Filmmaking / Directing : Calculating a ROI/Data Acquisition by Amber MacPherson

Amber MacPherson

Calculating a ROI/Data Acquisition

I've been working on putting together the business plan, budget, and schedule for an upcoming film project and I've run into a real road block when it comes to acquiring data to use to attempt to calculate a ROI. 

I have the book that Jeremy Juuso wrote called "Getting the Money" but though it appears to have been useful once upon a time, it's now a bit out of date. When Gracenote bough Baseline Studio Systems in 2016, they greatly increased the price of data. Variety sells similarly priced data and the information available through Box Office Mojo and The Numbers does not appear to be as complete. 

At this point, with data being so expensive for new filmmakers, what is the opinion on the necessity of calculating an ROI as part of a business plan? I'd love to be able to, but Gracenote has increased the barrier to that data in a way that is significant. Anyone have any tips? 

Kristy Leigh Lussier

This is a fantastic question, as we were facing similar issues just recently when working on our budget plan for a feature we are developing. I would be interested to hear if someone has suggestions as well.

Ultimately what we did (which took a ton of time) was researched extensively other films/projects similar to ours and contacted a few of the filmmakers to see if they were willing share some data or insight. Many were happy to help. We compiled numbers from any/everything we could dig deep to find and used examples of current or recent success stories. Luckily our genre/film type is pretty common (Indie Rom Com) so it was a little easier to find data on movies that had similar aspects to our narrative.

But at the end of the day --- we didn't want to "guess" and over promise or forecast incorrectly. So we are, sadly, still in the process of finalizing all these details. One book that we swear by is Producer to Producer. It was a huge source of help for a number of the filmmakers we contacted and they couldn't speak enough about it. Not sure if you have that one---but I would look it up. :)

Cherelynn Baker

I love the question and have experienced the exact same challenge! I erred on the far side of caution and went in a low ballpark of ROI.

Tony S.

The following link may not exactly answer your question, but it's how these entrepreneurs found a way to make solid decisions for max ROI.

If the story isn't what you seek, stretch out to other parts of the site. There are graphs showing the films they shepherded to the screen vs others, and what is the average ROI. If I read correctly, it's 1.06. They accomplish better than this by using a number of factors.

Erik A. Jacobson

Unfortunately, Slated doesn't have that good a reputation in the independent film community. (See separate thread )They're mainly known as a "ka-ching" site which makes their money selling info/ed programs to help newbies "raise their score" to better qualify for investment.

You might consider calling Distribber, Gravitas Ventures, or Indie Rights, which distribute hundreds of films for indies. Tell them your budget and ask them to give you an average return for a similar budget/genre film, both with and without a "name" actor attached. Linda Nelson, co-owner of (which returns 80% of income to the filmmaker from 10-12 SVOD sites) has an interesting podcast (#017) on distribution at in which she suggests the average "sweet spot" for ROI on a low budget 100K-range micro is 250K. Others suggest 300K. But that's assuming an in-demand genre and a high-quality of production, of course.

Tony S.

Isn't "Ka-Ching" what we're all after.

Didn't really think Slated was the answer, as I said, but merely a method that could be applied by anyone. Assisting filmmakers secure financing seems a laudable pursuit - even if "Ka-Ching" is involved.

You seem to have this nailed. ????

Erik A. Jacobson

Tony ~ No, I certainly don't have anything nailed. Still learning like everyone else. That's why I was eagerly listening last week to an experienced professional like Linda Nelson of IndieRights talk about ROI on her podcast.

I don't fault Slated for their math, charts, or for making a buck. It's just that I've never heard of anyone here on S32 having success with Slated. Or on FilmSpecific, which has many hundreds of filmmakers, or similar sites. It basically amounts to avoiding the guy selling "Star Maps" on the corner because the guy down the block's maps have a much better track record.

Amber MacPherson

I appreciate all of the responses here.

Kristy, what criteria did you use in selecting your comparable films? I know in the book I referenced, the criteria were something like - similar genre and budget, released in the past 10 years, and screen number (I would have to look up how many). Did you do something similar? Thanks for the book recommendation. I've added it to my ever growing list.

Tony, our film is on Slated, but we haven't gotten much traction there. The article seems mostly about how Slated thinks it doing a good job of predicting success based off if its own scoring system. That may well be true and we are maintaining a presence there, but I'm still skeptical about paying them anything. I do like their podcast.

Erik, we met with Distribber at AFM last year, but didn't think to ask about average returns for films. That's not a bad idea. I'll consider Gravitas Ventures and Indie Rights, as well (I hadn't heard of them) and I've downloaded Linda's episode on Indie Film Hustle (another podcast I like).

Thanks for the tips. The Sundance Institute seemed to be doing something interesting in regards to data availability with the Transparency Project, but I'm not sure that's going anywhere as it was announced in 2015 and doesn't seem to have happened.

Tony S.

Erik A. Jacobson True, Slated works on higher scale. Celebrities have addresses that map sellers offer. In theory, they're all alike, unless one seller has the address of a star others don't. But then the others could buy that map and include the address in theirs. :)

Amber MacPherson A good does of skepticism is always good. That's all I was mentioning; their scoring system. I may get my next reads from them though. Three reads at that level for $395 is fairly reasonable. $495, rush.

Erik A. Jacobson

Amber ~ If I remember correctly, the key ROI info was in the second-half of Linda's podcast. She puts a strong emphasis on at least one "name" actor in your film because of the huge difference it makes in ROI.

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