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167 12. Making Money YOU’VE SWEATED YOUR GUTS OUT. Your film is finished. It’s taken you six months, a year, two years to make . . . but who’s counting? There it is, and you’re actually quite proud of it. It’s artistic. It’s entertaining. And here and there it’s quite moving and occasionally quite funny. Now you want two things. . . . or two main things. You want to get it out to as broad an audience as possible, and you want the checks to start rolling in. You don’t want to become a millionaire, but it would be nice if the film made some money. So now we come to the crux . . . how do you maximize the financial possibilities of the film, and how do you ensure the greatest distribution potential? How do you make your film connect with the widest possible audience? These are difficult and challenging questions to answer because thewholescenehasgonethroughsuchradicalchangesinthelastfewyears. Basically, you make money from your films in four ways. Two of these have to deal with films that belong to others, and two relate to films that basically belong to you. First, you can make money by being paid for your services. Second, by what I’ll call contract residuals. Third, you can employ a professional distributor to market your film. Finally, you can self-distribute, which is becoming an increasingly popular option. Let’s look at these possibilities, one by one. Working for Third Parties Payment for Services We’ve already mentioned the possibility of your being employed as a director or writer for hire. If you are working for a major cable station 168 / Making Money or a PBS station, you should, with luck, have arranged a good deal for yourself. A reasonable salary for a director in this kind of situation would be at least $400 to $500 a day. If you are working on a major hour documentary and are employed for twenty weeks, you can come away, before tax, with something like $45,000. If the film is also being made under director’s guild rules and has a long life span, then you should also make some money from residuals. Residuals are the small amounts of fees paid to members of the director’s, writer’s, or actor’s guild every time the film is rebroadcast after a certain amount of showings. If you are working as a writer, and the film is covered by the writer’s guild rules, then you could come away with $16,000 or more. This isn’t bad money and will buy you quite a few cups of coffee at Starbucks. In fact, there is only one problem. Your work ends, and that’s the end of payment. And it doesn’t matter how well the film does, you don’t participate in any future profits. This is the biggest complaint I’ve heard from friends of mine who are, or who have been, major directors and have worked for major networks over the years. Here and there, a few of them have seen the light and have set up their own companies in order to maintain an equity in the film. Contract Residues When your company makes a PR film or any other contracted film, you will have drawn up a budget as recommended earlier and put in a goodly sum for yourself as producer and director and, maybe, writer. You may even, as I suggested earlier, have put in a sum for company profit. You know from the start roughly what amount you’re going to make on the film. However, as it’s your production, you are also considering the whole time how to save on expenses without detriment to the quality of the production. For instance, you manage to shoot in nine days instead of ten or edit in seven weeks instead of eight. These savings go to your profit at the end of the day. If we compare payment for services with contract residue, you can easily see why the second is often the better deal. I’ll give you a personal example. In the midnineties, I was asked to produce and direct two, one-hour films for a major-network series. For the first film, along with all the other directors in the series, I was put on staff and paid well for twenty weeks of acting as director and producer. All the general organizing and Making Money / 169 the postproduction work were done...


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