Media Financing: What’s Your Pitch

Whether you are an amateur filmmaker trying to get funding for your first film or an experienced one seeking to make more new films, these expert tips given by Kacy Andrews and Timm Doolen of Bigfoot Entertainment can be of great value to you.

Since the first movie was made over a century ago countless people around the globe have wanted to be in the movie business. But historically the biggest obstacle to gain entry into the “industryâ€Â has been the large amount of capital needed to make a movie. Funding is always difficult, but the most important thing to remember is to be flexible and creative about getting your story onto the screen. Types of funding 1. Self-financing Even if you have a nest egg or other capital, self-funding your project is probably not a good idea. Making a film is a very risky financial proposition and the occasional success stories, which overshadow the many failed ones, are an exception. The reason the big studios make money in the film business is because they make 10-20 films per year and hope to have two or three hits, which will pay for all the other movies that merely break even or lose. Keep in mind that studios have huge marketing and distribution arms that ensure their films’ success. Furthermore, there are literally hundreds of feature films made every year that never find distribution. Pro: Complete independence in filmmaking. Con: You could lose all your money. 2. Financing through private equity Private equity can mean many things, but usually for first-time filmmakers this entails getting wealthy relatives or friends to finance your film. This method relieves you of the risk, mentioned above, of self-funding, but places the financial burden onto your friends and relatives. There are also some drawbacks to this approach. As soon as someone else gets involved financially, they may want to get involved creatively as well. Another drawback is that again, this method is high risk and people can end up losing their money. Pro: Relative independence and you don’t risk your own money. Con: Your friends or relatives might never speak to you again if they lose money. 3. Financing through film funds, production companies or studios The good news is that there are organizations out there that want to invest in films. The bad news is that there is a lot of competition for these dollars so you have to make sure your project is bothprofessional and also stands apart from the rest. Also, with bigger financing, you will be under a lot more scrutiny and the financing entities may want more control of your project. Keep in mind that while there are some places that want to see your material, many companies will not accept what are called “unsolicited submissions.â€Â In other words, do your research online and make some phone calls to find out if the companies you want to finance your film will even accept your script and business plan or if they will return it to you unopened. Pro: Getting funded this way ensures you can make a film. Con: Competition is fierce and they will want to exert some control. It all starts with the story It’s extremely important to have your screenplay in the best shape it can possibly be. Know what are you trying to say with this movie. If you are making an independent film, you really need to have a distinct voice. This doesn’t necessarily mean a political or social statement, but definitely a distinct point of view that will set it apart from the crowd. Why a business plan? Regardless of which of the three funding options or combination of these you decide to choose, you will want to have a very professional business plan to present to your investors. Even if you choose to self-finance, you will want to prepare a business plan to sell your finished movie to distributors. After getting your screenplay into shape, there might be a part of you thinking that the script is so great that it will stand on its own and you don’t need a business plan. Or you may have already made a film or two and feel you don’t need to prove yourself anymore. Simply put, that’s incorrect thinking. Most executives will not take the time to read your script unless there is a business plan to tell them why they should take time away from their hectic lives to spend a few hours reading your screenplay. Here are a few reasons why it is to your advantage to have a business plan. • All business ventures require a plan and a film or a TV project is no different. Filmmaking is first and foremost a business. • Make it easier on yourself by creating a good package to present to investors. • You can’t make a film without money • Investors do not want to lose money – they want to make money. You must show them how they will earn money by investing in your project. • A business plan communicates to potential investors why they should invest in your film instead of the thousands of other competing projects. • If for no other reason, the business plan will help you get a focused vision for your project. • Creative elements (e.g. the script/story) alone are not going to get you financing. • Having a business plan makes you look more serious and professional than just sending a script and asking for money. Putting together a business plan will take time, effort and research. You can gain assistance in putting together a plan by attending seminars, doing internet research and asking other filmmakers to see their plans. Research Since we have mentioned a few times how important research is to your project, here are some places you can go to do research for your business plan. What goes in the business plan? The following will give you a category by-category rundown of what Bigfoot Entertainment looks for in a business plan. Keep in mind, every project and situation is unique, but this is a good outline to get going. Tell them about your story At the very beginning, the investors need to understand what your story is. Generally this is done using a logline and a short synopsis, and sometimes you can use a marketing tagline, though this can also be saved for the marketing section of your plan. A logline is a one-sentence synopsis that gives the reader a feel for the project. This should describe what the project is about in about 20-30 words. A good example is: IRREVERSIAn overnight high-tech millionaire marries his longtime girlfriend, but when she suspects that he may have murdered her brother, she begins to fear for her life After you get the logline nailed down, then you want to start on your short synopsis. This can be anywhere from a half page to a page long, depending on many factors including font size, spacing, etc. The purpose of the synopsis is to flesh out the story and give the main plot. You won’t give every detail and you won’t include all the characters, just the main points and players. Tell them about the team After discussing the story, you might want to give some credibility to the people who are working on it. Write a little bit about the filmmakers even if they don’t have very many credits yet. A quick note on attaching people profile to a project: Only attach a director’s, cinematographer’s or an actor’s profile if they will add significant value to a project. Examples: Screenwriter: After graduating with a degree in screenwriting from UCLA, John Doe wrote his first screenplay in 1995 called Broken Wings, which was eventually produced as a feature for Lionsgate…. Producer: Jane Doe kicked off her career producing short films such as Hey Dude before getting into the independent feature film world via…. The main difference with actors is you don’t need to give a biography – just a flattering photo and a list of fairly recent credits. Five credits should be sufficient. If you are in the likely situation where there is no talent attached, make a talent wish list (cast list), but label it clearly as a wish list only. Choose stars that you could realistically get in an independent film. Production plan – shooting dates and locations Include the production plan and schedule if you have a solid idea of when and where the film will be shot. Production schedule: May 2006 – Casting begins Jun-Jul 2006- Location scouting and pre-production Aug-Sep 2006- Principal Photography (8 weeks) Oct-Dec 2006 – Post-production Jan 2007- Picture lock and scoring Feb 2007 – Final cut and first screenings Mar 2007 – Available for release and/or festivals Shooting locations: Two weeks of shooting in Hong Kong followed by six weeks in Cebu, the Philippines. Postproduction and sound to be completed in Cebu, the Philippines. If you have made the effort of picking out specific locations, it’s a good idea to list these as well as include their photographs. Budget Give a one-page high-level summary of the proposed budget. If for some reason that is not possible, then give an estimate for the total budget for shooting the film. Companies List any production companies already on board, or LLC’s that have been formed. Example: XYZ Entertainment is a fully integrated entertainment company specializing in four different areas: production, professional training, production services, and film financing. With newly constructed world-class production and post facilities in Southeast Asia, Bigfoot Entertainment produces quality independent feature films, television programming and educational content for international audiences. Check out XYZ Entertainment projects at: Financing List any other financing entities that have come on board and how much they are contributing, what position they are in, etc. Include loans, gap financing or bridge financing information. Make sure to include the amount of money you are seeking from the investors, the percentage, and what the specifics of the recoupment in the investment will be. Example: Total Budget: $2,000,363 Amount currently secured: $1,350,363 Amount still needed: $650,000 Marketing plan In this section, include any mockups of marketing materials. Also include a general strategy for marketing, target audience, etc. You can also introduce the marketing tagline. Example of a tagline for the domestic thriller mentioned above: Till death do they part. Target audience: Males 18-35 Advertising: Because this movie has a fashion element, would increase media buys in fashion magazines and run more commercials on fashion-related channels such as Fashion TV. Comparables To help make your case for how well the film will do when released in theatres, list any comparable films. You can talk about films in similar genre, similar budget range or having actors you have already signed. List their budget and financial returns, usually domestic but international or worldwide can be appropriate depending on the market for the film. Include hits, breakevens and flops because you don’t want it to appear completely one-sided. Do your research. For example, if you were making a quirky English comedy, your comparables might be something like the following: Financial projections / distribution Do a simple financial projection for a full theatrical release and then without theatrical release. Include worldwide figures and all markets such as home video and TV. It’s customary to give a low, medium and high projection, to give a more realistic outlook. Do your research. At this point you can include any agreements already in place or companies that are acting as distributors or sales agents. You can also include any letters of intent you already have, or can just note that they are available. In lieu of any agreements being in place, describe the plan for distribution, markets, territories, festivals, etc. For many independently financed films, you will want to determine which festivals and markets that your film would be most appropriate for. Have a list of other festivals and markets where you think the movie would play well. Summary In this final and important section, summarize the highlights of the overall business plan and include anything important that is not represented earlier in the presentation. You should also use this final summary as a way to sell the highlights of your project to the investor. Why IRREVERSI should be a movie? 1. Fresh, niche backdrop: Several similar films have been kicked around Hollywood but they all had the wrong take. Has elements of past films, but great opportunity to find unique trailer/movie moments. 2. Franchise potential: Definite potential for sequel/franchise. New characters, new stories, and plenty of material. 3. Character arc: Great potential to show lead character grow. Main character turns from hero to villain as he changes over time. 4. Financially sound: With the attached cast and crew involved, it’s a surefire moneymaker. Conclusion One final note is to put the business plan all together in one document, if possible. Comprehensive and well-organized presentations will help you to be taken as a serious filmmaker. If you are pitching the story and/or business plan in person, make sure to rehearse your presentation until you can do it in your sleep. Depending on the nature of the project, you can include concept drawings, photos of costumes or real locations, historical documentation, etc. Professionalism is the key to everything, and adding a little entertainment value to the presentation doesn’t hurt either. This is show business after all, so investors will want to be entertained. Nothing will guarantee that your project gets made, but following these simple guidelines will give you the best shot at making your dreams become a reality. Publications: Hollywood Reporter ( Daily Variety ( Premiere magazine ( Screen Daily ( Online – Free sites: (Internet Movie Database) (Australian online publication) (Independent Film Channel) (organization dedicated to independent films) (organization of independent filmmakers) Online – paid sites: (Studio System) (Baseline/Filmtracker) (Internet Movie Database Pro Version) Other resources: (Hollywood Creative Directory) Festivals and markets to attend for more research: Asia: Pusan International Film Festival Hong Kong FILMART Europe: Festival de Cannes Berlin Film Festival MIPCOM (France) North America: Sundance Film Festival American Film Market Toronto International Film Festival

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