The Making of an Indie

Producing an independent film requires more than talent. Get a close-up look at the development of these movies from idea to screen.

so much that she agreed to serve as executive producer. By November, Williams and McCrary Anthony had raised only 10% of the budget. McCrary Anthony brought in another partner, Adrienne Lopez, and later Triple Threat Films, a New York City-based film financing company.

“I laughed out loud when I read the script,” says Lopez, an author and television executive, who along with Triple Threat’s principals, entertainment industry vets Maria Weaver Watson, Gabrielle Glore, and Yolonda Baker Marshall, joined the film’s ranks as executive producers. They were drawn to the project by Jamal’s intense passion to tell this story. “He was infectious when we met him,” Watson says, citing an important quality filmmakers need in order to communicate their vision to potential investors.

To woo investors, the new team held a series of pitch meetings but also stressed the inherent risks of the film business. “Most films do not recoup their initial investment, and you must communicate those facts to investors,” advises Williams. Over the course of a year, the producers raised another 38% of the budget, enough to start filming. McCrary Anthony then offered another 40% out of her pocket in the form of a bridge loan, which the movie would have to repay. Triple Threat would eventually raise nearly 50% of the film’s budget.

Jamal’s goal of making a film that cost less than $1 million look like a $5 million movie seemed nearly impossible with a mere three weeks to shoot–a major Hollywood flick takes several months. On average, independent films are shot quickly, in 12 to 18 days, points out Robert Townsend, filmmaker and former CEO of the Black Family Channel. Major studios can shoot for up to five months because they may shoot one script page or less per day. “They take their time, shoot in different angles, with better equipment,” says Townsend. “An indie may shoot seven pages in one day because time is money.”

With the average movie budget topping $60 million, not including the $40 million-plus needed to market the film, even blockbusters produced by major studios have a tough time competing in the global market for huge box office receipts. Independent, niche films–sans big name stars–have even more of an uphill battle getting to the multiplex, particularly when competing with star-laden indies like Crash. “Consumers want a good story, a recognizable cast, and good production quality,” says Jeff Clanagan, president and CEO of Codeblack Entertainment, a Sherman Oaks, California-based distributor of urban film content.

Dirty Laundry underwent one month of post-production editing, music arranging, and color correcting–the normal edit time would have been several months–before it was ready for its first private screening in the spring of 2006. With its public debut at the American Black Film Festival, the filmmakers sought to secure what is often most elusive to indie filmmakers–distribution.

“We won the festival and got offers from several distributors,” boasts Lopez. The producers found themselves in a situation most filmmakers only fantasize about: a bidding war resulting in a deal for an undisclosed sum with

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