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Marlett & Me: Brother Film Financier, Where Art Thou?

Marlett & Me: Brother Film Financier, Where Art Thou?

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The question I’m posing today is as simple as it is profoundly uncomfortable: Has traditional film financing gone the way of the 35mm SLR film camera? I am neck-deep in raising funds… correction, trying to raise funds (albeit with some success). And call me crazy but the traditional “film finance” models are suddenly seeming quaint and useless. Anyone else feeling the cold chill in the air?

(By the way, this is the week I have to get my Marlett & Me column turned in for the next MovieMaker Magazine issue… the Spring issue. So my brain is wrapped around that one. That means you’re getting gypped with a short blog this week. Well, as I have a few Irish gypsies in my background, maybe the new verb for being ripped off should be “getting Madoffed”.)

Back to the point. The rapid change in film finance reminds me of my favorite child: My 35mm Nikon F100…. okay, not my favorite child, but close! A dear friend, for years and years. The standard bearer which one day, in the flicker of a digital pop, was no longer relevant. Boom, there it went. Sure there are nostalgic reasons to keep it, but honestly I don’t use it anymore. Shhhh, don’t tell it, but my D80 is my new love. But, oh yeah, I do use the F series lenses. Thank God those carry over.

Perhaps film finance is kinda like that. The body—the technology—has become obsolete within the past eight months. No longer are foreign sales driving the ship. And no longer can you count on a distributor to pay for even half of the P&A. And don’t even mention a hedge fund source. That’s gone with the last Instamatic. In fact, I was preparing to take my company, BlueRun Productions, public in a couple of years, but even that now seems less and less appealing. Now the lenses, the accessories, those do seem to carry over, for awhile…. meaning basic structures of entities, rates of return, back end participation…. those will remain. But the driving force, the engine, the core sources seem to be evaporating quickly. Poof! Gone. For the most part. Or at least that is what I am finding.

The way this analogy falls apart is that it was the arrival of the new, better digital technology that made the F camera series obsolete. But with film finance there are no real, viable “alternatives” on the horizon. Lots of ideas, but for the most part, a wide open range ahead. Now for many, and I guess I’m one of them, that spells “opportunity.” We are aggressively seeking new channels, new avenues, new structures. But oh what I’d give for the comfort of a ‘F Series’ type call to a hedge fund. Just once. For old times sakes.

Write in and tell me what you are finding. No names or specifics as to your sources, but share with us what worked before that has lost its wheels now. And even, hopefully, share with us any new avenues that are showing promise for you. Surely they are there… yes?

Ride on—and write in,
David

David Marlett is a writer and director currently producing and directing the feature film, Of Kings & Cowboys. Marlett’s desire to direct and control his own work led him to create BlueRun Productions in 2007. He’s been acting for most of his life, and is also a non-practicing (“recovering”) attorney and CPA, with 20-plus years experience consulting and managing a wide assortment of companies in industries spanning from healthcare to entertainment. The Winter 2009 issue features his first installment of a new print column, Marlett & Me, with this sister blog on MovieMaker.com.

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