Awakening to a New Business Model


(L to R) Gabrielle Anwar, Henry Ian Cusick, director Bob Degus, stunt coordinator Cole McKay, and Dave Baez.


When we set out to make the film Awaken, we had this idea of a more equitable way to make an independent film. It was a way that was both fair to the investors, and to the artists who made the film. Typically, a film producer raises money from investors (or a studio) and then hires the actors and crew to make the movie. At the end of the day, the producers and investors own the movie, and make all the profit from the film.


Investors are taking all the risk with their money, so why shouldn't they reap all the rewards?


But the truth is that movies are an art form as much as they are a business. There is no movie without the artists' contributions, the actors, director, screenwriter, editor, and talented crew that comes together to make the film. Likewise, it's challenging to make a film without the financial backing of investors. Filmmaking is a costly art.


Money usually trumps art, and that is the end of the discussion. The crew and artists work for hire and little else.


On Awaken, we took a very different approach. We actively made the cast and crew real profit participants - equal to the investors - should the movie be financially successful. We do not have different levels of points or participation degrees. Everyone involved gets the same "type of point participation."


This means when the investors start making profits from the film - so do the cast and crew.


It is a bold way to go about financing a film. But this business model allows everyone to benefit if there is a success. Of course, the investors recoup their principal investment first, but once the film is "in profit," it is in profit for everyone.


We divided the points up according to positions, with department heads receiving more points than a production assistant. And at the end of the day, we gave 70% of the profit points to the cast and crew. We are also planning to donate an additional 5% to charity.


The idea is that we, the filmmakers, are embodying the values that the story of the film is exploring. How can we create a better world to live in? What different choices can we make? We feel this is a healthier way to finance independent film production and look forward to showing that it can work as a viable model for the future.


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