Recently I had the privilege of being invited to a test screening of a locally made film here in Chicago and the first question I asked myself after painfully watching it was as follows–

“Who in their right mind decide to play Baccarat with hundreds of thousands if not a million or so dollars on this doomed film”?

After doing a little investigation I realized that sometimes when daddy or mommy want the kiddies to do more with their lives than bitch and moan about a new BMW, they have to write them a check no matter what to fund their Hollywood dreams.

Well that’s the problem. There is no more “Hollywood” infrastructure that is linear and everything is based on doing a lot of homework and having a solid sales team in place before you make the film.

These filmmakers unfortunately, did not do theirs.

Fresh out of film school they automatically broke every rule by believing the first script they write should be made regardless how horrible it is. Now, I am not knocking down film makers, I am just saying its 2009 and you don’t make films that seem to have a subject matter best for a 1992 Chuck Norris meets Jeff Fahey film (If anyone even remembers Jeff Fahey, I’ll owe you something–not sure what)

Anyways, with a B.A. in film and bad script, they did what a lot of first time film makers and producers do. They cast actors that they are fans off, and not actors that can help sell a film.

They also did so without enlisting the help of a foreign sales agent to tell them, okay–if you use these actors, you’ll get so and so dollars from Burma and Ivory Coast.

Worse, the lead actors they used, one of them was a season regular on a cable series with no name recognition, the second lead was a great local actor who no one has heard off outside of Chicago, and third lead was an ex-name actor who was in the film for 5 minutes that they are giving top billing to.

And they didn’t even use legal counsel but downloaded forms off the internet.

Recently when one of the producers told me they did not get into Sundance, I suggested perhaps they call up CAA, Endeavor, William Morris, ICM, UTA, or Cinetic Media to help rep the film (no matter how bad it is), instead of them playing lottery and filling out applications for every film festival that calls themselves a film festival.

His response was looking and acting like he was going to cut my throat if I dare give him advice.

Heck, I even gave him the names of a few foreign sales agents to help him sell the film and he looked at me like i was the anti-christ of his dreams and negative.

Okay, so what’s the lesson of the day?

The film festival and distribution channels are very very tight so getting a return on equity on an indie film is next to impossible if you don’t do the homework.

So, here goes

1. Pick a script that can be sold internationally, even if it does not get into major film festivals.

2. if you have investors, make sure you have a private placement memorandum that gives them their Section 181 benefits and sales of state film tax credits as part of the ROI on equity.

3. get a brand name entertainment attorney to help validate your existence

4. get a producers rep and/or foreign sales agent before you cast film

5. Get actors that people in Greece or Byelorus can recognize (unless you can get a domestic theatrical deal ahead of time and not worry about having Brad Pitt or George Clooney be in your film)

6. Plan and prepare a nice way for online distribution so you can get at least 100,000 people downloading your film at 9.995-19.95

And off course, pray, eat, love, hug a tree, chant, and hope the stars are aligned for you to succeed.

By Yuri Rutman
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