Take the Mystery Out of the Film Financing Landscape

Steps to Film Financing Movie Deal Come To Fruition

Every independent filmmaker I have ever met has started out with a script, that is, after the idea, the book, or short story has been running through their heads for months, sometimes years. But after premiering the movie and it’s short-lived film fest tour, the indie movie is usually shelved. That’s what everybody thinks happened to my movie, Spyderwoman now Hybrid, the series and what has happened to most Indies.  But in my case, my movie is not finished, I’m adding a scene in the far future and making it into a series.  Transformation is part of the beauty of writing. However, I don’t want to repeat the same mistake.  Next time, I’m just going to do it the right way.

What makes a film get a movie deal?

Make sure the story is attractive, that you have an attached actor with at least a B rate attached to the movie, you’ve checked the SAG Producer’s agreement for your budget, and you have a letter of intent from a distributor.  Don’t forget to create a business and marketing plan, that includes business reports, analytics reports, budget, and promotion strategy.  All of it is part of a good pitch. That one summary and logline that just kills it.

Spend some time sharpening your presentation skills and start looking for venture capitalists, angel investors, film funding venture capitalists advisors, and strategize your capital raising campaign.  If your efforts fail, make improvements on your package and try again.  Make a different package.

Step 1. The film screenplay, or script, is the intellectual property where it all begins. Make sure it shines.

Indie scripts usually are not well formatted by industry standards even using Final Draft software; it may lack strict visualization in the action lines, too much irrelevant description, not enough succinctness, telling instead of showing, passive voice, longer than 4 lines of dialogue in some cases, and what is worse, it may lack a good setup. That’s to be expected of indies who haven’t got the practice or the CW/FILM MFA.  We indies realize Hollywood doesn’t always follow the guidelines. But with superb editing and special effects,  “do it in post” is becoming the norm. So why should indies have to follow the rules?

Hollywood may produce movies with two pages of monologue, plot holes, sexist ethnic stereotyping, (all kinds of stereotyping), rehash the same storyline a million different ways (Cinderella)  and still manga to sell millions of tickets at the Box Office.

The Indies World is Revolutionizing

The time has come for Indies. The world is paying attention to new and exciting topics of interest. People can relate to different ways of looking at things, people, and places can appreciate less stereotyping, and more inclusiveness in “film.”  Enough of us can appreciate different cultures to make a difference in the lives of indie filmmakers.

Recently, we’ve seen how new age and more diverse movies have made it to the top as in the case of Moonlight, the film that caused an uproar at the Academy Awards when it garnered the Oscar for best feature of the year in 2017.   Here’s my advice when it comes to polishing a script and making it into a tool for attracting funding from venture capitalists:

Follow screenplay writing guidelines and rules unless there is a compelling reason not to.

If audiences paid attention to every big budget or Blockbuster movie plot instead of being hypnotized by the sound and images, they would often see all the above-mentioned sins of scriptwriting as taught by Screenwriting schools in the US. I’ve only attended two and have a total screenplay writing MFA for film, but that has only made me open my eyes to “Story.”

Even when Hollywood does put out bad movie plots, oversimplistic, or senseless.  I bet at least four out of ten times, the story plot will be good enough, and sometimes even superb and subtle. There’s talent too in high places, not just after effects, tech skills and lots of marketing $$$.

What makes a good film?

“Story” is what really defines a good film, at least in my opinion.  I can’t stand vapid shootings, fist fights, explosions, or car chases that lack real gumption.  However, the face of a highly paid actor like Robert Deniro in one such scene will make us look twice and give some credibility to the splurge of high-level special effects spent to attract the action/adventure male audience between 25 and 45.

If we look into the plot, we’ll realize it’s just another mafia movie that stereotypes everyone.  But people are hypnotized by it and don’t care to make any sense of it.

On the other hand, a poorly formatted script can be polished to become a phenomenal script when the story has grit.  Not that indies shouldn’t have to learn the skill of standard formatting, but if the story is sound, the script can be polished to have a perfect setup, an inciting incident, and follow a plot arc along with the key characters’ arc that will take the viewer straight to the summit after three turning points before closing with a golden brooch. “Story” makes the difference. Whether it’s a comedy, romance, sci-fi, or all three at once.

An Indie Destiny

What is sad to watch is that after making a tremendous sacrifice of time, money and even family,  after the premiere we start wondering who is going to purchase the film and where it can be shown.  We start searching for ways to get a return on our investment (ROI), create a buzz, or raise the money to promote.

For many filmmakers, the end of the movie comes right after the film festival is over, even if you got first prize.  Unless it’s Sundance, (my favorite because Paul Newman is my childhood favorite actor) or the Berlin Film Festival, to name just a few of the top ten film fests in the world, your film won’t land a movie deal. Why? It’s not because it’s no good.  It’s because you didn’t follow the right steps.

Step 2. THE FILM BUSINESS PLAN

The Breakdown of a Script

Every indie learns to “breakdown” a film screenplay on their own.  Breaking down a script is all about organizing like things, a skill learned in kindergarten.  Of course, if you get fancy and use highlighters it’s even better. You can assign categories for each one of the scripts elements and when you think about what to do with it a bit you will figure out that getting things done by location saves time and effort and money.

Of course, there are expensive software programs like Entertainment Partner’s Movie Magic Budgeting & Scheduling.  If you learn to use these tools, your presentation will look much better.

The guerilla filmmaking way is to start calling all your friends and have them donate some of the things you need.  Get your team together and come up with locations that won’t cost you any money.  Call the locations, vendors, equipment rental places, go shopping for wardrobe, invest in makeup and applicators.  Get a first aid kit, tons of cases of water, and make sure you label everything with your production company’s name.

Figure the number of days and hours shot at each location, the cost per location and voilà, you have a budget.  If you want to take advantage of tax incentives keep all your receipts and present them to the State to get your rebate.

The budget shown to venture capital investors, angel investors, banks, and philanthropists needs to be based on comparisons between similar films.

The Film Marketing Plan

Target a specific audience on social media, TV, Radio, send out press releases, run ad campaigns, use Search Engine Marketing to keep the film in the public’s eye tied to keywords, actors, and storyline.

What’s the distribution plan? VOD? Theatrical? National and international marketing and distribution.

How will you maximize exposure and sell more movie tickets? Include marketing film merchandise such as action figure toys, video games, fashion lines, artwork, and soundtracks.

What organizations, national and international will your film be aligned with, environmentalist, religious, new age, liberal, LGBT community, or conservative, or liberal?

Step 3. SHOW YOUR TEAMWORK SKILLS

Who are your team members?

Include bios, pictures, reels, trailers, portfolios, and interviews.

Include actors and public figures that support the movie.

STEP 4. The EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – Frist Impressions Count

A film’s executive summary is an overview of all the film’s creative and business endeavors. It’s actually the first document presented to investors.  If they don’t like it, if you are not convincing enough, if the overall plan doesn’t make business sense, if it doesn’t prove its return on investment capabilities, and is not persuasive, no one will read the rest of the plan.

Pitching includes the logline, plot summary, and the business overview.  Especially crafted, the front page says it all in a nutshell. Use your words carefully, be enthusiastic, give value, solve a problem.

Success is not the work of chance alone, it’s being prepared when chance calls and turning the light green. Don’t just shoot blanks out in the dark. Target your capital investor by type and history. Have a plan, start following these steps and let’s talk about distribution next time. Stay tuned.  BTW, I’m looking for a cinematographer, director and editor to come onboard. Students and hobbyists are welcome.  To apply,  just join my email list or message me on social media. I’m Angela Terga pretty much everywhere.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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