Posted by John Rodsett

In the film industry, you'll need a solid business plan for the projects you take on. A business plan is a document which clearly identifies your understanding of where your project fits into the film industry and the market it is targeted to. It should state the financial requirements of the venture; what is required from the investors; how they are to be repaid; what compensation they will receive and when and from where. Other areas within the document will include the experience of the management team and a detailed analysis of the film industry in general and the sales market the film is made for in particular.

This document is very important to independent investors and must be professional, well presented and clear. I have prepared many film business plans - some large documents, some abbreviated documents. It is a well-known fact that getting the money and paying it back is the most difficult aspect of independent filmmaking – actually shooting and making the film is the easiest part!

A business plan is a road map on where you want to go and how you intend to get there. And here are my tips on how to successfully execute one:

1. Look Professional – please! 

Your film business plan is your ticket to stardom!....well maybe, but no matter what, your business plan must look and feel professional. Well presented, bound, well written with quality graphs/diagrams, quality paper and printing. First impressions count.

2. Generic vs Specific….be different.

To many plans come from generic templates and they all begin to look the same but with different titles. Make an effort to customize your plan to suit your film and your vision but ensure all the necessary material/information is still included

3. Always too long….always 

Most plans are way too long. Rule of thumb is 15 – 20 pages but you can have attached supporting appendix with more material for informational purposes. 

4. Marketing/ limp!

Again we see generic statements about marketing and distribution but it is not specific to what you want to do and how you plan to achieve it. Describe in detail your marketing plan and approach (posters/trailers/sell sheets/youtube/social networking/publicity/website/magazine interviews etc) and also be specific how you intend to acquire distribution – outline a strategy. This strategy may be using a sales agent or going the film festival circuit or try to do VOD direct etc. Provide detail specific to what you want to achieve.

5. Compare to blockbusters – no !!

Please, enough of how you’re little low to no budget film is another “Paranormal Activity”. Be realistic and show the investor reasonable revenue projections from domestic and foreign, broken down by rights, from a professional sales agent…. Not the $100m box office from a similar blockbuster you pulled from the trades.

6. Supporting materials – lack of?

Here is where you can shine and show the investor how much thought and effort you have put into your project. Include in this area, copies of your website pages/ your Facebook page/ your sell sheet/cash flow projections/photos from your trailer/publicity material/articles/magazine interviews

7. Terms!

Make sure you clearly stipulate the amount of investment you require; when you want it; how you are planning to repay; when you plan to repay and what they get for the investment – interest/profit share etc.

Ensure that you present a plan that is competent, well prepared and well presented. It must be professional. I suggest between 15 – 20 pages. Keep photos and graphs to a reasonable amount. Ensure you have “substance” in your plan – namely, clear statements about the commerciality of your film, extensive discussion on your approach to marketing/distribution. Have clear and reasonable financials/sales projections for your film - not a studio blockbuster!

An understanding of the film industry is a must. You are presenting cash flows and profit statements based on cost outflows and cash inflows from many revenue sources based on your timing and projections of licensing deals for the various rights of your film project over a period of time. Besides a clear projection of amounts and timing of pre-production, production, and post-production costs, the plan will require a detailed analysis of revenue - territory by territory, including rights projected to be sold. This, thereby, provides a quarter by quarter financial picture for the investor for at least three years or even five years. Naturally, your business plan will show a profit. Though in today’s world of transferable tax credits and rebates the cash flow statements might become more complex, they should still show a profit. However, these statements are always based on revenue projections (hopefully provided by a professional sales agent) on a film yet to be produced, so in the real world most independent films do not live up to the expectations of the projections made in the plans. Utilize information/data you have accumulated on similar films and similar budget levels to support your projections.

Note: Remember when you discuss data make sure that it relates to the budget level of your film and that it is not data relating to studio films.

It is important to clearly stipulate all your assumptions, and there will be many, that have been incorporated into the business plan. Try to be conservative and realistic in your financial projections.

Happy filmmaking!


About John: 

John Rodsett is a Media Producer; International Film distributor; published Author; Speaker and University lecturer. He has had numerous fascinating careers from being an executive at 20th Century Fox; to being Vice President, Controller of the Los Angeles Summer Olympic Organizing Committee; to being a full-time University Professor (adjunct) at the University of Miami, School of Business.

For over 20 years John has owned his company film producing, financing, selling, marketing and distributing independent feature films. John has published a number of books on the film industry including his best seller “The Film Biz Bible,” which is a comprehensive view of the business aspects of the independent film industry.

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