02 Aug Film Fund-amentals: Just Send Money
There are two ways to raise money for a movie. Dumb luck is one way. It is certainly preferable to the other method, which involves lots of hard work and a high tolerance for failure. A wistful hope for dumb luck can be found in the numerous “comments” peppered on every social networking site by people seeking rich sources of funds by way of desperate random postings. Mostly they find scam artists working every trick this side of the Spanish Prisoner.
The alternative is to create the dreaded business plan. I say “dreaded” because creating a business plan is about as much fun as beating yourself over the head with a ball bat just to see how long it takes before you pass out. But creating this plan is essential, as we are reminded by Louise Levison in her concise and excellent blog piece Why You Need a Film Business Plan. I’m sure that I’m the two hundredth person to recommend this article, and I strongly suggest that everyone should read it (heck, print it out and pin it to your desk).
Levison’s seven key points are a crucial guide, whether you’re approaching major donors or taking the crowdfunding approach. Arguably, a huge mistake some people have made with crowdfunding is the assumption that they don’t have to create such a plan. The result ends up sounding like a bad replay of Spike Lee’s old trailer for She’s Gotta Have It. The stunt worked for Lee but it will not work for you (besides, he already had the film in the can).
Of course there are some basic questions that a beginner needs to address before writing a business plan. One place to start is at the U.S. Small Business Administration, which provides a quick outline for such a plan as well as various other articles and services. At MyOwnBusiness.org you can go through a more detailed discussion on developing a small business plan along with various samples that can serve as a guide. At Bplans.com you can access an even more detailed discussion concerning the development of a business plan. They also offer a free simplified version of business plan templates from the Business Plan Pro software package.
As you pursue your business plan, you will discover that lots and lots of companies are looking to sell you various software programs to “help” you create a business plan. There are so many such “helpers” that you may need a business plan to create a business plan. The price range on the software alone will vary from $59 to $350 or more. To be honest, you ought to be able to develop your own template and other material yourself. Sure, it may take more time but it is a lot cheaper. Likewise, the cost of some of these software programs is way too high and probably should be avoided. Some are obviously borderline scams. As always, buy nothing until you have thoroughly researched the supplier. And remember, you don’t always get what you pay for.
As always, there are freeware alternatives. About.com provides some useful references to various types of free business software. Also, Cnet.com offers a wide range of free business software systems along with detailed consumer reviews. You might also want to check out the Free Film Business Plan Template page at SoftwareTopic.Informer.com. As always, keep in mind the difference between freeware and shareware.
Levison gives a great breakdown of how your business plan must operate within the movie industry. However, business is business and a beginner might learn from a wide sampling of plans written from a variety of different fields. Just Google “Sample Business Proposal” and explore the various items that pop up. Use Levison’s seven-point checklist as your guide, but also carefully study the approaches used in a variety of non-related businesses. Even if the company is simply selling hot dogs, there are still things to be learned. A good place to start is Reference ForBusiness.com.
One of the hardest parts of preparing a business plan is the first item, called the Executive Summary. Levison warns that you have to do items 2 through 7 before you can backtrack to the first item. Unfortunately, Levison is correct on this point, and you may want to learn more about the Executive Summary and how best to approach it. Both eHow.com and About.com provide a good breakdown of the process.
Another potentially tricky part on Levison’s checklist is item 5 (potential audience). Major film companies spend oodles of bucks attempting to determine what kind of audience a movie might reach. As is true with many things in life, it sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Your best estimate will be a combination of extensive research and educated guesswork. I have previously dealt with this issue with my tongue only half in my cheek. For better or worse, the standard reference on the subject is the annual Theatrical Market Statistics from the MPAA. The single most detailed discussion on this topic available online is the MA thesis Media at the Movies: Analyzing the Movie-Viewing Audience, by Sean Michael Maxfield at the University of Florida. After you’ve done all your reading, you will still need to make some good guesses. But at least you will be better informed as to how to guess.
Or you could just fall back on the dumb luck strategy. So just go to the social networks and ask people to send you money. Let me know if it works.