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.