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Towards A Sustainable Investor Class: Accessing Quality Projects
By Ted Hope
If you have half a brain and STILL want to invest in the film business, you know you need access to one thing: quality projects. But how do you get that? The truth is that accessing quality projects is a barrier to entry for any but those of the deepest pockets. Sooner or later most wise investors realize that are shut out of the top projects and their only chance of success is dumb luck. If we want to develop a sustainable investor class, we need to develop a method for them to participate in true quality.
If new financiers don’t find the quality projects, chances are they won’t last. How is the industry to sustain, let alone grow and evolve if it is just the same old same old? We need a plan to develop new blood when it comes to financiers. New blood comes along, sure, but it often is ignorant new blood not aware of best practices, current trends, or the lies and deceit that run rampant on our playing fields. Is it any wonder that most investors in film are in for only one or two projects, and then, win or lose, they say goodbye.
So how do new investors get access to quality projects? The common approach is to announce you have bundles of gold, open an office, hire an executive or three, and take a fuckload of meetings. You probably also sign up with an agency for representation somewhere along the way. You waste a great deal of time, energy, and money. It’s hard to start this way without blowing through $350K in a year. That’s THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. You could have made a great movie for that same amount (but that is another post). You could have done something meaningful to save the world. But at least you got to meet a lot of attractive creative people in the process, right? Big deal.
Is it worth it to hire an executive? Perhaps even hire a producer. We know producers bring value. If I had the funds to start a production company, I’d certainly want to hire a great producer. But that doesn’t mean that would be good money well spent. Taste and experience are not cheap to come by — nor should they be. But taste and experience are probably the best filters for discovery of quality projects.
The great thing about using a producer as a picker for a financier start up is that they are passionate and opinionated. The bad thing is that they are passionate and opinionated. They bring agendas and relationships, which can be quite good — or not. The fact though is with the right process you can access producers and their work on an ongoing basis. There are those you want something deeper with, but that may be a first look deal (remember those?!), but ultimately your new company will be best served by accessing a variety of them.
Does it make sense to depend on an agency for deal flow? The conflict of interest is evident. Your financing start up might be paying the agency a retainer to deliver the cream, but they are also skimming off the top of all they deliver. Agencies are businesses of relationships. They need to serve ALL their relationships, and there lies the rub. Some get better service for obvious reasons, and being a newbie ain’t one of them.
Is there a better way? Something more efficient? Something that could provide for a greater number of potential financiers? Yes, there is and yes we can.
Sure there are things anyone can do, like scour the finalists for all the screenwriting and director labs and the like. But this takes time. And experience. And a good eye. You’ll want to hire a producer to do that for you, and now we are just back where we started.
Watch this space for the answer to how you can have a regular supply of quality projects — for that is what you will need if you want to be a sustainable film investor.