How do YOU define success in the movie business?

I just finished reading an L.A. Times article about some new Hollywood releases and how much they are predicted to take in at the box office. Now, this is not Oscar material, mind you, more like the end-of-summer purging of movies that will end up on home video sooner rather than later.

“Drive,” a violent crime movie with Ryan Gosling, is expect to make “only” $11 million, according to the Times, while a remake of “Straw Dogs” (boy, can’t wait to see that one…) and a frothy romantic comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker are expected to make “only” $7 to $9 million each.

Thing is, in this world of bloated Hollywood budgets and overpaid above-line talent, $7 million or $11 million doesn’t put a dent in production costs. It barely pays the craft service tab.

big Hollywood production

Let me be the voice of reason here. Hollywood is in trouble because they spend too damn much money making crappy movies. Nobody is willing to take a risk because there’s so much money at stake, so what do we get? Expensive remakes, tired formulas, endless comic-book adaptations with musclemen and busty babes pitched at 14-year-old boys.

Here’s how I define success in the movie business: when your movie brings in more than it cost to make, particularly if it gives you some working capital to finance your next movie.

Find a good story that you can tell cheaply, without lavish sets or major stars. Find a crew that is as committed to your movie as you are — the smallest crew that you can get away with. Start building an audience from the get-go and involve your fans in your production. Make friends with other filmmakers, bloggers, movie reviewers, and other kindred spirits, and enlist them to your cause. Get a little momentum going first, make a trailer, and use it to raise money to keep going.

This is how many of my favorite movies were made: George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” and “Martin,” Robert Rodriguez’s “El Mariachi,” Shane Meadows’ “Somers Town,” Christopher Nolan’s “Following.”

Right now is probably the best time in the last 50 years to make a movie. Equipment is cheap, distribution channels are proliferating. There are any number of ways of getting your movie before an audience without selling your soul.

Success in the movie business. It’s what you make of it.