I was having lunch with a couple of Producers last week who are totally kicking ass on the Strategic Producing front. They are doing precisely what we’ve been talking about on here lately… they are packaging their film with ‘name’ talent without having financing in place. Yes, you read that right – no confirmed financing in place and they are packaging their film with name talent.
How are they doing it? In short, by having a specific financing plan in place and coming across as confident and convincing enough that agents and managers enthusiastically get behind their project. Yes, it’s as simple as that and mirrors what I’m doing right now with the projects I’m producing as well as what director Adam Cultraro did on his 2 films and which he talks about in this interview with me called DIY Packaging For Indie Films.
Back to the Producers I was having lunch with …. what else are they doing to accelerate their project? Well one thing they found to be true is the ‘snowball effect’ which means once they got their lead actor on board…. everything changed. They went from pursuing, to being pursued. In a big way. Meaning – agents and managers were suddenly ringing them off the hook offering up their clients for the other roles. Distributors and Sales Agents caught wind and started pursuing them to make pre sale deals. Yes, all with no confirmed financing in place to actually go into production. Remember, you don’t have to actually have the financing in place to get into production, you just need to know you can get it, and where you can get it – in other words, you need to have a solid financing plan in place that you can act on as soon as your package comes together.
It reminds me of film Margin Call that premiered at Sundance this year (and was acquired by Lions Gate) where once the Producer got Zachary Qunito attached, his whole world changed and next thing you know Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Irons, Stanley Tucci, and other stars attached themselves in short order. I did a newsletter about this on the heels of Sundance called One Piece Changes Everything: The Margin Call Effect which talks about this phenomenon – get one meaningful element attached to your film and that’s all it takes for everything to shift.
Another thing you might consider, especially if you’re working with a newer or unproven director, is shooting a teaser trailer or even short film to showcase your abilities and talent. If done well, this could serve to further motivate agents & managers to want to jump on board your feature project and help you package it and get it off the ground. Case in point is how director Sean Durkin leveraged his short film Mary Last Seen to get his feature financed Martha Marcy May Marlene – which subsequently premiered at Sundance where it was acquired by Fox Searchlight, and screened last week in Cannes Directors Fortnight.
So if you’re reading this and you’re stuck in the old Catch 22 of ‘can’t get cast without financing, and can’t get financing without cast’ – think again. Time to regroup. Re-evaluate your strategy and get out there and get just the one piece of the puzzle attached that will change the game from pursuing to being pursued. That might mean attaching a name director, cast, or even Producer to the mix. It might mean taking a step back and shooting a teaser to show what you’re made of.
And whatever you do, be confident on how you’re pulling together the financing on the film. Every meeting I have about my projects, that’s usually the first question I’m asked. And I have my financing plan at the ready to spew off. Say it with confidence, and that’s usually enough to get past the gatekeepers and proceed with packaging discussions. (For more specific info on what a true Financing Plan entails, check out the Expert Series Interview I did with Jeff Steele for Film Specific members here).
So now it’s over to you – what is your financing plan? What can you be doing right now to move things along with your project – to get it packaged and financed? Looking forward to your comments below!