This Agent Believes That Micro-Budget Indies Could Be Your Big Break

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Photo Source: Spencer Alexander

I recently saw two films on Amazon that I would categorize as microbudget movies. Their titles were “Circle” (2015) and “Groupers” (2019). Truth be told, I enjoyed them a lot more than some of the bigger studio films I’ve seen.

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There’s no rule about this, but I’m going to define a microbudget movie as a film that’s made for less than $50,000, with a self-contained story that revolves around a few characters and one main location. “Circle” and “Groupers” both fit perfectly into that category.

“I’m a big supporter of micro-budget movies—and you should be, too. They present opportunities that are hard to come by when you’re just starting out.”

As a film lover, I admired those movies because of the creativity on display. And as an agent, I loved them because the leads all gave stellar performances, despite a lack of experience. It’s like they were thrilled to finally have a chance to show what they can do.

I’m a big supporter of microbudget movies—and you should be, too. They present opportunities that are hard to come by when you’re just starting out. You could actually book the lead of the film, and that’s not going to happen on a larger-budget project.

Here are some of the reasons you should follow my advice:

  1. Experience. Even at this level, there’s a lot to learn, and any amount of time spent on a set is time well spent.
  2. Contacts. That director might become the next big thing at Marvel. And now you’re best friends.
  3. Schedule. These things are shot quickly, so time investment is rarely an issue.
  4. Reel. All you need is one amazing scene to take your reel to the next level.
  5. Hope. Most of these films go nowhere, but you never know who might see them.

As an agent, I don’t get to negotiate big numbers on these projects, but there are still plenty of deal points that need to be locked down. For example, billing doesn’t cost anything, so I always aim for a single card in the main titles with paid ads. That sort of thing will matter down the road if the film ever gets any kind of release. I also try to make sure my clients have some form of contingent compensation. That means if the film makes money, they will, too. And, last but not least, I always put language in the contract that you must be invited to the premiere and all the festivals where the film is screened. Those are major networking opportunities, and you need to be there, front and center.

But there are also some potential problems with doing these movies. Technology has created a world where pretty much everyone can produce their own film, but that doesn’t mean they should. Knowing how to raise money on Kickstarter doesn’t make someone a filmmaker. So I always do an FBI-level background check on all the players. Who are they? What’s their experience? Can they pull this off? I’m not making much on these deals, so if I’m going to tie up my clients on a microbudget movie, I need to know the people behind it have the ability to finish what they start.

If you land an offer for one of these films, don’t just jump in without thinking. Read the script. Meet the filmmakers. Talk it out with your reps. And if it feels right? Well, have a great shoot, and I’ll catch you on the flip side.

This story originally appeared in the June 11 issue of Backstage Magazine. Subscribe here.

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Secret Agent Man
Secret Agent Man is a Los Angeles–based talent agent and our resident tell-all columnist. Writing anonymously, he dishes out the candid and honest industry insight all actors need to hear.
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