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Part 2

Syd Shaffer, and Samantha Swenson Sr. Executives

of an international hedge fund group and responsible for

funding of major box office hits and independent films:

 

They answer questions why some independents that follow the rules will get production deals in 2022 and those that don't, won't! To see Part 1 click here

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Part 2 Of Our Q&A

 

 

Writers/Independents

 

Q&A - Industry executives and investors answers question and provides outline of steps Independents can take to secure funding or production deals with streaming, studios, cable and broadcast corporations

 

Samantha Swenson (Sam) is a Senior Executive of an international hedge fund group that has raised funding for some of the biggest studio box office hits in recent years and negotiated production deals for independent films and series (she and Syd Shaffer have worked together)

I asked Ms. Swenson (Sam) what steps independents must take to compete with insiders for funding and production deals and what are the rules you and Syd always talk about

Sophie: I understand you will attend the Film Finance Forum 2022 in London this year. Given the demand globally for content, do you anticipate making rules easier for independents to compete for funding or production deals.

 

Sam: Why would the film industry make rules easier for independents? The rules are the same for everyone including independents. Additionally, over the past 2 decades over 90% of films have been produced by independents! Writers, some more than others, have figured out this is a business first and entertainment second. They also know writing a script is not a hobby especially if they want a company or investors to spend millions to produce it.

 

As a result, Writers are realizing the rules help guide them on what they need to do and allows them to compete for funding and production deals. 

Sophie: In your opinion what are the rules! What is the process? Most independents/writers don’t have the resources, time or understanding of what’s needed to address both the entertainment and business needs of executives/investors. So, what can Writers do on their own with or without assistance of insiders or independents to help them.

 

Sam: You and I will close this bar if I answer in detail those question right now. Did Syd talk to you about this (see interview down below after this one? Just repeat what he said. For now, let me give you my short answer. 

  • The rules and process depends on who you're talking to.

  • If talking to streaming (Netflix, Amazon etc.) cable, or broadcast corporation, their rules are based on their programming needs, quadrants, available budget and a number of other factors. Your producer will know or find out, what they want sent to them.

  • If talking to studios or investors, that's a whole different conversation and we don't have the time for that one. If you come to London for the conference, you will get answers to your questions.

  • The easiest route to take for independents is to develop a package and find a way to submit it to streaming (Netflix, Amazon etc.) cable, or broadcast corporations. They are a one stop bag of money store to get their script funded, produced, and distributed. I suggest they discuss this option with their producer.

  • There's a lot of global demand for content, learn the rules and the process for submitting your project or find a producer with credits and understanding of how the business and entertainment side of this industry currently works. By the way, it changes every week. So it helps if they're keeping up with current trends and the type of content that's in demand.

Sophie: When your group gets an independent project and it does not have talent attached or a structured financial plan, what makes you look at it. 

Sam: We first look at their development package, a top sheet budget, a visual (concept video, trailer, pilot, etc.) attachment of talent, director and info that makes their script marketable. If you don't have that information, we are open to seeing proof of an audience or following that has interest in your project backed up with legitimate big numbers.  

 

Sophie: What is proof of a following, a development package and definition of big numbers 

 

Sam: Again, you know these things, you're hired by half the people in this room! But for the record, I will give my short answer.

Investors and industry executives love projects that come with a built-in audience. It tells them before they invest money in a project what the public thinks of it. So, if you don't have talent, director or one of the other critical support items, at least do one of the following;

  • This is a proven source for getting scripts produced - adapt your script to a book. Every year more films and series are being made from books than the year before. That's the reason credited writers are adapting their scripts to books. As an author, they're paid royalties from sales, if their book is made into a movie, they're paid for the rights and residuals from the movie or series. All of these genres were books that were adapted to films and series; Syfy, action, horror, DC and Marvel comics, romance, and more. This does not include movies/series made from books and released on streaming and cable.

  • Create a visual and promote it on social media platforms to build a following, and/or a put up a channel on YouTube and build a fan base. Basically, any numbers that proves the public is interested in your project, investors and industry executives will want to see the script.

  • Remember you're asking for millions of dollars. Do something on your own like above, or with the help of someone. Everything mentioned here can be done simultaneously with marketing your script to the industry. It's ok to get others to help you.

Sophie: Can independents and writers contact you for assistance

 

Sam: Absolutely Not! You already know the answer to that question, you just want to hear me say it so you can print it.

  • We're the 2nd, 3rd or 4th step in the process to be contacted. The first step is to work with your producer and determine the approach you want to take for developing a package and marketing your project. 

 

In part 3 Syd Shaffer will answer more questions about

 

funding and production deals for independentshttps://www.linkedin.com/pulse/script-writers-rules-have-changed-bringing-attention-your-flanagan

 
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Part1. Interview with Syd Shaffer

Independents Seeking Production Deals and/or Funding For Feature Films and Media Content 

Syd Shaffer, founder and sr. executive of a hedge fund group responsible for funding of major box office hits and independent films: answers questions why some independents that follow the rules will get production deals in 2022 and those that don't, won't!

 

Update:

  • Although some of you may have already read this post since it was first released, I posted it again because for those who have not read it, may find it helpful. Also, the rules for getting a production deal or funding may be an even greater challenge, because economics and needs of the industry has changed. The good news is those changes have created other opportunities independents can make happen on their own.

  • *Warning: Syd has a colorful way of talking and uses strong language. Also, his firm is private and only takes referrals from clients.

  • Elyse/Sophie: What chance does an independent really have of getting a film funded or a production deal from streaming, cable, or broadcast company?

 

  • Syd: They have the same chance as anyone else in this room with the right people presenting it and they play by the rules.

 

  • Elyse/Sophie: So, who are the “right people” and what are the rules?

 

  • Syd: The right people are those who have a f**king clue about how this process works.

No one in this room has ever given millions to someone they never heard of, never met, who has no credits and only a script to show us. If you got a producer or exec. producer that has experience, credits from major companies, has contacts or permission to contact players, you got a chance. At the very least, know how to develop a project so that when it's presented, we get info we're looking for. But if all you got is a script, your chances of getting funding from anyone in here is none and never.

As for the rules, they’re very simple. Learn how both the business and entertainment side of this industry works. Or work with a producer that has the resources, accesses, and knowledge of how this process works. If talking to someone in this room, they want to know the genre, what talent is attached, how much is needed, what financial instruments do you have in place to protect their investment, is there distribution in place and how much profit will I make. If you don't have any of the above can you prove there's public interest in your project, i.e. social media, book sales etc., and all that has to be said in less time than it takes for them to sip out of the glass they're holding.

Keep in mind, they are not going to read your script, listen to how great you think your script is or want to hear how much money other movies made that are similar to yours. We already know how much money other movies have made, hell the people that financed those films are probably in this room. However, we are open to hearing about what the public thinks about your project. Have you promoted your script on social media, do you have a following, has your script been adapted to a book and are there book sales, do you have a channel on YouTube with a following? Basically, any numbers that proves there are people interested in your project, we will listen to. If you have a script and want someone to fund or negotiate a production deal that will pay you millions to produce, be prepared to know both sides of this industry or get someone that does. 

 

Syd: One more thing, I along with everyone in this room haven’t read a script in decades. If I want to know about your script or what it takes to produce it, I’ll hire your EP, Susan or someone like her to tell me what the hell is going on, so don't ask me to read your script. 

  • Let me ask you a question. I personally know your executives, I also know they don't have time to read scripts, I bet they have you do it. Am I right?

 

Elyse/Sophie: OK... yes, they have us read them. We're the first step. We determine if it meets basic writing standards set by industry executives, where the concept ranks in current marketing trends, does it go beyond 2 quadrants, and if it's on the "The List" (this is an exclusive list of unproduced scripts anonymously chosen by various Studio Development Executives and pulled if the need arises. As you know, a script does not have to be on "The List" to be considered by you, or the studios. The majority of projects you and the studios send to Susan are not on that list, but you know that. So yes we read them first.

  • Question, if independents don’t know the right people or have a producer, what can they do to compete for funding or a production deal with studios, streaming, cable, or broadcast corporations? ​

Syd and his senior partner Samantha Swenson will respond to this question in

Part 2 of this interview in our next post

* Definition - Quadrant Movie - A movie that appeals to all four major demographic “quadrants” of the movie going audience: both male and female, and both over and under the age of 25. Movies usually shoot for two quadrants in order to gain as much of an audience as possible. Investors and executives want to reach all four.

 

Sophie Marcelle, Producer, Project Director

BSI Films

Marina Towers

Marina del Rey, CA 90292

Office: (424) 234-6506

https://www.bsifilms.com /