Archive for the ‘The Art & Business of Filmmaking’ Category


Film StuffAs an alternative investment class, an intelligent, well-designed and executed film fund can contribute significantly to the value of any portfolio.   This may sound somewhat surprising given that film investments are often maligned as excessively speculative; however, the truth is that when approached correctly the business of creating film entertainment is a proven and lucrative enterprise. In a recent New York Times survey of 1536 films across all genres between 2003 and 2012, the average gross theatrical ROI, not counting secondary markets or other revenue streams, was 452%.  Again, that return only takes into account box-office revenues. This is one example why, when managed properly, the business of film can be a very good business in which to invest.  And, there are many ways to approach motion picture investment. This article will focus on revealing essential components that should comprise an ideal film fund venture.

Diversification Doesn’t Necessarily Equal Mitigation

Because film funds are often created to produce a slate (several or more) motion pictures, their very structure is assumed to offer inherent risk mitigation from the diversification of the motion pictures in the fund.  On the simplest level the traditional thinking works as follows.  Let’s say for example – in a film fund with a five picture slate – that three films fail, one breaks even, and another has great box office success; in this model a strong ROI can still be realized.   However, any mitigation perceived as derived from an “apparent” diversification can be very deceiving. Diversification only works to an investor’s advantage if each film asset within the fund was selected for production based on a set of strategic guiding principles.

And diversification alone is never a reason to invest in a film fund.  More importantly, an investor has to know the guiding principles the fund employs in the selection of its projects.  Without structured careful consideration any mitigation that diversification can offer is moot. Every film that a fund produces has to be a strategic decision made by an experienced investment committee

In turn, the film productions that the investment committee considers must also be sourced, vetted and presented in accordance with an agreed upon set of conditions necessary for submission. These conditions should at the very least set forth mandatory requirements that projects must have high quality scripts, international market appeal, ancillary market (transmedia) potential, bankable leads, as well as the ability to attract a minimum of two audience quadrants.  Conditional requisites like these deliver yet another layer of protection for the investor.

Protection of the Principal

Right from the start the ideal film fund will have in place a mechanism which demonstrates that a reasonable assurance for the full protection of principal can be achieved – regardless of the performance of the fund slate.

One way this can be accomplished is if the funds raised are first converted to a principal protected note (PPN), not unlike a CD. Such a PPN would ideally be issued from a reputable bank (preferably one of the world’s top five banks) and it would mature in seven years. Then, let’s make it so that the PPN”s performance is linked to an existing index fund with a historic strong rate of return.  Let’s say that the minimum per year compounded average rate of return is 6%.  And for purposes of this example, let’s assume that the total principal invested is $100 million.   In seven years that note will generate over $50 million in interest.  So, from the beginning we are reasonably assured that we have mitigated 50% of the risk to the principal.

The next step is working with the same bank  to leverage the note as collateral for a non-recourse loan to the film fund entity.  In this example we’ll assume a 78% LTV, or $78 million.  (Admittedly, this is a high LTV for collateralization, however, at least one such program does actually exist.) Now the fund has $78 million to work with; while the PPN still generates a return on the original $100 million invested.   Let’s also assume that the bank fee for the loan is 7% against the principal.  The liquid value of the PPN therefore becomes $15 million; however, again, it will continue to earn interest on $100 million. What that means is that at the end of seven years, if the loan is not repaid, the return to the investors would be $65 million ($15 million plus $50 million in interest earned).  The good news is that before any film has been made, an actual, total strategic mitigation of 65% of the risk to the principal is achieved from the outset.

However, that still leaves a total of $35 million, or 35%, of the principal that must be recouped in order to assure full return of the original $100 million upon maturity of the note. A further assurance for the protection of principal is accomplished through a strict adherence to conditional requisites within the fund itself.  Among those conditional investment requisites will be fulfilling mandatory benchmarks for location incentives, domestic minimum guarantees, international pre-sales, and a rebate of most or all of the production budget contingency, which is always set-aside for each film produced.  In total the fund will be designed to hit comprehensive financial mitigation benchmarks that return more than the 35% of the principal still at risk.  What’s more, this level of mitigation is further accelerated, since these additional monies are added to the PPN, and therefore generate the same 6% compounded per annum interest.

In our ideal fund, unless a prospective film package can demonstrate a reasonable assurance of reaching the mitigation benchmarks designed to fill the remaining 35% gap, the individual film project will not be green-lit. As indicated earlier, those who make that decision are part of an internal investment review committee with members who are accomplished veterans in the areas of film production, distribution, finance, as well as fund management. These members can be comprised from a wide range of professional backgrounds within those disciplines, and they can include, but are not limited to, established motion picture producers, film fund management experts, production executives, reputable sales agents and international distributors.

A Powerful Plan and Vision for High Profitability

Now that we’ve determined how to provide a strong assurance of principal protection regardless of the performance of the slate, let’s consider how our ideal film fund’s strategy can determine profitability.  As mentioned, the traditional approach has been one that has relied heavily on the diversification of the slate; which has often lulled investors into a false sense of security.  A fund can have a very diversified slate, however the focus shouldn’t simply be on the variety of genres; rather, greater consideration must be allotted to the quality of the films produced, and the selection methodology leveraged in the green-lighting process.  Unless the film fund’s management employs an intelligent selection methodology as a mitigating principal, no amount of diversification of genres affords any greater expectation for success.

In determining a methodology for the selection of films, an ideal film fund begins with a vision that transcends genre. Those who are familiar with my writings and my work know my commitment to the trademarked “Conscious Filmmaker”® approach to production.  A Conscious Filmmaker motion picture endeavor is one which is highly commercial and fully leverages the power of intelligent marketing and distribution to focus on creating motion pictures that deeply connect with an audience, and thus enrich the returns of those who invest in such films.  (Click here for an article to learn more.)  The historic data for this class of film actually correlates to an ROI that is even many times beyond the averages cited in the New York Times article referenced in the first paragraph.

So, for purposes of this exercise to create an ideal film fund, let’s apply a vision that transcends genre.  A Conscious Filmmaker production approach is one way to meet that requirement.  This class of film can include a wide range of genre’s – drama, period drama, science fiction, musical, biograpical, romance, comedy, thriller, even supernatural horror…

Now, what if there existed a method to quantify, measure and rank the success potential of every film project the fund would review for submission to the investment committee?  And what if every film must meet a minimum threshold on a well-designed scoring spectrum to even be considered?   Our team actually engaged itself in answering those very questions.  Based on our in-house survey of films over the past ten years (with budgets ranging from $1 million to $20 million) that met or exceeded a required minimum score derived from ranking Conscious Filmmaker protocols, our empirical data demonstrated an average 1467% gross net return – with an average $160.7 million gross net return against budget per film.  Using that number as the high end benchmark for the fund’s performance, let’s make the following modest assumptions on an imaginary slate of six films that meet our ideal fund’s requirements. For this exercise each of the six films will average $10.75 million to produce, which matches the budget average in our survey:

Film One’s performance would equal our survey average.

Film Two would perform 30% below the survey benchmark average.

Film Three would perform 70% below the survey benchmark average.

Film Four would perform 85% below the the survey benchmark average.

Film Five would perform 95% below the survey benchmark average.

Film Six would perform at 99.9% below the survey benchmark average, and would actually result in a 98.5% loss against the investment .

Once all the numbers are crunched and all production, marketing and distribution costs are taken into account for domestic and international territories – in both theatrical and secondary markets – our ideal film fund, even if it performs at a sub-average level against our internal survey benchmark, would still result in a 140%+ ROI at the end of seven years, providing an average return of of over 20% per year.  Keep in mind that rate of return is accomplished while leveraging aggressive mitigation protocols that also deliver protection of all principal, regardless of the fund’s performance.

So, when considering investment in a film fund do take this model into account.   Make sure that a mechanism exists for the aggressive preservation of principal integrated with a powerful and visionary strategy for profitability.

This of course is a very cursory overview.   And, I’d be more than happy to answer any questions regarding this article.


David Christopher Loya is a veteran, multiple-award winning filmmaker and CEO of Renegade Lens Pictures –


© – David Christopher Loya 

Conscious Filmmaker® is the registered trademark of David Christopher Loya
All Rights Reserved.

Note: ANY advertising placed on any of these blog pages is not controlled by the author; nor does it reflect his opinion or ethos.

Prior to directing Citizen Kane in 1941, Orson Welles only had three short films to his credit.  Since 1998 Citizen Kane has been rated as the number one film in AFI's list of greatest movies ever made. If Citizen Kane were being produced today, the studio would seek to replace him with another director.

Prior to directing Citizen Kane in 1941, Orson Welles only had three short films to his credit. Since 1998 Citizen Kane has been rated as the number one film in AFI’s list of greatest movies ever made. If Citizen Kane were being produced today, it’s highly probable that the studio would seek to replace him with another director.

For those of you who are director-filmmakers, there will come a time in your career when you’ll take on a project of ambitious scope.  Its scale will exceed anything you’ve previously created.  And, I guarantee, there will be many who will question your ability to direct such a motion picture.  They will cite “conventional wisdom”… and suggest numerous other directorial options.  They will appear adamant in their position – telling you there’s no way your project will be funded, unless you attach a “known” director.  They will even say that your film will not be able to secure a completion bond with you at the helm.  (That isn’t true – by the way.  But this subject will have to be addressed in another article.)

And in the midst of this derisive cacophony challenging your directorial merit, deep within, you know that no one else in the world has the ability to “see” the film in the way you envision it.  You’ve been with the project from its inception.  You’ve broken down every shot… You know the characters so well they’ve become friends and family in your mind.   You go to sleep at night with the movie on your mind; and it’s often the first thing you think about upon awakening.  Every day you can see it projected on a theatrical screen. Your movie lives as a creative obsession; and of course it’s that kind of near “insane” passion which is required to make it happen.

It’s more than likely your project has been in development for years, and now you’re right on the cusp of having everything you need – funding and distribution – to get the film made.  But suddenly all these outside voices, some of whom may be gatekeepers, are telling you that you can’t direct it.  And yet, you KNOW – in a way devoid of egoic drive – that without your creative leadership, the very integrity and potential box-office success of the film will be placed at grave risk.

If you are in that situation now – or if you aspire to direct on a larger scale – don’t despair. There is good news.  Plenty of it.

Before I proceed to explain further, there are some pre-requisites regarding the applicability of this article to your particular situation. For one, you must already have substantial production experience, preferably as a director…  You have to be able to demonstrate a veteran status kind of experience.  This means directing or working at a senior level on a number of productions.  (It’s assumed that you have no theatrical features in your directorial credits, which would make the point of this article moot.) But your experience can be any combination of, or all of the following – short films, commercials, episodic television, documentaries, music videos, corporate marketing and PR productions, fund raising films for major non-profits, etc…  You need to be able to demonstrate that you have hit what Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, refers to as the 10,000 hours of experience that places you at a master’s status.  Having awards and recognized productions also work to your favor…

Why is so much experience important?  Because it gives you the clout to be able to look a decision maker in the eye and legitimately claim that you have more experience than many great directors, who had far less prior to helming their first major feature.  The history of motion picture production would not be complete if it didn’t include the many successful theatrical films made by first time feature film directors – from Orson Welles to John Singleton to Quentin Tarantino to David Fincher and many others.

I’ll give you a few examples… all of whom are directors who had less, or just as much experience as what I have outlined above when they helmed their first feature film.  Let’s begin with David Fincher who is famous for directing Fight Club and most recently, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  He also directed the first episodes for the acclaimed Netflix series, House of Cards.

David Fincher's first theatrical feature was the $105 million (in today's dollars) Alien 3 in 1992. His previous directing experience primarily consisted of three music videos for Madonna.

David Fincher’s first theatrical feature was the $105 million (in today’s dollars) Alien 3 in 1992. His previous directing experience primarily consisted of three music videos for Madonna.

Fincher’s first film was Alien 3 in 1992.  Prior to Alien 3, Fincher’s only directorial experience was three music videos he created for Madonna: Vogue, Express Yourself and Oh Father, as well as a short documentary in 1985.  Alien 3 was made for $63 million.  The inflation adjustment equivalent of a $105 million film today!  Theatrically it earned $158 million worldwide in 1992 dollars, not counting secondary market revenues.   Keep in mind however, that Fincher had worked as an assistant cameraman and a matte photographer on a number of features prior to directing.  He knew the territory… just as I assume you do, if you’re a director seeking to make your first feature.

Anne Fletcher is another good example.  Her first time at the director’s helm was for Step Up in 2006, which featured Channing Tatum in his first major role.. Prior to that she had never directed a single film. Fletcher had worked primarily as choreographer on a number of productions.  The Step Up series has become the number one dance film franchise in history earning in combined revenue over $1 billion worldwide.

Jonathan Dayton’s feature film directorial debut was with Little Miss Sunshine. Prior to that he directed primarily music videos.  Little Miss Sunshine released in 2006 is one of the most well-known and successful indie films of the last 10 years – grossing over $156 million worldwide.

And the most recent example of a first time feature film director, with the equivalent of or less experience than I outlined, is Jason Moore, the director of Pitch Perfect.  Pitch Perfect was a $17 million film which has now grossed over $170 million worldwide.  Prior to Pitch Perfect, Moore had directed several episodes for varying TV series.  By the way, the cinematographer for Pitch Perfect was Julio Macat, who is well noted for successfully working with “first-time” directors.

Boyz n the Hood, one of the greatest classic films of the past generation, was directed by a 22 year old John Singleton, who was fresh out of film school . He had no professional  filmmaking experience.

Boyz n the Hood, one of the greatest classic films of the past generation, was directed by a 22 year old John Singleton, who was fresh out of film school . He had no professional filmmaking experience.

And there are many more examples.  Read this NPR article on the 20th anniversary of Boyz in the Hood, which delivers a fascinating account of how in 1990, John Singleton, as a 22 year old college graduate with only a student film to his credit was able to direct one of the most memorable features of the past generation. CLICK HERE.  In today’s dollars Boyz N the Hood would boast nearly a $12 million budget.   And it earned nearly $100 million inflation adjusted dollars theatrically, that does not include all the secondary market revenues, which may have ended up more than doubling its take.

Other successful directors like Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Olympus has Fallen) had especially humble beginnings. Fuqua’s first theatrical motion picture was The Replacement Killers, a $30 million feature in 1998.  Adjusted for inflation that budget would be over $51 million today.  Prior to The Replacement Killers, his IMDb record shows only one video directed for Playboy in 1992.  Yet, he has become of the greatest and most successful, sought-after action directors of our time.

If you have a solid track record as a director, these few examples out of many, demonstrate that successfully directing a theatrical feature is not so much about having prior theatrical directorial experience, as it is about having experience… Period.

Next time a potential gatekeeper attempts to quickly dismiss you as the director for your film, remember these examples.  Your ability to stand your ground, and how you stand your ground, are vital to your success in maintaining the directorial helm.  When confronted, don’t throw an egoic temper tantrum, but rather see it as one of the many challenges a true director must successfully overcome.  Don’t give in when they say you can’t direct it, but always exercise civility.  And don’t just be the immovable object, explain and show them why you are the most well-suited to direct your film.

An experienced “first time” feature film director is in fact one of the best bets an investor or studio can make.  You will cost less, and because your focus is on the best interests of the film, you’re not likely to indulge your ego at the expense of the movie.

Like a well prepared trial lawyer, build you case.  And prior to building your case, make sure you have assembled a team around you that believes in you as much as you believe in yourself…  Always understand that in this industry, very few people will believe in you more than the trust and consideration you give yourself.   If you fit the criteria set forth in his article you have every reason to be confident.

Stand on that confidence, pull from what you know has worked for you as a successful director, and understand that leading the creative execution of a film, means leading period.  Articulate your vision with passion and reason, and others will follow – including those who at one time seemed eager to dismiss your directorial capabilities.  It’s now rightfully your turn to direct a theatrical feature.


© – David Christopher Loya 

Conscious Filmmaker® is the registered trademark of David Christopher Loya
All Rights Reserved.

Note: ANY advertising placed on any of these blog pages is not controlled by the author; nor does it necessarily reflect his opinion or ethos.


Star Wars: Episode IV (a studio film) grossed in box office ticket sales over $2.4 billion worldwide in inflation adjusted dollars. In 1977 it was produced with a budget of $11 million, equivalent to $42.4 million in 2013. 

I regularly participate in each of the world’s major film markets.  These include the American Film Market (AFM), Berlin’s EFM (European Film Market), The Festival de Cannes Marché du Film and Toronto’s International Film Festival market.  After years of attendance, one naturally develops a keen, even powerful awareness of what sales agents, investors and financiers ultimately seek; especially when they consider aligning their resources with any independent film in development or pre-production.  My team has come to see it as nothing less than a desire for the perfect opportunity… It’s an opportunity that represents the kind of indie film where literally all the stars are aligned; and yet, there’s nothing magical about such an alignment.  There actually exist determinable empirical elements that come into play – elements shared in common among history’s most successful movies. (Note: This article is addressing independent films with budgets that range from $2 million to $30 million, and sometimes even more.)


Pitch Perfect, an independent film
released in the Fall of 2012, was produced on a $17 million budget and thus far has generated $115.2 million in worldwide box office gross, and an additional $55.2 million in domestic DVD sales.

No doubt, a film investment can be among the riskier speculations to embark upon; and yet, if pursued with an intelligent strategy, such an investment can generate the highest kinds of returns imaginable for any portfolio.  The record of successful motion pictures is replete with those films that have generated revenues soaring into returns that are in the hundreds, and even thousands of percent.  And, when one looks carefully at these blockbuster movies, such positive financial performance is also often aligned with certain factors.  Successful motion picture investment is not always the result of random chance.  Selecting the right film(s) for investment does not have to be analogous to playing the lottery.

Although there is no way to ever guarantee the success of any speculative endeavor  – when it comes to independent film production there are in fact factors shared in common with the most successful movies of all time.  These are elements that – as a collective – are consistently not present in those motion pictures with mediocre or poor performance.

So, when evaluating the viability of an independent film investment, consider the following criteria. An adherence to the factors on this list will serve to substantially mitigate risk when choosing a motion picture investment.


  1. An internationally “bankable” cast, attached or attachable through prior strong relationships with one or more of the largest talent agencies, e.g., CAA, WME, etc.
  2. A veteran above-the-line production team with a successful motion picture track record, combined with an experienced multiple, award-winning director with at least a dozen international and national recognitions to his credit, or a director with a substantial successful track record. A strong producer and/or line producer must also be part of the team, and have fully developed an accurate, line-itemed production budget with a top sheet that makes sense.  Finally, and this is critical:  The production team, and especially the director, must be passionate (almost to an obsessive level) about the project.  Only align with a team that is 100% committed to creating the absolute best film possible. The team has to believe that the film MUST be made, distributed and seen. They should burn with a desire for audiences around the world to view their film projected in thousands of theaters.   Without that kind of dedication the investment is always at risk.
  3. One of the world’s best cinematographers attached, who has lensed movies that have generated billions in domestic revenue alone.  Remember, it’s the cinematographer who brings in the production and lighting crew that supports the look of the film.
  4. A soundtrack created by a Grammy Award winning and/or internationally recognized music artist(s) with multiple platinum album sales; or a soundtrack created by a composer/arranger experienced in writing music for successful motion pictures.
  5. Screenplay written by a world-class scenarist recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and a Nicholls Fellowship award winner or finalist, ranking the writer in at least the top 5% of screenwriters in the industry.
  6. Subject matter that transcends borders and language –  with proven international appeal that has already generated billions in combined film revenue, over the past ten years.  If a true story, a chain of title secured along with life rights to a cinematic account that has the potential to astound and capture the imagination of the world.   Any other potential rights and clearances issues will also have been ascertained and dealt with accordingly.
  7. Carefully determined sales projections (based on the performance of recent comparables no more than five years old) averaging over a 100% ROI, and verified by a major studio finance team, with their analysis showing an even higher global number than initial projections.
  8. An international bonding company willing to move forward with the completion bond and communicate directly with investors.
  9. Other private equity sources already lined up to invest. This further mitigates the investment exposure.  Investor PE may also be combined with a strategic alliance with a major studio to augment the resources needed for full funding. Further mitigation is also provided via shooting some, part or all of the film in a region providing a transferable and bankable location tax credit.
  10. A domestic distribution strategy which incorporates a team that can leverage veteran expertise and working relationships with the major theatrical chain decision-makers, and achieve a 2500+ screen platform release with a very reasonable P&A investment . Such a strategy must also be flexible to consider other arrangements.  International distribution is secured through a reputable and accredited IFTA sales agent, who will secure pre-sales to further mitigate an investor(s) exposure.
  11. A powerful potential to develop a branded media franchise that can result in sequels and ancillary market opportunities.
  12. Adheres to the “Conscious Filmmaker” elemental criteria that has been present in the vast majority of the two hundred top grossing films of all time.  Click here for more information.


    The King’s Speech, winner of the 2011 Academy Award for Best Picture, was an independent film with a $15 million budget. It grossed nearly $431 million in worldwide box office ticket sales, and an additional $32 million in domestic DVD sales.

Few films seeking financing can demonstrate an adherence to every item on the above checklist.   However, the more elements in place – obviously, the greater the risk mitigation.

And, of all the criteria listed, there remains one that would be considered the “prime mover” – the one that must always be present, no matter what.  It is the foundational element of all successful motion pictures.  I am of course referring to the story and the script. The story must be great, and the screenplay execution must be just as compelling.  Every successful film begins with a narrative that has the potential to become a beloved movie that embeds itself within the collective international film culture.

If you’re an investor or broker seeking to participate in that rare gem of an independent film project that fulfills all, or the vast majority of the above criteria, I am aware of at least one such project.

Should you be interested in learning more, write me here:  – and I would be happy to share further information with you.


© – David Christopher Loya

Conscious Filmmaker® is the registered trademark of David Christopher Loya
All Rights Reserved.

All images used are for informational purposes only and their copyright belongs to their respective owners.

Note:  ANY advertising placed on any of these blog pages is not controlled by the author; nor does it necessarily reflect his opinion or ethos.  

Arguably, Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” is the the most conscious film of the past generation.

UPDATED – July 10, 2018:   Our definition of a Conscious Filmmaker is an artist with the aware intent to create motion pictures imbued with an enlightened purpose.  Now, why do we refer to such a filmmaker as conscious? Let’s work to fully understand that word.  The word “conscious” is derived from the Latin “conscientia” which means knowledge within oneself, a “sense of right, a moral sense“.  A deeper etymology tells us that the first syllable derives from the Latin com (con) which means with or thoroughly, combined with the Latin “scire”, which means to know.  This is likely borrowed from the Greek “syneidesis” that means knowledge.  So the word conscious can be said to literally mean “thoroughly with knowledge”, and in this context can also mean thoroughly privy to, knowing and aware.  So at its root, consciousness is also awareness… For a Conscious Filmmaker this consciousness serves as the aware intent in the process of creating a motion picture.

In the context of a Conscious Filmmaker, empathy accompanies such awareness.  And empathy leads to a desire for those outside of oneself to benefit from positive outcomes and experience.   Empathy fuels compassion, which allows us to feel what another is feeling. And when such consciousness is shared, it becomes a powerful and beneficial symbiotic feedback loop that lifts and evolves society in the most positive way.

All creative works are to some degree works of consciousness.  However, when we refer to a film or filmmaker as “conscious”, we are referring to a standard or quality of consciousness that reflects the most positive aspirations – the manifestations of which are necessary for true societal evolution.   So what we are addressing here is the quality of consciousness.  One can say that any living creature, even an insect, is conscious.   However, there’s an obvious wide gulf in the nature and quality of consciousness between an insect and a human being.  The same holds true for creative works, and especially films.

A motion picture is more than simple passive viewing.  Whether we realize it or not, it is an experience, that even though vicarious, possesses the potential power to move us deeply in a positive or negative direction.  A film will serve to either enhance our consciousness, or dull it.  And in extreme circumstances it can work to even devolve our conscious being.

Gratuitously violent films that serve no other purpose, but to revel in the gory destructive expressions of evil are in my opinion movies imbued with the least amount of consciousness.  They can even be said to be unconscionable.

Such works are to be distinguished from films that may contain horrific violence; however the violence depicted is not gratuitous and wanton, but necessary for communicating a higher message.  Perhaps the greatest conscious film ever made was Schindler’s List.  And yet, it depicted horrible violence; but such depictions were necessary in order to awaken people to the evils of Nazi Germany and a racist, authoritarian regime.  The same logic is true for the film, Saving Private Ryan.  Its opening twenty minutes were the most accurate depiction of warfare ever revealed in a motion picture.

Let me also unequivocally state that our emphasis on promoting the Conscious Filmmaker approach isn’t to be confused with any faith-based media endeavor.  In fact, I have found that some of the most unconscious works are among the most religiously tainted motion pictures. Conscious filmmaking is distinct from the promotion of any sectarian theological worldview.  A Conscious Filmmaker production certainly can have a theme inspired by a spiritual faith tradition;  however a truly conscious film is never to be defined by the application of a religious litmus test.

Now that you know what a Conscious Filmmaker motion picture isn’t, the next question is how do we determine what truly is a conscious film?  The most conscious films are those that ultimately serve to enrich an audience, and thus society.  But there is another advantage to a Conscious Filmmaker approach that should also be intriguing to those individuals, studios, institutions and companies who fund movie endeavors.  Ironically, it turns out that those films which meet a unique set of criteria also happen to be among the greatest box office successes.  I’ll demonstrate below how a focused “Conscious Filmmaker” approach to producing movies greatly benefits both society and those who invest in such motion pictures.

Over 25 years of experience in creating conscious media has led me to determine three foundational elements of what constitute a Conscious Filmmaker production.  These elements are based on the affirmative response to the following questions:

1.  Does the film reveal complexities of the human condition in a non-exploitative manner and/or affirm the life of others?
Does the film depict the joy or struggle inherent in any aspect of the human condition, and in so doing affirm and validate the experience, and thus human life in general?  Or, does it also in some way, give more life to the audience (does the audience walk away from the movie feeling more alive); and/or does it explicitly or implicitly acknowledge the worth of others, of humanity?

2.  Does the film depict selfless or noble action towards another, or others, in a non-exploitative manner and serve to elevate humanity?
Through the actions of the protagonist(s) does it either implicitly or explicitly support, uphold and demonstrate the transcendent, inherent and priceless dignity and value of humankind and the individual.

3.  Does the film challenge its audience and/or inspire its viewers to connect?
A conscious film often will challenge our paradigms and constructs.  It can inspire us to evolve, and often can even offend and anger those who remain rigid in their social, ontological, and even religious perspectives.   It can also allow us to connect with something deeper within, or something greater outside ourselves.   So we also ask does it challenge and/or connect with a greater consciousness, an idea, new paradigm, character and/or plot development, or a profound emotion?  Or, does it awaken in us a new profound realization that we also connect with?

You will note that the term “non-exploitative” is used in elements one and two.  This is an important consideration. There are films which are created with ostensible or even insidious agendas that appear to embrace these elements, but are little more than either religious or political propaganda.  This does not rule out films with religious or political themes; however, we must exercise wise discretion when considering whether such films meet the standard of a motion picture that truly reflects a Conscious Filmmaker approach.

Box office history demonstrates that the vast majority of the top grossing films of all time scored at least an 8 out of 12 possible points in our proprietary “Conscious Filmmaker Index” matrix, which means that for the most part these motion pictures could answer yes to all three of the above questions.  The following link is from the Box Office Mojo website, and it is a list of the most financially successful (inflation adjusted) motion pictures of all time:   TWO HUNDRED TOP GROSSING MOVIES

Examine this list and then ask yourself for each movie you recognize: Was it life affirming? Did it elevate humanity? Did it challenge and/or inspire the audience to connect?  For at least 90% of these films, the answer is yes. Even if one’s interest in filmmaking is purely for capitalistic gain – there is no rocket science in realizing the unparalleled opportunity that a Conscious Filmmaker® approach represents.  Such films are a win both for humanity and any investment portfolio.

Knowing this truth has always led me to ask:  Why, when given the unparalleled forum to create and distribute a motion picture, would anyone desire to take anything less than a “Conscious Filmmaker”® approach in the production of a movie created to be seen by tens of millions?  When that question begins to be asked more by funders, sales agents, distributors and especially filmmakers, we will see no less than a radical revolution in the quality, consciousness and success of movies released worldwide.


© – David Christopher Loya

Conscious Filmmaker® is the registered trademark of David Christopher Loya-Bojorquez   All Rights Reserved.

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