Welcome to Just Crowdfund the $&*# Movie!, where indie moviemaker Jayce Bartok talks about the dos and don’ts of crowdfunding from the trenches of his own crowdfunding campaign. Have a question for Jayce about his movie, Tiny Dancer, or just crowdfunding in general? Ask away at .
I feel like I’ve already made Tiny Dancer. It was harder than writing the script, shooting for three days or potentially having a baby… I finished the business plan! It was a necessary step, seeing as how we’re gearing up to leave our non-profit status and enter the marketplace. Over the years I have made numerous stabs at writing business plans, and the weeks I spent doing so have been some of the most painful of my life. Endless scraps of paper filled with box office numbers littered everywhere, a calculator with coffee all over it and 18 windows on my laptop open to The Numbers (the best place for free box office info) and IMDb Pro. I would follow examples from books on how to write business plans and end up with these giant tomes running 30 pages long that potential investors would laugh at when I slid them across the table. What most filmmakers don’t realize is that your film, unlike, say, a new piece of technology, is an intangible thing that you can’t ever really hold in your hand. It’s tough to anticipate who’s going to be watching your film, or even how they’ll watch it: In the theater? On TV? DVD? VOD? On their iPad while riding the subway?
This time around, Tiffany and I wanted to finally get the business plan right. We talked to friends in the business world and neighbors who invest and came up with a fairly simple—yet flashy and passionate—PowerPoint document that is terse and has a heavy emphasis on what we consistently heard was the problem with filmmakers’ biz plans: The “Exit Strategy,” or how in the heck investors will be able to get out of your movie not only alive but with some money in their pockets. It’s probably the hardest thing to anticipate, since we’re dealing in an area where art meets commerce. Film is already the ultimate collaboration: You need a good cast, good material and direction, plus distribution, PR and luck in order to get your film out there, but even once you’ve managed that, it’s impossible to predict the mind of the viewer.
Now, if you are making a genre film—horror, action, comedy—you have a little bit of an edge when it comes to being able to predict what a certain film might do in a certain market… but Lord help us if you are making a drama about two dancers at the end of their careers (i.e., Tiny Dancer). I searched endlessly for recent comparable films in our budget range. Black Swan pops to mind immediately: A stellar success, it was made for $13 million and grossed upwards of $350 million worldwide. It’s encouraging but slightly inaccurate to tell your potential investors that you are going to give them a Rate of Return (ROR) of 3,676%. And, true to advice, you are supposed to junk the highest and lowest returns for your comparisons. I ended up with an odd assortment for Tiny Dancer: Black Swan, The Help, Once, Robert Altman’s The Company and Miranda July’s The Future. One thing you learn really quickly when doing these comparisons for your business plan is that a film either seems to do wildly well or just not well at all. Rarely is there a sensible moderate return scenario to refer to. Thus is the up and down of our business.
After you put together your comparisons, plus sections about your film’s story, cast and crew, production, timeline and sales (a.k.a. exit) strategy, you come to the investment section of your plan, where you have all your legal info about what you are offering (10 investments of $25,000 each, for example) and what investors can expect to get in return (say, a 120% ROR with everything above that split 50/50). In this section, we included a Potential Sales Chart using the comparisons we presented and the ROR of said projects. For your enjoyment, here it is:
* gross profits of Tiny Dancer (before fees and split) needed to reach projected net returns.
On a final note, all this business has certainly affected how we are thinking about Tiny Dancer. We went to see one of the leads in our film, Daphne Rubin-Vega, in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway this weekend (she was amazing as Stella) and caught up with her and our other lead, Katherine Crockett. I found myself talking more and more about making a film that would appeal to more people and caught myself saying “butts in seats” a lot, which worried me. I guess when you are faced with the all-or-nothing whirlwind of the film business, at some point you start to hedge your bets and hunker down to make a fully realized film.
Jayce Bartok is an actor/producer/writer/director who runs Vinyl Foote Productions from Brooklyn with his wife Tiffany. He wrote, co-produced and starred in The Cake Eaters and can currently be seen in USA’s “White Collar” and in the upcoming feature films Predisposed, opposite Melissa Leo, and Price Check, both of which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. To stay updated on his Tiny Dancer progress, follow @JayceBartok and @TICNYC on Twitter.