Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Blog 16: An angel appears

Now that our proposal has been finished, the next big question is who do we show it to? In other words, who do we know who has $900,000?  I know a few people who have that much and more, but they also don't want to hand it out without good reason.  And good reason isn't my movie, or any movie for that matter.  

So what do we do?  

The first thing I did when we started this venture was to write down the names of every studio executive, network exec, all the development people I met, actors, friends and anyone else whose name shows up on my old contact sheets.  And after 20 years in LA, there were a lot of them.  I began by sending an individual e-mail to all of them, rather than a mass e-mail which I didn't feel was as personal.  I didn't want them to think they were just part of a group. 

It took longer, but I felt it was worth it.  They don't owe me anything, in fact many have helped me in the past, so the least I could do is give them individual attention.  Shirley did the same with her women's directors association and other groups. Slowly we began getting a few responses here and there, some interest, but mostly nothing real.  We received good marks on the proposal, and that was nice, but not close to getting the budget. 

There were mornings when I woke with the terrifying thought that there was no way I would be able to raise the money for this movie.  That it was even crazy for me to consider it. 

Okay, it's not life and death.  

But regardless,  I had told Shirley and others that we were going to get the money and we were going to make this movie. This, in spite of a recession and a general downfall of movie financing that mostly depended on hedge funds and other funding sources that were now in various stages of falling apart or just maintaining their heads above water. 

My days were filled with emails, phone calls and surfing the net to find investment websites.  As I did this I began to notice something interesting in that there was a noticeable amount of "investment counsellors" and ads offering investment in films.  Was it going to be easier than I thought?

Upon closer examination most of them turned out to be what I called "mini-Madoff deals".  There are a lot of ex-hedge fund and stock market hustlers out there who are becoming so desperate they are now going after filmmakers.  I should point out that some are real, but a lot of them are almost laughable. 

What are they doing?

First they are not investing in my movie.  Rather they are offering to invest any monies we get and promise returns that are almost outrageous. One said if I invested $100,000 that I raise, he could turn it into $900,000 within months.  Another said I had to fly to Geneva, Switzerland and pitch my project and then stay 48 hours to hear their decision.  This is real, they are out there, lurking like vampires.

One of the people I contacted was a former student of mine from a screenwriting class at UCLA extension. Randy was one of the few students whom I felt had a good chance at being successful in the world of screenwriting.  He surprised me by making a film for basically nothing, and it won some festival awards. He followed up by making two full-length feature films for $10,000.  

Yes,  2 movies for $10,000.  

He even used green screen CGI.  One of his films is entered into the upcoming Beverly Hills Film Festival.  Randy had introduced me to a friend of his several years ago over dinner in Westwood, a young, quite likable man who had an interest in movies, and who followed up on his interest by investing in several bigger features with some major stars.  On the off chance Randy's friend might be interested in I asked Randy if he would email him and ask. 

To my surprise, he said yes.  

I emailed him a brief summary and based on that, he said if I could find the first half of the budget, that he would probably be able to fill in the second half.  Less than a month had passed since Shirley and I started this venture and we now had the potential of half the budget, around $400,000.  I couldn't believe it, things don't happen this quickly. 

In business,  they use a term for someone who makes an investment at the very beginning of a company venture.  The term is "angel".  It comes from Broadway, when one investor, based on reasons that were usually more risky than practical, helps to get the play going.  Like an angel coming to the rescue.  Randy's friend was our angel in the sense that his confidence would lend itself to an easier shot at raising the first half.  I could use this in any discussions with potential investors. 

Are we in a better position? 

Well, Just slightly.  

Oddly enough the film business is filled with "if you get half I can get half" scenarios.  Most of the time they never are fulfilled as it's sometimes harder to find the half you need.  It seems like it should be easier but it's not.  In fact there's more pressure in some ways.  But the one factor with Randy's friend is that he can indeed back up his offer, as he has proved himself by investing in those several bigger features I mentioned.

And so we are better off than two months ago. But he also isn't going to wait forever, I know of at least one other producer who's hoping for an investment from him.  And I'm sure there are others.

Now all I have to do is find the first half.

I knew there was a catch.



  1. Jim: I so enjoy leisurely reading your blog as I eat my bowl of Raisin Bran every morning. I always look forward to the next post. I am learning so much about the film business.
    Are you guys documenting your search on film, as well? I think the road/journey to making "travel day" could be made into a documentary which would receive a lot of attention. It would also be a lot of fun to watch.

  2. Not doing it as a doc, it's enough to look for money. Also a bit too late now as most of the good stuff happened, at least for the moment.

  3. Congratulations on getting an angel for the second half of your budget!

    I do have one tiny piece of feedback - reading an entire entry that's written in italics is difficult...Otherwise, it's a great blog!

    Susan Ee

  4. Susan

    Sorry about the italics, we had a long discussion on the font, bold or not, etc, I guess I just want it to be different than the widgets on the left side. I'm notorious for using italics in screenplays... : )