Saturday, 13 March 2010

"Know your Voice" (5 of 5)

The last person I met at the NPA Pitch & Connect event was a producer/screenwriter who had written Endgame (2009) and owns a London production company.

This guy was really cool, obviously had a very collaborative approach to filmmaking and genuinely tried to be helpful. He preached more than listened, but it was inspiring nevertheless.
  • "3 to 5 million is a nightmare at the moment"
  • "know your own voice as a creative person"
  • "a lot of British stories are too culture specific and pessimistic"
  • your film's uniqueness is both its strength and its weakness, something unique may be too much of a risk for investors/distributors, but something the same won't work either, so you need to strike a careful balance
  • torn between safety and risk of the new
  • film audiences are different from any other kind of audiences. they are going out on a cold night and they expect to be engaged, so you can challenge them more. there is a higher level of interactive participation.
  • people in the UK do not spend near enough time or money on development
  • full time survival in the industry is the first goalpost to achieve
  • a lot of the people in the industry have business degrees and are business people first, so that's the language you have to learn to speak
  • always up-sell your product! He reckoned we should call our film a "1 million" budget
  • it's a game, so play the game
  • expectation building worked for Twilight, so he thinks it could work for us
  • make sure you know what the next project in line is
  • once we release our movie online, there will still be a lot of people who won't know it's online, so he thinks there will still be appeal for sales agents and building the film's profile by essentially giving easy access to it all over the world may be exactly what we need, especially since our primary goal is a career goal and not a financial one

Friday, 12 March 2010

Online Distribution (4 of 5)

The fourth producer of features I met at the NPA Pitch & Connect event did not introduce himself.

This guy was finding ways to shoot everyone around him down, so it was fun to bash heads for a while. I ran him through everything in detail and he ended up saying "well, you're doing everything right", which was encouraging.
  • your paperwork has to be airtight to sell to distributors/agents etc
  • keep it one location for a microbudget
  • private investment is the way to go, sell units
  • think of how you want to structure the recoupment schedule, eg. perhaps some talent first?
  • he reckons deferred payments on the Mars movie will be around 350k, so 450k budget in the end (without marketing)
  • he wasn't sure about online distribution, said no one has done it with success, but it's innovative and might work
  • online revenue is only 2% of a blockbuster's return
  • might cause problems with sales agents as there is no distributor set up that can handle global distribution (aside from maybe Sony Classics, Fox Searchlight, Paramount) , so we would have to exclude download & internet from our deal if we'd already done that ourselves and that might make our product less attractive to sales agents
  • the "first online movie event" could be our sales angle?
  • if we're doing this project just to get our careers off the ground then maybe we should be okay if it just gets seen everywhere and is hailed as an innovative distribution method and we don't make that much money
  • we should consider having an experienced co-producer onboard

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Microwave (3 of 5)

The third producer I met at the NPA Pitch & Connect event was the producer of Freestyle, a Film London Microwave project in 2007 which was released by Revolver Entertainment.

I didn't get much time to chat to this woman and she seemed fairly uninterested in everyone at the table - I think she was very tired. Bad sign for my future?

  • "once you win things people want you"
  • cast & crew were happy with their low pay because everyone was on the same boat
  • 100k is the production spend for Film London Microwave projects, but actually you need to find your own funding on the side and the actual film costs more
  • it's probably as much work to make a microbudget as it is to make a mid-range

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

"High concept as scary" (2 of 5)

The Second producer I met at the NPA Pitch & Connect Event. He had just produced a Scottish-funded feature. 

This guy and one of his directors were only mildly helpful. He really seemed to like the actual Mars idea and pressed me for details of the story, then said that he is a genre fan and I should not be ashamed to be making a genre movie. I didn't act ashamed, but he said in his experience a lot of UK higher-ups think of "high concept as scary".

  • name actor was recommended as a strategy for getting funding
  • actors agents in the UK are much more closed to reading indie scripts than agents in the USA
  • funding bodies have "their people" and even if it looks like they support random groups of people, upon closer inspection those people will often have worked with them before etc. Apparently tough to break in there.
  • get anyone famous you know, eg. another director, to endorse your work even if they're not involved in it and that will help a lot

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

NPA Pitch & Connect (1 of 5)

The New Producer's Alliance (NPA) hosted an event as part of the Bird's Eye View Festival which was called "Pitch & Connect". I headed in there with our Mars Movie to get some advice, and had a chance to meet and chat personally with five experienced producers.

The notes are nothing radically new, good to hear from the professionals nevertheles

The first person I met was Theatrical Sales Manager at Universal and used to work for Revolver Entertainment.

I pitched the Mars story and she just listened, but smiled - she seemed to like the idea or at least my enthusiasm. Pity this was my first port of call as I think I warmed up a few more radical questions a bit later, but nevertheless she gave some good advice and was very encouraging.

  • "online" is a bit of a buzzword at the moment
  • distributors can get P&A support money from soft sources for innovative projects, so they like to have those projects
  • marketing is absolutely key, she was very glad that we were already thinking about that
  • the film itself has to work for an audience, they have to talk about it
  • cover the conventions of the genre but also have a USP
  • our movie is popcorn cinema and we should sell it as such
  • Revolver Pictures and Vertigo are good targets for our movie
  • we have to make sure that before we go in there we are absolutely ready
  • they will want to see nerdy stats and they will talk business, actual content is secondary
  • for every positive example we have, they will have a casualty example and we should be ready for that
  • we should research the patterns of what movies they have picked up when and when they've released them how etc