Independent Media Production


The YouTube factor

In 21st century indie media production YouTube's presence looms large. Ireregardless of what kind of performing artist or media creator you may be YouTube can have a significant impact in reaching and affecting your potential audience as well as new audiences. Another section of this site will explore more indepth YouTube's application to different areas of performance and media creation artists. But a significant factor in its success has been enabling users to Publish Once, Share Everywhere (P.O.S.E.) for maximum exposure and YouTube Success.

Google made headway in the early search engine wars by pushing relevance and authority as key components of its

  Check List For Producing Theater, Film, CD Albums, Or Other Independent Productions

Regardless of the kind of independent production you are staging, certain factors are usually constant. Some to consider include:

  • Well articulated business and budget plans
  • Producers who carry out the Production company’s goals from start to finish
  • Dealing with talent unions
  • Insurance considerations
  • Fund raising acumen
Decide on the decision-making structure, both artistic and administrative.
Define the company through a mission statement.
Make up a budget and decide on funding strategies.
Obtain necessary licenses and insurance, and see that health/safety regulations are in compliance with local laws.
Trademark elements like company name, logo and distinguishing look.
Register these trademark elements with local authorities as a business entity.
Open a bank account for the theater company.
Choose between profit and nonprofit status.
Decide on your funding sources.
Consider or examine the feasibility of a theater location and its audience potential.
Decide if there will be non-production activities like community outreach and workshops.
Start a database primarily to facilitate mailing lists and labels.
Consider the myriad of staffing it takes to run a theater: board member, producer, theater operator, promoter, general manager, controller, box office manager, fundraising manager, director of public relations/marketing, literary manager or dramaturg, stage director, technical director, maintenance supervisor, actors.
Consider strategies for marketing, publicity and audience development.
Check our listing of relevant associations and support groups for further information.
New digital technologies have become a near necessity in most any independent production. Their practicality and usefulness and cost-effectiveness should be evaluated, especially in regard to older analog technologies.
 Use our communication tools (chat room; message board; messaging tools etc.) to reach others who can provide you with more help and information

algorithm. SEO became less about the keywords and more about the popularity of the content. The idea is simple: the more sites with clout that link to your site, the more relevant your content must be. Search 101.

Google's place in online video

Google's $1.65 billion acquisition of YouTube in 2006 was a pivotal move for the technology giant. Aside from owning the largest repository of digital video content in existence, the benefits from a pure search standpoint are massive. YouTube is now the second-most-used search engine behind Google. And because YouTube's inner workings have evolved over time similar to Google's to best serve the user with relevant content, the implications for brands are clear: drive discoverability and distribution.

Discoverability is crucial, given YouTube's dominance. YouTube now serves more than 4 billion hours of video to over 1 billion users every month. According to a recent study by eMarketer, nearly half of those surveyed said they “rarely” or “never” go outside YouTube for online video viewing. Facebook -- the #2 video-serving site -- has less than 40% of the monthly viewers of YouTube, and among those viewers, average time spent with video is a fraction of YouTube's (16.4 vs. 388.3 minutes per viewer).

YouTube brand landscape

We are living in an age where the term “viral” is being increasingly muddled by social networks seeking to monetize content. Successful brands pay big dollars to seed video content, sponsor posts, and otherwise pay for engagement and exposure. Many of the biggest so-called “viral” campaigns have had millions of views paid for. YouTube is not a level playing field where the best content is guaranteed viral stardom.

A recent Pixability report took a look at Interbrand's Top 100 Global Brands and their trends on YouTube. It found that most of these brands are overspending on content creation without solid media strategies. How much overspending? Despite billions of dollars of investment to publish YouTube content, over 50% of the videos produced by the Top 100 Global Brands have less than 1,000 views. The brands with the most success are using an always-on media strategy with targeted advertising within YouTube, and embedded placements outside the YouTube platform. They’re optimizing their video tagging and search terms, publishing a wide variety of content consistently, and utilizing embedded placements.

Engagement as "votes"

Like that basic SEO premise of popularity driving relevance, popular videos must be more relevant than unpopular videos. Each view, thumbs up, and subscription is a vote of confidence and increases the visibility of your content.

When brands promote original content solely over closed video platforms, they are missing out. The exponential effect of engagement-building via the YouTube platform is not realized, and the video's exposure is ultimately limited. Reach is achieved, but there is little momentum.

P.O.S.E. as a video strategy

P.O.S.E. is a simple premise: Publish Once, Share Everywhere. It’s a nod to the philosophy of Create Once, Publish Everywhere -- but with more discretion on the "publish" aspect.

It entails focusing your content within YouTube, and embedding and sharing video in as many places as possible. Traditionally, online video advertising may have had your video playing within a Flash rich media banner, which essentially acts as a closed environment. With P.O.S.E., the YouTube video itself is embedded within the media placement to drive up views and engagement. Targeted YouTube placements are used to build reach, engagement, and subscribers. The video is embedded in social media, blogs, news articles, and more. Those eyeballs you paid for now help your video gain momentum.

Many brands want to maintain strict ownership of their content, have more control over ad monetization, or struggle with rights management complications. This is especially true of entertainment publishers, where content is a valuable commodity and an open channel like YouTube isn’t necessarily the most profitable means for distribution. In addition, online video advertising on other platforms using pre-roll, post-roll, interstitial, and other placements can be very effective.

Organic exposure is the cheapest exposure. In an increasingly frugal advertising landscape, P.O.S.E. can be a powerful strategy for brands vying to maximize their original content.



Making a film or digital video

By definition in discussing independent film, we usually refer to pictures designed for release in movie theaters that are not produced and distributed throughout the world by one of the eight major studios: Disney, Dreamworks SKG, Fox, MGM, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. Typically, independent pictures are financed by “pre-sales”

Terms to Know

Acetate Dub. An individually cut record, as opposed to pressed records.

Angel. The financial backer of a play.

Business Owner/Manager. A fundamental management function of an independent produce is making deals, but in doing this there are a myriad of rules, regulations and forms to navigate through.

Community Theater. A local theater group in a city or town.

Delivery/Distribution Manager (film). Once you have a distribution deal in place, “Delivery”, a technical term, is next. It consists of supplying the physical elements such as the interpositive, internegative, soundtracks, video masters, stills and slides and the legal elements such as copyright registration, rights documents insurance, copyright and title searches and talent agreements.

Demo Firm. An organization specializing in the production of demo tapes.

Demo Tape. An audiocassette, audio CD or DVD recording of an actor’s voice demonstrating voice acting abilities.

Distributor/Distribution Arranger (film). Independent producers are not usually involved in the distribution of films. Distribution is still the domain of the Hollywood-based major studios that generate more than 90% of U.S. box office, but there are also smaller distributors and independent sales agents who handle independent productions. There are also non-profit organizations that can lend a hand in various ways..

Impresario. An entertainment entrepreneur.

Physical Film Producer. Once you have a script, director, cast and financing, you can then proceed to make a movie. Details and procedural steps will include: setting up a production company (if one isn’t already in place); hiring employees or engaging independent contractors; setting up accounting and payroll services, becoming signatory with the talent and craft guilds, finding location; clearing the script and title of any obstacles; while shooting, getting the best performances from cast, crew and director; while watching budgets and time; in post-production, helping to edit shot footage into the storyline.

Producer. The individual who oversees the making of a single or long playing record, radio, television or stage show from inception to completion.

Project Developer. The function in this role is to write or supervise the writing of a screenplay that can attract a director, cast and financing. If the screenplay is to be based on material owned by someone else, or is co-authored with others, the rights for it must be optioned or acquired.

Project Financier. Upon securing a director and principal actor, production financing is next. Sources of independent financing are family and friends, equity investors, distributors in the form of domestic studios and foreign sales agents, banks, foreign subsidies and tax incentives. A lawyer is absolutely needed during this phase.

Project Packager. When a screenplay is finalized the film must be packaged and financing secured. The film package consists of the script, director, producer, and cast, as well as the budget and production schedule. The budget and schedule are flexible and usually can be changed and adapted as time goes by. However, it is a good idea to have a budget range in mind during the development process. But overall, the fundamental issues of this process are when and how to get talent.

Video Toaster. A popular computer editing system for actor’s demo tapes.


For a full glossary listing click here

contracts from distributors that are discounted and cash flowed by a bank, and often supplemented by private money, and, if they qualify, from subsidies and tax incentives from abroad. The budgets range from tens of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars.

Independent film producers are actually fairly new. Up until the 1960s, mostly all films were produced by major studios. Although presently independent film producers contribute acclaimed titles, the major studios continue to dominate development, financing and distribution. Today there are an estimated 1500 independent films produced each year in the United States. The most important difference between an independent producer and a producer who works on a studio picture is that the independent producer is responsible for handling an entire additional set of legal, business and financial roles that are customarily handled by studios on pictures produced, financed and released by the majors.

The most wonderful movie concepts cannot work without proper business and legal implementation. In implementing the business and legal management of producing a movie, there are seven primary functions the independent film producer has:

  1. Business owner/manager
  2. Project developer
  3. Project packager
  4. Project financier
  5. Physical film producer
  6. Distributor/distribution arranger
  7. Distribution and asset manager


Mastering a music CD

A performing artists’ decision to record an album (CD) should be made with proper research and knowledge of what goes into studio production. Some very basic questions that should be answered before you begin include:

  1. Have you worked out a budget?
  2. Are you familiar with the technicalities of studio production?
  3. Have you chosen the right collaborative team?
  4. Do you know the difference between analog and digital recording?
  5. What are the roles of the producer and the executive producer?


The budget and the producer

Without a major label behind you your budget is key. It may become the facor that decides the success or failure of your project. Backers can include friends, family, supporters, or, a producer or executive producer. Bear in mind that statistically, far more recording projects fail than succeed. Seasoned investors savy about the industry know this. If you are new to album recording, seek the advice of an experienced attorney.


Studios and the engineer’s role

When first planning your budget, include the cost of rehearsal and recording studio time. This varies a great deal, ranging from as low as $25 to $350 an hour for state-of-the-art recording studios. Calculating the amount of time it takes to make a recording depends on certain factors. A singers album should average a minimum of ten hours in the studio, six to fifteen hours to mix, and eight hours to polish off the finished product before it goes to the plant for replication (for CDs, this is known as pressing).

A good producer will secure the right working team for your album. The recording engineer has the hardest technical job of getting the best recording on tape while helping to enhance the sound of the finished product. Engineers are hired on an hourly basis and should be experienced enough to work with the pace of the session and ensemble team. This will probably average $50 an hour.


Analog or Digital?

As you get close to recording you and your recording technicians must choose one of the two different recording methods -- analog or digital. Analog is the older one with today’s analog recordings using methods that came into being during the mid- to late 1960s. Analog recording uses audio tape as its sound transfer medium. Digital, which is newer and cheaper, uses a recordable compact disc or computer sound chip as its medium. It should be noted that the recording industry like other competitive industries, adds new and improved recording devices and technology to their technical process to enhance and improve the quality of any recording.


Starting a community theater company

As you plan to launch your own theater company, it is vital to be able to articulate this vision and the Company’s direction before the business and funding community that will be a vital part of these institutions. The elements of certain things you need to keep in mind are outlined below.


Budget and initial expenses

A proper budget plan will maximize what you do have and perhaps allow you to generate more income. Low overhead is the best guarantee of success and survival. Think before you spend. If you can put off an expense in your early days, do so. Also be wary of overstaffing beyond the theater’s essential needs to function efficiently.


Insurance considerations

Most rental spaces, not to mention unions, will require you to arrange for insurance. It’s difficult to come up with a one size fits all arrangement or solution since every space will be different. Every production, depending on the number of personnel you’re using per show, may have different insurance requirements as well.

Do plan for adequate coverage in the event of a natural disaster, particulary during showtime. You will most certainly need to provide workmen’s compensation for the actors and technical people. Consult Actor’s Equity for specifics. Developing a rapport with Equity is a smart move, as they can penalize you financially, and/or shut you down totally.

Even if you are not working with Equity, it is a good idea to take a look at insurance for your actors’ welfare. How can you get the best deal on sufficient coverage? Browse the phone book and call around to price various insurance companies listed. Some of them should actually specialize in theatrical insurance, especially in large cities. Be honest about your situation so you can get adequate coverage for a good price. While shopping for insurance, also consider coverage packages for audience members as well.

Unless you are paying full-time staffers full-time salaries, it’s very probable you will not be held responsible for health insurance coverage. Equity requires health insurance for its members for some productions, and so this is something you should be aware of.


Unions and union costs: Actors’s Equity Association (AEA)

AEA, as was mentioned previously, is the professional actors’ and stage managers’ union, based in New York City, but governing nationwide and with related union presence abroad. Equity exerts much control over the productions it sanctions for its members to appear in. The organization is very protective of its members’ interests, but will certainly be fair to a company acting in good faith as well.

Although every case is different, depending on the kind of agreement a producer or theater company reaches with Equity, the production entity may post a bond with the union. This bond insures salary coverage for the cast in case a show runs into trouble. The amount of the bond is evaluated and set by the union.


Some of the other unions in operation are:

  • Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC)
  • The Dramatist Guild
  • United Scenic Artists Union (USA)
  • International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)


Salary planning

Actor’s are known to work very hard for what amounts to very little money, simply because of the passion that drives them in their craft. Finding the money in your budget to pay for their work, even if Equity doesn’t require it, shows appreciation and is a way to build your theater company’s reputation within the acting community as a good place to work. And that in turn should lead to being able to attract talented performers, which then raises your artistic output.


Connect with your community

From the start, it’s very important for your Company’s financial health for you to fully integrate with and cultivate the good will of the community at large. How exactly do you go about maximizing and utilizing the support of your community? Here are some pointers:

  • Fundraising. Hold a fundraiser to establish your company in people’s minds as early as possible;
  • Board Relations. Put together a board as soon as you can. The main reason for this is community cohesion meshed within the community fabric, and so will work on your behalf to bring new folks into your company’s fold
  • Grants. Grants come from a variety of sources (e.g., the government, private institutions, public institutions, foundations, etc.) Almost all grants require that the applicant parties be incorporated as non-profit organizations, which can mean having to go through an application process, proving financial need, writing a proposal clearing outlining your company’s goals and philosophy as stated above.


Putting on a theatrical showcase

There are several different forms of showcases. For some, a showcase can simply involve different casts of actors doing scenes from plays to showcase their talents for industry professionals such as agents or casting directors. Showcases like these are often produced by universities that sponsor a New York City trip for graduating drama students, thus allowing them to display their talents in the country’s theater mecca. Commercial schools in New York and Los Angeles also present showcase nights which can be subsidized by the students involved. Some actors find it useful to produce themselves independently in this way. “Scene Nights,” as they are called, began as a means of furthering the participants’ careers without committing to a complete show for a consumer theater audience. Still, for others, a showcase can be an inexpensive way to preseent a fully staged play or musical for a paying audience.

If there are members of Actor’s Equity Association (AEA) involved in a showcase production, whether it is a scene showcase or a more substantial evening of theater, some form of an agreement will have to be drawn up with the union. Operations on a small budget can be covered by one of the showcase contracts which allows AEA actors to take part in limited runs of productions with minimal payment so long as certain requirements are met. Showcase contracts first came into existence in the 1970s, so that union actors would be able to participate in shoestring productions and still have some protection. The rules for Equity members vary from city to city. For instance, in New York it is known as the Showcase Code, in Chicago it is the Chicago Showcase Code, and in Los Angeles, it is the 99-Seat Theatre Plan.

Equity showcase productions often seek both to play to ordinary theater-going audiences, and to attract the attention of agents, casting directors, and producers who might be in a position either to take the show to another venue, or to employ or represent the production’s members, whether actors, directors or playwrights. Theater artists who want to form their own companies often choose to produce under the showcase agreement.


 Relevant Associations & Organizations

American Association of Community Theatre (AACT)
8402 BriarWood Circle
Lago Vista, TX 78645
Phone: 512-267-0711
Fax: 512-267-0712
Serves both individuals and organizations by providing expertise, assistance and support so that community theatres can provide the best possible theatrical experience for participants and audience alike.
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Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI)
314 North Main, Suite 307
Helena, MT 59601
Phone: 406-495-8040; in LA-323-462-6092
Fax: 406-495-8039
As a governing body for film commissions worldwide, AFCI can be a source of information on wherever film, video or multimedia production and location shoots takes place. It does this through offering: Film Commission Search Engine; information about Locations Trade Show; a list of festivals and trade shows where film commissions appear; the latest on-location production news and other tools.
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10850 Wilshire Boulevard, 9th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90024-4321
Phone: 310-446-1000
Fax: 310-446-1600
Formerly known as the American Film Marketing Association, is the trade association for the independent film and television industry. AFMA’s global membership distributes (and often produces) the films and programs made outside of the major U.S. studios.
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Alliance of Resident Theatres/New York (A.R.T./New York)
575 Eighth Avenue, Suite 17 South
New York, NY 10018
Phone: 212-244-6667
Among other things, A.R.T. is a provider of low-cost office space; offers management-related technical assistance; is a grantmaker to small and emerging theatres; is a theatre-specific source of capital financing; is a producer of audience development initiatives.
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Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP)
11 East 22nd Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10010
Phone: 212-475-2600
Fax: 212-475-3910
AICP represents the interests of United States companies that specialize in producing commercials on various media - film, video, computer - for advertisers and agencies.
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Association of Independents in Radio (AIR)
328 Flatbush Avenue #322
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Phone: 888-937-2477
AIR includes independent storytellers, documentarians, engineers and marketers, public, community and college radio professionals, programmers, stations, and networks in a collaborative environment.
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Association for Independent Music (AFIM)
925 W. Baseline Road #105-G
Tempe, AZ 85283
Phone: 480-831-2954
Fax: 480-831-2955
A professional trade organization supporting the independent music industry by providing business opportunities for its members through an annual convention, ongoing information services, educational resource materials and advocacy.
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Center for Nonprofit Management
44 Vantage Way, Suite 230
Nashville, TN 37228
Phone: 615-259-0100
Fax: 615-259-0400
Supplying management, training and technology assistance to nonprofit organizations.
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151 West 30th St. Suite 200
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-904-1422
Fax: 212-904-1426
Provides administrative support to individual artists and other non-profits, particularly in the fields of dance, music, performance art, radio, theatre, film and video arts. Involved in development and management where a major focus is assisting emerging artists to become self-managed.
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The Field
161 Sixth Avenue, 14 Fl.
New York, NY 10013
Phone: 212-691-6969
Fax: 212-255-2053
A membership organization offering programs that help independent artists create new artwork, manage their careers, and develop long-range strategies for sustaining a life in the arts. The Field publishes several industry guides, including Space Chase (a guide to performance and rehearsal spaces in New York City, as well as a compilation of out-of-town festivals, residencies and artist colonies), Funding Guide, Self-Production Guide, and Gone With the Field Guide (describes alternative performing possibilities for independent artists in select cities across the United States.
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Film/Video Arts
462 Broadway, Suite #520
New York, NY 10013
Phone: 212-941-8787
Fax: 212-219-8924
Provides an environment where emerging and established film, video and digital media producers of diverse backgrounds can take courses, receive fiscal sponsorship for their projects and edit their projects affordably.
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Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center
596 Broadway, Suite 602
New York, NY 10012
Phone: 212-431-1130
Fax: 212-431-7693
A non-for-profit organization founded in 1977 to cultivate artistic talent using electronic technologies. Harvestworks’ programs provide the artist with production studios, grant opportunities, education, communal lab practice and distribution.
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IFP/Los Angeles
8750 Wilshire Boulevard, Second Floor
Beverly Hills, CA. 90211
Phone: 310-432-1200
Fax: 310-432-1203
Reservation Hotline: 310-432-1222
Event Hotline: 310-432-1289
Development: 310-432-1250
Programming: 310-432-1210
IFP is a not-for-profit service organization providing resources and information for its members - independent filmmakers, industry professionals and independent film enthusiasts.
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IFP/New York
104 West 29th Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10001-5310
Phone: 212-465-8200
Fax: 212-465-8525
IFP is a not-for-profit service organization providing resources and information for its members - independent filmmakers, industry professionals and independent film enthusiasts.
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National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture
145 Ninth Street, Suite 250
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415-431-1391
Fax: 415-431-1392
A nonprofit association composed of diverse member organizations who are dedicated to encouraging film, video, audio and online/multimedia arts, and to promoting the cultural contributions of individual media artists.
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Nomadic Theatre & Dance Company Task Force
c/o Theatre Bay Area
870 Market Street, Suite 375
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: 415-430-1140
Fax: 415-430-1145
A group of theatre and dance companies with budgets under $100,000 who do not have permanent homes that have developed initiatives tackling barriers to creative activity for small performing arts companies, including references for and access to relevant technical assistance, opportunities for sharing resources and reducing production costs, and cooperative marketing strategies.
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Texas Non-profit Theatres, Inc.
3505 W Lancaster Ave
Fort Worth TX 76107-3002
Phone: 817-731-2238
Fax: 817-731-2239
Provides a forum for the exchange of information and ideas by persons engaged in educational and nonprofit theatres. Also distributes Theatrically Speaking, by Enid Holm. Topics covered in the 340 page book include: organizing and structuring for the business of theatre; developing codes of operation for business and artistic endeavors; management by goals and objectives and more.
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Theatre Development Fund (tdf)
1501 Broadway 21st Floor
New York, New York 10036
NYC/ONSTAGE Phone: 212-768-1818
TDF’s ticket marketing initiatives (including the TKTS discount booths) encourage production of new plays and musicals and make attending live arts performances in New York more affordable. TDF’s Costume Collection is a production resource for costume designers and theatre companies.
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For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here