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.

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