Steps to Green-lighting Yourself
Until the day your film is funded, it is hopefully, fruitfully, in development. But what is development, and what is all this development for?
Some think development is to get people attached: Actors and others whom you can “sell” to investors and partners.
But it is also so much more than that.
Attachments can be important but remember that attached people are not just commodities, they are also human beings with their own hopes, dreams and goals. Pick them well, for you and for your picture, and for your picture’s future. People often engage in banter about “A List” and “B List” and so on. It depends on your picture. One “A Lister” for a certain type of picture is actually “C List” for another type of picture, or a certain audience. You are trying to find a balance between your film’s story, the right talent for the play of it, and the costs and value proposition of the film. You can also be juggling talent for position and role. I wish I could say all of this was easy, but if you wanted easy you wouldn’t be in the film business anyway. Right?
Some think development is about building a package and “look-book” that sells the sizzle.
If the sizzle is all sizzle and no meat, you run a high risk of becoming so transparent that people can see completely through you. If you focus only on the selling, then your project can often suffer. I like to think the best goal is to develop a really good picture and plan and be focused on its success, which is then success for you and your investors.
Some think development is to have a good script: It’s that, too.
In the second post in this series, dealing with the audacious act of creating and then perfecting your script (a post I have a sneaking suspicion people might not have loved because I was very blunt about the challenges, and the sheer competition each new script faces in the industry). In that post I discussed just how high a mountain you have to climb to get your script prepped for notice. But once you have a good script, you then need to look very carefully at how and why people invest in projects in the world. Why? Because, unless it is you and your cousin in your backyard, you are going to need help to get your project made. Whether that investment is $200,000 or $200,000,000, you will need help getting there. And the most effective pitch for help in the real world is letting people know how what you are doing is going to benefit them.
What do you think of any of these pitch elements?
I fell in love with this story I wrote …
- It is a moving (or jump out of your seat frightening, or touching, or laugh-filled, or hard-hitting) story.
- With the new cameras, I can deliver the same quality for a fraction of the cost …
I need to get this first movie made, so I can build a career for myself
- These movies are like mine, and they brought in … and all of them got good foreign exposure and … Let me show you …
Frankly, this is a good opportunity for you, and if you don’t do it, somebody else will …
- The structure of our deal is that anyone who invests is first in line to receive money before any of the crew or producing team.
Of course some of those are demonstrably bad pitches (which is why they are crossed out), but it is not always evident when you are deep in the passionate drive to manifest something. So the first stage of development in the Greenlight process is to check yourself and check your ability to understand other people’s priorities, and then include the best of them in your priorities. All of the people you are partnering with, and which you try to bring on, are resources in this Greenlight check. Try to align yourself with them in ways that do no harm to, and can even enable, your picture. Become a really good listener.
Greenlight Your Film Internally First
You may have heard that hospitals began instituting checklists a few years ago. Checklists that are used in operating rooms, in patient care on the floors, and so on. These checklists have saved many patients from dangerous medical complications, and reports say that they have definitely saved lives.
So, I am going to suggest that you Greenlight Your Film Internally first, by taking it down through a checklist, and in using that checklist, set about accomplishing all of the tasks that you can. Why? Because each item you accomplish on this list imbues you, your team and your project with real value. If you perceive your script, and then all the of this work you do to properly develop it, as an investment, then the project has increased in value, and that value is what you are selling “as a package.” This is the simple truth of packaging; it is not just about shiny sales pitch baubles, it is about real value.
I am going to give you a checklist, with all of the items meant to move your film closer to being fully developed. The more developed it is, the closer you come to funding it, and the more intrinsic and real value it has. Think of it this way. If you want to build a building and you have great blueprints, you also likely need an option on land, surveying, a budget, at least a preliminary city approval, maybe environmental studies, and then a construction partner, and maybe something like a lookbook and deal structure and plan to recoup from rents or sales to gain finance. The plans alone are just an idea. Maybe a really good idea, but merely an idea. All of the elements in a package become something of real value, could even be sold off to another developer. That is what I want for your picture, a development arc that imbues it with value, which value then could be priced and sold off, if it ever had to be. That fact, the dedication to imbuing value with each move, provides comfort to potential investors.
Here’s The Development Checklist
- SYNOPSIS OF PROJECT
- MANAGEMENT – Can be Writers/Producers/Director(s)
- TEAM – Can be from Executive Producer, to DP TO Casting Director to Legal and Accounting
- TALENT (if any, you might even be focusing on unknown talent, but you still need to have a reason why)
- FUNDING REQUIREMENT
- CORPORATE INFORMATION
- BUSINESS STRUCTURE
- LEGAL STRUCTURE
- FINANCIAL AND ACCOUNTING PRACTICES
- KEY AGREEMENTS
- POTENTIAL TAX INCENTIVES
- COMPARABLE PICTURES
- AUDIENCE ANALYSIS
- — WHO THEY ARE
- — WHY THEY ARE
- — WHERE THEY ARE
- — TIE THEM TO YOUR PICTURE
- COMPARABLE PICTURES FINANCIAL STUDIES
- RISK FACTORS
- CURRENT FILM MARKETS
- DOMESTIC AND OVERSEAS THEATRICAL EXHIBITION
- ANCILLARY MARKETS
- HOME VIDEO
- DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION
- DISTRIBUTION PLAN (if any)
- MARKETING PLAN (if any)
- TALENT LOI’s
- TEAM LOI’s (UNIQUE EQUIPMENT AND SO ON)
- LOCATION PHOTOS OR AGREEMENTS
- BRIEF STORYBOARDS
When I do a Greenlight Analysis for a project, these are the things I go over and test for both their presence and for their validity. What do I mean by validity? Is the team of sufficient quality and experience, say, that they can effectively deliver the $1 Million picture in hand, or the $40 Million picture?Further regarding validity, I was once asked to analyze the sufficiency of a young director who had made a very successful $5 Million horror picture, and a bunch of shorts before that which got significant attention. This sufficiency was focused on a much, much bigger picture in planning. I went back through the careers of several young directors who had just come in off the street originally, like this director in question, and gone on to mega pictures very successfully. I dug into the career arcs, the focus, when and how they made their leaps, and based on what factors, and concluded that this young director would be a better bet, even, than an old tried and true one might be, and at a better price, and with more verve and good preparation and creativity, based on exactly what the director in question had done already. There is no single answer to the question of validity, there is only a thoughtful and reasoned and properly vetted set of answers.
My Greenlight Analysis looks at:
Completeness of Package
- Production Team and Production Plan (including budget, was it derived through a breakdown and schedule?)
- Distribution and/or Marketing Team, if any yet
- Rebates, if any, and state of application(s), if any yet
- Producer’s Statement
- Director’s Statement
Script and Plan
Do they jibe, and are they compatible with the Producer’s and Director’s Statements
Are they effectively chosen and what is the state of the data, how reliable, unless FilmProfit is doing this report.
- Can we reasonably ascertain key demographic outlines, by age, gender and other demographic signals?
- How, why and when do they attend, and what are their demographics (age, gender, financial status, use of media and where do they get their information?
- Does the story and treatment jibe with what is known about that audience, from exit interviews, other audience studies, social positioning, or other industry and marketing signals?
- Does it jibe with the Comparable Pictures Analysis?
- Can the pieces stand together with the release plan?
- If all of the pieces hang together, is the plan viable for proceeding?
- If there are elements out of sync, what are they and how can they be healed
- Or is the project poorly put together or severely flawed, and why?
The Development List and my Greenlight Analysis outlined above is like a brief on the necessary elements of a business plan, which business plan will put some proof to the concept of your your strategy and the moves you will make. I consider, and many of the people I work with, consider the elements of that list to be the development process road map. Each element completed is an investment in your film that makes it more valuable at each step. Far too many people think that pitching is the magic key to opening the pot of gold needed to get a movie funded. That pot of gold is very, very similar to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Don’t waste too much time looking for the pot of gold. Put your picture together!
Oh, and because, well, just because, I wanted to offer a couple of discounts:
- 10% on our Comparable Pictures Reports, for orders of 5 or 10 titles from our database, (USE CODE: Comps!)
- $200 on our Greenlight Analysis (USE CODE: Greenlight!).
- Both of these discounts are limited in number of uses and in time, so get ’em now.
What originally caused me to begin FilmProfit® was my noticing that the studios and big players had lots of folks to help them figure out how to make their films profitable. Indie producers were in a gunfight with rubber stage knives. I wanted to give them some weapons to begin to level the playing field a little. The things I do, whether for rump indies or mid-level players, or even the studios, are meant to get down under the hood, not just numbers, although numbers tell a story, but to get at the functions, of moviegoers, exhibitors, distributors, and all the working parts of the industry, to help my clients see better what they are getting into and how to prepare for it.Onward and Upward, Jeffrey Hardy