The idea that big budget movies never lose money (no matter how they bomb at the box office) because of merchandising is one of the great myths of filmmaking. The merchandising concept was best summed up by Mel Brooks in one of the few funny scenes in Spaceballs. The formula for success is simple. Make a big expensive movie full of marketable characters and gimmicks. Cut licensing deals with toy manufacturers and cereal companies and fast-food restaurants across the globe. Then kick back and watch the money pour in. Once upon a time, it actually worked that way. Years ago, I saw the living embodiment of this approach. It was just a few weeks before the opening of the 1989 Batman and, while driving across town, I noticed a gentleman waiting at a bus stop in his Batman sneakers, Batman t-shirt and Batman ball cap while sipping a large Batman Slurpee. I suspect he had also eaten a bowl of Batman cereal for breakfast. So the old school theory sometimes works.

Over and over again, the question keeps recurring. What's wrong with indie filmmaking? Depending upon which commentary you read, the answer is: Everything. OK, maybe not everything. Mostly just issues related to finance, production, and distribution. Also some questions about indie filmmakers themselves in regard to their perceived immaturity, narcissistic behavior, and general inability to listen to their elders. I have noticed a generational issue in some of these blog pieces. Some recent articles are actually well thought out and are must reads. For example, David K. Greenwald's piece on "Why Filmmakers Fail" is an essential bit of straight talk for the indie trade, especially item 2 on Greenwald's list (“FAILURE TO COLLABORATE”). Occasionally, some of these articles are instructive. Elliot Grove's list of the 16 Reasons Screenwriters and Film-makers Fail offers a good basic checklist of common mistakes. I especially like items 14 and 15 on his list. Yes, they are the same: “They don't consider other opinions.” This is good solid advice that any number of us have trouble following. I know I do. I am a bit weak on that collaborative thing as well.

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. Overview 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.