NPR’s Morning Edition on the Tribulations of Indie Filmmakers

NPR’s “Morning Edition” today ran a story on the difficulties independent filmmakers face in getting their work distributed. Following the theme of the piece’s the pessimistic title — “Indie Filmmakers: ‘Chicken Little Was Right’” — the article presents some sobering statistics. Film executive Mark Gill, formerly with Warner Independent and Miramax, points out that of the 5,000 films with budgets under $10 million that are submitted to Sundance each year only about one-half of one percent ever make any money in the theaters.

More bleak words from Gill:

“Good enough isn’t anymore,” Gill says. “We used to say that mediocrity will be punished. Now, the good will be punished. You have to be very good, or great, or you will die.”

(For more depressing statistics from Gill, see his recent piece in IndieWIRE.)

Yet despite the daunting numbers, the NPR piece goes on to underscore a point we’ve made before about the power of niche communities to support small-budget, independent films.

John Sloss from Cinetic Media recounts his history with Ulee’s Gold, a story about a beekeeper played by Peter Fonda:

“All of a sudden, all these beekeeping societies started contacting us, wanting to buy videos and book screenings,” says Sloss. “I realized that if beekeepers are a community, there are an infinite number of communities any number of films can be marketed to.”

As we’ve discussed previously, indie filmmakers need to tap into communities — both physical and virtual — and find ways to create “events” around their film presentations to help carve out a profitable niche for their work.

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