Screenwriting : Is self-funding the way to go? by Gair McDonald

Gair McDonald

Is self-funding the way to go?

I have been writing for many years now and the major difficulty for me is, perhaps its the same with many of you is the doors are slamming shut all the time. Many agents are not taking on new clients or the stories are not what people are looking for. If anyone knows of producers etc looking for new material I would be happy to touch base with them. I have a passion for film and the movies, and I enjoy writing immensely, however my simple goal of having someone in the industry take an interest in my work is becoming a distant one. I know you can't please every one with your work, however, I'd like to think I have written material that would be interesting. Unfortunately we live in a cinema age of sequels, prequels, reboots and franchises where the studios play it safe, and I guess you can't blame them for that and unfortunately they are not prepared to place their money in the slot machine and take a chance on projects. Which brings me to my question, I have a horror script that I am currently drafting, which has only two of a cast and in limited locations, if I were to find my a hungry director and two passionate actors is funding the project myself the way to go?

Kerry Douglas Dye

If you have money and are ready to take a total loss... AND are ready to do the psychological trick of putting your cash in the bank and turning it over to competent producers and not micromanaging every cent because it's your money... And you're out of other options? Sure, maybe.

Gair McDonald

Thanks for your reply Kerry. When it is difficult to generate interest agent, producer wise then options become very limited.

Emi Sano

I'd contact local filmmakers that have already generated some festival buzz and see if they're looking to work on your project. If anything, they'll read your script and if they don't need you now, then they might need you later.

Gair McDonald

Hello Emi, thanks for your reply. Good point, its finding out who has created any festival buzz.

Scott Whenman

Have you tried a website called Agent Hunter? It's about £15 a year, sometimes there are agents looking for new talent. The only advice I can give you is to be patient and perceiver, something will pop up for you sooner than later. Good luck with it all.

Gair McDonald

Thanks for the feed back Scott, never heard of Agent Hunter, I guess its another option. Patience is the key, have been so for many years!

Royce Allen Dudley

Why not ? Everyone else is. Horror is the most common genre to be produced and sold today... at any size. If you end up with a movie self produced , what's the downside ? You cannot name one. And you get your work created. My only observation would be that "hungry director" may not yield you the level of quality as a more seasoned filmmaker who likes the script...and that more seasoned director may be able to bring better actors ( we area all out here seeking a clever break from the day jobs, trust me ).. At the end, the only things that matter are story and cast.. good indies prove this time after time, (and so do bad indies). Of all the genres that have a chance on a tiny budget, horror is the one. Many distributors are tired of the small cast one location film- I have optioned one with an established dirtector attached- people love it but won;t finance it.. " too confined". If the digital / internet / filmmaking revolution has done anything, it's allowed you to pull the trigger yourself. When I made my first feature in 1981 it was uphill all the way and I could only dream of today's opportunities. Let no naysayer stop you. Eyes open , head in the clouds and feet on the ground, make your film.

Lendell Wallace

I would suggest also getting a entertainment lawyer.

Gair McDonald

That's interesting Royce, as many people/companies look for contained horror scripts, obviously for budget purposes. That's great you have managed to option a script with an established director, you are lucky. I am sure it will be picked up. If you have a story that's vaguely interesting, an established director, experienced actors then I guess you are almost there. You're right I can only keep trying!

Gair McDonald

Lendell, perhaps however I imagine they would cost pretty $$$ or in my case ££££ whoever they maybe!

Royce Allen Dudley

Yes, many look for contained horror projects but that is changing- especially now that people are getting lots more bang for their buck in production. There is no luck in attaching people to a project, just effort and interest. For my short stack of projects, there is a rubbish bin full of others and many storage lockers full of might-haves. Had one stolen and sold at the highest level too ( see the other suggestion about getting an entertainment attorney ). I have already been there numerous times, distributed, blah blah blah.. which makes me personally much more patient about the process But for the unproduced,and slightly frustrated, I insist, you should go for it.

Gair McDonald

Thanks Royce, it may come to that sooner rather than later - funding a horror on a shoe-strong budget!!

William Martell

The Catch 22: The producers who say no to your script will end up being some of the same people who you will go to with your completed film for distribution. So you want to make sure that they are passing on your screenplay for some reason that will not impact the finished film you make. Usually if the writing is good, they will meet with you even if the script itself is not what they are looking for. A couple of years ago some friends of mine and I decided to make a DIY feature, and my first step was to slip the script to some producer/distribs to see if they were interested in buying the script. These were blind submissions which began with equeries. When I got a bunch of reads and a fair number of companies who wanted to buy the screenplay, I knew I had something that would sell once we made the film. The problem with any DIY film is that the budget is low and that means the quality of actors and director and everything else is often less than what you'd expect from a studio film, so often the finished movie is a little less than what they imagine when they read the screenplay. Once you know you have a script that distribs will want to buy the film version of, consider crowdfunding places like Kickstarter. I have friends who have made films funded through Kickstarter and have seen a bunch of film fest movies that were crowdfunded. When I was on the Raindance Film Fest jury a couple of years ago, I saw a great film with the terrible title HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG... which won best feature. Just bought the DVD for THE FAVOR, a film I saw at a fest... and am waiting to order DOWN AND DANGEROUS when it's released. All of these films were made through Kickstarter campaigns and have found distribution (I saw D&D in a cinema, limited theatrical run). Here's another thing: watch a bunch of low budget horror flicks if that's what you are aiming for. There's a thing I call "Dog Juice": the lower the budget, the more you have to increase the entertainment value. You don't have movie stars or CGI or stunts or big FX... so you need to make up for that with faster pacing and other types of exciting and interesting stuff. Low budget horror often makes up for budget by pushing the envelope. Think about why someone is going to want to see your movie instead of the latest big Hollywood blockbuster, because that's actually the choice. People have only so much time! And good luck! My friends and I hit a snag in making our film and have shelved it for now to make a web series at the end of the year. Yes, I tested that story as well.

Gair McDonald

Thank you. I Appreciate your response William, very interesting. That's something being on the Raindance jury, people swear by Raindance. I guess If you are passionate enough, in my case writing then hopefully that will see you through. I am just finishing drafting a pilot for TV too. I agree, when you say you would need to up the ante so to speak with the shocks and fast pacing to compensate. I will look at Kickstarter. Must be a great 'buzz' to generate interest!

Shane M Wheeler

I'd say, it depends on how you look at the script. If this is THE script, the one you want to make perfect, not matter what, don't self produce, because it won't be great. However, if it's good (try to get a trusted, outside opinion; someone who is not worried about your feelings if possible), if you've watched some really low budget indie horror and think "this would be better on the same budget", and you're willing to make up for all of the missing MONEY in the TIME-MONEY-QUALITY pyramid with TIME (or sacrifice some QUALITY), and you're willing to risk the capital, I'd say go for it. If you're not willing to invest in yourself, why would anyone else be?

William Martell

BLAIR WITCH was not contained. MONSTER was also not contained, and starred Charlize Theron in the true story of a female serial killer. MONSTERS was not contained. It helps if you know what you are talking about. It's not necessarily shocks you'll need more of, it might be increased suspense. Basically, you need to make up for all of the things you won't have because of your lower budget so that your film has the same amount of entertainment value. ALICE CREED (a thriller rather than horror) is a great example of this: it keeps twisting and turning and is packed with suspense scenes. There is never a dull moment, and you never know how it will end. The majority of the story is 3 actors in 2 rooms.

Alexander Roman

Hi Gair, it's luck, trial, & error with no clear path to success. Do the best you can with what you have. I definitely hear you and being a self funded Indie Filmmaker, it's rough out there because it's a very crowded playing field. Wishing you the very best in making your creations happen and having the support system that will bring your ideas to life!

Gair McDonald

Thanks guys for taking the time first off to reply. All interesting opinions and have taken them all on board.

Douglas Eugene Mayfield

Gair I skimmed the posts so someone else may have mentioned it but take a look at a web site called Inktip. They have two newsletters. Check out the free one. They have producers/prodcos looking for particular types of scripts and I have seen requests for low budget contained horror scripts fairly frequently.

Gair McDonald

Thanks Douglas, yes I receive the inktip newsletter. When I respond sometimes I do not get a response sadly, perhaps it's not the project they are looking for.

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