Funding Feature Films and Submitting your TV Series to Networks:
Funding feature films
My name is Elyse, and I am a producer at BSI.
I was invited by our executives to attend an event attended by domestic (North America) and international film/TV executives, insiders and investors. I had a candid conversation with investor Syd Shaffer from Europe and two of his partners.
Mr. Shaffer and his team have helped raise funds for some of the world’s top grossing 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.
Some of you may have already read this information. I posted it again because for those who have not read it, they may find it helpful.
*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, 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 / networks and has contacts or has access to people on the inside … you can play. 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, who’s in it, how much is needed, what financial instruments do you have in place to protect their investment, distribution and how much profit will I make.
Keep in mind, they don’t care what your script is about because they don’t know a damn thing about producing a film. I along with everyone in this room haven’t read a script in years. 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.
Let me ask you a question. I know most of your execs; do you think they have time to read scripts, or do they have you do it?
Elyse: If independents don’t know the right people or have a team what can they do?
Syd: If you don’t have a team or the right people 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 to assist you. News flash … they’re not going to do this sh*t for free. 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, 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.
If independents want to compete, then they need to find a way to get someone on their team that at least has credits, has contacts or at least runs in the same circles as other players. 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 we fund some of those projects!
Also, putting a team together is easier than trying to secure help from studios, networks, accredited production companies or getting an agent … in my opinion. These people are about making money and will not talk to you without the right people supporting you. All they want to know is, how you can make them money or get them ratings.
Elyse: What if an independent does not have a team and does not want to retain someone to help them, 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? Listen, years ago you could have gone direct to the studios or networks and someone would have looked at your project. Fast forward to today, you can’t even get past the operator.
The reason being, there’s a shit load of money being paid out even for low budget movies, not to mention big budgeted films, even some TV shows have budgets in the millions … per episode! The rules have changed and the process has changed. No longer is a script the only most important step in the process. All the steps are important. So, if they don’t want to follow the rules, what is it that they want me to do?
This is big business! You can’t even rob a bank and get the money people are asking for 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 TV project on the air, it ain’t gonna be easy and 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.
But I say go for it. Everyone I know on the creative side has had a project passed on at some point, some more than others. I’m talking big names in this industry. But they still find a way to make it happen. With all the new options for distributing content that’s available, independents can 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 does, but I do know, if you show up here holding only a script … drink quickly, because security will be escorting you out.
Please Note: Syd and other investors from his group, as a personal favor to Susan, have agreed to participate in the … BlueStar Script Competition / Click for details.
BSI Films / a subsidiary of BlueStar Studios Inc.
To be continued. In my next blog, my interview will continue with Syd and his team, answering more questions. Here’s an excerpt:
Q: Are you still funding projects under $3 million?
Q: What information should my team show to investors?
Please email me if you have questions or comments.
Elyse, Producer / firstname.lastname@example.org