Good practice advice from Film Means Business panel
This week we attended a panel session on film funding which started off with the phrase "If you're in this business to make money then you're in the wrong business". A great start.
But in all fairness, we all know film funding is tough, hence corporate and large private investors consider film a high risk asset. You can use all the help you can get if you’re looking for money. So, here’s some of the panel’s advice to support you during your quest.
I love what I do
One of the things the panel, which consisted of Carlo Dusi of Scott Free Productions; Matador Pictures’ Nigel Thomas; Miriam Segal, managing director of Good Films and D-Media’s Gina Fegan said, was that it is key that you feel a passion for what you are looking to produce. It is a hard business and the word 'no', or less polite versions with more or less the same meaning, will be thrown at you at every level. That is why being in this business for the money alone will not suffice.
Once you've worked yourself up from the bottom swamp that is the field of running, you've got to painstakingly learn, work for free, smile at the right people and then there is the little matter of talent... Even when you've overcome all that, there's still no guarantee. People come and go, and film producing when times are bad is no laughing matter.
However, when it does work out and you see your plans all come together, it is one of the best things ever, certainly worth the entire wait. And suddenly, in hindsight, the path you had to take to get there, well, you've met some great people in the Soho boozers over the years, haven't you?
But again, before you reach the point of euphoria you need to get in there. How do you get your foot in the door of the big guys, how do you get them to read your script and fund your film? After all, you haven't done any big jobs before; if you had you wouldn't be in this position.
Know your chickens
It is key that you take your time to find out how the industry works. As Dusi said: "We always come across people who don't know how things work, at which stage they should contact us, who they should contact and things like that. Even if you think "I might do it differently", don't. There's no point in trying to reinvent the wheel - the industry works the way it does. You should, however, keep your ears and eyes open and learn from other people's experiences."
This latter is solid advice, agrees Thomas. "You should try to find out everything you can, even find out what you don't know, your limitations as it were. Only this way can you determine your strengths and position yourself within your boundaries, this way you will make a much stronger case when you approach investors."
Know when to walk away
Another, perhaps not very uplifting, piece of advice that was given was “know when to walk away”. "There is no point in getting a lot of people onboard, making a film and then looking back and thinking, that was purely for me then," says Segal. "Sometimes when it's not happening you need to stop and think, is it the right time for this movie? Perhaps it isn't and then it's better to move on and wait. You shouldn't make a film just because you can; you should make it because it is all coming together - because you have the right money, the right people and the right sales prospects."
Walking away is not easy though; in general there are many people involved during the making of a film, that all depend on you. Therefore, your decision should be well thought through, it is a big responsibility but when you reach that level of maturity and self-confidence you know you're getting somewhere, Dusi explained.
Listen to your peers
It is also important that you listen to the advice of others in the industry. If everyone doubts someone's (read: an investor's) integrity, then perhaps you should listen. Though this might not be the preferred thing to do, make sure you don't wear rose-coloured spectacles.
Thomas said: "The fantasy isn't always on the screen. If I got a dollar for everyone who said they had a million dollars to invest....
"The lesson is really: trust your partners and pick projects that you care about."
The panel also talked about failure on a smaller scale. As Thomas flippantly stated near the end of the debate: "You can write an A-Z of all that can go wrong and during the making of most films you will come across half of them. You will detect new and unexpected things and faults on top of this and when you don't, that's when you need to be very careful."