How rich can I get from filmmaking

Earning money with film or video: the rules of the market

Film is a brilliant medium. At least until you want to earn money with it. Because in this case, the following applies: “If you want the best, you have to taste the bitterest!”.

In this series of articles, Filmpuls addresses all of the essential questions that make the difference between financial success and economic failure in the film and video business.

For our series, we not only examine different segments of the film industry, but also consider and explain the most important basic mechanics of the economy. We help you to place your own work in the film sector or as a video producer in the overall context of the market. This allows you to review your own strategies and, if necessary, sharpen them.

Make money with film or video

The article series «Earning money with film or video» consists of 4 episodes:

This first part is about the basics of making money. Then, in the second part, we look at the value chains of individual areas. Part 3 is about the question of marketing, because somehow the customers have to find you.

In the last article on making money, we take a look ahead. This in the knowledge that the future always needs a past, from which certain conclusions can be drawn for the film industry and the video business.

How, where and when do I earn money with film and video?

There are questions that seem pretty stupid at first glance. One such question is how to make money with film or video. You will spontaneously answer that you simply have to offer a service that someone pays you. This offer can be your workforce, your knowledge, your talent, your experience, possibly also a tool (a camera, sound equipment).

Nevertheless, there is much more to this question. It touches on the fundamentals of how our economic system works. Earning money with film and video also follows these superordinate rules of the game. These not only decide whether you will make money, but also how much and for how long.

Let's take a look at these rules one by one. To do this, we imagine we are in the fortunate position of being an investor. Why? Because every halfway successful investor always asks four basic questions before investing.

These are the same questions that you have to ask yourself if you want to make money and a living from film or video.

1 What problem does your offer solve?

Haha! you will say, I would have thought of something like that myself! You're not the only one. Nevertheless, an endless number of freelancers and business ideas have hit the wall because of this question, fully motivated while earning money. First, because you are not the only one who has to recognize the problem. Your customer really has to have the problem. What does that mean? Many people want to solve problems that exist, but no one is willing to dig into their wallet to solve them.

So your first question is always:

Am I solving a problem that my prospect even sees? And will it continue in the future?

Imagine you were born with excellent hearing. If frequencies overlap in a sound mix and thus (destroy) the dynamics, you hear it immediately. The professionals in the recording studio are genuinely impressed with your ability to analyze audio tracks in real time. But the producer who should pay you does not hear the nuances that only you are able to discern. Even if you explain to him what it is about, he will answer you: «The audience of my films has never complained about the soundtrack, why should I change anything? If so, I'll invest in scripts or actors! "

For example, if you're a focus puller, the Sony PXW-Z90 should scare you when it comes to making money. It shows where the journey is going. At some point in the not-too-distant future, an algorithm will possibly pull the focus even with complicated camera pans. If the sharpness is no longer a problem in complex productions, this problem does not need a solution.

2Earning money: can your offer be scaled?

Your second question is about whether what you do can only be sold once. Or several times. This does not mean that you can sell your service (like working days) several times in a row. To put it simply, economies of scale revolve around the question of how you can optimize processes or how you only produce something once that you can then sell to many people.

As a film lighting technician, you sell your life in the form of work to earn money. Be it by the day, by the week or for a feature film for a longer period of time. You cannot commit to a second shoot at the same time (at least until human cloning is legally permitted).

It is different if you have the rights to a feature film. Once produced, you can sell the same film in dozens of other countries (assuming you don't have a feature film that no pig wants to see). If the film is a success, possibly even worldwide, a very nice sum of money comes together.

Even if in life possible economies of scale in film and video usually correspond directly to the risk (state-subsidized films are the exception, which confirm the rule), without this possibility of multiplication you will bake smaller breads in making money than vice versa.

It is different when it comes to making money if you let other people work for you and have your own company. Here, too, you carry more risk, but you earn directly and indirectly with every employee that you can charge a customer.

So if you have a choice, you will strive to sell more than yourself and your labor.

3How easily can your offer be copied?

Investors also call the question of copying the entry threshold. When it comes to earning money, this means the question of how easily a service or product can also be offered by other participants in the market. You've probably guessed it since the first sentence in this section: The question of the entry threshold is currently a killer for the film and video business.

Job titles are not protected in the video industry and in the film business. Equipment is always cheaper to buy and hardly any customer feels obliged to the local trade or the long-term business relationship.

The mechanism for making money is as fatal as it is simple:

The more frogs croaking happily and offering the same service as yours, the less you can demand for it. Even if you not only claim a higher quality, but can even show it or prove it.

This is because the first question comes back into play immediately: Does the client really have a problem with the quality of his image film from his point of view? Does it damage the product film if the color correction is done automatically with a plug-in instead of in the Da Vinci by an experienced color grader who has already color-coded Lady Gaga's music videos?

Let's be honest: As a rule, the quality problem for the customer is not one.

4Do you have the knowledge, experience, and talent?

If you are in the privileged position and you have found a field to earn money with film and video, with which you can solve a problem from the customer's point of view with a multipliable approach that is difficult to copy, you’re at the last, but simple one sometimes hard question. Hard, because the film business is always about talent.

You have talent or you don't have it. You are born with it, even if your talent may later be promoted at a film school. Like beauty, talent is neither fair nor democratic. There is no right to it.

After all, there are over half a hundred professions in the film - but you will only survive in each of them if you have talent.

It is easier with experience. If you want, really want, you will gain the necessary experience over the years. This also applies to the indispensable film knowledge. The way is open to you here. Nevertheless, you need all three elements for economic success: knowledge, experience and talent.

★ Additional rules for making money with film or video

While it's getting easier (from a technical point of view) to frolic in the film industry (which, as we've seen, makes it harder to make money), unwritten rules also determine your success in making money.

Making films has a lot to do with trust. That is why it is not only availability, price and quality that determine your economic progress, but also your network. The Internet, with its wealth of information, has not changed that.

You trust people you know. Not information and data.

That is why you will usually need at least two to three years before you can really stand on your own two feet in the film business and receive fairly fair compensation. The advantage of this is that if you have the necessary perseverance and willingness to make sacrifices, you will gain an initial advantage over your competitors with your perseverance.

Continuation of the series about making money in the film business

The next article in the series “Earning money with film or video” uses examples to explain why salaries and earning opportunities can differ depending on the activity and type of film. Part 3 of the series is then about marketing and selling yourself or services, while the last, fourth part shows possible scenarios for the development of the market for moving images.