Monday, May 11, 2009

The Two D's

The following is a general missive to young filmmakers about the two hardest phases of filmmaking. It applies to experiences making and distributing a low budget secular movie.

I break filmmaking into 6 phases: The Idea, Development, Pre-Production, Production, Post Production and Distribution. In my opinion, young filmmakers are weakest in the two D's-- Development and Distribution.

Development - This is where the script is written and possibly a name or two are attached. But the hardest part of Development is pulling the funding together. I used to say this was the hardest part of filmmaking-- finding the money-- but now I think it's the second hardest part. So how do you fund your movie? Well, I know people are plopping down lots of green for seminars on this very topic. And what you find at the seminars are directions on how to apply for grants, instructions on how to find investors, and maybe in the better ones, how to setup your business entity.

I do get asked this a bunch. How do I raise the money. And yes, the answer is a hard, narrow path. You have to approach everyone you know and ask them to invest. And then you ask them for referrals. The secret is just tenacity and getting over call reluctance. There's no easy answer. If you're a first time filmmaker, your money will *not* come from Hollywood.

The first step to this whole thing is creating your legal entity and getting the paperwork to raise money. You'll need an attorney and expect to pay $6,000 to $15,000 in fees. So yes, welcome to your first Catch-22-- you need money to get the paperwork, you need paperwork to get the money. See if your first investor will front you the money so you can get the paperwork.

For those DIY'ers out there, there is software and ways to create the entity yourself-- but depending on the state you live in, it will still cost a grand or more in fees.

As for grants, I've found it's more paperwork and hassle to go after a very small amount of money than it is to raise it through private investors. But if you're wanting to do a documentary, it might be the way to go.

I could write a long time on this subject, but then you wouldn't need to go to any seminars.

Distribution -- The other D. If you've gotten a name actor, even B- name actor to be in your movie, getting distribution will be easy. If you have a no-name drama, chances are you won't get distribution. Drama's are the hardest genre to get distribution. And by the way, if you want distribution, the name value of the actors is almost *everything*.

The hardest part of filmmaking is this-- getting the investors money back. You see, the distributors are pro's at covering their bases-- making sure they have lots of profit (as much as they can squeeze out). They will make noise about wanting to help you, establish strong relationships with filmmakers such as yourself, but for the most part, this is the H'Wood snow job. Don't buy into it. They might offer you a small advance... but this could very well be the only money your investors ever see.

So work the best deal you can with distributors. If you're just beginning a movie, keep these things in mind.

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