Lights, Camera, Ownership: 7 Steps to Launch a Production Powerhouse

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Imagine having complete control of the stories you tell and the roles you play. For actors, starting a production company isn’t just about making films or shows—it’s about creating opportunities to showcase your talent, build your résumé, and catch the eye of casting directors and agents.

In this guide, we’ll dive deep on how to start a film production company so you can create new career opportunities for yourself and build a rapport with casting directors and agents.

What is a production company?

A production company is an entity dedicated to creating films and theatrical productions from scratch. Essentially, it has the resources (people, equipment, money, and expertise) to turn an idea into a completed film or show. For an actor, creating your own production company is a chance to take the lead—not just in front of the camera, but also by working behind the scenes to take projects from start to finish.

How to start a movie production company

Production company

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1. Figure out your niche.

Think about the types of roles and stories you’re passionate about, whether that’s short scenes for reel footage, complex character studies, or hair-raising horror flicks. This will help you pick projects that align with your career goals, especially if you plan to act in some of your own productions.

2. Pick a name.

Choose a memorable name for your company that reflects your style and goals. Make sure it’s unique. You should consider Googling a bit to check if it’s in use, and you can even hire a lawyer to see if the name has been trademarked by anyone. (If it has, you might not legally be able to use it.)

3. Create a formal business plan.

The filmmaking business is cutthroat. If you want a better shot at success, you’ll need to map out your business plan with clear goals. How will your company help you grow as an actor? As discussed in our guide to starting a voiceover business, a business plan includes:

  • Overview: Provide a concise one-to-two-page summary that outlines the core aspects of your business, the services you offer, and the target market you aim to serve.
  • Business proposition: Clearly state the mission, vision, and target demographic for your production company. Specify the types of projects you intend to undertake. While your business plan can be a flexible and evolving document, it’s advisable to start with well-defined goals and target audiences to effectively reach your intended market.
  • Market analysis: Explain how your company plans to generate revenue and the channels through which you intend to distribute your films and attract an audience. Conduct thorough research on the industry, including information about your desired market segments and potential clients.
  • Service offerings: Outline the services you plan to provide, along with their respective rates, and how they will benefit your clients. If you possess additional skills related to the industry, such as scriptwriting or video editing, include those as well.
  • Expertise and qualifications: Highlight any relevant training, experience, and unique qualities you possess that set you apart in the industry.
  • Operational details: In this section, delve into the specifics of how and where you’ll operate your business, as well as all anticipated expenses, including the costs of equipment, software, and legal fees.
  • Growth strategy: Describe your marketing plans and strategies for expanding your company. Provide projections for one to two years, outlining your overall business goals and the metrics you’ll use to measure your success. These benchmarks could include earnings, project types and ranges, number of clients, or client portfolio expansion.
  • Financial overview: Describe the current financial status of your business, the anticipated funds required to operate, and the expected earnings or revenue projections.

4. Make it official.

Register your business. This not only protects you legally but also boosts your company’s credibility. You’ll likely want to speak to a lawyer and accountant about this step to ensure it’s done properly and any tax implications are taken care of.

5. Find funding.

The most difficult step is getting money to fund your work. Whether it’s small loans, crowdfunding, or investments from people who believe in the projects you’re creating, having the money to actually create is essential. 

If you’re like most actors, you probably don’t have a ton of cash sitting around to pay lawyers and other experts to help you build out your business. Luckily, you don’t need all that to just start making films! You can start smaller to get your feet wet and then decide if creating a legit production company is right for you. Here’s how to get started without a major financial investment:

  • Barter: Start by creating small projects with friends or using your network to find collaborators who share your vision. There are tons of actors who will work for free (provided you actually give them their footage in a timely manner), and you can even find crew members who have their own equipment who will work for free, too. Many people—students, especially—just want to gain experience and add something to their résumé.
  • Focus on the story: Consider shooting your first few productions on your smartphone and renting equipment only when necessary. Remember that the most important thing is the story and the acting. Too many indie producers get obsessed with using the best lenses, lighting, and camera/sound gear, and they put too little focus on the story, which is what the viewer cares about more than anything. A great story is something that can never be bought, and having that foundation will be beneficial as you start to do bigger and bigger projects.
  • Create content regularly: If you really care about creating a production company and not just making a single, one-off project, you should make content on a regular schedule. For example, focusing on short films in a specific niche or putting together a web series can help you start to build a following. When your projects are similar, it becomes easier to build an audience. As your audience grows, getting funding for bigger projects will become less challenging. Plus, regular content keeps your skills sharp and gives you more chances to create a hit.
  • Grow step by step: Remember that there’s no rush; you just need a few projects initially to build your reel and credits. If you choose to continue making bigger productions over time, the experience and money you get from your production company will become self-sustaining.
  • Go official when ready: Once you’ve got a few successful projects under your belt, you’ll probably feel more ready to take the steps required to formalize your business—such as hiring a law firm to register your business and looking into trademarking. You might even zhuzh up your business plan at that point and start looking for investors to grow your company more quickly.

6. Stay organized.

Handle the necessary paperwork. This includes things such as taxes and getting permits for filming. For the first production you’re involved in, speaking to an entertainment lawyer is a great way to ensure nothing gets missed, such as insurance and contracts with everyone involved in the project.

7. Persevere.

For actors who want to try working behind the camera, starting your own production company can be a great way to take control of your career and generate opportunities from scratch. Just remember that this is not a shortcut to success in acting. Only take this route if you really enjoy the production side of things.

At the end of the day, you’ll be creating productions that highlight your talents and get you noticed by industry professionals. Your production company can become a platform that helps you land lead roles and larger projects.