I must also confess that I start talking like a Vulcan when presenting this type of material. Please bear with me. It’s an old habit I have never been able to break.
The surveys were first posted on June 27, 2014; replies were collected through July 31. There were approximately 100 respondents all told, with returns widely scattered among the four surveys.
All who responded, with one exception, identified themselves as working indie filmmakers. At least half work full time as filmmakers, with the remainder evenly split between part-time and spare-time. 67% of those who answered said that their cast and crew are unpaid; 33% are paid, though we do not know at what level. All respondents said that the budgets of their movies fall in the $1,000 to $10,000 range. So the survey results represent the core of the extremely low-budget independent filmmaker community (which was the zone we were aiming for in these surveys).
The majority of respondents are narrative filmmakers (64%); 27% identified themselves as documentary filmmakers, and only 9% as animators. On a personal note, I am a little surprised that the pool of respondents included so few animators. It may simply have to do with an unintended bias within the sample. In turn, 45% say that they are presently optimistic about the current state of indie filmmaking, while 27% are pessimistic.
All the respondents report using social media, and all report that social media have been helpful in producing their film projects. The social media sites were ranked as follows:
Despite the many recent ups and downs involving Facebook, it is still the main focus for social media development. This is definitely something worth following up on a year from now.
Crowdfunding also appears to be the most popular funding source, with nearly 78% of respondents using or planning to use it. Respondents to our surveys who used crowdfunding reported universal success: every filmmaker who used crowdfunding said they had met their crowdfunding goals. The estimates produced by the crowdfunding sites themselves would suggest greater variation in outcomes. But we do know that most crowdfunding sites aren’t very good about presenting detailed data on success rates. For that matter, success in this context, as in so many others, may well be in the eye of the beholder at least to some extent.
The reported success rates are especially puzzling given the crowdfunding sites on which our filmmakers rely:
The sites our respondents overwhelmingly prefer, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, dominate the overall crowdfunding industry. Indiegogo lets users choose either a fixed approach, whereby the project receives nothing if it fails to meet its financial goal, or a flexible approach, which allows users to keep whatever is raised regardless of whether the pre-determined goal is met. Kickstarter, on the other hand, is all-or-nothing: when the user fails to meet its financial goal, it does not receive any money. This suggests the possibility of a bit more of a failure rate than is being admitted to by our survey respondents. This is also an issue for further study.
Also of interest in regard to crowdfunding is the response to the question regarding the development of equity crowdfunding under the JOBS Act. Though most indie filmmakers today are operating under a reward-based system, eventually they will have to learn to use an equity model, especially if and when their production budgets rise. The general view of our survey respondents regarding equity-based crowdfunding is, at best, scattered:
Approximately one-third of the respondents say they have not kept up with these changing developments. This is a problem, because the whole crowdfunding process is undergoing major changes. Our filmmakers need to learn this real fast. Just consider this an FYI. Also of note is that none of our respondents viewed the equity model as a great opportunity for indie filmmakers—another interesting FYI.
Nearly 60% of responding filmmakers have used some form of digital distribution and/or VoD system:
Those surveyed also reported one mention each of IndieReign and Vimeo On Demand.
Respondents’ satisfaction level with digital distribution is very mixed:
Some indie filmmakers appear to be mostly interested in digital distribution as a mean for direct access to viewers (25%). For the rest, it is viewed as crucial in seeking viewers, funding, and just about everything else–in other words, a comprehensive approach to filmmaking and release. This is reflected in their views on the emerging linkage between filmmaking and the internet:
At least 75% view the Do-It-Yourself method of distribution as the important emerging new model. All the respondents, without exception, report being concerned about the possible loss of net neutrality.
The actual experiences of respondents with the traditional model of film distribution, namely theater release, seem to run in a contrary direction. Nearly 60% of those responding to our surveys claim to have had a film that was released theatrically. Oddly enough, a majority of those who answered yes to having released a film theatrically also stated that their movie had a length of release of more than 5 weeks:
These results are, at best, an anomaly: The 5 Weeks or More response defies virtually every piece of information we have about low-budget indie film release.
Last but not least (especially for those of us involved in database scoring systems) are the responses on how people plan their budgets. Not surprisingly, it is roughly a 50/50 split between the age-old approach of basing budget plans on past budgetary experience and making comparisons to the box office of other movies made in a similar genre or vein. None of the respondents report using any type of data- and/or algorithm-based analysis in their financial planning.
And yes, we will be returning to this issue in future articles.
Copyright © Dennis Toth 2014 All Rights Reserved