Become the next Duplass Brothers
The entertainment business in Hollywood has always been a tough business to crack, and thanks to shifting variables in the marketplace, getting your project funded the has never been more difficult. But there is hope: the Duplass Brothers and their company are in the news seemingly every month because they are flourishing.
Jay and Mark Duplass rose up from the indie scene in Austin to the top in Hollywood by making their brand of “mumblecore” films popular with critics and audiences alike. In his rousing keynote at SXSW 2015, Mark Duplass described what type of project young filmmakers should make in order to get traction in the business: micro-budget.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter last month, Mark said “It’s hard to make movies in that $5 million-to-$7 million range where we made Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home.” He says it’s easier to raise money for a feature that’s $250,000 (or less). Filmmakers get to retain more creative control and ownership after the micro-budget film is in the can and profits from a smaller feature can be shared with the crew so they’ll want to work with you on your next project.
Duplass also encourages filmmakers to embrace VOD as a distribution platform instead of paying to screen your project at a theater. If you have a name attached and the budget was conservative enough, your movie production ROI is more likely with VOD. Patrick Brice’s film Creep, produced and starring Brice and Mark Duplass, was released exclusively on Netflix on July 14th. At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Netflix announced a four-picture deal with the Duplass Brothers in which the service will finance four films produced by the team, in addition to distributing the features on Netflix after they’ve had a short theatrical release.
The siblings have branched into producing and starring in TV as well. For six seasons, Mark has been a series regular on FX’s The League (Season 7 premieres in September) and Jay stars in Amazon’s Transparent, which was just nominated for five Primetime Emmy awards. They co-created and Mark stars in HBO’s Togetherness. A second season of that show is currently in production and it will premiere in 2016. Both of those shows used product placement to offset production costs. Last month, the brothers signed a two-year overall deal with HBO to develop and produce television shows for the cable network.
Sure, everyone wants to work with the Duplass Brothers because of their cache, but more specifically it’s because their projects make money. They’ve been successful at developing and producing other people’s work (like Tangerine, which was shot on an iPhone) by utilizing embedded marketing with modest budgets. Embedded marketing is one of the best ways to raise money for your project, and unlike with private investors, you don’t have to pay back the money when your project makes a profit. If your project makes money (and it will, because you’re brilliant), guess what? You get to make another project, possibly more ambitious thanks to a bigger budget from branded entertainment…and then another with brand integration, and so on. Before you know it, you could be the next Duplass Brothers and HBO, Netflix, Amazon, or a service that hasn’t even been invented yet, will be clamoring to work with you.