Filmmaking / Directing : Development Money & How To Find It by Amanda Toney

Amanda Toney

Development Money & How To Find It

For those in the development stage, here is a great article detailing development money and how to find it. Development money is the sum total you need to invest in your idea until it is in a form (a package) suitable for presenting to investors and capable of attracting production financing. Development money is used to pay the writer while the screenplay is being rewritten, the producer's travel expenses to film markets to arrange pre-sales financing from investors, and location scouting and camera tests. It also covers the cost of administration and overheads until the film is officially in pre-production.

Steven Zunich

nice find, shannon! thanks!!

W. Keith Sewell

A great read Shannon! thanks

Alan Kelley

One thing missing from the and likely the most important, pre-marketing costs. Getting A-list talent on board is necessary for pre-sales, probably necessary. Can be cameos, or guess stars. One day shooting. Doesn't have to be a lead. But pre-sales agents also want to see a fan base. 3 things, a good pretty well polished script, A-list talent attached and a fan base. For that you need a good pre-marketing strategy. Basically looking to build a good sized email list. I've heard 30,000 is great, but as long as you can show the list is growing you're probably doing ok. The pre-sales agents, aka distributors are not your evil nemeses. Yes they may want changes to your script, but usually it's just something they don't get yet. if you just explain to them what you are trying to do, usually they will agree and move forward. You may have a lot of explaining to do, but they are not unreasonable. Mostly. Development is not a scam, it's all based on assurances. Most ventures fail and movie business is probably the biggest risk out there. It's not like building a housing development, where you can predict success fairly easily. Nobody, not even the majors know what will succeed in the movie business. So if you want to take your chances and skip development, you may succeed. It happens, but far less often than getting pre-sales before shooting the film. Your path will be much smoother doing development. You do it right and pretty soon all the pieces will start to fall together, the bank will come on board, investors for production will start to get interested. Another bit missing is probably during development, if you are self-producing, you will want to start building your board for the LLC. First thing is an attorney. Never make a move without an attorney. You're going to get scammed probably if you don't. Assurances against sharks can be easily mitigated by relying on referrals from people who have worked with those you are trying to work with. But a good attorney you need. You don't need to be a lawyer yourself, but you need to understand every word and every concept of every document you sign. Your lawyer is your consultant for that. Pre-marketing and creating your board can overlap into production phase. But better to get going early. Having said all this doesn't mean I speak from experience, but I do speak from someone else's experience. Anne Marie Gillen, who produced Fried Green Tomatoes and wrote a book on production financing for indies, published by Focal Press. Focal Press is amazing. They publish only rigorous works by top end industry professionals. I am not talking about the suits. These are authors who have succeeded in their areas of film expertise. With self-producing, even if you have succeeded in the past, the playing field for potential venues is always in flux. So you have to always have an eye on that. Going the max out your credit card route can lead to success. It has happened more than once. But there are tens of thousands of films out there just sitting on shelves that will never get seen because one piggy went to market and produced a film without a little cameo by an A-lister, another piggy went to market got scammed along the way. This other piggy went to market and fought with the distributor and walked away, or a gazillion other preventable missteps. I don't want to be the little piggy who goes wee, wee, wee all the way home, so when I start off, I want to do things in the least risky way.

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