Actress, screenwriter, producer and change actress Naomi McDougall Jones tries to solve the Rubik’s Cube that is independent cinema.
In the last episode of Demystified of StudioFest, the producer and star of films like Imagine that i am beautiful and Bite me explains why she thinks the success of independent films actually begins at the script stage.
Jones is co-founder of Constellation Incubator, a film incubator designed to disrupt, change and foster diversity in the film industry. The first annual event took place this weekend, helping 60 teams of selected filmmakers overcome obstacles and challenges commonly encountered in the independent filmmaking process. Jones is also a co-founder of the 51 Fund, a private equity fund dedicated to financing films made by women filmmakers.
âIt came from my work in activism for women in cinema and the recognition that women’s films are chronically underfunded, because there is this refrain that has never been true but still is. debited, that they don’t make any money, do they? That the reason we have to keep making movies about men is that they just make money. And that’s right, the data doesn’t show that from a distance. But we want to be a living example that you can find these movies and make money, âshe said. Demystified.
The 51 Fund gave her a unique insight into distribution and funding that Jones says she wouldn’t have gotten as a filmmaker on her own.
âIt’s kind of on the other side of the veil,â she says. âSo, as a film fund, our goal is to demonstrate that films made by and about women make money, and we’re dealing with several million dollars. So, you know, we have to be a serious investment in cinema. We have to make money. How are you doing that? Here’s what’s interesting – the only way to make real money on indie movies right now is through a very small set of distributors, either streamers buy it directly for Netflix, Hulu, Showtime … or you sell it straight away like that, either tell you about A24, Neon, Bleecker Street, a very small number of high level distribution [companies]. Okay, how do you actually make those sales? Basically, the system. The Hollywood system has to choose you, because they more or less have those connections. But the system chooses a movie not when it’s finished – it chooses a movie at the script stage, which as an investor is fantastic, because when we get a draft we know at the script stage 90% whether that movie will be at Sundance. , and if it’s going to make any money.
Read also: How? ‘Or’ What Zola Writer Jeremy O Harris overcame fear of failure and broke Tony Awards records
Thanks to the 51 Fund, Jones begins to crack the code and discover how to accelerate the success of independent films.
âThese projects go up in elevators that they take directly to the top floor, which is a great investor, because there is almost no risk. Because instead of having to try and guess what the audience actually wants to see, that’s not our concern. All we have to know is industry, WME, CAA, has Sundance ever picked this movie for success? Because if they have it, it’s going to sell. It will earn us money, âshe said. âBut what filmmakers don’t understand, and the mythology that’s sold to filmmakers, is that you can kind of get on that elevator later. That once you’ve finished your movie, you can go up in an elevatorâ¦ that if you’re in production, you can go up, and you don’t 95% of the time. “
So what does this mean for independent cinema? Jones wonders if he even exists.
âIt’s really important for us to know that because it also means that we don’t really have an independent film, right? Because to be successful, the system must choose you. Which, fundamentally, is not independent. So we don’t have an independent film system, we have to create one.
So how do you succeed in a failed industry? That’s what Jones and his Constellation incubator are trying to figure out.
âMaybe it means we somehow find a way to get the public to pay enough to make it financially viable. Or does it mean we say, you know what, independent cinema is like theater, you can’t make money and we’re going to make it a non-profit model? Does that mean getting companies to, in fact, use advertising dollars to pay for movies? and they don’t care about a financial return on investment, do they care about an overall return on investment? âshe says.â I think we have to be open to all of these possibilities because the investment structure doesnât may not be the right structure for independent cinema. I don’t knowâ¦ these are the things we explore at Constellation Incubator.
Main image: Naomi McDougall Jones, courtesy of Demystified.