You Are an Independent Producer: Development

 

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by David Bianchi

Part Three: Development

This is the stage where you take your script into the incubator period. This is probably one of the less structured phases of getting your film made whether it’s a 5K short or 500K feature because the development process on every film is totally different but there are some phases that regardless of what you’re producing don’t change. Speaking in loose terms they are more or less as follows:

 

Development

In this stage there is so much that needs to be done. You now have your bible (which is the script). Now you have to build your assets such as the pitch package or prospectus, budget and schedule.

These are all tools you will need to pitch the project to start getting it off the ground. Be advised that any of these elements that you build at this stage will change dramatically over the course of the development and into the pre-production to production process. Evolution in this part of the process is welcomed (that means you’re getting things done). So be married to nothing and accept new ideas and collaboration. Ultimately filmmaking is all a huge collaborative canvas anyway. Learn to play well with others and never forget the bigger picture (which is the picture).

Your prospectus or pitch package(s) will also come in many forms. This is basically a proposal of the entire film. This document (or visual medium) will be the presentation for your film. This will include (but not limited to):

 

Conceptual art

Synopsis

Long form breakdown

Character breakdowns

Attachments

Director, producers, composers, DP

Bios of key attachments

Cast wish list

Attached cast

Target audience

Key art & Story boards

Industry comparable

Investment considerations

Top sheet of your budget

Production skeleton

Distribution considerations

Perks, bells and whistles associated with your film.

Contact information

 

Also know that what you’re sending to pitch to an investor may not be the same thing you use to pitch to a brand sponsor (it also won’t not be the same thing you send to an actor). The brand sponsor might see only items related to the creative aspects of the film and the cast attached, whereas the actor might see a little less (key art, director, synopsis).

So have multiple versions of the “mother document” so you can more efficiently pitch your film to people without giving people unnecessary info about what you’re doing (this isn’t to hide things just to avoid information overload).

Be CREATIVE!! This is creative medium nobody wants to just see black and white text! Use images and logos and color and make your package easy on the eyes and let the reader into the world of the film by using images to accent the look and show your creativity as well as your professionalism.

This is VERY crucial component of your film. If you are not professional and concise in your pitch package how is ANY investor going to think you’ll be professional and responsible with THEIR money. So be smart.

 

Budget and Schedule

This is a very important part of the process (this is typically done by a Line Producer that has an understanding of Movie Maker Magic - industry standard software for budgeting and scheduling).

This is a very involved process of breaking down every element of every scene in your script all the way down to props and wardrobe so that you can build an accurate budget and from there build a schedule. Your schedule is exactly what you’ll shoot, how you will shoot it, where you will shoot it and how many pages per day you will shoot.

 

If your script is the bible then the budget and schedule are your

 Ten Commandments.

 

This is very vital that it is done properly and not “eye balled” because it will cost you more time and money in the future when it needs to be done over again properly. This is also where you will extract  your top sheet for your pitch package (one page budget).

You also need to show an investor what exactly 500K looks like on paper and how your production intends to spend it (all the way through delivery of the picture through post production).

This also falls in line with your professionalism and showing diligence and equity responsibility. So make sure you fucking do it right! If you don’t know how to, then hire someone who does and learn from them in the process.

 

Pitching

As I mentioned above you’ll be pitching to all kinds of people to get the “package” off the ground besides just investors (including but not limited to): 

 

Actors

Writers

Directors

Producers

Agencies

Managers

Cinematographers

Musicians

Composers

Production Designers

Brand Sponsors

Academies or Labs

 

This is why it is vital to have all your materials top notch. If you want to attract top-notch people to your project to ”sweeten the package” you must be top notch in how polished your presentations are. Funding is the last part of the development process because you will use these “attachments” to help offer value to your film to instigate investor’s interest. 

In other words a film with “X” actor and “Y” Director attached is very much worth a look for an investor, but what do you send “X and Y” to get them interested to attach them to present to investors?

 

Attachments

This is also a tricky stage. Keep your film as lean as possible for as long as you can except “major attachments”. Major attachments might include a killer director or a badass actor.

Be careful to attach friends or people that don’t add “value” to the picture because these promises can bite you in the ass down the road. Only attach people that have street cred that will make a potential investor raise an eyebrow when they see the name. If they don’t know the name (i.e. a cinematographer) then the bio of that person should excite them. Anyone who isn’t “exciting” to the package should not be included in it. Those relationships should be put on hold until the time is right.

The reason for keeping a film “lean” in the development process is because when you get decision makers into your film (such as investors or other producers) the lighter the package is the better because the pie will be smaller to divide. Money people often come with demands and as a producer you have to be ready to meet those demands.

A studio may like your script but hate your director. As a producer and/or content owner you have to be ready to make that call. Take the deal and lose your director friend or make a hard decision to lose a deal and fight another day somewhere else for money and prolong your development process. Or run the risk of never getting your movie made. So proceed with caution.

 

Funding

For purposes of the $1M and under independent film most of this equity will come from independent sources. The definition of an independent film is a movie that is funding and completely produced outside of the studio system.

The vast majority of equity investors are lawyers, doctors, dentists and real estate people (so hurry up and get to know them). These are what’s called accredited investors, in other words people that can afford to invest and lose the money and have it not affect their lifestyle.

Film is a high risk venture and most independent equity has heard or experienced horror stories but some still play the game because if the high potential for reward in the film industry and the potential for prestige that comes with it.

When raising money there are various ways nowadays to do it. The biggest key to success is HONESTY. Always be honest with investors about what their doing. Never lie and make your film seem like its bigger than it is.

Most of these people will invest because they believe in YOU and nothing else. So be transparent because smoke screens eventually fade and the truth is revealed (that WILL bite you in the ass). NEVER guarantee an investor return on his/her money because you’ll be lying. Explain the parameters of investing and ALWAYS consult an attorney for the proper paperwork to use when pitching and closing investment deals.

You can have as many investors as you like! However keeping things small is always best so that you don’t have to answer to a stable of investors when the time comes.

Crowd funding is also a very popular way to raise money in independent film. However, the techniques associated with a proper crowd fund are lengthy. Do not underestimate the work associated with a proper crowd fund. It is all consuming!

The great thing about crowd fund money is that it is by definition a “contribution” and not an “investment” in other words it doesn’t have to be paid back (unless you guarantee perks to those contributors in your fund). It is also an immediate way to create a digital footprint, because while you’re attaching funds to the movie people are sharing the news about what you’re doing and it raises awareness about your process.

 

So now…CONGRATS! You’re all set and on your way to making your movie. Good luck making it through Pre-Production!

 

Check our David Bianchi's work on exertionfilms.com

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