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by Jim Jermanok
April 9, 2012 1:14 PM
12 Comments
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6 Techniques To Research and Locate Film Investors

"Em" producer Jim Jermanok and director Tony Barbieri.
I was in Manhattan’s Four Seasons Hotel, sitting across from a Wall Street guy who had already rejected me twice about investing in my latest independent film, “Em.” I wondered how I would afford yet another round of $20 drinks when he stared at me, smiled, then raised his glass and said, “I’m in.” I couldn’t believe it.  My film was financed.

Yes, film equity investors still do exist and can be found, but the competition is fierce. However, if I can do it, so can you. It’s just a question of numbers.  Estimate how many investors you think you need to meet to find one that actually invests; then, multiply by 10.  

Some of these sources may seem obvious or commonplace, but film investors are not hiding on the dark side of another planet or in a subterranean city. They may reside on your block or go to your local pharmacy.  It is up to you to make sure your film project is ready.  It is also up to you to put the necessary hours of research into locating both past and future film investors.  

Assuming you have a capable team, your script is amazing and can be done for a good price, here are a few strategies to research and locate potential film investors.

1. State Film Commissioners. They don’t want to advertise this, but state and sometimes city film commissioners are aware of the equity investors in their region, particularly in those areas where there are tax incentives or rebates.  Why? Commissioners process all applications (from filmmakers seeking film incentives or rebates), which must list all the investors. Film commissioners are usually paid via taxes and must cater to the needs of resident filmmakers.  If you hark on the state or local pride and promise to film something in their region, you never know what introductions may be made.

2. Entertainment Lawyers. When investors and producers need to protect themselves legally, they call on their favorite entertainment lawyers.  Those who specialize in independent film are aware of dozens upon dozens of executive producers, investors or angels. Whether they will divulge them to you is another matter. But a good start is to get to know them, perhaps become a client and try to get invited to their private parties.  Also, a good entertainment lawyer can be a superb ally for the entirety of your creative career.

3. Startup Investors. There are tech and entrepreneurial meetups, conferences and gatherings in every major city in America.  Go to them. Why? Two reasons: It demands that practice your schmoozing and networking skills, which are absolutely essential to creative success.  Furthermore, startup investors lurk in the shadows (or corners). Tech and other startup businesses are extremely risky, just like films. It’s possible that these same investors could be persuaded to invest in your next startup, aka your film.

4. Restaurant/Bar/Nightclub Investors. Just like the startup financiers, investors in restaurants, bar or nightclubs are used to risky and collaborative investments.  They also like fun or glamorous investments. If you happen to know this type of investor, go for it. If you don’t, go to your favorite restaurant, bar or nightclub and meet them. Tell them how much more business and media coverage they can generate by being the locale for an important scene in your film or by hosting the premiere party.  Also helps to offer them or their spouse a small role.

5. Philanthropists. Every community has them.  They donate large sums to the local schools, parks, gardens, landmarks, museums, theaters, ballets and orchestras.  And sometimes, if you’re lucky--and they like you and your project, they may just invest in your next film.  Those philanthropists who live in your region (which is another serious bond/head start) and have a history of contributing to the arts are your best bet.

6. IMDB. As everyone knows, IMDB lists the casts and crews of films and television shows. This also makes it a great source for researching and locating investors. It’s not the subtlest method, but it can be a start: Find film titles similar to your upcoming film in both budget range and genre.  Then click on “full cast and crew” and locate the producers’ section. Those who have a “produced by” credit are generally film producers and not investors.  They are money raisers, but not investors themselves.  Those who have “executive producer” or “co-executive producer” titles (and no other position on the film) are more likely to be your target: independent film equity investors.

Jim Jermanok is an award-winning writer, director and producer, creative success expert, consultant and speaker. Jim wrote and produced the romantic comedy, “Passionada,” which was released by Columbia TriStar in over 150 countries.  His latest film “Em” recently won the Grand Jury Prize at the Seattle International Film Festival and the Criterion International Inspiration Award. It was released in Fall, 2011 by Vanguard Cinema and SnagFilms. Jermanok is a former ICM Agent who helped to represent Arthur Miller, Shirley MacLaine, Dudley Moore, Helen Hayes, Alan Arkin and General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, among others.  He can be reached at Jermanok@aol.com.
 

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12 Comments

  • Edmund J Druilhet | November 5, 2013 2:52 AMReply

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  • Rupesh | February 13, 2013 7:54 AMReply

    Jim, this was a great article. It is essential, just like when interviewing for a job, to put ourselves in the shoes of the person or entity that is going to hire us, or in this case fork over all that money. What would you want to see if it was YOUR money, and someone approached you requesting that you give it to them. I used Bizzpar.com to get some seed money $15,000.

  • Stephen Felt | June 9, 2012 5:25 PMReply

    Jim, Your information is most welcome as I have been seeking investors, aka donors, for a couple films I am producing. I have found that the film commissioner in my area would not disclose any information on investors and even deleted my posting on their website searching for Exec Producers. I have been using IMDb Pro for searches and also been hitting the casinos in Atlantic City searching for the high stakes gambler that may be interested in the gamble on a film. Looking forward to hearing you speak at McFadden's Ballpark in Philadelphia on June 11 and picking your brain.

  • Jessica | April 16, 2012 12:52 PMReply

    I have tried every one of these suggestions and found them to have no merit. Especially the first one, state film commissioners do not want to help producers one bit with finance. Most of them won't even return you call, and that's the absolute truth, even when the only message you leave is you're considering doing a film there. Philanthropists are a waste of time, they generally route you through their foundations and if you're not a non-profit, they won't even consider your request. Tech investors only want tech, they only want a large stake in your company and they only want huge, fast growth, like 500% or 600% in less than 2 years. They put you through worse due diligence than a venture capital firm. You do all the work, they get all the money, if they'll even look at what you have. Entertainment lawyers are hyper-protective of their clients, so unless you have a pre-existing relationship with them, usually as their client also, they won't talk to you. Even your own entertainment lawyer will be hesitant to muddy the waters with their other clients; if something goes wrong, it's them on the line. Also don't forget, whenever you take investor money you have to comply with federal and state securities laws, which will run you around $25,000 in legal and accounting fees to start, not including the business plan. This article paints way too rosy a picture of the investment process.

  • Andre' Taylor | March 2, 2014 5:40 PM

    so what do you suggest for getting investment ? what worked for you ?

  • Melissa-FilmProposals.com | April 14, 2012 6:12 PMReply

    Very well done article, Jim. Your methodology is spot on, especially noting a filmmaker will likely need to make 10x more contacts than originally predicted. Nothing about this list is commonplace and it's inspiring to see some original funding sources you've pursued. I can't tell you how many 1000's of online searches I see per month of aspiring filmmakers looking for "list of film investors" online...as if such a thing could exist and be open to the public. Thanks for highlighting both the challenges of finding film investors...and the sweet reward when the hard work pays off!
    -Melissa, http://www.filmproposals.com

  • Denise K Baker | April 12, 2012 11:45 AMReply

    As an Executive Producer for "Duke City" and partner in Rio Grande Media Group, Inc. Our Company produces "The After After Party" filmed in Albuquerque and now showing on NBC, CW and AskMilton.com. I found your article very informative from the perspective of "where" to begin the process.

  • Lisa Leavitt | April 12, 2012 9:06 AMReply

    This is one of the best articles I've read about financing a film. It's honest, clearly written, and has given me a much needed road map to navigate with as I go about getting my film off the ground. Thank you!

  • Nick Taylor | April 9, 2012 6:45 PMReply

    Nice article Jim! As always, you're a great inspiration!

  • Frank Casanova | April 9, 2012 4:56 PMReply

    Love your passion about your projects Jim, but this just raises my B.S. flags. First, Stop calling them "Investors" when what your really want are "Donors". Unless you can show a rock solid business plan on how you plan to get the investment dollars back...plus profit... which almost never happens... you really are looking for "donations"... meaning the money will probably never be paid back. It's about "honesty"... and I rarely see that with Indy Filmmakers.

  • kirk | April 9, 2012 2:53 PMReply

    Yes. I have to agree with Nice cameraman on this one. Very inspiring. BUT I must say after reading your petit bio it is not hard to believe you, as a former agent with a feature on your resume, would not be able to schmooze this banker out of financing.

  • nicecameraman | April 9, 2012 2:45 PMReply

    Jim the opening paragraph of this article is so inspiring, it made me smile! Thanks for sharing all these great tips!