Every independent filmmaker should be building and nurturing a core personal audience. The bigger and more loyal the audience, the greater the revenues and creative freedom for the filmmaker.

“True Fans” can enable creators to earn a living from their work, according to
Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired and all-round provocative thinker. His recent article, “1,000 True Fans,” has become an online sensation. Kelly conjures up a model in which committed fans make enough purchases directly from an artist’s website to allow the artist to continue making music, writing books, creating videos, etc.

If revenues from direct sales to True Fans are sufficient to cover artists' living costs and production expenses, they will be free to devote themselves to their art, rather than having to work dreaded day jobs. For example, a painter or a photographer who averages $100 in direct sales from 1,000 True Fans grosses $100,000 annually.

Most independent filmmakers, given higher production costs and lower price points, will need more True Fans (as well as Lesser Fans who make occasional purchases), and will have to supplement direct sales with other revenue streams (retail video, television, non-theatrical, educational, and foreign). But Kelly’s compelling essay shows the importance of building a fan base and keeping fans engaged through direct communication. Filmmakers consulting with me make up to nine times as much profit per sale on the DVDs they sell directly from their websites compared to those they sell through retail outlets. And, as Kelly points out, “You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.”

Kelly also discusses "micro-patronage," which enables creators to help fund new productions by attracting contributions from “True Fans.”

Don’t miss the wealth of
useful comments and valuable examples posted by readers.

While you’re at his website, download a free copy of Kelly’s book, “True Films: 200 Documentaries You Must See Before You Die”. This guide contains rave reviews of Kelly’s favorite “True Films.” It is notable as an example of the latest in digital book distribution. While Kelly sold earlier editions, he is making this version available for free as an experiment to test whether he can generate sufficient revenue from ads. Every reader who uses the latest version of Adobe Acrobat can choose to see the ads or turn them off. Kelly earns money every time a reader clicks through an ad, and gains more True Fans by making his book freely available.