Questions From Independents Wanting To Compete For Funding and
Samantha Swenson 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
Ms. Swenson’s commented Adapting Scripts to Books, can prove there's public interest in your project and investors and industry executives like scripts that come with a built-in audience
* That's the reason Michael Mann, writer/director of “Heat” with Pacino and DeNiro and other “A” list writers are adapting their scripts to books.
*As an author, they're paid book royalties from sales.
*If/when their book is made into a movie, they're paid for the book rights and residuals from the movie or series.
Scripts from all of these genres 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.
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)
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 produced have been 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 that allows them to compete for funding and production deals.
Sophie: 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 or investors. So, what can Writers do on their own with, or without assistance of insiders or independents to help them.
Sam: Answer ...
Check back throughout the week for answers, outlines, and more questions
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!
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?
* 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
Marina del Rey, CA 90292
Office: (424) 234-6506