I had a conversation with a financier the other day who said he couldn’t invest in my movie until I was out of “development hell”. I tried to explain to him that he could turn my hell into development heaven very easily with a letter of commitment to fund the movie. He didn’t agree.
From the pan to the fire. Even if you do get the millions of dollars that it takes to make your indy film, the game is rigged to make sure that you never see any of it. Other than your producer fee, which the investors will try to chop back, to reduce the fixed costs of the film, your back end profit is in last position behind everyone else.
There are a lot of sharks swimming in the waters, just waiting for the minnows (that would be you) to swim by. Come here said the shark: I’ll lend you $10 million to make your movie… only I want to tack on a producer fee of $400,000 for myself; hold a lien on all rights foreign and domestic; have approval over every aspect of your film from casting to delivery; be recouped from any tax credits and foreign presales; charge 20% interest annually; carve out sales to Germany for myself; and take 50% of all back end profits. Gulp.
I heard a story the other day about Woody Allen. When the studio offered him a “package” for his next six films he said “thanks, but no thanks”. He asked for $10 million a picture. Up front. “No, we’re offering you a chance to make a lot more,” said the studio. Allen stood fast on his $10 million per film price until the studio executives relented. What Woody Allen had learned from the business was that you get your money up front, because the waters are full of sharks that are just waiting for minnows like you and I to swim by. Woody was just too fast for them.