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Marlett & Me: Tried, Trite & True

Marlett & Me: Tried, Trite & True

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The road to financing your film is paved with heavy-assed stones laid by you. That may sound trite, and perhaps it is. Call it the tried, trite and true method if you must. All the same, applicable. This comes to mind due to a conversation I had over the weekend with a guy afflicted by the film disease that we all share. He has multiple film concepts, two television/broadband pitches and a smattering of successes trailing over the past few years. But he is struggling for financing to keep the whole thing going. Sound familiar? He’s doing commercials and has a music video coming up, but that’s not his dream. He is a moviemaker.

He explained his situation, and then went on to talk about a recent conversation he’d had with a venture capitalist sort (they still exist?) who had previously invested in a film production company. He’d pitched the guy hard, but nada. ‘What did he want?’ I asked. “What’d who want? The broker dude?” ‘Yeah,’ says me, ‘the broker dude.’ Well my new friend didn’t know. In fact he didn’t understand the question. After all it was he who had called the VC. He wanted the VC to know how wonderful his movie idea was, how “safe” of an investment it would be because of the genre (horror… call it Saw XVI) and would the VC please take a look at his business plan? But alas, another door closed.

The problem is that we film-afflicted-sorts must start from the potential investor’s point of view. What kind of investments are they making, if any? If they invested in films before, what happened? How does the subject of our film relate to their motivations, their agenda, their social beliefs? You may not know the answers to all this, but it is best to first spend the time to do the homework. Google removes all excuses. The more you can start pitches revealing you know a few things about them by having done some research and asking around (not by cyber-stalking mind you), the better. How will your investment opportunity give them a possibly better return than some alternative? Believe it or not, with the economy in the tanker, it’s actually easier to pitch something as perennial as entertainment. But you better be on the cutting edge. You better be talking about what the technology and economy will be when your film is released and how you will take advantage of it. Trust me, your brilliant plot and camera work will never be enough to convince them. You have to be ahead of them in knowing what they’re looking for, and ahead of all your competitors in how you will deliver.

But then, sometimes nothing you can do will make a difference.

I recently did a pitch for my film Of Kings & Cowboys. Being the first film set in the world of polo, I clearly have some ideal financing possibilities. One is an extremely wealthy man who owns polo clubs and sponsors several multi-million dollar teams. He has also invested in movies before. Bravo! I did my homework. I called, I e-mailed info, I made friends with the admins (very important), I did it all. Finally, I got my invitation to come see him. He’d read the script—loved it—and was ready to sit down. Wow! This guy is going to invest! I could already see it: With one quick flourish of his pen we would be heading into production. I decided to drive to see him, as his offices are about five hours from my home. (He knew I was driving.) So I leave in the morning dark, arriving at 10:45 a.m. for our 11:00 a.m. meeting. But he’d decided to take in nine holes that morning. I wait and wait. I go get lunch and come back. I’m not happy. Finally at 12:30 he shows up. I smile, swallow my bile—and accept his fake apology—and go in for the pitch. “But oh,” he says, he has a 1:00 conference call. I scoot through the pitch quickly. He stands, shakes my hand and wishes me well. I drive five hours back home (and mind you this was when gas was $4/gal). The next day the admin called, obviously feeling bad, to say he had decided to pass on the opportunity but appreciated me stopping by. Stopping by? What?

I tell you that to simply say: I understand what you’re going through. As I said at the top: The road to financing your film is paved with heavy-assed stones that you lay yourself. And sometimes you drop them on your toe. Sometimes they slip right into place. There are all kinds. But you must keep going. Plan ahead as best you can, but then that’s all you really can do. Money breeds a-holes, it seems, so grin and bear it. Pick up another stone and go again. The good news? With each stone you are not only getting stronger and more skilled, you are getting that much closer to your goal.

By the way, I hope you will write in some of your investor-search war stories. I’ll post some of them. Send them to me here at

For more about Of Kings & Cowboys, go to http://www.OfKingsandCowboys.com

For more about BlueRun Productions, go to http://www.BlueRunProductions.com

For how to lay a stone path, go to http://www.buildeazy.com/garden1_paving.html

Ride on.

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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