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Hey dude, why does DIY filmmaking suck?

  • Yes Beavis, DIY filmmaking literally does suck.

    Let me tell you about my experience producing Quality of Life.

    Each day, I worked a full-time day job and then put in 4 - 8 hours more on the film at night. I still declared personal bankruptcy during pre-production.

    Then I was fired from my job for focusing on the film too much instead of my work.

    My girlfriend nearly left me since she never saw me.

    My friends stopped returning my calls for fear I'd ask for favors for the film.

    And in the end, the entire "indiewood" film industry basically ignored us. Sundance, the speciality distributors, the major indie film press outlets and of course just about anyone with money couldn't be bothered.

    And that was all before we decided to self-distribute the movie and things really got rough.

    So listen up: DIY filmmaking is not for the faint of heart. It sucks.

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August 22, 2010



That's exactly how I want to handle my films. I'm hugely inspired by DIY bands; traveling the country, playing anywhere you can while trying to get as much exposure as you can. I want to translate that to film, which obviously other people already have. But how do they present their films? That's the biggest question, yet it wasn't mentioned. I was thinking a digital projector with speakers, but that's a lot of money and then do you also bring a portable screen? Great article and cool blog.

Bad Vegan

Hi Matt, that's exactly the model that many DIY/indie filmmakers do. In the early 2000's, a film called The Debut made grossed a ton of money that way, selling both tickets plus merch. What works best for that model is to have a clearly defined target audience (theirs was a Filipino-American audience so it was very well-defined compared to many indie narrative features).

However, it's VERY labor intensive and still probably a money-losing operation (break-even at best) as with most theatrical. After all, you can only be in town at once and need to market the hell out of your film there to get anyone to see it, especially if it's in a nontraditional setting as you describe rather than a movie theater.

But there are a lot of options for nontraditional venues, such as colleges, K-12 schools, libraries, community centers, churches, even cafes, bars, clubs and restaurants. They may cost a little and the acoustics will likely suck, but you'll find some cheap options and if you partner with the owner of the space maybe get in without paying upfront (sharing the door box office, for instance, as in a traditional theatrical).

Check out this older post for more thinking on alt theatrical:


I'm willing to risk that loss because I come from a small town and I'm not one of the popular film makers around here, so I've been thinking of ways to be more involved in my film community and showing my films in various surrounding cities, because I need to build an audience which I definitely don't have right now.

But again with my most pressing question: How do you project the films at these various locations? Do you buy a digital projector and if so which one do I invest in? Will there be a blog post about this or do you have any ideas/suggestions?


Bad Vegan

Sorry I should have been clearer: most of these existing venues already have some sort of A/V system in place, which is why they are good to use. Renting/buying your own projector and speakers is doable, but a huge pain. Moreover, I would imagine that setting up to accommodate the different acoustics in each location could be a real pain too. Granted, that may be an issue with existing A/V (how many classrooms have great audio?), but it becomes a constant issue.

You definitely get more options for venues if you own/rent your own gear, but it's expensive, a hassle to travel with and set up. And many alt venues already have some sort of projector and speakers built in (even a large screen TV could work).

But if you have your own projector you can do drive-in movies during the spring/summer and that's pretty hip. Highly recommended.

Good luck!


No, problem. Sorry I didn't respond earlier. I was wondering what your views were, because I don't know anyone who practices this model or has any interest/knowledge in it, so I can't really ask what they think; and I appreciate you answering my questions. Like you said it would benefit me to have my own projector but it would be very costly and a hassle.

Thank you very much for you input.

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