Monday, January 23, 2012

Optimism In The Air


Optimism is running high at the Sundance Festival, according to the L.A. Times, where the pick of the year’s indie movies are competing for distribution deals this week. Insiders believe this year’s movies are more commercial than before. And with a number of new buyers on the scene exhibitors are expecting a wild time – says one: “People need movies, there’s a really strong slate”.

This is good news for movie-makers looking to sell their projects at Sundance and we think it’s also good news for anyone looking to get their movie financed and produced. The appetite for movies continues to expand worldwide, despite a rocky year at the US box office. The pie is getting bigger in terms of markets with China and others expanding rapidly, and digital distribution options multiplying. Finance is a challenge for film-makers but that’s always been the case. We just sense a feeling in the air that things are looking up.

We’re feeling very positive at the moment ourselves with a few ventures coming along well. We recently had an inquiry from a finance and production house which wanted to take a closer look at a number of projects on our Pitch Page. There are currently over 120 projects on our site and we regularly connect producers with potential funders. So we’re now working with those financiers to see which out of the 8 chosen projects they’ll take up to finance and produce, and we’ll post all progress here and on our site. The Pitch Page is a nice shop window for projects and traffic is steadily rising.

We’re also engaged right now in helping a producer friend fund a slate of movies with an innovative financial structure which has taken some time and a lot of head-scratching to devise. We’ll see results soon and the first movies should go into production this year. And we’re currently finalizing a commitment of finance for one of our own beloved movie projects, which we’re ramping up to put into production this year. Lots in store, and we’ll be posting all the news on that as we go.

We continue to receive a stream of great movie projects through our website, and it was especially nice recently when a friend sent us a warm and funny Woody Allen-esque caper to be shot in beautiful Glasgow, Scotland, with an all-star cast. Good luck guys!

It may be winter but the sun is out as far as we’re concerned, so polish up your project package and find that finance, things are definitely looking up!

The Out Of Obscurity team.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Still No Thanks To . . .


Firstly, thanks for all your kind and funny comments on our last post about movie fundraising. It’s great to hear from so many people not only sharing the same experiences but having a laugh at them too! So, we hope you enjoy our concluding part this week. Please keep reading Movie Beach, and keep the comments coming.

We received an enticing invitation to visit Cairo to meet a handful of willing movie investors. It would also be an amazing chance to experience Egypt and catch up with an old friend, but we quickly found out that our contact, Ms. H, had somewhat exaggerated her assurances of “millionaires” waiting to write us cheques, and we spent a week driving all over Cairo to no avail. There’s nothing quite so sobering as making a presentation to a handful of people politely trying to smile and appreciate your presence, but who have absolutely no idea why you’re there. Some even applauded graciously as they left the room, wishing us well in a quizzical sort of way. One particularly memorable wild goose chase involved three of us squeezed into the back seat of a rickety and hot old Egyptian taxi as we drove a hundred miles into the desert to visit a mad millionaire who had built a golf course and mega-resort. He “just couldn’t wait to meet us”, we had been told, and he couldn’t have been more hospitable. But we were a little misled: he obviously had never heard of us and thought that perhaps we had turned up to buy one of his yet-to-be-built condos! One more notch on the saddle, then, and we did see the Pyramids. But sadly no thanks to Ms. H.

Next up Mr. D, a seasoned start-up investor and hi-tech financier. We had spend a couple of months in negotiation with him and he had agreed not only to invest but also help us develop our investment fund, which we were then in the process of launching with a major bank in Luxembourg, where Mr. D had business interests. He was also a fellow marathon runner, music fan and all-round good guy, so we flew to New York to close the deal. However, we knew when he greeted us with “Hope you didn’t come all the way just to see me” that things might not be going quite the way we had hoped, but we soldiered on bravely. Although he loved everything about us - enough in fact to offer to invest before we got there – well, he just hadn’t really meant it quite that way, after all. No thanks to Mr. D, then.

We were optimistic as we flew into Dubai on a trip arranged by N, a good friend of ours. His local contact Mr. M assured us that investors and banks were waiting to see us, on the say-so of one of his royal connections. We weren’t complete fools and we already knew how many mugs had spun their wheels in the desert sand waiting on so-called “royal” deals to close. But we took it on faith, especially since N was doing business there himself. The first meeting set the tone as we drove to the first bank we’d been told would surely invest into our projects. But instead of heading to the glittering downtown skyscrapers we dropped in on a local branch manager who simply looked confused. Getting back into the car Mr. M said it had been a simple misunderstanding but, sadly, it went on. One out-of-town bank after another, a gala dinner attended by a so-called influential financier – which we were pressed into paying for, belly dancers and all! – culminating in lunch at the home of one the Sheikhs. As we fled from our hotel room to the lunch date, with N shrieking hysterically down the phone “The Sheikh’s waiting for you!” we reflected on his assurance that we would surely now “close the deal” . . . but, we didn’t. You get the picture? - lots of time-wasting, meaningless meetings, dinners and lunches and not a word about business. In fact it was all going so well, said Mr. M, that we should stay on another couple of weeks. We thought about it, pinched ourselves just to be sure, and cut our losses. Lesson learned and no thanks to Mr. M. Until . . .

Until, that was, we got a call a few months later from Mr. H, who we had met in Dubai. He said he had a client who had already committed to invest, and could we please help him arrange the deal? In the space of just a few days we exchanged papers and received a bank confirmation that a substantial sum was on its way. This would be the start of a stream of business and we envisioned slates of movies unfolding before us. But, and oh yes there’s a but, despite receiving a bank confirmation the funds somehow never did arrive. We don’t know if the investor changed his mind or if Mr. H had been just a little keen to earn his commission but it had flickered brightly and only briefly, with no thanks to Mr. H.

We got a call from Mr. B while we were developing our movie fund, to say that he wanted to invest $1 million and work with us to build up the fund. He loved our concept so much that he had formed a company to work with his private bank to raise funds for us and develop our own slate of movies. However it quickly became apparent that Mr. B and his two partners each wanted to be the boss, and moreover they each wanted to be our boss. They believed that if they raised any money for us then they would run our fund. That was to be only the first of many warning flags. But we never did get as far as having to clarify our ownership issues because, despite having a great concept and the contacts to make it happen, Mr. B and his partners ended up raising nothing, and fighting over control of their unproductive entity. They quite literally sued themselves out of business, leaving us disappointed but relieved that they had shown themselves the door. So, no thanks to Mr. B.

By the time we met Mr. P we already were in business together. He ran one of the largest private industrial conglomerates in the UK and was seeking to elevate his fledgling film distribution company by accessing our Hollywood partner’s contacts and experience. After several conference calls we had a signed contract in place for Mr. P to contribute substantial funding. He had arranged to meet our partners in Los Angeles, and committed to put in place the first $25 million of our joint film fund before meeting them face-to-face. All sounded well and, sitting in his London office he repeated his assurances of funding and business success. But during the entire meeting his gaze was fixed on two TV screens on the wall behind us, and when we shook hands to cement the deal, he contrived to look in some other direction altogether. You may have spotted a pattern here: in last week’s post we mentioned a couple of shysters with shifty eyes. Well, we judged Mr. P by the deep insincerity of his over-the-shoulder gaze and so it proved. After a half-hearted attempt to latch on to our L.A. partners without honouring his own commitment, Mr. P drifted off the scene. Another big-promising talker and we were better off without him of course. But for wasting all of our time, no thanks to Mr. P.

So, we have been around the world a bit in our search for the right movie investors. From the feedback we’ve received this last week it’s obvious that we’ve all kissed our share of frogs on the way to meeting the one or two business partners who really matter. We firmly believe that to find opportunity you need to go looking for it – and that results often come from unexpected places. Someone commented last week that maybe we should have saved our (miniscule!) travel budget and made a micro-budget movie instead. Fortunately someone else then pointed out how important it is to make every effort and meet your prospects face-to-face. We couldn’t agree more, as you can only really get the measure of someone when you meet them yourself, and preferably in their own back yard. Unless you demonstrate that you’re committed to doing whatever it takes to get your job done, and your movie made, well you might as well stay at home.

It’s also just one of the most important things in the world to travel, and you owe it to yourself to take every opportunity to travel, whatever the circumstances. In our case, as an accidental side-effect of our catastrophic Cairo comedy tour, we actually raised quite a lot of money later on through contacts we would never have met otherwise. And, if we hadn’t gone out on a limb and relocated last year, we wouldn’t have met our friend Captain R., who introduced us to Mr. M, who’s just pledged to fully finance our next movie. Coincidence, maybe, but a lifetime of dedication to the cause got us there. As George Clooney’s character in “Up In The Air” says: “Moving is living”. And if you can do business at the same time as travelling, well that makes it all worthwhile.

The Out Of Obscurity team.

Friday, July 22, 2011

No Thanks To . . .


We happened to see a little-known movie on TV the other day called Made In Romania, a comedy about the making of an indie film. It was a light-hearted little thing with plenty of inside-the-movie-business chuckles and the central premise of the producer being ripped off by the financier, who insisted the movie be shot on location in Romania. But the funniest thing about the whole movie was the final credit, which read:

NO THANKS TO . . . all the miserable buggers out there who said no.

If you’ve ever been involved in raising money for movies – or any other entrepreneurial venture for that matter – you’ll recognise the sentiment in that one line.

Having been up the sharp end ourselves we were reminded of a few times we had been told “yes” by prospective investors, only to find that the money never arrived, the cheque bounced, or they never again answered their phone. And rather than dwell on the mind-numbing questions of why people do that sort of thing and how much pain you need to go through to get something worthwhile done, we thought we might share a few episodes we’ve encountered along the way. Miserable buggers, all of them!

Shortly after we started our company we were raising funds to look after our early business plan goals when we met Mr. G through one of our start-up investors. Over coffee in Singapore Mr. G regaled us with tales of his formidable investment company and uttered the magic line “Is $5 million enough?” Well that was that, we thought, we’re off to the races - as he promised to get back to us to discuss his company’s investment. But we should have paid more attention to his shifty eyes and crooked teeth, as we never received a dime from this guy. No thanks to Mr. G then, and we were off and running on the fundraising roller-coaster.

We were introduced to Mr. M by a mutual friend who said “He’ll take care of all your needs” which indeed seemed to be the case when we flew to London to meet him. After dinner in his Mayfair townhouse and being welcomed into his family, we heard the magic words “You won’t have to go anywhere else, I have all the contacts”. A genuine billionaire, Mr. M also had an actor son who wanted a supporting role in our debut movie, which we were happy to accommodate. OK then, and all’s well. However in the following weeks and months it became obvious that Mr. M liked the sound of his own voice more than he was prepared to do something about it. He retreated gently from our “main man”, through “camp follower” until he became a thin voice on the horizon uttering platitudes about “considering the situation” in a couple of years’ time. Funny and sad, especially as his rich-boy son never did develop a movie career for himself. No thanks to Mr. M.

We met Dave, a relative of our good friend S, in a bar in Singapore. As the beers went down, and as David began to glaze fondly at my beautiful business partner, he offered to finance a new venture between ourselves and S, which would finance our company’s future success. We would have loved to work directly with S, however the conversation lasted another couple of beers before David’s commitment became a little fluid, and it didn’t take long until he’d forgotten it altogether. We remain firm friends with S, but Dave? – never heard from him again. Beer money wasted and no thanks to him.

We were by now close to launching our movie investment fund. So when we were introduced to Mr. A and his large Japanese financial conglomerate – which coincidentally was getting into financing films and wanted to set up a film fund – it seemed like a perfect match. And so it seemed when we flew in to Tokyo to greet our new partner and Mr. I, its venerable founder. Our plan was agreed by the firm’s board, and we arranged to host a premier of our fund’s first film at the upcoming Singapore Film Festival. On their part Mr. I’s group promised to seed the fund with its first $2-3 million and sell it widely among its client base, the largest in Japan. We would be in charge of international distribution and Hollywood connections for the stream of movies we would make together. It all sounded too good to be true and sadly it was. The movie premiere was a success, but our partners had neglected to arrange distribution for its crucial Tokyo launch which scuppered our chance of making any money on it. And, they somehow forgot to contribute the all-important first $2 million in capital, and their legions of thousands of investors never quite got to hear about investing into our fund. To be completely fair our Mr. A had tried manfully throughout the whole episode to turn our agreement into reality but found himself swimming against the tide of his board. So, no thanks to Mr. I.

Mr. K, ahh, Mr. K saw himself as a bit of a dandy. When we flew to Hong Kong to meet him he had just published a book about himself and bought a football club in England. Of course he wanted to get into the movie business but, we should have known . . . Things went well over dinner with my beautiful business partner again the focus of the conversation. Mr. K offered to send his car to pick us up in the morning and assured us that his people would be in touch to close the deal the following week. But in the morning there was no car, and next week no deal. At this point we began to conclude that perhaps it’s easier for some folks to hear themselves say “Yes” then slither out the back door, than be honest and say “No” and move on. Definitely no thanks to Mr. K, who perhaps loved himself a little too much.

Mr. P was an interesting case, a solid international businessman with existing movie business experience. He met us on one of his trips to Singapore and, after smiling and nodding over breakfast, he committed to investing a decent amount into our business. However he did shift a little in his chair and look slightly askew as he shook hands . . . Maybe we should have picked up on that little bit of body language but, hey, we’re trusting folks. We next met him in London where he presented us with a signed formal offer of financing, as agreed. But then the trail began to go cold, he became harder to reach and eventually citied the flimsy excuse that he was prevented by his executive committee from investing his own money, hmmm. No more Mr. P and it was becoming clear to us that although we didn’t get any money or help from this cavalcade of charlatans, we’d be better off without them in the long run. No thanks to Mr. P.
-One healthy postscript to our dealings with Mr. P was that we had committed to ourselves, as you do, that if we got his offer of finance we would run the Singapore Marathon. So on our return from London, offer in hand, we signed up and ran the world’s hardest and most humid road race, enjoying every sweaty mile of it in the “knowledge” that our money was on the way. Oh yes, innocence can be sweet.

Next time we'll be back to conclude with a few more tales from our own personal front line. Meanwhile feel free to share your own experiences with us, good or bad and hopefully funny.

The Out Of Obscurity team.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

What Does It Take?

For one reason and another we’ve been musing a lot lately on the question “What does it take to get your movie made?”

The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that a well-known producer recently failed to get a movie greenlit by a studio because he wasn’t able to reduce his budget from $60 million to $50 million. Times have changed and DVD sales are slumping so studios are looking to lower their exposure and spend less on movies such as comedies, which don’t necessarily play well everywhere. However, what caught our eye was the producer’s comment that although he believed he had a potential hit movie with two big stars, he couldn’t lower the budget “because of the talent involved”. Basically that means that two highly-paid A-listers weren’t prepared to work within a budget to get a movie made and would rather – or their agents would rather – they didn’t take a project for a lower payday. It was also reported this week that Cameron Diaz took a substantial pay-cut for her role in Bad Teacher, no doubt in exchange for a profit share should the movie succeed. In any other business that’s common sense – working within limitations especially when times are lean. In truth most movies these days have this kind of buy-in from the creative talent and if that helps get more movies made then it’s got to be a good thing. But you have to shake your head when you see nonsense written in black and white such as projects getting shelved because of an egocentric lack of will to get a movie made.

Obviously there’s a lot of hard work, dedication and blind faith at various points along the way to making your movie. But on top of having a great script and the will to put it all together, there’s often an element of craziness that creeps in around the edges. It’s like holding your hand over a flame, or wondering how long can you keep going into the dark before you see the light appear at the tunnel’s end. You find yourself working crazy hours, doing everything that needs to be done . . .OK, that’s par for the course. You don’t get paid while you’re in development . . . OK, par for the course again. You find yourself missing out on important events with family and friends . . . OK again, sometimes sacrifice is necessary, and who needs a life anyway? These are all everyday symptoms of a writer/director/producer’s life, I hear you say, and of course that’s true.

But, If you’ve ever found yourself asking the question “Am I really going down the right road?” or “What more would I sacrifice/sell/give up to get this done?” then you’ll recognise that things can get a whole lot crazier. We see a lot of projects from lots of producers and some of them have made great sacrifices to get their movies made. And in some cases they’re still sacrificing in the hope of getting their movies made. Where you draw the line is definitely a personal thing as to how much you’re prepared to beg, steal and borrow to achieve your goal. If you’re burning with a passion for your movie, and it’s your life’s mission to get it made no matter what crappy job you have to take or how long you have to wait, then go for it. There’s no substitute for sheer passion and belief. But if you’re not absolutely sure, either about the merits of your project or about your own life-or-death devotion to the cause, then take a long look in the mirror . . .

Most entrepreneurial ventures are challenging, but it seems that making movies is a quirky bit harder than the rest, since you’ve got to raise money from sceptical people to enable you to make something artistic and financially very risky in order to have a chance of succeeding in getting your product out in the marketplace . . . and that’s all before you run the remote risk of making money for yourself and your backers. In some cases the best you can hope for is that your investors respect your artistic vision and enjoy the movie as contributing pioneers to your voyage into the unknown. Of course if you make a great movie and get yourself a proper distribution deal then you’ll gain respect both for your artistic vision and your financial acumen, and you’ll be set up for your next bunch of movies.

As well as running our fund and assisting film-makers find finance for their projects in other ways, we recently received a firm offer of finance on a movie project of our own. It has taken many sacrifices and leaps of faith to get this far, but things are falling into place and we can only hope they continue to do so. More on this anon.

Lately we’ve been helping out a friend, an experienced producer who’s packaging a great movie for a $5 million budget, and he’s aiming to bring in an Oscar-winning A-list star to headline and direct. A tall order, surely, when big stars get millions per movie from the studios. Mr D., our friend, believes he can get Mr. W, the star, because he loves the material and wants to do the movie. But D’s trying frantically to keep the project out of the hands of W’s agents, who will inevitably talk up the budget, Mr. W’s fee (and their 10%), and scupper Mr. D’s project by taking it to a studio where it will be endlessly rewritten into a pulp. Right now it’s finely balanced and if Mr. W says yes, then D can make his movie his way. We’re hoping Mr. W shares our belief and decides to participate in a great movie that won’t keep him out of the studios’ clutches for too long.

What it takes to get your movie made only you will discover. How much are you prepared to give to realise your dreams?

The Out Of Obscurity team.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cannes Shows The Way Up

It’s Cannes time again and things seem to be looking pretty rosy. When we last visited the festival the mood was decidedly sombre, and at the press conference for the new business we were helping to launch the questions were almost universally about when the gloom would end. There were fewer film-makers on show and buyers weren’t buying. This year, however, it looks like there’s a lot of good movies generating buzz, and a reinvigorated appetite from buyers all over the world. That can only be good for business, and we’re hoping to take advantage of the sentiment ourselves as we’re taking a few initial steps with one of our own projects that’s being repped by a colleague at Cannes. More on that later, but the “development” hat is definitely getting dusted off this season.

Good news that the buzz is back among film-makers and we’re looking for evidence that the money is coming back also. We’re currently helping a couple of friends package their projects and there might just be more funding sources to go to than for some time. Producers are always looking for new, reliable sources of finance and we’re being told that there actually is a lot of new money out there these days looking to invest into films. It sounds obvious, but it’s now more important than ever for a movie project to be presented with a credible budget and a top-notch business plan. The most important elements by far are the investment structure and distribution strategy. If you can show your investors that they are taking part in a legitimate business venture with a credible and likely payout then you’ve got a great chance of getting the money for your movie.

Movies rarely get greenlit or rake in investment dollars these days simply on content, but if you’ve got a convincing business case and can demonstrate how and when the investors will see their money back, then you’ll be taken seriously by the money. Emphasise the return to equity investors – those guys that take the most risk and are likely to be getting paid out last – and if you can convince them you have a great deal then other elements will fall into place. There are many ways to offer incentives to investors: compensating them from tax credits or distribution deals as they get done, or guaranteeing repayments of funds in stages as revenues begin to flow can all help lower the investor’s total exposure to loss.

Helping investors make money is the ultimate goal, but in the movie world if you can show your investors a way that will ensure they don’t lose their money, then you’re ahead of the pack. Structure your presentation properly, focus on achievable returns, and you will cultivate loyal investors for your next movie as well.

The Out Of Obscurity team.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In A Perfect World

A new guest piece on Movie Beach, this time from our friend and film finance guru Jeffrey Taylor.

He recently published a great piece on film finance trends and strategies which he has kindly allowed us to mash-up here:

In a perfect world, a winning movie transaction would look like this: equity investors receive a multiple of their initial investment within a prescribed time frame; mezzanine investors get all their interest and principle paid; senior debt is fully serviced—and possibly re-cycled for another favorable round of financing. Deals like this have been done for years, frequently involving hedge fund managers, investment bankers and private equity fund managers.

Like cinematic movements, film financing seems to come in waves. 30 years ago Japanese money was prevalent; 20 years ago, insurance companies; 10 years ago, German film funds with tax reasons for investing in films; and this last decade major US hedge funds. Each wave has its own characteristics:

  • In the early 1980s, much of the investment was tax driven: investors could purchase films as they were being completed and effectively lease them back to distributors. They could accelerate the depreciation and amortization of the asset to defer income and other taxes. In the 1990s insurance companies offered to insure gap loans on films. Banks would provide gap financing to producers, then insure the loans in case sales targets were missed and producers couldn’t make good. Emboldened by their insurance policies, banks increased the gap loans to as much as 50% of film budgets. Many films failed to reach their sales targets, many insurance companies were called in to repay loans, and litigation ensued.
  • Past cycles have also included periods of public underwriting, such as those in Australia, the UK and the German government’s development of a public market in tax-shelter vehicles - the Neuer Market - to raise money from wealthy investors. German film funds invested hundreds of millions of dollars in independent production companies like Newmarket and New Line Cinema. Then in 2001 the Neuer Market melted down, a victim of bankruptcies and insider-trading scandals, and with it went the money. This collapse left major studios and large independents looking for new sources of production financing.
  • Most recently, between 2004 and 2008, an estimated $15 billion was invested in so-called “slate funding deals”. Players like Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase all arranged co-financing deals with Hollywood studios, raising money from U.S. hedge funds and private equity firms.

Through all financing cycles, one group of investors can always be counted on. These people invest for emotional reasons, such as, "my daughter is in the film, my son has always wanted to be a film producer, my son wrote the script, my wife wants to be a movie star." Such investors tend to lose their entire investment.

Producers have a number of ways of financing their films

  • First, and most basic, is equity: this is the early-stage financing that turns a script into a film in progress. As with much venture capital, angel and other seed capital seeking high returns against high risk, most equity investors in independent movies fail to see returns on their money. On the bright side, most equity investors in independent movies don’t expect their money back - they’re the ever-dependable investors mentioned above, frequently the family and friends of the filmmaker.
  • Next is senior debt, which accounts for a significant portion of the film’s total financing. Traditional providers of senior debt (banks like JP Morgan Chase) require a security interest in the film and all revenue streams associated with it in priority to equity. So, before a film is completed, a producer might sell the distribution rights (including theatrical, home video/DVD, pay TV, free TV and other rights) for various countries. The producer can then use the value of these contracts as collateral against a production loan from a bank.
  • Another form of financing, which is an important part of the funding for independent films, is ‘soft dollars’ or tax credits for shooting a film in a certain state or country. Since 2005, according to BusinessWeek, US states have granted $3.5 billion in incentives to makers of films, TV shows and commercials, but many of these programs are currently under assault as states struggle to balance budgets.
  • Still another component of film financing is print and advertising financing—prints need to be made for theatrical distribution, but the main part of the tab is advertising. The typical P&A budget today is equal to or greater than the film budget. An insider gives the example of a $16 million film with a $20 million P&A budget. The financiers offered to provide $8 million senior debt at 20%, which, he says, is a very common interest rate range for P&A financing.
  • Producers can also earn money from product placement (think ET and Reese’s Pieces, think George Clooney’s character in “Up in the Air” flying American Airlines).

Whatever the structure of the film-financing deal, everyone hopes for a Hollywood ending by producing a smash hit with everyone getting fabulously wealthy. The odds, however, are stacked pretty steeply against this. A large-scale, independent studio making 12 films a year will probably get eight losses, two break-evens, one pretty good film and one hit. Smaller-scale institutions with the wherewithal to make only four films could find themselves with four losers and end up closing shop. As a business proposition, it’s better to spread the risk over a larger number of films. That’s an ability the studios have always had—releasing 20 or more films in a season. A slate of films may not assure investors of great wealth but it prevents them from losing their shirts.

Who Invests in Film?

Film financing is a complex business that requires good information, strong experience and a balanced approach that avoids emotion about being in the business. It is not for the faint of heart. According to a hedge fund manager, film investors fall into three main categories:

  • First, there are angel investors—family and friends of the filmmaker who invest for other than strictly financial reasons.
  • Second there are those who think they can beat the house. “Everyone else has been burned, many people in Hollywood are charlatans, but they think they can beat the house anyway—they’ll pick better films, they’ve met a very trustworthy guy who has a slate of films that can’t lose—and the hallmark of those people is they claim very outsize rates of return.”
  • The third category of investor is able, by virtue of scale of investment or some other means, to truly diversify across a number of different investment opportunities. This investor looks at films the way others look at real estate—knowing many things could go wrong, but that if he’s truly diversified and invests on a significant scale, and is very diligent, then over a reasonable period of time, he’ll reap a “very handsome return.” Which is basically what the studios do—although even the studios get it wrong.

Another answer to the question, ‘Who invests?’ might be, ‘People who see an opportunity.’ Box office demand is currently strong, but the number of films being made with U.S. distribution is down significantly.

How to Succeed in Film Financing

  • First, you must take the time to truly understand the many elements of film production finance and distribution, in particular, the legal components and how the rights are created, distributed and paid for.
  • Second, you have to have some kind of connection to the industry at a fairly high level, meaning, you need to have access to trustworthy people and have a good mechanism for filtering out people who are not reliable business partners.
  • The third piece of advice to would-be film financiers is “remain vigilant.”

Hollywood likes to fleece people, but if you follow steps one and two, you are more likely to enter good deals with good people.

To order your own personal copy of "Film Finance For Beginners" please visit: Books by Jeffrey Taylor

The Out Of Obscurity team.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pitch Page On A Roll


With Sundance going on right now we’re reflecting a little on the hustle of actually getting your movie made which inevitably begins with finding the money to get it going in the first place. We get a lot of traffic through our website from aspiring film-makers of all sorts, from film students at college putting together their first short to experienced mainstream producers seeking partners on studio slate finance deals. The one common ingredient? – they’re all looking for money. So we’ve always felt there must be a way of connecting good movie projects with the investors they need.

That’s why we launched the Pitch Page on our site a few months back, and we’ve had a really enthusiastic response so far. There are currently over 80 active projects up on the site and we’ve had a number of inquiries from financing groups and producers looking for good new material. We get all sorts of project submissions from a tiny documentary about Tibetan llamas to all kinds of indie dramas, from no-budget shorts to major star-driven features. One of the first visible successes was a political drama with an all-star cast and Oscar-winning lead which was picked up for a mainstream box-office release. We weren’t directly involved in the sale but it was released recently to critical acclaim after being seen first on the Pitch Page. However we have had direct inquiries for a number of the projects on our site which are in discussion right now. One writer is closing on a verbal offer to sell his script and a production studio which inquired about a slate of 6 Pitch Page movies took a close look at two of them and is now negotiating on a $12 million investment into a movie project featured on the site.

The Pitch Page listings continue to grow and we’re extending our reach among potential movie investors. We’ll be posting some of the concrete success stories of movies from the Pitch Page on our site in the coming months. So look out for the occasional credit and maybe we’ll be popping up at Sundance next time around.

The Out Of Obscurity team.