Filmmaker Conference- Collaboration and Co-Financing- Sept. 18, 2007
Filmmaker Conference - Collaboration and Co-Financing - Sept. 18, 2007
Sarah Green, Sarah Green Film Corp
Lydia Dean Pilcher, Cinemosaic
Kacy Andrews, Bigfoot Entertainment
Noah Harlan, 2.1 Films
I attended the filmmaker conference panel on international collaboration on film projects. What drew me into this panel was that, quite frankly, I have some documentary treatments and feature scripts that have, in their own ways, international relevance and appeal… so this panel ended up being golden for me.
Sarah Green was an excellent moderator. As a seasoned filmmaker, she got the discussion material and was able to lead us filmmakers to understand that there are other resources for funding your film projects. I think we are all brought up to believe that U.S.-based studios or PBS are our sole supporters, but as I learned—that’s not all there is out there.
The panel started by defining a couple of frequently used phrases.
“Soft money” is money that comes from government institutions typically set aside to support and promote local artists.
“Soft costs” are post-services, studio time and other resources that they already have in-house. “Hard costs” are money they have to pay out to vendors or people.
“Bi-lateral co-production treaty” is when country A and country B (or more to make it multi-lateral) get together and decide to support a film project together. No countries have this kind of treaty with the U.S. since they are designed to have incentives that counter the U.S. dominant Hollywood fare. Now, within those treaties there are various stipulations depending on the countries. For example, French programming should have 50% French-language programming and 30% should be by French filmmakers, etc. etc.
This is different from “equity co-productions” which have money sources from all over the world that may or may not be as nationalistic, but when you’re going out to cobble finance, there are different considerations as different financiers have different requirements and it all can therefore get pretty hairy when producing your vision.
Lynda described that ownership of a project is shared; this is against the U.S. tradition solo funded films that don’t always make the investor’s money back. When looking at production locations, consider lodging, incentives, local crew availability, etc. For example, to shoot Karma Sutra in India years ago, they funneled insurance and the purchasing of film/expendables through Germany per incentives there but her recent project was able to go with local incentives as production infrastructure increased in India.
Kacy is based in the Philippines with full production and post facilities, new gear, and crews. They’ve been building up the production infrastructure there (and are currently competing with film production in Thailand). She distinguished themselves and other out-of-U.S. companies as getting behind projects for reasons other than the U.S. equities only funding films for profit. Overall, it seems the landscape of films is changing.
Nolan noted that the European model for co-production is very difficult to breach with an American project, an American producer and other American elements. The most important thing I gleaned from this is the necessity of having producers (or other talent attached to your project) on the ground in places you’re looking to find funding. He mentioned going to No Borders or Strategic Partners to find these people. There are location expos in Los Angeles and at Cannes that are established to expose international locations, incentives and other options to filmmakers.
Another important anecdote from Lydia that made a whole lot of sense to anyone who knows there are lots of moving parts when you’re in production. Even though it may be alluring to have multiple sources for funding to add up to a bigger budget, keep in mind that if one pulls out or has strict requirements, then it is that much harder to pull it back together. It can be like a house of cards that will tumble if that one card is not replaced immediately. The fewer the better.
They said that Sales Agents review the commercial value of a film and can guess a pre-sell value. Obviously, a world-wide sale of your film is ideal but that’s not always going to be available. An international sales agent brings specialized information where they can provide estimates for unsold territories and can get those prices at the right time. Again, different sales companies have different kinds of movies. When looking for an agent, research not only their performance history but any themes or commonalities in what films they select to get behind.
Also, sales agents can get on board with you early on in the process. They aren’t going to come on without something to look at like a demo or script, but they do like to keep tabs until the end. Any previous completed projects that you have to show for yourself will assist in making them feel assured in selling you and your film since we all like to feel assured we’re investing in a sure thing.
At the end of the day, you are responsible to guide your funders and sales people to get your vision and lead them. You are your film’s best advocate. Your film isn’t the only one they have going on.
Documentaries have a better shot internationally than they do domestically here in the US due to the socialist nature for art in other countries. Kacy’s advice on docs was that you should make sure you get funding before you start production and pay your fees out of that since docs rarely do well theatrically or make profit.