Q: I am in my last year in Film school and am ready to pursue making a feature…

September 1, 2011 by cindy  
Filed under Mail Bag

Q:  I am in my last year in Film school and am ready to pursue making a feature. I know I need some sort of business plan or from what I recall you saying on the FILM METHOD PODCAST, a summary, to show accountants in order to prepare a professional business plan. Do you have any advice or any contacts to steer me in the right direction? Also, what should I tell lawyers when I approach them with a business plan or questions on how to approach this endeavor? How do I attract investors? and how do I know which ones mean business?

Sherif R. , New York New York

Congratulations on almost being done with film school.  There are a lot of questions so let me break it down.

First, the accountant is not the person who typically prepares a business plan.  That is up to the producers or executive producers.  An accountant MAY help you with a budget, but even that is rare.  Lawyers can prepare what’s called an offering (Jon Cones is amazing at this http://www.johncones.com/index.html) and it is always a good idea to speak with an attorney about your business plan in general and get them to look it over before sending it out.

Some things you might consider putting in a business plan (for film, TV is different) are:

  • Synopsis
  • Treatment
  • Budget Top Sheet
  • Bios of the key players (only put bios that are helpful for investments.  If your cousin is acting in it and not someone who will bring money or fans to the table then leave them out)
  • Any talent attachments that you have (again, if they mean money)
  • Return on Investment tables
  • Any artwork/storyboards/location photos (that bring value to the project, if you are filming in your friends apartment then don’t put photos of it unless it is dynamic)
  • Your plan (if you are going to film in the town you grew up in because your father is the mayor so you can get everything for free, then tell them.  Basically, how are you going to make this film for the budget you have laid out?  Don’t reveal your entire plan, this section should be about a page.  Also, what is your plan for distribution?  Make sure you mention something about where you would like the film to go after it’s completed.  How are you going to complete the film?  These are the types of things that should be in this section.)

These are some things to consider, but every business plan is a little different.  There are some great books on the subject of raising money for film and one of my favorites is by Louise Levison (http://www.moviemoney.com/) and of course Jon Cones (mentioned above).

The last three questions you have cannot be answered without specific knowledge of the process.  Each film is different; therefore, each business plan is different.  The investors are going to be different so how you attract them will be different.  Some key advice for every project you do is…1. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to get an answer that makes sense to you.  2.  Be passionate, but not pushy.  3.  Be prepared.  This is not a quick process.  It’s cliché, but you only have one shot to make a good first impression.  Your business plan is your first impression.  Make sure it reflects you, your project, your passion and your professionalism. You are going to be asking people to fork over their hard earned cash.  Respect that by giving them a plan that is well thought out and well put together.

As for knowing who is for real, that’s a tough one.  I think most people think they can raise money when talking to you about it, but it is a challenging process.  Don’t give up and above all, trust your gut.

Soonami Productions