Q: Do you approach investors first or talent first? That is, if you have a script that is fully developed, what is the first phone call you make?
Kelsey (via the Film Method mail bag)
That’s a good question because it can be a bit of a catch 22. It really depends on the topic of the script. For example, the first feature I made was written and directed by a survivor of the Columbine High School shootings. Because of the topic and the fact that a survivor was directing, we didn’t need actors attached in order to secure funding. The writer/director played that role for us in a way.
If you are going to make a movie that is a bit more typical, it might be about the same topic, but you don’t have a direct relationship to the subject, then you will most likely need talent attached. This can be really challenging because in order to attach talent, they will require funding most of the time. You see where the catch 22 comes in. This is why it is so important for you as a producer or filmmaker to network and create the relationships within the film community. It can take years to cultivate the types of relationships you need to get someone of name attached to your project, so you should start now. But, I will say this, you NEVER know what an actor or manager is looking for so put your project out there. Start to contact agents at the same time as investors. If it’s your first film, try to find someone who has done it before so that they can help you navigate the waters.
I wish I could tell you specifically which to go to, but like most things in this process, there is no one-way to do it. The most important thing is to have a solid business plan, a solid script, passion and perseverance. It will take a while and it will be bumpy at parts so if you are not 100% thrilled and passionate about the project, not only will the people you’re talking to be able to tell, but there will be nothing to get you through those rough patches.
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:
- 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.