Filmmakers are creative people who have a passion for cinema. Whether their holy grail is another ‘Citizen Kane’, ‘Raiders of the Last Ark’ or ‘Parasite’, their dream is to make great films. Nothing wrong in that! But, in order to be able to make the film and then to share in whatever financial upsides arise, it is an integral necessity that they understand and get a grip on the ‘money-side’ of filmmaking.
The only exception to this golden rule is if they have a partner who handles the financial side of things. Alas, many filmmakers, especially in their early careers do not appreciate this. I also question whether film schools make this a high enough priority.
Here are just a few key finance strategies:
- Preparation and Development are key. It is no use having a great script and pitching for a ballpark £1m investment (or whatever figure you decide to plump for) if you can’t back it up. You need:
- A budget – drawn up by someone who is competent and experienced
- Accurate costings
You need to be prepared for whatever questions an investor will ask you. You need to speak in the language of the investor and not in ‘film school’ jargon.
- The higher the budget, the more important talent is. Talent will be essential in marketing the film. A truism about filmmaking is ‘getting the money is not the hard part – getting it back is the hard part!’ Talent is particularly important when selling the film internationally.
And, here’s the rub – you are not going to be able to go out and get Tom Hanks or Jennifer Lawrence; major talent do not, except in perhaps some exceptional circumstances, want to do indie films. They have done them, moved on and now have the pick of the best films. Another age-old problem is ‘you need money to attract talent, but you need talent to attract money!’ A way around this is to have four or five suggested actors, pitch for investment and put this in escrow with say, a lawyer and then pitch to talent showing the money is in place.
- Film Distribution. This is where we hear horror stories time after time. There are many great reputable distributors, but there are also many who only look for short-term gains for themselves, and leave the distribution of the film hanging after they have got their upfront fees or marketing recouped. A filmmaker must carry out robust due diligence on the distributor. They must read the contract carefully and work with someone who has empathy with their film and someone they trust. Furthermore, they should speak to other filmmakers who have worked with the distributor.
Filmmakers will tell you that their films are their babies. Well treat your film like you would your baby; look after its welfare in every aspect; the way it looks and feels may be down to genes (in this case a good story and a great script and the director’s ability to transfer it to film) but its long-term health and welfare, the ability to go out into the world successfully and confidently is down to a sound fiscal education, leadership and vision – that’s your job!
If you’d like to talk about your indie film project to someone who understands