The 8 Steps To Financing A Film Or Find A Rich Lover – With Georgia Hilton
The 8 Steps To Financing A Film Or Find A Rich Lover ! – With Georgia Hilton
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The 8 Steps To Film Financing
Introduction from Tim Bennett
This transcript is the forth in a series about film finance.
After creating my second movie I was shocked at how so many independent directors were struggling with money for their movies and I thought there has to be a better way.
And so I set myself the task of finding new ways and sharing them with the film community.
I looked for directors who had experience with creating film finance and ask them if I could interview them.
These transcripts are the result of those interviews and are completely raw and unedited.
You will find many incredible secrets between the moments of chat and talk and if you apply some of these tactics, you may just find the secret you have been waiting for.
Please let me know if these transcripts are helpful to you, or if you find errors or mistakes or even better if you apply the techniques and get great results.
So sit back, relax and enjoy…
The 8 Steps To Financing A Film
Or Find A Rich Lover !
With Tim Bennett and Georgia Hilton
Tim: Good morning everybody, this is Tim Bennett and I am your host today and I am so happy to be here with our very special guest, who I’ll introduce to you shortly.
Just some guidelines, for today’s conversation, the lines are presently all closed, but if you do have a question for either myself or Georgia, I will open the lines for you and please ensure that you have a quiet background and if you have headphones even better, because we get echo, but you are very welcome to join us live on the chat if you wish to and ask questions, but please keep the questions on topic.
We are going to be discussing film financing especially today, and welcome to the show, this is Tim Bennett from the Argon Animation website and this is ArgonTV where we spend our life interviewing awesome people and just by being here you are awesome and this is The Film Finance Show.
And our guest today is Georgia Hilton and I met Georgia about 1 month ago on a website called Stage32.com and it is a bit like Facebook for the movie industry.
I came across one or two of Georgia’s comments and there was something about them and about her frankness and her willingness to use words such as, “do film financing correctly or bury your head in the sand and don’t read this because you will get pissed off” and there was just something about it that appealed to me and then she finished the article about the 8 steps to financing a film, which is what we are going to be discussing today, with “either do this properly, or go and find yourself a rich lover” or words to that effect, and I just thought, my God this is a girl who uses the words that I use and I would really like to get to know her so I sent her an email about a month ago and said “would you be interested in coming on this program and sharing your rich thoughts with us” and she jumped at the opportunity.
We met last night online for the first time ever and had a chat and we talked for about 15 minutes and what an amazing woman and I think we are going to be in for a great night, so ladies and gentlemen, please, without anymore hesitation, let me welcome, the one and only, the magnificent, awesome, Georgia Hilton!
Good evening! Good morning Georgia!
Georgia: Good evening, how are you and how is everyone, I hope you are having a great time tonight, we’re going to talk about getting your movie financed, it’s not gonna be easy, but there’s a way to do it.
Tim: The article that really appealed to me, was the article that we are going to discuss mainly, although we are going to hopefully cover a lot of different topics, was the 8 Steps To Financing, and I am actually at step 1, which is why I was so interested in this and we will go into that in a little bit in a moment, I am just about to launch my own movie, next Monday, in the cinemas and I am super excited and kinda nervous, but I am also hoping that we get return of investment so we can go to step 2.
Georgia: I’m sure it’s gonna work out…
Tim: It better do, because I just sold one of my condominiums to finance it.
Georgia: Wait a minute, you are taking away my thunder here!
Tim: Oh sorry pretend I didn’t say that!
So maybe before we get going Georgia, you could just give a little overview of who you are, I am sure there are some people here who don’t know you and just explain some of the things you have been doing.
Georgia: Well just so you guys know, I am an independent filmmaker just like some of you guys, although I don’t like to use the word “filmmaker” because the word “filmmaker” doesn’t imply you know what you are doing.
Tell people, when they ask you, that you produce movies!
So I produce movies, I used to work on Wall Street, I got burned out and I couldn’t stand working for City Bank any longer and I wanted to something a little “arty fartsy” and I love technology and I love art and I thought film making is the perfect place to be.
So I started out as a sound designer and a sound editor and and after doing a slew of movies and TV shows and looking at every frame of these movies, probably more than the editor does, I realised that these editors, a lot of these editors, are screwing up and I thought, “I can do that!”
So I started editing movies, the next thing I know I was doing colour correction and by the time I got done I was producing feature films, handling all the post production from end to end and I am actually just now after 15 years, producing my own movie, because I have been fixing everyone else’s for about 15 years now.
We have a group called “Film Doctors” which are a bunch of great filmmakers, from all around the world, that help out independent filmmakers on their projects, producers, directors, editors and we have basically doing a pretty good job of recovering and reconditioning, fixing, re-editing and basically getting independent features to market.
Tim: That is awesome and when I looked through your resume, the first time I saw it, I was staggered at how much stuff you have actually been involved in and not just producing, but as you said, every aspect from sound to effects to producing to directing, all sorts of things, you have done masses, I don’t think I have met anyone who has done more than you!
Georgia: Well I have dabbled in a lot of things, but I don’t profess to be an expert in anything, but I have learned the hard way how to make a movie and how to make it make money.
Tim: Fantastic and you know one of the things that really appealed to me about you Georgia, was that we both looked at the industry and said there has to be a better way.
Tim: I have just made my 2nd movie and the 1st on I will admit that, when my friends came to me and asked would I like to invest some money in this movie, I really wanted to satisfy my ego and I just wanted to see my name up on the screen, so I gave some money to that and I sat in the cinema and had my ego satisfied and then I went ahead and made a second movie and I was amazed at how the industry around me was not working.
Directors and producers were making movies, but they had no real finance to help them out and I thought “this is crazy” and all that I am doing right now with these interviews was really to find solutions to help directors and producers around the world creatively make finance and this is how we met.
I think we are going to share some secrets today!
I just want to go back to shout out to some people, before we get going, we got Tom Anthony, who I know has a question for us, he is based in The Philippines and he is a guy that I am doing a project with shortly, another movie we are putting together, he has got some questions for you.
And Tiffany, Stephanie, we got the SB Group, Roy, Nicole, Morris, Michelle, Matthew, La Quinta, Kerry, Julia, Jonathan, Jimi, and Gracie, Gila and Dawn Fields, so that’s awesome!
And you know Gracie and Matthew, were both here before I got here at least 30 minutes before we got started so a big shout out to you two guys and I tell you what I’m gonna do, because you came so early I will send you a free transcript of today’s webinar as a special bonus, because you got here before me.
So great to see you all here and if you have any questions as we go along, type them into the chat box and Georgia and I will answer them and as I say, towards the end of the interview we can open up some lines and talk to some of you directly as well.
So let’s get going…
We are going to be talking about Financing A Film and that is the whole idea of today’s conversation and the article that inspired me was an article that Georgia wrote, called “The 8 Steps To Financing A Film” so let’s head on over right now to the 1st step…
Step 1: “Write a check for $10,000 out of your own pocket and make a feature length film and then make $10,001” so explain what you mean by all of this Georgia and why…”
Georgia: Well the bottom line… let me start with why I wrote this article and what kind of transpired and I bet everybody here has heard this before.
I was on Stage32.com and one of the other stage32 people, sent me a message and said “would you help me with my movie?” and I said “Great! Always happy to chat with people, throw some ideas around, you never knows what happens”.
And he sent me this great one pager and it was all about his fantastic movie and how the writer was phenomenal and how the director was phenomenal and the producer was great and this movie was going to make millions and millions of dollars and he only needed $20 million dollars to make it.
He was the writer, the director, he was the producer, he had no talent attached, no director of any value attached, he had never made a movie before in his life and he wanted someone to write a check for $20 million dollars.
And that’s just not going to happen not in a million years!
Tim: I wish I could get someone to do that for me as well!
Georgia: Oh yehey, I’ll be the first one in that line, if anybody here has got $20 million and wants to make a movie, call me tonight.
In the mean time reality has to set in. I’m assuming that everybody here wants to make a movie, I want to make a movie, so how do you get started?
Well the first thing is, throw out all these crazy ideas of a 50 person crew, phenomenal locations and a 200 page script.
Write a script that you can make for $10,000, because anybody here can find $10,000, you can call your friends, and your neighbours, and your family and you can go to your check book, sell your car, go to Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding, if you put your energy into it, and solid energy from a group of 2 or 3 people, you can raise $10,000.
So what can you do with $10,000, you can actually make a feature film.
It doesn’t take that much money, it tales that much smarts!
What you need to do is to make sure you have a script that you can make for $10,000 which means that if you have got your amazing $20 million action adventure geo-political thriller, or whatever, put it back in the drawer, and write something specifically for this first step.
Write a simple, simple script. Write a script that is a one act play with a couple of people, that means something that happens in real time, in one room, or two rooms, that you can shoot in a week.
You can do that with 3 or 4 crew, all your friends, and a couple of free actors, and you have made your first movie for $10,000.
The trick is to make it well, which means you have to do some pre-work, which I am happy to talk about maybe later on because it does affect all the other steps as well, but basically, keep it simple, make it straight forward, make it as commercial as possible.
Don’t make this movie about your next door neighbour child who went through some hell somewhere, or about something else such as starvation in Africa, we are all worried about that, but that’s not where you make your first movie.
Your first movie is down the middle commercial, because you want to get people to watch it, because if you can make, $10,001 out of your 1st $10k movie, you are now a successful and financially profitable producer.
Tim: That is brilliant and I like the idea of keeping it simple and…
Georgia: Absolutely, you need a crew of 3 or 4 people, you need somewhere to shoot, somebody to help you with some lights, maybe somebody to help you with script and makeup, the base things!
Don’t get crazy, don’t make it huge, but make it good.
Tim: I also like the idea or your comments about starting out with the end in mind, that you are going to make this to make money, it’s not an advocacy, it’s not particularly that you want to tell a story, but it really is about making some money.
Georgia: Yes, when you have made your $50 million and you are sitting on your yacht at Saint Martin…make any movie you want, but I think you’ve got to go to these first steps.
You need to show people, if you want more money from people, you need to show them that you are financially viable and that you know what you are doing, that’s the simple path to doing that.
Tim: And this is where I am right now, is that I have just made my second movie with my co-producer and director called Ian Del Carmen, I sold a condominium and threw about $10,000 of my money into it and he did about the same and you know, for me, we are both emotionally involved in this movie now, we want it to be a success, it’s not a job, it’s a part of our life and we’re not just going into cinemas, but we are also going to be doing parties.
The movie is actually called “Bad Romance” and we are going to be doing “Bad Romance Parties”, having sponsors there and making this really an event for people to come and enjoy and tour the country with it and we are doing this because we are emotionally involved and financially involved, we want our money back.
Georgia: Yep! I noticed a question from Chas, I hope I am pronounced that right, who asked “who is going to buy a $10,000 movie?”
Nobody is going to buy a $10,000 movie, that looks like it was made for $10,000, the trick is to make it look like it was made for a lot more and there are a lot of simple things you can do to make a lot more than the $10,000 you spent on it.
For instance, I don’t know… Tim do you know where Chas is located?
Tim: No! Chas where are you? Can you just type in where you are located?
Georgia: While he is doing that, I’m just gonna say, in New York for example, in fact Chas, I’m gonna tell you this, I was actually approached by someone who said “Have you ever followed your own advice?” because I have been in the business now for 15 years and I am kinda a few of these steps down and I said “I have never made a movie under a micro-budget,” so I am doing it.
I am actually going to make a movie to prove this fact out and I have seen it done by other people, like Tim, so we are actually doing the same thing, we are making an extremely low budget movie, but we are going to make it look like a much bigger movie and the way we can do that is simple things.
In New York, like I said, you can get actors, if I put a cattle call out in New York City, and we have done this, we put a cattle call out for no pay, we are paying like $50 a day to 5 actors for 7 days, we are going to get 200 to 300 people applying, so if you put the time and energy into it, you can get some great acting talent, you just have to be careful about who you get.
And take the energy to really make sure you have the right actor!
Secondly, or should I say firstly, it’s your script! It’s all about your script.
Everything else in a movie starts with a script, so you really need to write a good script and if you have never written a script, then find someone who has or find a good script and option it.
You can find a lot of independent filmmakers, a lot of kids in film school, writing schools who have written scripts, maybe even a short that can be converted or transformed in or changed to a feature film for a few dollars.
A lot of them would just love to see their movie get made.
Find that…look for that script, find that good script, that is really down the middle commercial or write one, find a writer to do it and once you have written that script, and don’t forget, scripts are never written, they are re-written over and over and over and over.
Tim: Oh yeah!
Georgia: Exactly so once you get that script that you think is so good, put an ad in Craigslist, put an ad in Mandy.com any of these websites and say you are looking for someone to do an analysis of your movie.
Community theatre people might be able to look at it, you can find someone who will do a write up on it and you can give these people a couple of hundred dollars to give you an analysis of your script, they are not expensive and you do not need to spend thousands of dollars to do this.
Get them to look at that script and when you send them that script do not put your name on it as the writer or even the producer, just leave it out.
Tell them, you are looking at this script, you are thinking about maybe producing it, don’t tell them you did it, just tell them you may be doing it so they give you honest feedback and real feedback and take that feedback to heart and keep working that script and it might take you a year to get this script where you really want it, then you have a great script.
And I have talked you to about getting great talent, with great talent and a great script, you could shoot this thing in your living room and make it work.
And once you have done that, back to your question Chas about $10,000, you could look at companies, for instance, I will tell you one right now, here is a secret for you, Free Style Digital, is a company in LA that I have worked with, they are always looking for something great, they don’t care, how much it cost, they care about what it looks like, they care about how good the story is, they care about how good the acting is, how good the editing is, they care about that production value.
They can do a digital distribution, and get it out there on Netflix, or itunes, you can get it out to a number of other web based services, you can go out to foreign distribution, you don’t have to think about New York or America.
America is not the end of the world for movies, its hardly anymore the start. There is a huge hungry appetite for foreign distribution for decent movies, so it doesn’t matter how much you spend, it matters how good it looks.
Tim: Awesome! And this also reminds me of a conversation that I had a few weeks ago with Tom Malloy.
I don’t know if you know Tom Malloy, he is in LA, he is a director there and I interviewed him a couple of weeks ago and he said “you get the script and the whole objective of the scene is to get across to the audience how lonely this girl feels and we are in a football stadium, there’s 10,000 people in the audience and there is cheering going on and she is sat there feeling all alone and the cost of that is huge, you have to pay for the football stadium, you got to pay for the football team, you have to pay 10,000 people and massive logistics and what you could do is take her out of that football stadium and go to a park bench in the middle of nowhere and just plonk her on that and as long as it doesn’t take away from the integrity of the movie, for free, you can do exactly the same as what was done for a million dollars in a football stadium.”
Georgia: Yup! Or you know what? Just to throw another one out there, you could buy some stock footage of a football stadium and shoot your alone person walking down an empty cement hallway somewhere and pretend it’s part of the stadium.
Tim: Could do! Could do! Absolutely!
Georgia: So you know there is always a way to make that million dollar shot for a thousand dollars or a hundred dollars.
Tim: Absolutely! And Tom (Tom Anthony) and I are just going through a script right now for a movie that we are going to hopefully produce later this year, and we are doing exactly that, we are going through the script and saying how can we make this for free, for cheap, for reduced cost, who can we put in there that we know, what can we do to make this a cheaply made movie, but at the same time keeping the integrity and making it look expensive.
Georgia: Yup! Another thing that came up here that is part of this step 1… Is it Gila? I hope I am pronouncing that right… she talks about… she made three shorts and she got her money back, anyway she is saying that her short is like a demo for a movie and no finance people are interested in financing it.
Short films… I could us a very mean word, but I won’t. Short films are kind of a filmmakers black hole, I was going to use a much more bad word, but short films are great for practicing, short films are great for testing, short films are great for coming up with an idea like you mention here that you did a short as a demo for the movie that you want to make.
People who are going to fund a feature film are not going to fund it because you made a short, they are going to fund it because your feature film length movie made money.
So you really want to think about it before you spend 10, 20, 30 a 100 thousand dollars on a short.
As an example I have a client who is an Iraq war veteran, with a VA and they were paying for his schooling, he wanted to be a director, he and a partner wrote a short and they came to me because, I’m a vet as well, my company was registered with the government, so we became the production company.
He wanted a lot of things, I wrote a budget and it was $120,000 that I got approved by the government for this movie. We could have shot this movie for $10,000, but he wanted all these crazy things, because he thought that was what the film industry required and we tried to talk him out of it, but he spent the whole amount for this short and we could have shot a feature for this.
The short looks pretty good, you know he did ok, but it never went anywhere because it’s a short!
You know shorts are not what you need to do, the movie won a gazillion awards all around the world, this short that we did, but it doesn’t mean anything, I don’t even list it in my credits when I talk to financial people.
You need to make the feature movie, you’re making a product, it’s sort of like saying “I made a bicycle, now give the money to make a sports car!”
You know what, make a Volkswagen, then ask for money to make a sports car.
Tim: Yeah I really hear what you are saying, I have been involved in show production for about 22 years now and I actually have a special effects laser company out here in Manila and to do a small show is almost the exact same amount of effort as it is to do a big show, but the income is hugely different, one might make a $1000 and the other one might make $20,000, the amount of effort that goes into it, and keeping the customer happy is exactly the same.
And you need the same staff and the same requirements, so you might as well make the big one!
Georgia: Yep, so I know I have kinda dragged this down a couple of rat holes here and we are on step 1 and we should almost be half way through, we should be on step 4 or 5 by now.
Tim: Yes, I think that step 1 is the foundation and the foundation is always the biggest part and if you get this right, the rest of it falls into place I think!
Georgia: Yep! So I think for Gila what I think you really need to do is you need to to step back and look at your script again and you have to face a little bit of reality here, to make your first feature, whether it’s $10,000 or half a million dollars, it’s gonna come out of your pocket or people you know, so you really need to focus on making something out of the box that you can afford to make.
Tim: Just before we move on to step 2, I want to go through some of the questions and Stephanie had a question and she wanted to speak to you directly, so let me just open Stephanie’s line and Stephanie, you should be un- muted now so feel free to join us with your question.
Stephanie: I actually had a couple, but my 1st question was in regards to, have you been involved multi-country productions in bringing the money in from Australia or you know, Europe and America and combining production that way, because I know, especially with… I have been involved with a lot of international films and that seems to be the way a lot of companies are doing it now and not just sticking to America.
Georgia: Well I haven’t been actively involved in moving money around between international film projects, I did a project 2 years ago with a German production company and a LA production company.
I have worked with a Russian film company and a LA film company…the steps are honestly pretty much the same, when we get in some of these steps that we’re going to go through tonight later on, when we get up to that $1 million and up level, that stuff starts to be an issue because now you are looking at Gap Finance and your looking at was to manipulate tax incentives, but for your first 3 or 4 independent movies, for those low budget movies, it really doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, right now we are looking at, you’ve gotta be able to write that check on your own, or almost on your own.
Tim: You maybe interested Stephanie in joining us next week, I have an interview with a guy called Michael Perlin who has a movie called “The Three Magic Words” and he has taken his movie to about 15 different countries so far and he and I have just struck an agreement to bring it into The Philippines, I’m going to be his distribution in The Philippines, so he has a lot of experience about that, so I will send everybody a link to that interview next week as well, but he could be a guy to ask!
Georgia: Yeah you know, you mention “Iron Sky” (in a typed question) which I think is just a hysterically great movie, brilliantly done, crazy movie, lot of fun and you know they did it on next to nothing by shooting this…
Stephanie: Yes they started with $10 million and they stared with a trailer and they got their 1st million.
I mean I am dealing with one of the producers from that which is the film that I am trying to get across the board right now.
Georgia: You know there are always exceptions to the rule. You know “Blair Witch” is the one that everyone likes “you know they shot it on nothing” well it wasn’t quite on nothing when you actually dig into it and you know Iron Sky I think is great, I watched it, I couldn’t wait for that movie to come out, I really looked forward to seeing it and they did a great job of playing by the rules, they shot and created a very wonderful trailer, they put huge amounts of energy into social media, crowdfunding and it’s one of those things that went viral… they got lucky!
I think that’s great, I would rather be lucky than good, but I think for most filmmakers the chances are that’s not, for 99% of the movies, that’s not going to happen and I am trying to find what we are talking about tonight specifically tonight, is how do I crawl up the hard way, obviously at any moment, your script might get picked up, really wonderful things can happen to filmmakers anyway down the food chain, but you’ve got to work like those magic moments aren’t going to happen.
Stephanie: Yes that’s true.
Tim: So does that answer your question Stephanie?
Stephanie: Yes it does thank you very much!
Tim:Great, well let’s move on as I think we have a lot of nervous people out there, so I will mute you again Stephanie for now and if you have anymore questions, then jump in.
Stephanie: no problem thank you!
Tim: Alright so let’s move on to step 2…
Georgia: OK! Step 2
Tim: So there is step 2 “Start asking around for $50,000 and repeat step 1 while earning more than $50,000, using a professional writer and director.”
Georgia: You know the next 3 or 4 steps, really guys are essentially the same, it’s stretching your ability to work with more and more professional people, it’s spending more money, it’s also beginning to get like a $50k movie, if you don’t have $50,000 to write a check and hopefully you’ve got $5,000 or $10,000 that you made money on your 1st movie with, but when you go out to people and you say I want to make a movie, I need $50,000 or I need $100,000 and they go “well what have you done?” you have got that $10,000 movie, you got that small budget movie and bear in mind these numbers are kinda grabbed out of the air, it’s not precisely $10,000 or precisely $50,000, it’s a step approach, so basically making a movie that you can afford to make out of your budget first, getting that foot hold, making a slightly bigger movie and adding some more crew and adding some more cast, adding a few more locations, you can hire a professional writer form the WGA now.
You’ve got a budget to do that, you can make an even better script, you can find a director that has done a few movies or you know what, if you are comfortable directing and you did your 1st movie and it worked…great…use your own director, but bear in mind as we get higher up things start to get rhythmically tougher to do…so…what we are trying to do is step you through a small movie that you can completely manage, now you are doing a movie that you need a few more people and those steps start to expand, the scope of the film expands, the scope of the post production expands and you are still learning how to manage this and you are starting to deal with more contracts, with Unions, like WGA…
Tim: But I notice…
Georgia: But that’s really what step 2 is about.
Tim: Yep. I notice in this step now, that we have sort of upgraded things by using a professional writer and director, rather than you doing it yourself, that’s the big change yes?
Georgia: Well I recommend for anyone, and look, people will always do what they want to do, it’s the independent film business, you know what “make great movies and have fun doing it and make them make money” so don’t let me ever tell you that you can’t do these things, but I would tell you if you want to focus now on what you really want to be when you grow up and I haven’t grown up yet, you have got to start looking at these steps from step 1 to step 8 is that great big movie, what do you want to be, do you want to be a director?
Do you want to be a producer? Do you want to be a writer? Do you want to be an actor?
This is the 1st time, you need to maybe say, “you know what…you know I’m not going to wear all of these hats. I need to start relying on people and I need to start focusing my energy so that I can do a better job of one thing.”
So instead of writing and directing and producing and starring, or whatever you’re going to do, now you are getting a co-writer or a professional writer to write your idea, it can still be your idea, say “I’ve got this great idea for a movie, you know Harry Meets Sally and I need a writer to write it. “
So you get a writer to do it and maybe you go “I’m going to produce this, but I’m going to get a director, I’m going to bring out a really good local director to do this,” or “I’m going to direct, I’m going to bring on a producer.”
And you find yourself another person to produce it so you are really beginning to focus in your niche, where you want to be when you get to into these bigger movies.
Tim: Ok and I just jumped over to step 3 as well, which is as you said pretty much the same as…
Georgia: Step 3 should be $100k..
Tim: Yes that should be $100k sorry, my mistake STEP 4 and 5
Georgia: Well again, you know, we doubled the budget again, so we go from say $10,000 / 20,000 to $50,000 and then we go to $100,000 and then we double up again and then to $500,000 and now we are in a movie at 500k after we have done 3 movies before this and if you have done these movies successfully you now have a resume that says “I am a producer!”
“I have 2 or I have 3 successful movies” and successful doesn’t mean you have to make millions of dollars, it just means you need to get them out and get them released even if its iTunes or Netflix and you need to see them make a few dollars, like I say, 1 dollar more, make it make a little bit of money and now, you are starting to become an entity, your starting to have value, begin to have marketing value, you begin to have financial value, so now when you start talking to investors, think of it, if you walked into an investor for a 500k movie and you said “give me 500k to make a movie, but I’ve never made a movie before”, they are pretty much going to laugh at you or say thanks but no thanks, but if you say “I want to make a 500k movie and I’m going to put 20k of my own money in and by the way I have done 3 smaller movies successfully and they have all been released, a couple of them made a few dollars, I know what I am doing”, now you stand a much better chance of getting that investment and by the way through these process steps, you have learned how to manage bigger and bigger crews and wider ranging sets and locations, you’ve just taken a simple step, you know let’s not go to graduate school right out of grade school, let’s go to high school and college first.
Tim: And this is an important point, when we were making Bad Romance I learned so much about what not to do.
Georgia: Absolutely! If you have never made a movie, you have no idea of the pain and anguish, in a feature especially, no idea of the pain and anguish.
One of the things I tell people, if you want to be a great producer, you have to be a lot of things and one of the things you need to be is a hostage negotiator because your movie is going to get held up and held hostage by so many people, it could be your crew getting mad at you for wanting to work another hour and you have already been going 18, it could be your SAG actors screaming and yelling, it could be the next door neighbour who has had enough of those 10k lights out on the front lawn at 3am, so you’ve got to deal with the local police, you got to deal with the fire department and you have to deal with all these people and you need to learn how to do that, it’s not as easy as it sounds, there’s a lot of things you need to do to be a good film producer and again these steps will help you by simply saying “I’m going to make a small movie that I can manage and do in my living room or in a couple of locations, I’m going to make another one that is a little bigger, more people, I’m going to start dealing with some permits, I’m going to make another one, now I’ve got a WGA writer, I can do contracts, I’ve got a great director, I’m doing my first ultra- low budget or experimental SAG and I’m learning how to deal with SAG…step at a time!”
Tim: Awesome, well we have got a couple of comments coming in from Gracie and Chas, but I will hold them off for now and then let’s go through the steps and then at the end of that, let’s ask all the questions.
So keep your questions coming in guys and I will go through them later.
STEP 6, 7 and 8
Tim: So let’s move on to step 6, 7 and 8, which is basically the whole list in one go.
Georgia: These steps, when you get up to step 5, before we go to step 6, is the learning curve, you know again, that’s learning how to deal with everything and adding a layer of complexity and financial issues all the way up through.
When you get to that $1 million to $5 million range you are now really dealing with finances, you really need to start dealing with “how do I finance my feature film?”
You have got your track record, you’ve got a history of making money with your movie, you are financially viable, you’re marketable because you have got a track record, those are the things that distribution companies are looking at, those are the things that actors are looking at, an actor puts their whole career and their life in the hands of a director.
There isn’t a real actor out there, that is going to let someone, out of the box, direct them.
They are going to want to see a real director, so when you start hitting this level, you’ve really got to start thinking about a balance in your project, a balance in your budget, your doing a union film more than likely, so you’ve got to look at what your above the line, and below the line costs are going to be, you’ve got to look at a director and it may not be you, even though you’ve done a few movies, it might be, but it may not be.
Be prepared for that.
But you have got to make sure that you have got a director, either you or a good director who has a track record, who has a history of making financially successful movies, you need at least 1 other good producer now, but you’ve got a track record, so you can go find a good producer who will work with you because you can say “look I am not an idiot, I’ve done this before!”.
So you can get real producers to work with you, you can start to get SAG actors who will look at you with much more respect as you have 3 or 4 movies now under your belt, so all of this leading up to this sort of step 6 is to prep you so that you become marketable, you become financially viable and you can show that you know what you are doing so you can get the real people to work with you.
Tim: One of the things I discovered over the course of the interviews, and I had never really thought about it and I am sure that many people who are making movies don’t think about it as well, is to think from the investors point of view.
If an investment company are coming in and they are going to give you money, they probably want return of investment and they are not so much interested in your movie, but they want return of investment in their cash, so when they do these deals with people, they want to know, that 1, people are going to see the movie and 2, it’s going to make money so that they can get return of investment, and unless you have that track record, you simply won’t attract these investors.
Georgia: And things have changed over the years, it honestly was a lot easier, when the economy was flying and money was really loose, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, Chase Private Banking, they would give you money, as long as you had a reasonably put together business plan and you had attached actors and attached directors, you could pretty much land money if you had any kind of a track record, today it’s almost impossible.
It’s still incredibly difficult to get money for feature films as an independent, you going to have to end up doing, co-production deals, you’re going to have to work with other production companies to get these 5, 10, or 20 million dollar movies made, because you are going to have to find a couple of million and they are going to be putting in a couple of million, you are going to be dealing with tax incentives and location requirements to get those tax incentives and stuff, you know the 181 and other taxes and other countries have the same deals.
You’re going to have to deal with GAP financing, you’re going to have to deal with distribution contracts, having to factor those to get more money in the budget.
That stuff is tough and without a track record of making movies and without a couple of movies under your belt people are just not going to talk to you and that’s why I’m kinda pushing these steps, get these 2 or 3 or 4 movies made under your belt that are easy to make, cost effective, commercially viable, set you up so you are marketable and you are financially viable, so you can do these kind of things.
Tim: Great, so step 7 or 8, just to finish off.
Georgia: Yes step 7 or 8, you are making real movies now!
So you are really dealing with at this point, 10 million and 20 million level, you have pretty much stepped outside of the independent filmmaking world, you are in the production company and you are in the studio world and those kind of projects are going to come from studios and even studios are having a tough time right now, they are really looking at cutting down these “tent pole” block buster movies, they are making smaller, more viable movies, you can see a lot of these big $100 million dollar movies are just loosing their butt, so they are really looking at changing how they do business and things are changing in the film industry, you’ve got to be much more cost effective in your film development and in your film operation and in your delivery, and you have got to find a way to make that $20 million movie to get made for 10 or 5 and that $5 million dollar movie get made for 1 and that 1 million made for half, so we are in a good position as filmmakers, as independent filmmakers, we are in a good position as independent producers, because we don’t have the overhead that these large studios make, so if you want to hit that 20 million dollar mark and you want to go after the big studio projects you can.
My goal for instance, as a filmmaker, is I make a $3 to $5 million dollar movie every year, I want to make a living making movies, having fun, I want to make great movies, I want to make fun movies and I want to make them consistently, I’m not even interested personally in steps 7 and 8, I am real happy at step 6, because I can flip those movies for profit, much easier than I can a $20 million dollar movie that takes 5 or 6 years just to get funded.
Tim: Amazing, and you are actually in the process of making a movie right now for a lot less than aren’t you?
Georgia: Oh yea as a matter of fact, just for fun, we said let’s make a micro- budget movie, movies I’ve worked on, movies I’ve produced, movies I’ve done consulting for have all been in the half a million to $5 million range and I have not made a micro-budget movie personally, so I said let’s make a micro budget movie, you know let’s do step 1, step 2, so we are actually making a $75,000 feature, but it’s going to look like $2 million when we are done, because we are being smart.
I took all my great…you know I am a script writer too, yeah every one of us on this call are probably script writers, am I great?
No… but I have a good idea of stories so I write scripts and I send them out to my friends, I send them out to my professional acquaintances, I have them yell at me and tell me how bad it is and all the problems and we work and work and what we did in this case is we wrote a script, specifically for a micro-budget movie, just like I am telling you to do.
I wrote a “one act” play. I wrote a one act play with 5 actors, in a room, that occurs over 8 hours.
How do I make it look like $2 million?
It’s 5 guys, in a World War 2 submarine, in Fall River Massachusetts for 8 hours and we are making a horror, suspense thriller, that is one of the easiest selling movies make out there today, we are doing it in a tin can that sinks and that’s the set, so we have production value that looks amazing.
We only have 5 crew, 5 actors, we are doing it in one location and it is something we can shoot in 7 days.
Tim: That sounds cool, where can we all go and see about that, you have a Facebook page?
Georgia: You can follow that, we are documenting that from start to finish on Facebook and we are actually doing a blog about it and you can watch it from beginning to end, everything from visual effects to casting to financials, we are doing Crowdfunding intentionally, we’ve set that $75,000 budget, I am not going to write a check for $75,000, I’m going to write a check for $25,000, I’m going to go out and find $25,000 the hard way with friends and I am going to go and find $25,000 from Crowdfunding.
And that’s how we are going to do it, even though we could just write the check, we are not going to do it, we are going to do this, the way we are telling you to do it, so we can document it and give you a pathway so that you can do this as well.
Visual effects, you know what, we got a copy of Cinema 4D, we bought After Effects, and we ourselves are learning how to do visual effects, I’ve got a great visual effects team, but you can call them too and ask questions, you can find people that do this, say “hey Arvy, tell me how to do this”
Arvy did Spiderman2, he did The Manchurian Candidate, and I call Arvy, and say “how do I make this work” and he says “well you know this is how you got to do it”, and there are plenty of students out there and people that know how to do all of these things, so we are doing all the visual effects ourselves, we are doing all the shooting with a very small crew, we are all eating, you know, Subway Tuna Fish, and we are shooting this on Canon, because we want to keep it cheap, but keep the production value up, so we are shooting it as an HD, you know 2397 and we are shooting it as a 90 minute war, suspense thriller.
Tim: Brilliant and where is your Facebook page? Georgia: The Facebook page for this is
Like it, watch it, hey and like I will tell everyone of you, don’t be proud, ask for money, everybody here, help me with our movie, give us $200.
Tim: Excellent and they can also get a credit in the film yes?
Georgia: Yes, Anybody, if you get in touch with me on this webinar and you want to throw $200 in a movie, I will give you a co-associate producer credit and we will make sure you get on iMDB as an associate producer credit, how about that?
Tim: Excellent! That sounds great.
Georgia: I am asking everybody, I am asking my neighbours, i’m asking the people I work with, I asked Tim today for $200 didn’t I Tim?
Tim: You sure did!
Georgia: Don’t be proud, go after everybody, The Social Media thing, in fact, I will be happy to chat about that as well if we have time, but the Social Media thing, very quickly on your 1st 10, 20, 30, 50,000 dollar movie, don’t just throw something up on Crowdfunding websites and expect it to happen.
Put your energy into developing that social media following prior to your Crowdfunding. Get it out there, I spend hours every day online, I do it myself, I am putting way to much time on the social media side of this but I got to do it as a producer of a micro-budget movie, so I’m out there pumping this thing out, and I am chasing people, and I am begging and I am trying to get to 1000 people on Facebook before we Crowdfund, so that when we do launch our Crowdfunding, we already have a large following of people that go to us at Crowdfunding and give us money and also tell their friends, we constantly push that and we will doing a trailer, I think one of the people mentioned, like the Iron Sky trailer, we are doing a trailer for the movie, you will see that some time in early May as part of the Crowdfunding, and we are doing a very interesting video for Crowdfunding, you get to meet us, you get to hear how great our movies going to be able to see us in action and see behind the scenes, we’re going to do a 30 second trailer of the feature and it’s all going out on Crowdfunding and we are really pushing it and you know, feel free to steal this, but I tell everybody, giving $200 to our movie only costs you $200, watching all your friends sitting in your living room watching this movie and your name comes up as a producer, that is priceless.
Tim: It sure is and I tell you, my son is going to be proud of me when he watches my movie
Georgia: There you go exactly. So if you are going to do these, you are going to start at the bottom on this thing, don’t be afraid, go chase that money, you’ve got to be pro-active.
Tim: Fantastic and I love the comments you are making about social media, I had an interview with Gina Gaudio-Graves a couple of weeks ago and she is the founder of Directions University, which talks about using the internet to fund our movies and it was one of the things that she said, “get the audience involved in your movie long before you start launching things, requests for money, get people emotionally involved and intrigued about what’s going on and it will be much easier to raise money.”
Georgia: Absolutely, very true statement, the real trick of this Crowdfunding is to get that crowd before you ask for the funding and when you do Crowdfunding. make sure that you put things on there that are really interesting and really appealing, I’ve seen a few Crowdfunding projects where people have put really bad videos up and people will look at that and go “Is that what I am giving money for?”
So make sure that whatever you put up on Crowdfunding really rocks it
Tim: Alright, Awesome, so let’s go over to some of the questions, we had an email in from Tom Anthony, Tom are you here and I will open your channel and you can ask the question directly to Georgia.
You should be live now with us. How you doing Tom?
Tom: I am fine thank you, good morning Tim
Tim: You are live so let’s get your question in.
Tom: In setting up a business plan and doing the sourcing of the funding, there are different kinds of contributors, there are those that we mentioned before, that are just putting in cash, that is one way to construct a return of investment, it’s another if in start-up of a production company, if you are going to reward the writer and director also for their talent, so how does one structure a payback for those different categories, those who are putting in talent and those who are putting in cash?
How do you do both above direct cost of contribution to profit formula?
Georgia: You can do that in a number of ways, it really is up to you and your project and your investors, normally what would happen is that a cash investor is going to win, they are going to be money in and they are going to want to see first money out.
As far as writers go, that is pretty straight forward, if you go the Writers Guild of America you’ll find that there are agreements that talk about how you compensate a writer with backend, you can compensate them with a small amount upfront and then you can work out a backend percentage for them, based on your profits.
Same thing with your director, a lot of famous actors and directors, Tom Hanks is one, you know he did Private Ryan, he got nothing up front for filming Private Ryan, he made all his money in a backend deal, so there are a lot of ways and every project is different, there is no set rule here, it’s about what you will negotiate and your ability to negotiate.
Tom: So then you would say the best thing to do would be to quantify that and put it into the business plan upfront?
Georgia: Yes I would say that you… for instance I will give you an example… This is a micro-budget movie that we are doing so we are not going to go too crazy, but we are donating 25% of the profits, we are splitting 50/50 with Wounded Warrior and the museum that we are shooting in because our budget does not allow us to pay them what they are worth for a set of a real World War 2 submarine, so that is part of our offer to them, for our cash investors, we are working a deal out of another 25%, they are going to get additional monies back for return on their investment.
Mind you, cash investors are cash investors, so they get their money out prior to this cut, so if they put in $500, you get your $500 out and then the money is split and then another 25%, because again our crew, isn’t making any money, we are paying everybody like $50 a day, it’s absurd, they are really working for 3 hot’s and a cot, so we are giving them a profit share and it is all laid out in our business plan, so they get a profit share of that as well, which hopefully encourages them to do a better job, same thing with our actors and then the last 25%, if everything goes according to plan, we are going to use that to finance our next micro-budget movie and follow these steps and actually document them so we have an example for other people to follow.
Tom: Above cost, how do you define what cost is?
Georgia: What cost is?
You’ve got to be careful, because depending on your movie… can you tell me, with your project what kind of budget are you talking about?
Tom: We are still trying to put it together
Georgia: Well are you a million dollars, half a million are you 10 million?
Tom: No I would say 100,000
Georgia: 100,000 so it’s not that big of a deal, and bear in mind that if you are out there looking for a lot of money, especially when you are getting up there a little bit with a hundred thousand and if you are looking for 20, 30, 40,000 and they are not people you know, you are actively seeking investment, you have to start dealing with the SEC and rules and regulations (at least here in America, every country is going to have it’s own rules and regulations), so you are probably dealing with high net worth investors and high net worth investors will want to see very detailed contracts and deal memos put into place, but again the actual percentage and the cut out of that is very flexible, that’s really your negotiation ability as a producer and a lot of the people are going to say, if “I am going to put in $500 to your movie or $1000 or $5000 I’m not going to be as upset or worried about it as if I am putting in $50,000, but if I am putting in $50,000 I am going to want to see complete accounting” which means you got to budget in an accountant and you really have got to have all your ducks lined up and you’ve got to show where every penny went and you have to clarify up front what will be cost and where that profit is…
Tom: Is this production costs before you add in distribution costs, is that correct?
Note: At this point our GoToWebinar system crashed, so I continued the end of the interview with Georgia on Skype and here is the continuation of the interview…
Tim: Tom was asking if the production costs should include the distributions costs when you are doing all the calculations?
Georgia: Yes, I would say absolutely because that is an expense that goes in to getting the movie out and getting it delivered so that is definitely an expense that should be taken into account prior to distribution of funds.
Tim: Alright, that sort of sums that up very clearly, but the other point I noticed was that you were saying that the cash investors should be paid first before the other people are paid their areas. Is that correct?
Georgia: Yes, That is something I was trying to explain, it is so much more about negotiating the deal at that point than there is any set rules, but if somebody is going to say, “I am going to give you cash” they are probably going to demand that, if you can get them to do it without that, then even better.
Tim: Awesome and I really like the idea that some of these big actors like Tom Hanks and everything are willing to work the way you mentioned, that they will take shares and interest in the movie.
Georgia: I think he made like $40 million on Private Ryan and he didn’t take a penny up front.
Tim: Well that was certainly worth it!
Georgia: Now other people have done it, Tom Cruise has done it and he has also lost his ass on a couple and he has made a lot of money on a couple and it’s really… it depends on how much they like the movie and they think of the value it has and who else is involved and it gets back into, who is the distributor, who is the studio, who is the director and who are the rest of the cast and they may decide that this is going to be a great movie, so I want a bigger piece of the back end and no upfront or a smaller upfront.
Tim: Alright great, I am sure we could talk absolutely all night and for the rest of our life about film financing, so we have been an hour and it’s probably time to wrap up a little bit, if people want to get in touch with you, how can they contact you?
Georgia: They can contact me through email@example.com and additionally we have a division called Film Doctors and they can go find that at www.FilmDoctors.com or also www.Hiltonmm.com which is our production company site.
And if they come to Film Doctors, if they are looking for help with any of these steps, we are happy always, to chat on the phone for a few minutes, but if they want to hire us we will do a consulting contract to help them get through whatever step they are stuck on.
Tim: Fantastic and Georgia I want to thank you so much for being part of this today and taking time to be with us.
Georgia: Oh I had a great time, I am sorry that we had a technical snaffoo at the end there, I was really kinda enjoying the discussion.
Tim: Oh no that happens, that’s the beauty of live.
Georgia: Well look if you ever want to do another one and talk a little bit more about the higher level financing issues I would be happy to chat about, you know, dealing with high net worth investors, I actually do a class on that.
Tim: ok that sounds fantastic I would like to know a lot more about that.
Georgia: Yep, we can talk about GAP financing and how to pull a 1 to 2 million dollar movie together.
Tim: Brilliant, brilliant, well thank you very much Georgia it’s been a lot of fun having you here and you are an awesome woman.
Georgia: I look forward to getting the recording, it will be a lot of fun to listen to
Tim: Well this is Tim Bennett for ArgonTV, you have been listening to the Film Finance Channel, we have had Georgia Hilton with us today talking about financing a movie and the 8 steps to finance a movie.
Finance a movie properly or go and find yourself a rich lover, that’s the message from Georgia and thank you all for listening.
Don’t forget we are going to have Michael Perlin here talking about the 3 Magic Words next week, so I look forward to seeing you all there.
Thank you Georgia, have a great time and a great evening!
Georgia: Have a good night!
Tim: Good night!
This post, “The 8 Steps To Financing A Film Or Find A Rich Lover – With Georgia Hilton”, is copyright to Tim Bennett and Argon Animation Inc ©