Susan B. Flanagan / Our Emmy® Award Winning Writer and Award Winning Executive Producer
Slavik I.A. / Our EP, and premier Previsualization, Animation and digital supervisor and EP
Script Writers / Producers - Q&A With Investor of Independent Feature Films and Media Content
Some of you may have already read this information. I posted it again because for those who have not read it, may find it helpful ... contact us / click here.
My name is Elyse, I'm a producer with (BSI Media & Film Productions Inc.)
For this post ... I had a candid conversation with investors from the U.S. and Syd Shaffer from Europe.
Mr. Shaffer and his team have helped raise funds for some of the world’s top grossing feature films, including several major projects that our executive producers – Slavik I.A. and Susan B. Flanagan have helped develop and produce. He agreed to answer a few questions I had about funding independent projects. His comments are below.
*Warning … Syd has a colorful way of talking.
Elyse: What chance does an independent really have of getting a film funded?
Syd: They have the same chance as anyone else in this room and if their plan has the right people presenting it and they play by the rules.
Elyse: 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 team that has experience, credits from major studios and has contacts or access to people that do and know how to develop a project so it meets our needs... people will listen to you. 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. Have a team that knows both the business side of this industry and the creative. 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 .... and that has to be done 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 and we're not interested in how great you think your script is. However, we are open to hearing about book sales based on your script or number of social media followers from webisodes. Basically, any numbers that proves there are people interested in your project, we will listen to.
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 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 know most of your executives; I also know they don't have time to read scripts, I bet they have you do it ... am I right?
Elyse: OK... yes they have me read them. We're the first step. We determine if it meets basic writing standards set by industry executives. If it gets by us, Susan and her editor will perform an evaluation and edit if needed ... but you know that. Question: If independents don’t know the right people or have a team what can they do?
Syd: If you don’t have a knowledgeable executive or know how to put a team together, consider signing on with someone that has a team in place.
There are professional writers, producers and even production companies you may be able to retain or professional people to assist you. News flash … they’re not going to do this sh*t for free. They are not going to stop working on their own projects, to pay staff to develop and market yours. But whatever you do, don’t retain just anybody to help you. There are a lot of good people in this industry that can do what they say, but unfortunately there are also a lot that can’t do a damn thing. Look at their credits (IMDB) this is a good place to start.
I recognize putting a team together has it challenges, the biggest one is getting the right people to help you. But I know for a fact it can be done, because independent projects get funded every day! Independents don't have to be experts, but they must at least look like they put some effort into answering basic questions investors will ask.
In my opinion, putting a team together or retaining one, is easier than trying to secure help from accredited production companies or getting an agent. These people in most instances, are about making money and will not talk to you. They have their own projects they're trying to get funding for. Also, just like major studios, production companies do not fund or invest in feature films. You don't think Disney and production companies are writing $200/million dollar checks to make a movie do you? My company would not be in business if that was how this business works! They use someone's else money. They develop and package scripts and then get funding by approaching investment firms, hedge funds, financial institutions etc.
Elyse: What if an independent does not have a team, does not want to retain someone to help them, or follow your rules? What other options can they pursue for finding an investor?
Syd: Really? Is this a serious question?
So, you’re going to ask me for millions but don’t want to follow my rules. So why the f**k should I give you my client’s money? If you don't want to follow rules and procedures, the best option is to raise money on your own, hire a crew, talent and then film and distribute the film on your own. In today's world there are ways to make that happen.
Listen, here's the real deal, there’s a shit load of money being paid out even for low budget movies, not to mention big budgeted films, even scripted series have budgets in the millions … per episode! So following the rules and process is mandatory.
This is big business! You can’t even rob a bank and get the money people are asking for to make a movie these days. High risk and high rewards are out there for those who want to play. If an independent wants to go up against insiders for funding their films or getting a script sent to series, it ain’t gonna be easy and there's no guarantees ... that’s even if they have some serious people helping them! But if you don’t follow the process, chances are the challenges will be even greater ... especially if the people you're competing against are following the rules.
*** Keep in mind, some scripts should never have gotten funded, but they did ... because they followed the rules and process.
But guess what, thanks to social media and technology the challenges for independents can be minimized, it just depends on their plan. They still need to get someone to guide them, or they will be wasting a lot of time begging someone to work for them for free. Also, they need a game plan that includes more than one project, just in case the script they have ... no one wants.
Everyone I know on the creative side has had a project passed on at some point, some more than others and I’m talking big name producers and stars in this industry. But they're all rich because they found a way to make things happen. I know independents that are in this category. They find ways to make it happen.
Elyse: How can independents contact people like you, and do most investors think like you?
Syd: You’re funny. What did I just tell you, if you play by the rules ... you can find anyone in this room. If you don’t, you won’t.
As for do most investors think like me. Hell no! But those that don’t, tend to lose a lot of money. Nearly everyone in here makes decisions based on a variety of factors that are specific to what they’re looking for. So, I have no f**king clue what everyone else thinks, but I do know, if you show up here holding only a script … drink quickly, because security will be escorting you out.
Please Note: Although Syd and other investors in his group, contact Susan, for their development and production needs, you don't have to. As Syd said there are lots of options for you to choose from .... you just need to find one that works for you.