Friday, September 11, 2009

Blog 13: Financing the movie, where do you start?

You're looking at the cover of our proposal for Travel Day. It's also called a business plan as well as an investment circular, or a private offering. Some of these names require legal work, some don't but they're all the same thing...

A plea for money. 

Now that Shirley and I survived through the script notes and changes we now have to figure out how someone will give us nearly a million dollars to make Travel Day.  But first, a recommendation to anyone who tries this. 

Find someone to help you. 

It can be a lawyer or a friend, anyone who will be committed to the cause,  someone you trust and have faith in because they're gonna need it. In my case it was Shirley. Between us we had a writer, a producer,  a director, a graphic artist,  web techie, savvy movie software techie and many more incarnations.

And that's just between the two of us. Multiple talents come in handy when you have little money and big ambitions.

From the very beginning, Shirley and I decided we would be partners on this project. Whatever we do, it has to be approved by both of us, at least to the extent that we are still working alone. Once financing partners come in, it'll be a little harder, but we will remain partners on every decision we have to make.  It will be tested in the days and months to come, we both know that.

I have tried several times to get a film going with producers, but most of them fell out for one reason or another. Some producers make 5 or 6 calls and get rejected and drop the project, other producers make 20 calls and get nowhere.  And then there's the producer who doesn't quit until they get a positive call, or even a possibly positive call. 

That's the one you need to be, or need to find. If a producer has a day job, forget it, he or she doesn't need to find money, they get a paycheck every week.  And stay away from the big talkers with their 5-picture deals and promises to have the money in a month. Usually they've had a revolving table of scripts over a period of 20 years.

You need someone who's hungry, either for money or because they  want to make a movie they think will change the world. This isn't for  part-timers or slackers.

As you can imagine, it's a lonely job, as lonely as writing the screenplay.  As my friend, director Paul Lynch says, "what you want is a guy with a pocket full of quarters and a rolodex". Translation for the digital agers: Someone who has  names and phone numbers. I have been around long enough to know some of those guys with quarters in their pockets and who lament the loss of payphones. They were characters, some still exist, some of them still try to raise money for my other scripts.  But I'm not holding my breath. 

And that's why Shirley and I are partners, because from the beginning we both believed we could do what we said we could. Well, on the best days - don't approach me on a bad day. Seriously, if you want to get money for a movie from strangers, you have to dedicate yourself to the job, take the rejections, take the hang-ups and unreturned emails and just keep at it. We help each other and we push each other. Shirley can ask 5 questions in a minute and it keeps me on my feet, an answer to her is an answer to an investor. 

You need someone to believe in you because if you don't, it isn't going to be fun. And it has to be honest, you don't partner with someone who does what you do, you partner with someone who does things you can't or won't do. Besides screenwriting, directing, producing and camera work, I can do budgets and schedules on standard movie industry software like MM Budgeting and MM Scheduling. And I can come pretty damn close to a final budget. Even up to the muffins.

Hey, Mick Jagger counts the jelly beans backstage! 

Through the years I managed to learn how to write a proposal as good as anyone.  This includes business plans, proposals and even private offering prospectuses that passed the Securities Commission.  

Shirley brings an strong artistic quality to our work as well as computer expertise beyond mine.  She brought this blog into being instantly and then added elements I suggested.  We both laid out the pages of the proposal, incorporating the images with my text and her images in two versions, one hard copy for handout and one pdf  for email. And they were updated 7 times to date.  And she also has created, directed, filmed and edited short films that are festival quality. 

That's why I stress having someone who complements you (not compliments), someone who fills in for the things you can't do as well as you can fill in for them for the things they can't do. 

Belief in yourself is one thing, but others believing in you makes a commitment practically signed in blood.

And we haven't even started the proposal. Stay with us.

(next: Proposal Part 2: What's in the proposal?)

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