Catchy title, right? But it is the honest, simple truth. There are only two roads that lead to success in getting your film made.
Love or money.
No matter how you slice it, it comes down to those two.
If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me to fund their passion project, well, I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. I’d be off making a movie.
Perhaps the biggest CATCH-22 of the industry is how to get funded, right? One of the first questions an investor is likely to ask is, “Who’s in it?”
If you’ve written a film that means a great deal to you, attaching talent can be a HUGE boon.
So, how do you attach talent? If you referred back to the top of the page then you have the right idea. It’s either love or money.
Either you have the money to offer the star, or...?
Can you get a star to fall in love? By the way, it doesn’t have to be the script that they fall in love with, although that surely helps. What else is there?
How about they fall in love with you? If your best pal is a movie star, they just might sign on FOR YOU. That’s love.
Let’s put this premise to the test. The best way to get a film made is to have the money to make it, right? Right. How do you get the money?
Let’s take a hypothetical that rules out you being magnificently wealthy. Let’s pretend you are, however, magnificently talented, and furthermore, let’s invent a scenario in which you’ve penned a script.
If you have an agent then you’d give them the script and IF THEY LOVE IT, they’d start sending it out to production companies, perhaps directors, or even actors. That’s if they LOVE IT…
Or… if they see the market potential, that is THE MONEY.
We can take this journey down through the various layers.
If the agent gets it to a production company, or studio and they LOVE it they could very well greenlight it. They can then send it to THE STAR.
What do you think is going to motivate the star to say yes, or no? I’ll give you a second to think it over.
That’s right! Love… or money. Let’s take a random fabulously wealthy, wonderfully talented actor like Tom Hanks. Why does he do any film? Is it for the money, or for the love?
One has to suspect that he works for the love. When Steven Spielberg asks him to star in a film, as he did in The Post, Bridge of Spies, Saving Private Ryan, he does so because he loves working with Spielberg.
Now then, what does a filmmaker do if they don’t have a contact to Tom Hanks, or to an agent, but they have a script that they believe in?
I recently heard that the going price for an A-list star to appear in an independent film is around $3 million. Got that kind of cash lying around, and many actors will do your film, whether they love it or not… many, but not all.
How else? Can you get them the script? Can you find a way? And if you do, will they LOVE IT? Will they want to settle down and have babies with your script?
Lastly, can you get in front of that person? Can you get to know them?
If your pal’s famous, or know someone famous, and they love YOU, then again, they might just be willing to do you a solid.
In 2013, Blumhouse Productions and Jason Blum produced THE PURGE for an estimated $3,000,000, and established one of the most successful models for production in modern Hollywood.
Josh Hartnett discussed doing the film for very little money, sleeping on the couch in the house where they were shooting, all for a chance at potential profits. He ended being VERY happy he took that deal, but would he have done so if the script, and the story were awful?
But it was great concept, and well executed. There was a lot to love about THE PURGE.
I know what you’re thinking, “Hey, what about the little independent dramas? How do they get stars for their movies without a gazillion dollars?”
Same answer, the star either loves the script, loves the role, or loves the people working on the film.
If you’re like me, you cannot control who loves your writing, a role, or you, for that matter. You can’t make someone fall in love with you, but you can do everything within your power to seduce them.
Remember Mr. Spielberg’s first line at the Academy Awards “In the beginning...?” It all starts with the script. Unfortunately, you cannot write a script that people will for in love with, but you can right YOUR best script, and if it’s fantastic material, then people very well may fall in love with it.
This same rule applies if you’re a producer. You want to fall in love with any script you take on. Life is too short to tackle trying to make a good film from a bad script. Unless, of course, someone is offering you a ton of money.
Which brings us back to the money side of the equation. There is no shortage of actors, directors, filmmakers that we all know who seem to be willing to work on any film, anytime, anywhere… just as long as the check clears.
Actors who have done exceptional work from Michael Madsen, Eric Roberts for examples.
Eric did 74 films in 2018… that’s in one year. He’s credited with over 480 titles. The word is that it’s all about the Benjamins. Show him the money and he’ll be in your movie.
Make no mistake, you can put a movie together that way if you have the cash. Hell, if you have enough money you can get Tom Hanks… if… and this is important, the material’s good.
There’s a tipping point where no matter how much money you have, if the quality for the film isn’t there, you’re going to have a hard time finding a star to say yes.
So, what the heck is the bottom line? How do you hedge your bet? Love or money?
Start with the most important person in the equation – you. If you don’t love the material, how can you expect others to? Make it the best you can make it. If you a producer, don’t settle for a script that’s “okay.” Fall in love with the material, and never stop falling.
Then find a team that feels the same way, and if you’re passionate enough, and industrious enough, AND have patience, you will get your script made… and ultimately there are only two elements you really need.
Love AND Money.
Brian Herskowitz is the CCO of the newly formed Horror Equity Fund. An exciting, innovative platform designed to help the Independent horror film maker finance their projects through an SEC compliant equity internet based funding platform.
As a writer, Brian has completed well over a dozen feature films. His first screenplay KAMI HITO E (THE THIN LINE) was based on his experience as an international Judo champion training in Tokyo. From there he continued to write and his first produced feature was a low budget slasher titled DARKROOM. He wrote and directed the award winning short film ODESSA OR BUST starring SEINFELD’S Jason Alexander, ACADEMY AWARD WINNER Red Buttons, and RUSHMORE’S Jason Schwartzman. Brian wrote, directed, and produced the documentary 1736: SOMEWHERE TO TURN – about a family crisis center for domestic abuse victims, and the short film JOANNE - the story of a woman going through hard economic times and a mid-life crisis.
Brian recently took on the duties of Voice Director for the new Animated Children’s series ANNIE SUNBEAM produced by Debbie Margolis-Horwitz.
Brian’s theatrical directing credits include the world premieres of I.A.N. (THE ITALIAN AMERICAN NETWORK), CONFESSION AND AVOIDANCE (based on the book of the same name written by his father, prolific biographer Mickey Herskowitz), JESSICA AND THE COUCH POTATO, the west coast premiere of SHUFFLE OFF THIS MORTAL BUFFALO, and the recent hit CIRCLE OF WILL.
As a writer in TV his credits include a staff writing position on the NBC sit-com BLOSSOM, multiple episodes of the syndicated series HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, and ACAPULCO HEAT, the HBO hit comedy DREAM ON, CBS’s RENEGADE, THE EXILE, MURDER, SHE WROTE, the TV movie MURDER OF MY AUNT, the FOX Network’s YOUNG HERCULES, and CBS’s critically acclaimed was series TOUR OF DUTY (associate producer). Brian co-wrote the FOX pilot MANTIC with Jason Alexander. In addition, he worked as a punch-up writer on BOB PATTERSON, and LISTEN UP.
Working with Co-Op Productions in New York (THE GUITAR, THIS REVOLUTION), Brian line produced Candace Bushnell’s web series THE BROADROOM, which starred JENNY GARTH, JENNIFER ESPOSITO, and TALIA BALSAM.
As a feature film producer Brian just finished principal photography on UNTIL SOMEONE GETS HURT (co-writer), and BUCKY AND THE SQUIRRELS a comedy from director-writer Allan Katz (MASH, BIG MAN ON CAMPUS), MUSICAL CHAIRS, directed by Susan Seidelman (DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN), TIO PAPI directed by Fro Rojas, which he co-wrote. He will producing the feature films SUSPENDED and AN INVISIBLE MAN for Scatterbrained Media, and TECHNICAL SUPPORT for director Terri Hanauer.
In addition, Brian has several producing/directing duties on the boards including the slacker comedy MARTY AND VAHE TAKE A RIDE, and the HEF supported projects STAR LEAF (Co-EP) SHE FEEDS (Writer-Director), THE WHANGDOODLE (Writer-Director), and CREATURE FEATURE:THE MOVIE MUSICAL (Writer-Director).
For the last twenty years Brian has taught screenwriting, first with WRITER’S BOOT CAMP, then with UCLA EXTENSIONS, and for the last five years he has held the post of Lead Faculty for the prestigious BOSTON UNIVERSITY in LOS ANGELES WRITER IN HOLLYWOOD graduate degree program. His script writing textbook, PROCESS TO PRODUCT: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR THE SCREENWRITER, is available on Amazon.com and in bookstores.
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