Film financing and carnival sideshows to attract movie investors are an interesting part of the entertainment business for me as an indie filmmaker and producer. I am keenly aware that an independent project without star power needs a hook to appeal to movie investors that are willing to finance a film. In my experience it has felt like a creative striptease on stage. All you can do is put the best features of your film forward to entice movie investors to green light funding for your show.
Carnival and circus sideshows run by promotional visionaries grab the attention of people with colorful artwork and one hell of a great pitch to the crowd. Their purpose is to get paying customers to see the show. It is a subtle seduction that plays out in a very short period of time. Film financing and pitch meetings take longer, but in my opinion share the same attitude. If movie investors are not visually and verbally excited by a film project they will pass on it. When you are pitching for funding you are on stage as the star of your own creative film-making sideshow.
The Internet and social networking has changed how film financing can be approached. Websites, blogs, and social network accounts can be used to attract attention to a film at any stage of development that needs money to be completed. I deal with private investors more used to traditional business deals. Investing in a movie is something new for them, but they still always ask for a prospectus on how the end product will be distributed, and where the revenue will be generated from.
A detailed prospectus is the main backbone of the film financing packages I present. The selling points included outside of the numbers are the artwork, screenplay, and a visually powerful movie trailer. A signed actor letter of intent is always a big boost to attract film backers, but can lead to a Catch-22 situation. Managers and agents of talent often want to know funding is already in place, but movie investors want to know talent is in place. It’s a funny situation to me. One side wants their client to be paid for a role and the other side wants to pay them to appear in the project, but either side rarely wants to be the first to say okay.
I can only speak from my own personal indie filmmaker and producer point of view. There are talent managers, and agents that do like a script enough to have an actor sign an actor letter of intent to attract executive producers. The actor can call the shots when they read a script that motivates them to do a film. Indie projects are a tougher sell, but if the screenplay and role are hot it makes marketing sense for an actor to star in an independently driven production. One key actor or celebrity can get a movie funded by attaching their name.
The bright side from past experience is that many people are interested in the entertainment business at any level. Culture has created celebrities from reality shows, infomercials, and viral videos. That is great for indie filmmakers and producers because this means they are in the right industry with a product that has mass appeal. The world constantly craves entertainment and you want to be able to deliver it with the backing of film investors.
A recent film financing package for a feature Slice of Americana Films wants to make led to a couple of pitch meetings with the same interested party. I am always glad to learn each pitch meeting. The potential investor is a real estate developer that specializes in storage facilities and RV parking. Totally unrelated to the entertainment business, but they love movies. The first meeting was awkward over a scheduling issue that had happened and the vibe was not there to really talk about the movie. The second pitch meeting about the film I definitely knew I was on stage to perform for the room.
The prospectus was solid thanks to a family friend that prepares them. I was a little tense because this movie has been a real passion project for me and there is no way it can be shot in-house. There are too many action scenes that require a few steps up when it comes to a good working budget that has the money to make it happen. The title “Stash Spot” was immediately not working for the room. In my creative heart I knew the title was too narrow in market appeal. I have not been able to come up with a new title yet.
Next jab from the room to paraphrase is, “The script is great, but can you make some changes?” This was coming off a past deal that fell through where against better judgment I did a rewrite on spec with visions of film financing going through my head. I will never do that again. Being on stage I knew I had to ask what changes. Basically, the room wanted Beto and Roxanne Azul to last longer than where I had written their demise in the screenplay.
This was not the first time I have had this feedback on the “Stash Spot” screenplay. I made a mental note to go back and really look at the thread in the script. Boom! When they asked me to visually describe a few of the scenes they liked I was cool with it. They handed me the script with their notes and I pitched as a director on how I visually saw the scenes being shown in the final cut. This is where it can get slippery. Investors do not want to throw money away. They want you to be creative, but not to a point where you can’t deliver a movie because you’re too anal.
I love worst case scenario questions in pitch meetings. “Halfway through the project you are over budget and behind schedule. What do you do to fix the problem?” Real estate developers hate delays and want solutions, not excuses. Only answer for me came from being honest. I would not ask for any more money than what was budgeted and ramp up my pace to get the movie done. Saving takes on scenes is not as hard as it sounds when you know what scenes you really want to nail. Every shot sheet I work off has select scenes that I save takes for during shooting by limiting takes on other scenes.
Now I will play the waiting game on hearing back. Film financing and pitch meeting circus sideshows to attract movie investors are an interesting part of the entertainment business that I continue to learn from. Next time I am hiring mimes to act out scenes. Novelty approach I want to explore. This is indie filmmaker and producer Sid Kali typing smash cut until the next time.