The Business of Creativity: Filmmaker Panel on Balancing Budget and Artistry

This morning, SRQ Media Group held the Show Me the Money panel featuring six filmmakers and investors—Mark Famiglio, Marty Hurwitz, Rob Sterrett, Shawn Telford, John Stuart Wildman, and Victor Young—hosted by Jeanne Corcoran, director of the Sarasota County Film and Entertainment Office, about raising money to finance independent film.

The discussion touched on the topics of networking, pitching, distribution and the motivations of investors. The panelists shared useful information for any budding or hopeful filmmakers about the marketing of ideas and films, highlighting the importance of planning and identifying audience.

“If it can’t be monetized, it’s not going to last,” Hurwitz, founder of Conceptioneering, said. To attract investors, Hurwitz holds that filmmakers need to question their own motives in creating the film. “Once you understand why you’re making the film, what are the elements that will make that film attractive?” Young, the producer of Media and Management Global, added, “Passion is beautiful, but if I don’t share your same passion, now it’s just down to business. If I’m not just in that place where I really believe in your cause and I want to give you money, then you’ve got to show me the return.”

While promises can never be made, the incentive of a return on investment is a great draw. “We wanted to make a second film, and a third film,” Wildman, director of The Ladies of the House, said. “The only way we would be able to do that in my mind was if we made our investors that money back. This isn’t just for me to serve my artistic needs.”

Plans for the film beyond production are also essential to make clear to potential investors. “Whenever you raise money, at least for me, I look at the budget and then I look at what our distribution strategy is going to be,” Sterrett, associate producer of the film Chu and Blossom, said. “With crowd funding, this is something that’s going to be a part of financing for independent films. Essentially it’s t-shirts and executive producer credits.”

In spite of the amount of work that has to go into developing relationships and enticing investors, there are several options available to the independent filmmaker. “There are so many different distribution channels now,” Famiglio, President of the Sarasota Film Festival, observed. “I like the notion of packaging groupings of ten, twenty, thirty films produced by different individuals who approach these distribution channels en masse. Here’s a library they’ve concocted. It would give you a little more clout.”

Not everyone on the panel has worked with large amounts of money for their films. Telford, director of BFE, brought to the panel the perspective of the dedicated filmmaker with comparatively little financing at his disposal. “I work when you can’t have money. How do you get around not having money?” Telford explained that he was able to produce his film for an unusually low cost by implementing Kickstarter. “It’s the fighting spirit. Please enjoy the difficulty because this is difficult.”

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