Wednesday, March 13, 2013 | By: Angela Brown

What an Award-Winning Filmmaker Can Teach Writers about Going Indie

***Today we welcome Writer and Director Nicole Ayers to shed a bit of her own personal light on the Indie path.

Take it away, Nicole :-) ***

Upon receiving my first camcorder in high school, it would be fair to predict that I might become an investigative reporter or documentary filmmaker. Having completed writing a feature length screenplay long before my 16th birthday, however, there were more commercial aspirations in store for me. I had my sights set on golden statues and seven-figure paychecks for directing summer blockbusters like “Jurassic Park.” There was just one problem: I didn't exactly know how to get from point A -- being a high school senior with big (albeit, somewhat naïve) dreams of making movies to point B -- being one of Hollywood’s top directors.

Making films independently outside of Hollywood has become the solution to this problem, giving me the satisfaction of bringing a script to life without being stuck in years of development hell and corporate red tape – an option that aspiring writers may want to consider for novels or works of non-fiction. Here are some benefits I've found in choosing an indie film route that can work to a writer’s advantage when pursuing your dream of being published.

We Don’t Have to ask for Permission
As an indie filmmaker, I don’t have to wait in line, cross my fingers and hope that somebody gives me the green-light and a chance to direct movies. Plus, I believe it would be silly of me to call myself a “director” without having actually directed something. While finding projects to work on has come fairly easy since I write my own screenplays, I've also directed a short film for a fellow writer. None of these opportunities required me to seek permission from a large studio.

Similarly, as a writer, you already have the material needed to create books or magazines that people are willing to read. The indie route puts all the power in your hands, where making it available to these audiences is concerned. You can either decide to watch from the sidelines, as indie writers release their books while you wait for the publishing company of your dreams to grant you permission to do the same. Or, you can take charge of the direction in which your dreams will come true and challenge the publishers to catch up to speed.

The Cost of Entry is Low
I realized that it would cost me a lot of time and money trying to be a carbon copy of Steven Spielberg. However, if I could make something that people want to watch -- the way Robert Rodriguez did with “El Mariachi” or the way Joe Swanberg did with “Kissing on the Mouth” -- then I don’t need to depend on a studio to go into production. I am not limited to hustling in California, nor the pressures of accepting unsavory distribution deals just to pay back millions of dollars to investors. Indie budgets are usually small, offering a chance to turn a profit sooner than later. The VOD, streaming and print-on-demand markets also make it easier to reduce marketing and distribution expenses.

You can use the low cost of entry that an indie route offers, to release your first book in a small press run and build an audience. This opens up options for your subsequent works because you can weigh potential results of any future publishing offers against the response that you've received so far, from a built-in reader base. Becoming an indie publisher gives you the option of going direct to your audience or giving it up to a larger company. In either scenario, you must have something to release!

There are no Hard Set Rules….Just Innovation, Adaptation and Inspiration
Studying the success of other indie filmmakers helps me realize that I can carve out my own path with a bit of creativity and hard work. Short film director Fritz Donnelly sold thousands of DVDs featuring several of his works and he even released a sequel that did very well. His films were also exhibited at many venues in New York. Filmmakers Todd Sklar and Jay Craven took their films on tour, the way musicians do, which led to them gaining press in local markets. Both Craven and Sklar were able to keep all of the profits while also building an email list of fans that are eager to learn about the release of their next projects. Skylar’s success has also enabled him to get distribution deals for his films.

Look at success stories within and beyond the literary world to find useful tips for trying to market your own work. Inspiration can be had by paying attention to trends in music, art and the creative book release strategies of self-published artists. A few years ago, I interviewed an author named Lakeshia Rivers Ekeigwe whose self-published book, “The Truth about Being Single” was launched through intimate ladies night themed parties. In addition to giving her a growing fan-base, this book has become a launch pad for her personal development coaching business. Her strides in book sales as well as in the coaching business is a testament to the fact that an indie route can move you closer to living your writing dreams, on your own terms – so long as you’re open to new ideas and opportunities.

In school, filmmakers are taught that the path to directing movies is getting a job as an assistant and then working our way up to eventually getting the chance to helm one of the large Hollywood studio pictures. Studying independent filmmakers such as The Duplass Brothers and Maggie Hadleigh-West, however, has helped me realize that the path to making movies is – making them – which sometimes mean bucking the mainstream system! So, that is just what I've ended up doing and it has led me to winning a golden statue, of sorts, at the very first film festival that I ever attended as a director. It has also helped me receive movie writing assignments from large media outlets, learn about great films that are not playing at a theater near you, and develop projects about topics that I care about – on my own terms!

Who are the indie authors inspiring YOU these days?

Nicole Ayers is the writer and director of "Abyss," a dramatic narrative about the troubles surrounding a marriage proposal that leaves an Army Officer stranded at a bus stop in Philadelphia. "Abyss" is currently raising funds for the film festival and television premieres…your contribution will make this happen!

She is also available @MadlabPost on Twitter


Sheena-kay Graham said...

I was inspired by Amanda Hocking, she has a traditional publisher now but when she was 100% indie it was fabulous. Her work still is. Nicole sounds like a great individual and an inspiration. Glad you wrote about her Angela.

Angela Brown said...

Nicole is wonderful and inspiring in the strength she displays forging her Indie trek :-)

LD Masterson said...

Very interesting interview. My thanks to Angela and Nicole.

Nicole said...

Sheena-kay Graham,

That sounds like a perfect example of writers going indie even after they were able to nab a publisher. Hocking gets to take her audience with her, without having to start over from scratch.


Thank you for hosting me today and thanks for all of your kind words. I am glad to be able to be a part of your YA writing world! :)

LD Masterson,

Thanks for reading. Don't be shy....share it with your friends! Lol.


David P. King said...

How awesomely exciting! Pleased to meet you, Nicole. Best of success to Abyss and your adventures! :)

Anonymous said...

What a great reminder of what we can accomplish just by doing something. It is SO worth it, to keep busy and get something out there!

Christine Rains said...

What a fabulous post! Very inspirational. There are so many indie authors out there doing very well. It's hard work, but it's all you. So worth it.

Raelyn Barclay said...

Fascinating insight. Best of luck with Abyss!

Angela Brown said...

Thanks, LD. Glad to have Nicole here today :-)

Angela Brown said...

My pleasure in having you stop by my blog :-)

Shelley Munro said...

What a great post. It's all about marching to the beat of your own drummer. There is no wrong way in the creative world.

C. Lee McKenzie said...

My hat's off to Abyss! What a entrepreneur she is. Very creative and innovative, indeed. Here's wishing her tons of luck.

Michael Offutt, S.F.A. said...

I just saw that some movie is crowd sourcing via kickstarter and is almost at the 2 million dollar goal. I think it's wonderful that we live in a time and place where indie authors and indie film makers have so many choices and can find funding for projects outside of the mainstream. You are an inspiration, and I hope your films make you lots of money so that you can continue to make films.

Gwen Gardner said...

The indie filmmaker sounds like the same journey as an indie writer. I've received and taken a lot of advice and I like what you said about the advice you received about starting as an assistant and working your way up. I basically received the same advice-start with short stories and work your way up. But I ignored that advice and started with a novel as my first project. Like you said, learn by doing.

Nicole said...

David P. King,
It’s a pleasure to be able to excite you with some adventures in the indie route. Thank you for reading!

There is a famous saying somewhere (I think…gotta check my perpetual calendar to be sure) that says all great undertakings must begin with that single first step. I’ve noticed these last few months how I’ve been losing patience for those around me who refuse to make an effort. ANY effort, no matter how small, can move just about anybody closer to the future that they want for themselves….that’s IF they want it, of course. Thanks for your feedback and for joining in this discussion.

Christine Rains,
Well thank you very much for your kind words and you’re oh so right….it’s very hard work! It’s audiences and supporters who have the ability to make it work that is worth doing, though, so it tends to balance itself out in the end…or at least, that’s the hope. I’m happy to know you found this post useful.

Raelyn Barclay,
Thanks for the wishes. I welcome all of the luck I can get at this point.

Shelley Munro,
I think you touched on a very important point…marching to own beat…ahabit that we have to get used to and/or find a way to fine tune and develop in a world that makes us accustomed to marching to the beat of someone else’s drummer. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this post.

C. Lee McKenzie,
Oh you’re mighty kind! Thanks a ton for reading about my film.

Michael Offutt S.F.A,
Yes I agree that it’s a great time and place to live in; Also, in a way, we really have no other choice because the U.S. is unlike many other countries that have national funding in place for their artists in a variety of mediums. It’s cool to know that I’ve inspired you in some way. Know that the only way for me to make lots of money is by people who believe in the work sharing it with their friends and family…no amount of support is too small nor does it go unnoticed. Remember that when you’re on social media and especially if you find yourself visiting my IndieGoGo page ;)

Talli Roland said...

What a great post, Nicole. Good luck with Abyss!

Mike Keyton said...

Superb post - an it struck a chord with me, partly because I have a script I doubt could be be translated into Indie being involving as it does some potentially expensive sets eg Russian prison camps and Houses of Parliament, but reading this nevertheless excites me just for its 'get up and go' attitude. The other reason, closer to home is that my daughter has 'starred' (if that's the correct term: ) in an Indie. The film's called Sorinne and it's one of the entries in the IFS festival in L.A this month.

So as you can imagine, Nicole, I'm rooting for you

Mike Keyton said...

PS sorry for typos in the above : )

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