Film Festival Producers’ Lab 16

Posted on September 25, 2016

The following consist of my notes from this morning’s producer’s lab with Joanne Butcher. This lab was organized by the Trinidad and Tobago film festival and it focused on the business of film making. Joanne Butcher is the executive coach at a company called Film making success, which focuses on helping film creatives succeed.
Ms Butcher opened with a bit of an introduction of Miami and her experience as a ’79 seat’ cinema manager near Miami beach. She explained that film making is not like writing poetry so all film makers need to go out and find people to work with.

She asked the audience of primarily film makers to; “Think about the seats, why will people want to come to fill the seats in the cinema to watch your film?”

She also asked “What is the value of your film?” These questions served the basis of the her 12 major points.

For assessing your film project she gave 12 major points:

  1. Quality Script – Don’t send your script out till it is a 10. 
  2. Quality of Director – If your director is not a 10, don’t move forward. 
  3. Quality of Producer
  4. Quality of Above the line Crew
  5. Quality of Lead Actors
  6. Quality of Actors
  7. Film Financing
  8. Marketing Plan
  9. Distribution Plan
  10. Business Plan / Legal Issues / Package
  11. Popularity / Marketability of the Genre
  12. Business Model

Put Women in your films.
According to a study, women are usually paid less but the films they participate in gross more. So putting women in key roles such as director can result in a higher return in investment.

All Filmmakers are entrepreneurs

Split 50% of your time on marketing and promotion and another 50% on your creative. It warmed my heart and my soul when she mentioned this, as this is a song i’ve been singing to every filmmaker I’ve ever worked with. Although I am a self proclaimed Cinematographer, I do acknowledge that I am more a marketing and business person so her statements encouraged me to find ways to contribute my expertise to the film industry.

People want you, not your film

People want to see your vision of the world, so filmmakers should sell themselves vs selling the film itself. All filmmakers were encouraged to develop their personal brand and sell their films as a product of their personal brand. I personally am willing to help as a branding expert and I’m sure my colleagues from business school always are on the look out for brands to develop.

How to find funding for your film?

Go to business film festival!
Finding funding is relationship building. Repeat funders are ideal.
According to some examples Ms Butcher gave, people don’t want to support the fact that you made a film, they want to support something that aligns with their interests. This maybe the power of art and the power of music to move people or it may be the change you may bring to a community. If pitching to the government it may be how you are documenting the history.

Find your ‘business model’ 

Example 1:
One guy has a script and attaches A list actors (these actors are all ranked and you can predict how much money you can make depending on your actors). Small films with big name actors are called prestige projects. International film companies can give your film a value based on your actors.
Along with up to 50% tax credit from the government, the ability to borrow money from a bank and take out an insurance plan your business proposition will be pretty solid. The insurance plan ensures if your main actor dies, you get back your money. In this case a business plan can be presented to equity investors who will want to know how much money they need to invest and how much money they can potentially make from the film. These investors will compare this venture to any other business venture.
The budget for this film may be 2+ Million dollars and it is possible to get A list actors with this ‘small’ budget.

Example 2:
Films which cost near $100,000 fall under the Friends and Family Model. These are not covered by laws, loans and guarantees. Investors money is at risk, most likely they are not going to get that money back. These investors are “Not a true investor”. When talking to a “true equity investor” the focus should be on the money / marketing / numbers of people / compare it to other films.

If pitching for a funder for a grant, think about their goal. eg. If it is your mom, your mom’s goal is to see you fly around and be successful. When pitching pitch it like that.

Other resources I googled while Ms Butcher spoke:

After the lab I spoke to Ms Butcher a bit about my ideas for developing the film sector locally by bridging the gap between local businesses and filmmakers. We agreed that film in Trinidad has a bright future and we’re committed to do our part to help develop the industry.

Joanne Butcher can be reached at or 1 (415) 368-3669.

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