INDUSTRY INSIGHTS: How to Create Momentum With Your Film Project

By Stacey Parks, founder of Film Specific

I was sitting in my home office at the end of 2012 lamenting how 'slow' everything was going with my projects and I decided to stop complaining and create my own momentum. I've said it before and I'll say it again – momentum is everything!

So I hopped a plane to Europe and scheduled meetings with people for the first week they were back at work from the holidays. And you know what – it turned out to be the perfect time because I could hit them before any distractions sunk in and the calendars filled up. When I look at the year calendar ahead it's funny because between Sundance then Berlin then Cannes then Toronto then AFM and everything in between, there's actually very few 'windows' to get anyone's attention. Scary!

And for those of you like me trying to get mid-range budget films into production this year, it's almost impossible to beat the clock if you don't already have your bankable cast and director locked as you'd have to grab a sales agents attention by end of Feb (after Berlin) to start getting someone on board to launch pre-sales at Cannes for a fall production. Yikes! (although if you're going lower budget films and/or financing with private equity instead of pre-sales, then you have more flexibility and control of your schedule)

With that said, I thought I'd share some of the insights I learned this week from my trip in hopes that it will inspire all of you now at the beginning of the year to get your projects moving forward and create momentum. So here's some random thoughts in no particular order...

• Always meet UP – on this trip I really stretched myself and went after meetings with other producers, companies, and execs several steps up from where I'm at with my own career. And the thing is that I had NO problems getting these meetings and getting them to take me seriously for that matter. Something I've always preached is 'presentation is everything' and I stand by that. It's all about how you present yourself and your projects that will get you in the door every time. And by the way, I found in meeting with these folks that they were some of the most productive meetings I've ever had hands down. Score!

• Always cast UP – OK I know I always talk about packaging your film with bankable cast and all that, but when you're trying for market-based financing think of this – you really can't cast big enough. I was meeting with a distributor for one of my projects in development and they literally said 'we are on board for the whole thing if you go and get X, Y, or Z for the lead role and A,B, or C for the director'. I should mention that I got in the door with this distributor based on the fact that I have a solid A-lister attached for one of the lead roles. So while it's liberating to know that all I have to do attach a certain list of actors/director to my project to close the funding, I wouldn't have even gotten their attention if I didn't already have a key A-lister attached.

• One meeting is worth a thousand emails – OK I know I preach this till I'm blue in the face but seriously…. every single person I met with said to me that what a difference it makes to meet in person and they were truly impressed I came so far just to sit in front of them and discuss business. One agent even flat out told me that now that he had a sense of me and who I am, he's willing to give my project more attention. And of course he is because otherwise I'm just another email in his inbox, right? What can I say – I'm old fashioned and I like to do business in person whenever possible. And it's also my training because when I was a sales agent we used to make sales trips outside of the market circuit (in between Cannes and AFM for example) to places like Japan, Korea, Germany (and other big territories) and meet with people in their offices and conduct real business. Undoubtably these trips are where I made the most sales because I went out of my way to make it easy for them to do business with me.

• Concepts are still king – I met with a few sales and production companies this time who are looking for marketable concepts that they can develop from the early stages and almost make them 'ready-made' for the market. People talk about 'elevated genre' projects meaning not your standard straight-to-DVD horror, action, and thriller pieces. So as a Producer if you can get your hands on something like that, know there's a huge global demand for it. As a producer myself, I'm always on the hunt for elevated genre pics that can be made for mid-range budgets. Get to work! 

• No financing, no problem! – once again, not once did anyone have any issue with the fact that none of my films have financing in place. Like I mentioned above, presentation is everything so maybe the fact that I'm a former sales agent (and I let people know that) means they assume I will be able to get my films financed. Hey, whatever works. The point is, find your own unique selling proposition as a producer and make sure you're presenting yourself and your project the right away to get your prospects to take you seriously.