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How The Film Industry Will Save The Planet

A couple of weeks ago, I attended The American Film Market in Santa Monica, California. I was there as a Co-Producer for a pre-production film slated to shoot in Montreal, Canada. It was my first year as an attendee, and the 8-day event completely changed my perspective of Hollywood, and gave me a few ideas.

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Image source: www.indiantelevision.com

Approximately 99% of attendees I met while making my rounds were what I’ve started to call the “Minimum Wage of Hollywood”. From an outsiders point of view, these filmmakers are still making bank–roughly $50,000 – $500,000 per film. However, in a world where Robert Downey Jr. makes $50 million per Iron Man sequel, half a million seems like chump change.

Still, these men and women were perfectly content churning out made-for-television action movies, documentaries, sci-fi flicks, and the like. I learned that with a small enough budget, any idea–no matter how outrageous–can be financed by any number of companies. In a sense, it was mind-blowing.

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Image source: www.nwitimes.com

This was especially intriguing to me as a former film school alum. Hollywood is an extremely difficult town to try and move into, and when you’re Joe Schmoe, UCLA film school graduate, the chances of you making it big right out of college are even slimmer. This is where events like the AFM come into play.

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Image source: www.plentygoodblog.blogspot.com

For bigger budget movies and A-list talent, this event wouldn’t be a good fit. But for the indie filmmakers around the world, the AFM might as well be Shangri-La. Eco activism has taken many forms over the years–from outright riots and parades, to hostile disruptions of government events–and film is a growing platform to make one’s voice be heard.

I met a bunch of documentary filmmakers at the AFM, and gained insight into what it takes to film a passion project. The work is tough, the pay is abysmal, but the outcome–namely, finishing the film and finding a distributor–makes the arduous task worth the trouble. I learned from a fellow director I became friends with that the Video-On-Demand route isn’t as bad as many might think.

It certainly doesn’t sound as glamorous to make a TV movie, but if we’re talking about getting your project before the eyes of millions of viewers, rather than the amount of money you might make, then VOD is a godsend for the Indie filmmaker. This goes doubly so for the eco activist filmmaker, who’ll have enough trouble as it is convincing people that the earth is a subject worth making a movie about.

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Image source: www.ecofilmfest.org

If more people realized how helpful these film markets are to the little guy’s in the industry, and put out the effort to attend one or two of them per year, screenplay in hand, we might be able to get some work done. Heck, even Kickstarter can be used to fund good movies. Now, more than ever, the eco activist filmmaker has tools and options at their disposal to see their project from vision to completion, and then repeat.

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