Monday, August 24, 2009

How Do You Talk to Investors?

It can be very intimidating to ask others for money, especially if you are a new filmmaker and you don't have a long resume of successful hits already. But you have to get out there and search for money for your projects. So how do you talk to investors?

First off, be realistic about who is going to help you finance your movie. It's fairly well known that independent films by new filmmakers are largely funded by friends and family or friends and family of your friends and family. Why? Because you are not a known quantity for investors to whom you don't have a connection. And friends and family love you and want to help you be successful. 

So when you sit down and start asking yourself who has money, think of your friends and family first and then who they may know, etc. I have found this to be the most effective way of financing low budget films. I have been securing funds for small films for a while now and every single investor on the films I have financed has had a connection to the filmmakers in one way or the other. Same goes for my producer colleagues. Though you can and should still try other avenues, I recommend you focus on people you know and the people they know.

Forget the venture capitalists (unless they are friends). They want large projects with known quantities and most hate film investments. They don't know filmmaking. They don't want to understand it. They could care a less about it. Give them a widget company and they are happy. And honestly, do you want to be in business with someone who only cares about his money? Better to have others on board who are interested in your success as well.  

Whether or not you are approaching loved ones or the dentist down the street, you need to know how to speak their language. 

What is their language? Money.

So what do they want to hear? That you are confident and passionate about your skills and project and team and that you know how to handle their money once they give it to you.

I'm certain the passion is there or you wouldn't be a filmmaker. So how do you gain the confidence? Research and work. Do your homework. You need to read everything about film financing and pick the brains of others who have done it as well. Attend seminars on film financing. Hire an entertainment lawyer who can advise you and handle the legal paperwork. 

And you need to work on your skills as a filmmaker. Before you try to take other people's money for your films, invest time and even your own money in building your skills first. Make a few shorts on your own dime. Or go to film school. Invest in yourself and others will follow. 

What else do you need? A business plan. If you do not have a business plan then you probably won't have much success finding money beyond your close friends and family. Remember that a film is a business and it should be treated as such. You need to set up a business entity so your investors have something to invest in. And you have to manage this entity. A business plan is the road map to the success of your film and the means for your investor to see how his or her money is being used. Take the time to make one or hire someone to do it for you. 

Know your investors and what may be motivating them to invest. Ask them why they are interested in investing in film. Really listen. Then focus your energy on appealing to their reasons for investing. 
  • Do they want to be part of the movie industry? Describe how being part of your project will offer them that opportunity.
  • Do they want to help their child get into the industry? Figure out a way to help make that happen. Bring the kid on as a production assistant. Or if they invest enough, make him or her an executive producer.
  • Do they want to meet actors? Offer invites to set and parties for your film. 
  • Do they want to be producers themselves? Explain how their involvement in your project will be a way toward accomplishing that goal. Again, if they invest enough, offer them a producer or executive producer credit. 
  • Do they want to make tons of money? Never use the idea of making tons of money as the motivation for a film investor. Films are high-risk investments. Educate your investors on the risks involved and let them make their own decisions on whether or not they want to take the risk. Sure, you can point out the success of similar small films and you should be positive about why you feel your film has a chance for success but don't make promises you aren't absolutely sure you can keep. 
Lastly, when speaking to investors, be honest. As I explained above, investing in filmmaking is a very risky endeavor. I know because I am an investor too. I have invested in most of my films to date and I know the risks involved. It is your duty to let your investors know it could take a long time for recoupment or they could lose their entire investment in your project. If you lose your investor because they fear the risk then he or she is not the right investor for your project. I have found that most investors are savvy and they want to hear you say the investment is a risk so they can trust you know what you are doing and that you will be honest with them all along the way. 

Just like in love, there is someone out there for everyone. You will find your investor. He or she may be right around the next corner.


Jentri said...

great advice, Jane!

Phantom of Pulp said...

Sage advice with a positive, uplifting ending, Jane.

Your rants are always built on sweaty experience.

Jane Kelly Kosek said...

Thanks for reading and commenting everyone! It's nice to know others are enjoying the blog. Thanks!

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