Each party in the relationship between film producer and film financier has something the other wants. The investor gives the filmmaker the gift of money. The filmmaker gives the investor the gift of art. They are each, in the space of each other's lives, invaluable.
Now, just because these things are gifts does not mean there are no rules. To the contrary.
The rules of gift-giving are deep, fundamental, and shared by all humanity. What does it mean to properly exchange gifts in the context of making a film?
For the investor it means this:
- If you give your money to a filmmaker, you must acknowledge that the money has truly gone from you to them, meaning that it is their film, not yours, that is being made.
- You cannot demand to make creative decisions.
- You understand your very specific place in the production, which is a central one: to choose the artist to support, and to make their artistic creation possible.
Of all the artists you could have chosen to work with, you have chosen this one. That is an act of immense power.
Now, respect your own choice, and give the artist the freedom to make their art, which is an art you love and respect, which is after all why you've chosen to work with them to begin with.
For the filmmaker, it means this:
- Be grateful. Someone has just fulfilled your dream.
- Be respectful. If your investor is smart enough to have chosen you, of all filmmakers, to work with, they must know what they are doing.
- Do not return their gift with anything other than an equally wonderful gift in return. Meaning: make a great film.
It also means: don't draw your investors into the process unless what you are offering them will make them feel better about their investment, not worse.
For example, don’t show them rough cuts if they aren't ready. This only leads to disappointment in the investor, and disappointment in you if they don't like it.
Investors aren't meant to fix the problems a film is having -- that is your job. But investors can give support.
Do not make them feel that you are unworthy of it.
In fact, for both sides, strive to make every interaction on the film an exchange of gifts.
For the filmmaker, this means: involve your investors in the process of making art in a way that makes them feel, rightly, that they made all this possible. If things are not going well, and you are not sure how to fix it, then that is actually the time to be honest and invite them in to problem-solve.
You will be surprised how open people are to confronting bad news when they feel you respect them enough to share it. For the investor, it means: give support to the filmmaker -- emotional, psychological, practical - as much as possible.