Today we have two professionals in the world of filmmaking to give expert information on 1) the role of “producer” and 2) how to finance a film.
Last week we got a voicemail from a listener of the show wanting to know more information about how you go about financing a film. While in Los Angeles to film our new “women in film” upcoming documentary series, I took advantage of the opportunity to interview show regular Yolanda Cochran. Based on her experience as EVP of Alcon Entertainment, then a consultant to Netflix, Yolanda is a wealth of knowledge with regards to both of these topics. We also hear from Mara Tasker in this episode. Mara is the head of original content production a Seed&Spark, a crowdsourcing site for filmmakers by filmmakers. In this episode you’ll learn: what is it exactly that all those different types of producers do (e.g. Producer, Co-produce, Executive Producer, etc.); different strategies for financing a film; tips for using crowdfunding sites like Seed&Spark and Kickstarter.
Music in this Episode
Music was curated from FreeMusicArchive.org. In order of appearance, the music in this episode:
- Boulevard St. Germaine by Jahzzar (CC BY-SA)
- Outer Orbit by Revolution Void (CC BY)
- Acid Jazz by Kevin MacLeod (CC BY)
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Yolanda T. Cochran says
Hey there, Ron.
Yolanda T. Cochran here…your friend and occasional guest. 🙂
I listened to this episode and felt compelled to follow up with some additional responses and feedback as I didn’t think I adequately addressed your caller’s questions. We covered some great and useful topics as it relates to film finance. But I can imagine (and HAVE been) in the shoes of that aspiring filmmaker, to whom little of what I was describing in my responses applies. (He’s not a mini-major or a small production company. He’s a lone filmmaker, probably without resources and also likely having few “connections”, but with a desire to make film(s) nonetheless. How does THAT GUY or GAL get a film made? What do they need to be thinking about? What tools do they need? How can they draw investors (and then, hopefully, be able to NOT think about financing and focus on the creative….well, that last part rarely happens, but…I know the mindset 😉
Please, if you can, get this to “Joe from Chicago”. (I love the show, too, Joe. And only partly because I’m sometimes on it. Ha!)
Some of your questions were…You don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, so who will be your investors, how do you find them, what will they need and be looking for to draw them in and convince them to invest in your film? And last, how do you to determine what and how much to be asking for?
These are all TERRIFC questions. I could drone on and on. I can’t (time constraints), and I won’t (time constraints and a measure of humility). But I’ll do my best to BETTER answer the question than I did in this podcast episode.
You DON’T have to live in L.A. or New York to “be in the game”, though I won’t kid you…it certainly helps. I say that only because the kinds of resources from a “film investor standpoint” available to filmmakers are most prevalently in these cities. At the very least, you may occasionally need to travel to these cities to attend industry events that lend themselves to filmmakers looking for investors (AFM, for example) and/or to take meetings. That said, the world is changing, I’m a lover of technology and it’s amazing these days what can get done via Skype and Google Hangouts.
It is the extremely rare case of films that find investors (what would be called an equity investor…meaning investors that are giving you money and hoping to see a return from distribution revenue…versus a debt investor…meaning a bank loaning you money and expecting YOU to pay it back through loan payments of interest and principle) that are just “in your local market of Chicago” and will invest in your film. Such an example would be say…a local business owner (e.g. owner of a restaurant) who, for whatever reason, believes in you or the material (or otherwise has designs herself of “getting into the biz”) and just “gives you the $500K or $1M” with hopes and expectations of you finishing it, getting it distributed and getting her money back with a little profit on top. Most film investors are found in “film markets”. That’s generally L.A. and NY (and to a growing degree now GA…though, those in GA are typically “big players”), and they’re usually found at “actual markets” like AFM.
How do you attract them? How do you get them to take you seriously? Well, sir. That’s the $20M question that NO ONE has the REAL answer for. So we cull together “what we think we know”. (But never forget the secret Hollywood mantra…..”nobody knows nothin'”.)
You’ll be taken seriously in greater degrees, the more of the following elements that you have to present:
– great material (meaning a GREAT STORY)…Personally I think this is A#1 important (but I’ve seen crap be “successful”)
– “bankable talent” attached (In the “bigger world” this includes filmmaker/director. In the world I assume you’re currently “living in”, this means “name actors” to the extent you can get to them and secure their interest.)
– a workable and sound plan (meaning a schedule and budget that are DOABLE, have integrity and have accuracy…meaning you didn’t pull the schedule and the budget out of your ass). What THESE elements look like will depend upon many factors, most key being: locations, which guilds and unions (or not), dictates of the story (Is it period? How much can you “cheat things”?), etc.
– “Comps”…comps means examples of movies similar to yours (genre, talent, etc) and what amount of revenue those movies brought in from which revenue streams (theatrical, pay TV, free TV, SVOD, DVD, etc)
– A profitability projection (i.e. projected revenue against budget and other costs). This analysis needs to include ALL costs (budget, marketing/P&A plus distribution costs and expenses).
– Proposed marketing plan (including traditional ads, publicity and social media campaign). The better you can identify your audience and have empirical examples (back to “comps”), the better off you are.
– Proposed distributors to target (including examples of what content they’ve distributed in the past…”stuff like yours”)
– Proposed production incentives (tied to your shooting location, post plans, etc)
Okay. I think I’ve reached my “maximum time allotted” now. Gotta run. But final note. ALL the elements above need to have INTEGRITY (no bullshit in there…you’ll only be cheating yourself). That means, you can tie the information to empirical data points and sources.
Good luck, Joe from Chicago!
P.S. Damnit!!! In the “proof read” I found a question I meant to answer and didn’t. How to determine how much to ask for? Your budget should be such that your profitability analysis reflects a reasonable chance to make all the costs back plus a little extra. So make sure that your comps have integrity and then plan to make your film (ALL COSTS, remember) for a responsible amount less than you anticipate making in revenue.
Joe from Chicago says
Yolanda! Wow! Thank you so much this information. I mean your answer on the show was definitely enlightening, but this hits with nail-on-the-head specificity of my situation and what I need to do. Thank you again for taking the time to share your insight!