Monday, September 28, 2009

Where do you find the money Pt 2

First, it's fairly important that you have read Part 1 of this post on 9/25/09. It will make this post a little easier to understand.  This is where I get into exactly what I do every day except for week-ends where I reward myself with doing nothing more than hanging around and riding 12 miles on my mountain bike with friends at Venice Beach.

Rewarding yourself is very important to a freelancer, even if it's a bowl of chili at Chili John's in Burbank with a couple of my friends, we've been going there for almost 18 years.  Animators hang out there also and a few actors.

A little story; when I was in high school, I told my guidance counselor I wanted to make movies.  He smiled and said "that's nice, but movies are for special people".  Meaning it was not me.  And I now looked forward to a job working in an office cubicle somewhere. But I lucked into a job at the local TV station and from there was introduced to the world of show business and realized that Hollywood was not for "special people".

It was there for anyone who wanted it.  And I wanted it.  And there might be some of you who want the same thing.  And maybe this blog will help.  Because you can make it if you really want in the words of Jimmy Cliff.

Having said that you might be saying, sure Jim, but you have one big advantage. Namely 20 years of contacts in Los Angeles and 10 in Canada.  Lots of contacts, Right?

So it's gotta be easier for you then.

I haven't had a screenplay made in nearly 5 years. 

I might as well be dead.  

Some probably think I am dead, if they remember me at all.  People in this town forget you faster than who won the Oscars last year.  The rule is you get 3 years in this town once you get a movie made.  I got 15 years so I'm not mad.  After all my mom almost died twice this spring, but she came back.  So, keeping with the times, this is my "reinvention",  this is my return to what I should be doing.  I might even get a life coach.

 Unless they don't want me back.  No, that's Lindsay Lohan.

After finishing the proposal with Shirley, I developed my "pitch". I never liked that word, probably because I am the worst pitcher in history.  But my pitch was this; 
  1. I had a good screenplay. My basis of this was that 10 people read it and 8 liked it. 
  2. I had two Academy nominated actresses who would play the part. Notice whenever I say anything about actors I use "Academy nominated..".  People listen closer.
  3. I had a very talented director and I'm a guy who rarely uses that word. I think I used it four times in my whole life.
  4. I had a complete detailed budget down to the muffins.  Since I know how to use movie budgeting software, this didn't cost me anything but time.  It can cost up to$1200 unless you know someone who has the software.
  5. I had the proposal that Shirley helped me with.
Based on these 5 points, I could tell people exactly what the film was about, who would be in it (for now anyways, it can change later), who would direct, how much it would cost and finally a proposal to explain every aspect of the production from this moment to completion and sales.  After a few days, I began getting responses, mostly negative.  Some never answered at all.  Others asked to look at the proposal.  I also had a few meetings, but mostly phone calls. They all broke down into these types:

  • Some liked it right away, couldn't wait to read the proposal and the script. Translation: Don't count on them, too much enthusiasm will lead to the opposite, disappointment. 
  • Some just said to send the proposal. Translation:  These are the "maybees", they could be interested, but not going to show too much enthusiasm.
  • Some said they'd look at it and if they couldn't help, could refer me to others.  Translation: These have excellent potential.  
  • Some were just looking to correct me and tell me what is wrong with my presentation. Translation: Don't bother with them or as Donald Sutherland says in Kelly's Heroes, "always with the negative waves".  
Most of my day is spent waiting for answers, and that's why I post other aspects of the development process.  As of now, we still have the preliminary commitment of half the budget but with no real progress on that hard-to-get second half.  And I don't count the money until it's in the bank.  A few small amounts have been offered and I keep them informed but other than that it's a waiting game.  

As I wait I come up with ideas, some of them wacky, but some of them good; like this blog. One of my ideas involved Craigslist, which if there are any of you who don't know what that is, it's a world-wide want-ad list for everything that has virtually destroyed newspaper classified ads.   I took some time to write an ad to post, it had to be simple, to the point and serious. Here's the ad:

Producer Partner Wanted
Established WGA writer/director and co-producer with 16 movie credits and 30 hours of episodic looking to partner with producer capable of funding/co-funding up to 4 feature lenght screenplays of mine. All have received excellent reviews from real industry people and my reputation is solid.

I have had several attempts with indie producers who were almost there then messed up the deals. I know it's harder than ever out there, but movies are still being made regardless of the naysayers. I'd like to partner with someone who's ready for the passion, the rejection and the reality that these projects will make some money but will likely not get you beachfront in Malibu. 

Who are you?  Age is no obstacle, you may have made a $40 million movie or a $40,000 or you've never made a movie - but you have the discipline and drive to help bring funding in for budgets from half a million to $5 million.  Besides being known for character-driven stories, I bring in considerable experience in creating proposals, budgets and schedules. I have some of my own investors as well as potential Canadian tax credits where applicable and access to gap/supergap financing.  Projects are family, action and drama.

It cost $25 to post this, and I put my ad up on Monday, figuring it to be the most obvious way to start.  Within hours, I began to get answers.  By the end of the week I had almost 50 people replying to my ad. 

Where they all real? 

Replies continued into the next week as well. After sorting through them and replying to each one individually ( I always believe that individual attention is worth the effort, even in rejection), I came out with about 8 who seemed serious.  There were a lot of crew people just looking for work and one particularly beautiful Latina actress who apologized for applying but just wanted to anyway.  In hindsight I should not have opened it up to people with no experience, as I got at least 25% of replies with them.  And they really didn't have experience.

There was also a film editor interested in working on it. He was also an angel. A few weeks ago he introduced me to a man I'll call Hank, whom he worked for, figured we'd get on well. Turns out we did, and while Hank was involved in several movies about the same budget and the same size. This is why people who can refer you can come out of thin air sometimes and you need to recognize them. That's why I'm always nice to everyone. 

To date, some of the producers I chose to meet with are still interested,  one is very interested in terms of sitting down and seeing if we can work out a deal, another is waiting for responses from his people.  Still a long ways to go, but each one of these are actually making films, not hoping to. 

So days go by, weeks go by and fall has come to Southern California in spite of 106F temperatures.  Since our film is a winter shoot, we have a bit of leverage in the time frame, which could extend into early 2010.  And I am pushing a little harder now and don't want to lose the momentum.  A project can overstay it's welcome if nothing new happens.  We need to add something to the mix, an actor, even a DP or an editor.  

Something to show them that the snowball continues to roll down the mountain, getting bigger all the time. 

I have a few ideas...

(Next: Distributors and some new angles)

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