Films & Media laws
You have written or optioned a
script that you want to produce. You just know it has
blockbuster potential. Lack of financing for your film is
the only obstacle in the way of your box office success. So,
what are you waiting for -- get the film financed!
One of the most, if not the most, daunting tasks any producer
faces is the actual financing of the film, but as difficult as it
is, it is not impossible. So, what's the key to making the
almost impossible a reality -- the package. The word gets thrown
around a lot, but for those of you unfamiliar with the vernacular,
the package is that part of the film which comprises the talent --
it is your cast.
The independent market is flooded with product today. Distributors
and sales agents determine whether they want involvement in a film
on the basis of the package. In other words, it is the
package that drives the market.
This is not to say that the
script is completely unimportant, but the reality is that the most
brilliant script is unlikely to secure distribution if it is
packaged with what distributors or sales agents perceive to be
unbankable talent. Yet, a mediocre, and, dare I say an
inferior script, is more likely to secure a distributor or sales
agent if the package has bankable talent.
The package is
crucial because it affects your ability to secure a distributor or
sales agent, and, consequently, your ability to secure financing:
banks use distribution contracts and sales agent estimates to
determine whether to lend production financing, and private equity
investors are more apt to invest when they recognize the cast
The filmmaker not only
needs a distributor or sales agent, but he/she needs one
with a good reputation. Securing a credible distributor/
sales agent is key since, among other things, bank financing
hinges on the strength of the distributor and its payment history,
and the sales agents' track record for accuracy. Lesser
quality distributors and sales agents rarely fulfill the
banking industries strict requirements. You have to do a
little due diligence before committing to any one
distributor/sales agent -- verify with the bank(s) that the
distributor/sales agent in which you have an interest is
acceptable to them.
Hopefully, it has become
apparent to you by now that producing a movie is an artistic, as
well as, business endeavor, and that you have to approach casting
in that manner. So, make a list of all the actors you want
to cast and then research their bankability domestically and
internationally. You will find that the definition of bankability
varies from distributor to distributor and sales agent to sales
agent. This makes it difficult for you to know whose opinion
to trust, but it is advisable to trust the opinion of the
distributors and sales agents that have a credibility with the
The hard work commences
once you have completed your casting list since, this is when you
start contacting actors and their agents and/or managers.
Convincing an actor
to commit to a film before the financing is in place is no
easy task -- it is not for the faint at heart or
easily dissuaded. It takes perseverance, chutzpah and, most
Your likeliest path
to success is one which lets you initially sidestep the
gatekeepers. Agents like the immediate gratification of the
pay-or-play offer and, as such, are unlikely to assist you unless
they are a personal contact. The manager, although more of a
visionary and long term planner, may be reticent to commit the
talent for fear that a better film might come along.
Therefore, make list of everyone you know who may know the actor,
or everyone you know who knows someone who may know the actor.
Believe it or not, the six degrees of separation approach has been
known to work. If it turns out that you are indeed "contactless,"
then you have no choice but to venture into the world of the
gatekeepers. Find a unique way to appeal to the agent
or manager: be passionate; befriend the assistant since he or she
can be your best friend, or enemy; be
respectful; and, be persistent without being a pest.
You are going to need what
is commonly known as a letter intent from the talent once the
talent agrees to be attached to your film. Anyone can say
that they have talent attachments film and, as such,
distributors, sales agents, banks, and private equity
investors require the letter as proof of those attachments.
The best letter of intent is one which states in incontrovertible
terms that the talent is performing in your film. Talent and their
representatives will be reluctant to commit to such terms without
a pay-or-play offer since, they do not want to be attached to a
film which may never get made. Furthermore, actors have been sued
over oral contracts to perform in films and letters of intent and
the actor and his agent and manager are aware of this. Do not get
discouraged if the actor initially declines your request for a
letter. A letter which states that the talent is interested
in performing in your film pending his or her availability is non
commital, but at the same time provides proof to the
distributors/sales agents. Many actors are willing and do provide
such a letter.
You can start shopping your
film to potential distributors, sales agents and banks once
you have letters of intent from your talent. You will be
surprised how much more smoothly the process flows once talent is
attached. It gives the film credibility and a
certain level of cache, and you are on your way to making the
impossible a reality.
Films & Media laws