You can learn a lot of business tips from independent movie producers. It's amazing what you can learn!
First, what is an independent movie producer?
An independent movie producer is the person who organizes all the resources to put the movie together. They are different from "producers" at the major studies. With an independent movie producer, it's much more like a small entrepreneurial operation. They need to make every cent count, and in the end, the movie has to make money.
The independent movie producer organizes everything. They get the money from somewhere to make the movie. For example, to make his first movie, "Evil Dead", Sam Raimi had to go around and get money from a lot of independent investors. Kind of like the movie equivalent of "angel investing". (More recently, Sam Raimi is known as the director of the "Spiderman" movies.)
An independent movie producer also hires the director and the casting director. It's the casting director who then screens and hires the actors to star in the movie.
In short, the independent movie producer is the top person who organizes the whole thing. In a business, that's the same role played by the entrepreneur.
So how exactly does this relate to business?
Well, there are two types of businesses. There's the type of business where one or two people do all the work. Robert Kiyosaki calls this being "self-employed". You can see it most often with doctors, dentists, and lawyers. Many freelance copywriters and other freelance writers also have this type of business. One of its hallmarks is that you have to do a large part of the work. If you go away or take a holiday, the money-making stops.
The other type of business is where one person organizes it all, but only does some of the work, or sometimes even none at all. However, they are the person who brings all the "pieces" together so the business can function. That's the role of the entrepreneur. Robert Kiyosaki calls this being a "business owner", as opposed to being "self-employed". He sees this as essentially the ultimate goal in business.
By the way, Michael Ross's book "The Art of Leverage" is a great book for learning more about how to put this into action. I especially like his concept of a "control center". Check out the "Art of Leverage" to find out more www.artofleverage.com
Now, the independent movie producers I'm talking about have to make a profit. In some places, people who want to make a movie can get government grants to finance the movie. These movies don't need to make a profit in the end for them to survive, because the money was a "gift" to them (they never have to pay it back). In this article, I'm not talking about these people who get gifts of government money, but instead about independent movie producers who raise money from private sources, and have to make a profit or they go out of business.
Making a profit means they have to take in more money than they spend. That's exactly like an entrepreneur, organizing any other type of business.
Here are a few examples of these movie producer/entrepreneurs you can learn from...
One of my favorites is Roger Corman. He's known as a bit of a "cult" movie director, but although he was a director earlier on in his career, for most of his life he's been a movie producer. However, many of his traits as a movie producer were already there when he was a director.
He gave many Hollywood stars their first big break - by paying them peanuts. For example, people like Ron Howard (in his capacity as a director), Francis Ford Coppola (as a director), and Jack Nicholson (as an actor) got their first big breaks working for him (and getting paid peanuts in return).
Corman is known for being "very cheap"! He doesn't pay much. But he's able to attract great talent, very early in their careers, because he offered people an opportunity to get "their foot in the door" in the movie business.
Roger Corman knew he had to be "cheap" - because he had to make a profit in the end. And the more money he spent, the less likely it was that he'd make his money back, with some profit added on as well.
He even "reused" some of the sets for one movie in his later movies. In one case, he shot a movie, "Bucket of Blood" - and he was a few days ahead of schedule. Most people would pack up early and go home. Not Roger Corman. His writer quickly wrote a whole new movie. He then shot it with the same cast as his earlier movie - in 2 days! That movie was the "cult classic", "Little Shop of Horrors". (The original 1960 version, not the 1986 musical remake.)
One of his movies, "The St. Valentine's Day Massacre", was about Al Capone and Chicago gangsters. But he was able to get the movie set from the movie, "My Fair Lady", really cheaply. Only problem was - "My Fair Lady" is set in London! So - even though the movie was set in Chicago - the buildings all looked like they were from London! But - he saved money - which made it easier for him to make a profit in the end, because he didn't waste so much money.
Roger Corman is probably one of the most prolific independent producers. According to IMDB, he's produced 379 films to date, and he's still producing new movies today, at age 81.
If you want to learn more about Roger Corman, you can read his autobiography, called "How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime".
Another independent movie producer is Myrl Schreibman. He wrote a book about independent movie producing, called "Creative Producing From A to Z".
Schreibman has only made a few movies, unlike Roger Corman. However, one of his movies was a very low-budget science fiction movie made in the 1970s, called "The Clonus Horror". The plot from this movie was allegedly copied by the recent (2005) big-budget movie, "The Island". Schreibman sued Dreamworks and Warner Bros. over that, and eventually reached a 7-figure (that is, over a million dollars) settlement.
Another independent movie producer is Christine Vachon. She's mostly notable for having produced some very controversial movies. For example, one of the movies she produced was "I Shot Andy Warhol" - which was the story of Valerie Solanas, who tried to kill the artist Andy Warhol in the 1960s. Her book about movie producing is "Shooting To Kill". According to IMDB, she's produced over 50 films.
Another great independent movie producer to mention is Herschell Gordon Lewis (though he's better known as a director). He's known for his "schlock" horror movies from the 1960s. He's sometimes known as the "Godfather of Gore" - that tells you something about what his movies are like. They say he started the "splatter film" genre.
Nowadays, though - Herschell Gordon Lewis is better known as a copywriter! He's written over a dozen books about copywriting. You can see his web site at www.herschellgordonlewis.com
. Yes, it's the same guy!
So, in conclusion, studying independent movie producers can be an interesting way to learn more about how business works - especially the "non-self-employed" types of businesses. And this kind of knowledge could become even more useful and important, as the web has become used as a way to distribute short films and movies!
P.S. Hope you found this "alternative" take on business interesting and stimulating!