C Gus Cristo C Gus Cristo Moderator

Breaking the ice...

It appears most of the group members are new to Xing (including myself), so I'll just grope towards the abyss and throw something over the edge. I think my sentiments about the Business of FIlm & Entertainment (F&E) are pretty well written on my arm. I was hoping Xing would connect me with people that could metaphorically swim against the tide and see the opportunity. It may sound as though I dislike the business, but I really don't. I'm just startled by the culture that has evolved in it. I believe there is a wonderful opportunity to realize substantial profits from treating F&E as an opportunity to utilize the public's obsession with celebrity and entertainment to generate revenues. Since some of the new members are, in fact, pursuing careers on the creative side of the business, I don't want to belittle the gift of talent for that very necessary element. Let's face it, producing a film is not like feeding and slaughtering chickens or castrating cows. It is the art form for the 21st century. The creative element must be respected and nurtured. However, it's not rocket science either... and respecting and nurturing can easily get out of hand when most of the players have a narcissistic leaning. You've already heard me beat the stump about how Hollywood is Rome facing the ritual dance of defeat. I believe this premise to the extent that I have bet our company's future on it. We are building a global networking platform to facilitate film and entertainment projects wherever they can be produced. But that is not the purpose of this group or this message. As a manufacturer of filmed entertainment we have developed our own slate of 16 optioned films, we believe we can produce and market successfully. However, like most group members, one needs to finance these projects. Personally, I've had limited experience in promoting film investments (other than writing the check myself). But I have raised investments for more traditional businesses and I believe if a film is treated as a business, the risk is no greater than any other investment. An example... Personally, I don't see how a producer of a film can also be a director of a film. I know it's done, but it seems silly. A director's mission is to create the most artistic expression of the script that he can possibly conceive. He is painting the canvas. Theoretically, the director should be testing the limits of the budget each time he plans a scene. He should be spending the most money possible to achieve the most splendid result. The producer must slap the director's hand and prevent him from going over the edge and spending beyond the budget. How can both jobs be filled by the same person (assuming he's not a split personality)? Named actors spend much of their time posing (especially when the paparazzi is in the bushes). Since most are totally self-absorbed, this is a match made in heaven. As far as a film investment is concerned, they are an asset to the film that will generate revenues (sort of like the bat-mobile). That rule is a well known commandment of the industry and pretty much is self-perpetuating. However, when one climbs down to the independent film bracket, the rule appears to change. Because of the smaller above-the-line budgets, indie films scour the foreign "q" of every has-been, yet-to-be, and actor's sibling, to see if any foreign licenses can be sold. This is great for out-of-the-news actors, but is more reactionary than proactive to the opportunity. If artists crawl their way up the fame ladder and become A or B list performers, they now cut themselves off from many of the scripts they would have killed to play, before they became celebrities. It's like politicians who get into politics to make a difference and then once they're in, they lie, cheat and steal, just to stay in the game. They must now look only to films that will not hurt their image and support their staff of enablers they hire- to support their bizarre lifestyle. Since their incomes now give them financial security, every so often, as artists, they crave real artistic expression. If they come across a script they like, they really want to do it. The problem is that the promoters of the indie film, don't have the money yet. They have the script, and the conviction it will win at Cannes. That's it. There is this silly ritual where indie producers try to get actors to attach themselves to the project for the expressed purpose of fund raising. Of the few who succeed, there seems to be a classic betrayal of the actor who allowed the use of his or her name, in that now that the money is in the bank, they run to the actor they really wanted for the film- leaving the attached actor at the proverbial altar. So most names refuse to offer letters of attachment. Some find distributors willing to write "distribution guarantee letters." When I first was exposed to a "distribution guarantee," I spit out the food in my mouth (I was at lunch). A Hollywood guarantee is not a guarantee of any sort and it would be rude of you to bring up that point. The guarantee is as non-existent as the investor profit on a studio-made film. Here's a different idea... Assuming one can find those against-the-tide swimmers, one accumulates the investment for two or three indie films- instead on one. Now that the promoter has a check he can actually write, he can approach the agent (large or small) and say I want so-and-so. The agent will dismissively suggest that so-and-so gets $1 million per film. But our promoter will respond by saying "I only have $100K for that part, but it is only a 4 week shoot in February and I can write you a "pay-or-play" check right now." If so-and-so is busy in February, you're out the door anyway. But if he isn't, the agent will counter. Our promoter can smugly continue toward the door and say "I wasn't lying when I said I only had $100K, and we'll find someone with a free February that can use $100K." Our promoter may make it out the door without being called back, but eventually he will get a name that will command foreign pre-sales thus eliminating most of the production risk. The point of financing two to three films is that paying for crew and cast when you can offer employment for 3 films (with say a week off between shoot schedules) will significantly reduce your cost of production. Now you will have 3 films that were produced for the cost of 2 and your chances of substantial profits increases 33%. I'm sure to members of the group currently in the industry, none of this is new thinking. But very few, if any, promoters do these things. Most promoters are film-school graduates, aching to be the next Spielberg. They beg, borrow and steal their way to get some ill-conceived project "in the can"... having totally ignored post-production which will cost them more than the production itself. I hear there are now 3,000 film festivals annually. Think about how many "bad" films are made by people who enter these festivals, when they should have been finding a job that better suited their skills. I am looking for a group of people who understand and agree with this general premise and will come together to finance and produce a slate of such films. I suspect with the dollar in the basement, film investments are relatively cheap to European investors. Germany just changed its laws to attempt to bring more production to within its own borders, but there are enough incentives to reduce the risk even further for European financed films. There still must be an "L.A." connection as most of the named talent lives there, but that is changing as well. There! I've thrown out an idea that I believe has merit. I'm hoping someone will comment, argue, debunk, agree, challenge or ridicule my premise.
Luqman Whittinger Ulf Montanus
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Luqman Whittinger Luqman Whittinger
Raising money for film is a matter of packaging, networking and selling to the market. The USA is very different from Europe. I might suggest you have a look at a website like http://npa.org.uk They help and advise producers, directors and screenwriters. If you are starting out you need to look at the DVD market, low budget films and getting distribution. I would disagree about the art in film - I would say it is entertainment and the art comes where you charm the audience like a snake charmer.
Luqman Whittinger Luqman Whittinger

Hello from Lookman < author, screenwriter, producer >

I am normally work from LinkedIn http://uk.linkedin.com/in/lookmanauthor I thought I would give Xing a go. I write young adult fiction and publishers have suggested I convert my stories and characters for animation and feature film -- that is what I have done. I have two outstanding film scripts optioned. I also am working on a children's cartoon series for television. I am currently waiting for the UK General Election to pass and the currency to rise after a 25% fall. Then I can invest and develop my project further to the pilot stage. I have great hope for my screenplays: because they are retentive to the memory and break new ground. I remember hearing a Hollywood Director say, If the audience does not leave the cinema changed I have not done my job.