A couple of years ago I met filmmaker Jane Clark in Cannes as she was taking the first steps on her journey to make a fun horror called Crazy Bitches. Jane overcame all kinds of challenges in order to turn her idea into a reality and her experiences have given her valuable insight for anyone considering making an independent film.

Jane has been making films since 2002. She says:

I had been acting, but found myself frustrated by a million things – the quality and quantity of available roles, the long space between jobs…which drove me to make a short film. After that I was hooked. I made 7 shorts, produced a feature, Elena Undone, and then directed my first feature, Meth Head, prior to Crazy Bitches.

Like most filmmakers, in her effort to bring Crazy Bitches to screen, Jane encountered the two true enemies of independent film.

The biggest obstacles were money and time. And I’m not sure you overcome them as much as accept the limitations and make the smartest choices you can. Every decision has to take into consideration whether there’s enough money to execute the objective and/or is there enough time. If the answer is no, then it isn’t a matter of quitting but rather thinking outside the box to find a different solution.

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Crazy Bitches
Left to right:  Andy Gala as BJ, Nayo Wallce as Dorri, Samantha Colburn as Taylor, Liz McGeever as Minnie, and Victoria Profeta as Alice.

Jane has a mixed view of film festivals:

The impact of festivals is hard to measure. Meth Head played about 30 festivals and won 21 awards, but no one really cared in terms of distribution. If you aren’t playing Sundance, SXSW, Toronto – any of the majors — festivals really don’t make a large impact on the future of your film. With Crazy Bitches we kept the fest circuit shorter and aimed toward a release date. We still thought there was some press and word of mouth value from festival play, but I don’t weigh it as heavily as I did after my experience with Meth Head.

Piracy tends to impact the low and mid budget market most, hurting up-and-coming filmmakers and destroying jobs at the lower end of the business – this certainly seems to have been Jane’s experience.

Due to piracy with Crazy Bitches, which was really out of hand, I am thinking of not playing any festivals or sending the sequel, Crazier Bitches, out to review. Instead, I’d build awareness of the film through fans, Q&A’s and targeted ads and keep the physical movie out of circulation until the day of release.

Jane opted not to go the self-distribution route and instead struck a deal with an established distributor.

We considered self-distribution. There are avenues you can take to get your film on the usual sites – iTunes, Amazon, VUDU, Distrify etc. But there are still deals you cannot make on your own – VOD and Television. And we felt Crazy Bitcheshad a good shot at both. We had 6 offers, but Gravitas was the one we felt had the strongest ties to VOD and TV. So far I’m really happy with the choice.

According to Jane, the five things every filmmaker should know are:

1. Budget for marketing and distribution. You should have budget for a publicist, ads, the poster art, a trailer, etc. You should have money to bulk produce your own DVD’s, because chances are high that you won’t get a DVD deal that will cover that expense. Think about budgeting for merchandise. It’s hard to make money back on a film, and selling merchandise could help.
2. Be creative with financing.  Crazy Bitches was a combination of equity investors (people with $10K, $20K, $50K who bought ownership in the film), one debt investor, three social funding campaigns, service and location deals and compromises to my vision. The social funding angle is a full-time job, and the campaigns that do well are supported by an existing fan base.
3. Give yourself more time than you think you need for pre-production. The more you have planned before you arrive on set, the easier the shoot will be.
4. The poster art is really your main selling and branding tool. You’ll use the literal poster art as a basis for all your marketing art, i.e. ads, banners, thumbnails, etc. Shoot your poster while you are shooting your film, while you still have your cast/wardrobe/locations available to you (and your cast still looks like they do in your movie).
5. Don’t under-estimate the extent of piracy and the damage it can do to your ability to make your money back. Protect your film.

Despite the challenges involved in making an independent film, Jane has a number of other projects in the works.

I am planning Crazier Bitches and Craziest Bitches, which I hope to finance as a pair and shoot back to back. I have a project set up in Paris with a French producing partner called Slate & Kelly that already has a very strong French cast. We have funding interest that is dependent on US stars in the two lead roles, so we’re working on getting that done. I’m attached to direct a Western about a female bounty hunter, and have been working on the script and the business plan with the writer/producer getting ready for Cannes.

Crazy Bitches is out now on DVD. The best place to find the film is thecrazybitchesmovie.com, which also has information on how to find the film on TV or digital sites.