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Indie Filmmakers Swipe Their Way to Success

By Sally Maison
Published: Monday, January 25th, 2010

Being an independent filmmaker means having to film your own movie and cover its expenses at the same time. Often, amateur moviemakers have to max out tons of credit cards and push their credit scores to their limits just to produce a film. However, with the support they are getting from the public, they know that it is all worth it.

David Spaltro did not just max out 4 credit cards when he was filming Around: Embrace the Fall—he had to use 40 of his own cards. This naturally left his credit score in ruins, but after the film was released in 2008, he juggled his bills and minimized his personal spending to pay down one third of the debts he accumulated from making the film.

Like Spaltro, amateur filmmakers Jeffrey Blitz and Sean Welch used numerous—14—credit cards to pay for the film’s equipment rental, travel, and accommodation. Spellbound, their documentary about eight children who compete in a national spelling championship may have drained their credit ratings, but it won numerous awards and recognitions, including one Oscar nomination.

Despite high credit ratings, many people are not able to get financing from banks because of higher lending bars. Banks are now more reluctant to lend to people who do not have collateral, even if they have top-tier credit scores. With consumer credit drying up, indie filmmakers had to turn to the fans themselves for support.

At some websites, amateur directors post their clips and make their project goals open to the public to get donations from the community. They also solicit cash by offering perks like T-shirts and party invites. Those sites have thousands of members, allowing them to generate funds that could reach as high as $200,000.
However, not only fans do their parts in helping new directors succeed. John Copper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, also credits technology for their success. The empowerment technology brings allowed those filmmakers to do what five years ago was impossible, he remarked.

Of course, the downturn was not all downs for filmmakers and the public alike. Blitz says the high lending standards and difficulty to access loans kept people from acquiring debts they cannot pay. The crunch also brought out the financial prowess of amateur producers, something they were not known for a few years ago. They juggled bills and credit cards just to cover for their film’s expenses, even if it could damage their credit scores and risk their chances of getting loans in the future.

Blitz says his film would not have happened if it were not for his family’s help and the pile of bills he has wrestled with.

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