How to Finance & Produce an Independent Film Between $250K-$2M

Hosted by Franco Sama

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Franco Sama

Webinar hosted by: Franco Sama

EP of over 20 $1MM-$5MM Films at Samaco Films

Independent feature film producer Franco Sama boasts over a decade of independent film development, production and financing.Sama has Executive Produced an impressive array of over 20 independent feature films including most recently, Guns, Girls and Gambling starring Gary Oldman, Christian Slater and Dane Cook which is quickly becoming a cult favorite; this film was released into theatres on December of 2012 and, in January 2013, acquired a worldwide distribution deal from Universal Pictures. Other films Sama has produced include; Black Limousine starring David Arquette, Vivica Fox and Bijou Phillips, Tooth and Nail starring Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, The Penitent Man, starring Lance Henriksen and Andrew Keegan and Paid, starring Corbin Bernsen and Tom Conti.Sama also serves as Executive Producer on the recent film festival darling Petunia, starring Thora Birch, Brittany Snow and Academy Award winner Christine Lahti. His shingle Samaco Films is currently producing a slate of several independent feature films, including Farewell Party, starring legendary actor John Amos and Fine Young Gentleman starring funnyman Anthony Anderson. Samaco Films released two films in 2015, the first, The Livingston Gardner stars James Kyson the beloved “Ando” from the NBC television hit series HEROS and the second, 3 Days in Havana starring Ally McBeal alum Gil Bellows; both films have been released through Samaco Films’ sister company, Synergetic Distribution and have been released via all digital and Video on Demand (VOD) platforms worldwide. Full Bio »

Webinar Summary

For many independent film producers and filmmakers, approaching financiers and securing financing for your project presents one of the biggest challenges in the entire filmmaking process. How do you build your team, bring in development funds, attach name talent and work with rebates, sales estimates & distribution to attract financing all while compiling a plan to mitigate your financial risk? It can be overwhelming for a producer, especially given the ever changing landscape and the increasingly competitive nature of independent film. 

Your goal as a filmmaker or producer is to make your project more financially attractive to investors over everyone else presenting projects to them. What many filmmakers and producers don't know is that there's a "sweet spot" in a film budget range that will help you raise funds successfully and get the ROI your investors are looking for. Setting the budget for your feature film at between $250,000 and $2 million it opens up a variety of options for you to be able to attach the talent you're looking for, the distribution you need and make your investors money. But first, you have to understand the financial blueprint to get you there.  

Franco Sama has produced 25+ successful independent feature films between $250,000 - $2MM. He has worked with Oscar winner Christine Lahti, Dane Cook, Christian Slater, Gary Oldman, David Arquette, Brittany Snow, Vivica Fox, Michael Madsen and many more. He's worked with first time directors and experienced directors and has seen all scenarios when it comes to putting together financing for films. Franco knows first hand every step of the financial model needed to make a movie profitable and he's bringing this knowledge exclusively to the Stage 32 community. 

You will learn how to approach your film from the investor’s point of view so you can not only get the money you need for your project but, most importantly, how your investors can get that money back with profits. You will learn how to build a team around your project that will not only make investing more attractive, but also assure you don't make mistakes when you go after funding. You'll learn the type of funding that is available to you and how to approach the investors attracted to and interested in each type of financing. You'll dissect how to get agents on your side to attach talent to your project and how to work with attorneys. You'll also learn the most effective distribution options for this type of film budget. Drawing from his nearly two decades of experience, Franco will teach you how he gets his dozens of projects financed, distributed and turning a profit, and why he stays in the “sweet spot” range between $250K-$2M.

 

Give yourself the competitive advantage to understand the types of investors you need to approach, how to approach them, how to get talent attached, and, ultimately, how to get your film made, distributed, and profitable so your investors return again and again!

 

What You'll Learn

  • Script vs. Deal
    • What attracts investors?
  • Do’s and Don’ts for Development and Approaching Financing
    • The old way of producing and financing a film.
    • The new way of producing and financing a film.
  • Building Your Team
    • Six critical people to hire and why.
  • Development Funding
    • Why you need it and where to find it.
  • Types of Funding for Your Film
    • Hard Money
    • Soft Money
  • Equity vs. Debt Financing
  • Tranches and Drawdown Schedules
    • 6 things you need to know.
  • Proof of Funds
    • 5 things you need to know.
  • Explaining Your Revenue Returns
  • Understanding Investors
    • Breaking down the 3 main types of investors, what they look for and what motivates them.
  • Tax Incentives, Rebates and Credits
    • Understanding how to monetize them.
  • Distribution Options for your Film
    • Distributors vs. sales agents
    • International vs. Domestic
    • Selling territories
    • Pre-sales vs. Sales estimates
  • Explaining Minimum Guarantees
  • Limited Platform Release
    • What it will cost you
    • What the pros and cons are
  • Third-Third-Third Theory
  • The Art of Securing “A List” Talent.
    • 5 things you need to know.
    • Letters of Intent (LOIs)
    • Pay or play
  • First Time Directors
    • 5 things you need to know
  • Attorneys
    • Key things to look out for when engaging your entertainment attorney.
  • Product Placement vs. Integration
  • Q&A with Franco

 

About Your Instructor

Independent feature film producer Franco Sama boasts over a decade of independent film development, production and financing.Sama has Executive Produced an impressive array of over 20 independent feature films including most recently, Guns, Girls and Gambling starring Gary Oldman, Christian Slater and Dane Cook which is quickly becoming a cult favorite; this film was released into theatres on December of 2012 and, in January 2013, acquired a worldwide distribution deal from Universal Pictures.

Other films Sama has produced include; Black Limousine starring David Arquette, Vivica Fox and Bijou Phillips, Tooth and Nail starring Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, The Penitent Man, starring Lance Henriksen and Andrew Keegan and Paid, starring Corbin Bernsen and Tom Conti.Sama also serves as Executive Producer on the recent film festival darling Petunia, starring Thora Birch, Brittany Snow and Academy Award winner Christine Lahti.

His shingle Samaco Films is currently producing a slate of several independent feature films, including Farewell Party, starring legendary actor John Amos and Fine Young Gentleman starring funnyman Anthony Anderson.

Samaco Films released two films in 2015, the first, The Livingston Gardner stars James Kyson the beloved “Ando” from the NBC television hit series HEROS and the second, 3 Days in Havana starring Ally McBeal alum Gil Bellows; both films have been released through Samaco Films’ sister company, Synergetic Distribution and have been released via all digital and Video on Demand (VOD) platforms worldwide.

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Testimonials

Head & shoulders above the usual webinars on film distribution and finance. Franco actually knows his stuff and has a track record to back it up. Really good presentation.” – Scott B.

This webinar gave me a TON of information and things to consider as we move forward with our first feature project. Thank you Stage32 for providing these excellent training opportunities.” – LeAnn M.

Franco was very informative. I've already produced a ton of stuff but have been challenged by the distribution side (although my 1st feature HAS finally gotten distribution!). He gave me some great nuggets of information. I would definitely take another webinar with him.” – Stephanie B.

I thought that this seminar presented a wealth of useful information in a short period of time.” – Glen P.

The material provided is informative and appreciated!” – Andry P.

Questions?

If you have a generic question about Stage 32 education you can take a look at our frequently asked questions section on our help page, or feel free to contact support with any other inquiries you might have.
 

Reviews Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5

  • Nice job, definitely a great overview for the beginner considering a hunt for financing.
  • Back in towards the start of the new millennium I moved out to Los Angeles. One of my first experiences in LA was a dinner at a music producers home, during which he detailed the fall of Tower Records due to the burgeoning online platform of digital downloads, and also, largely to napster. How Napster could have caused the downfall of a music giant becomes less and less of a mystery when you listen to Sama talk about the trail he's, perhaps unwittingly, blazed which leads around the big six distributing companies, and to a more advantageous outcome. It's a like an artist direct pipeline script-to-screen version of how to DIY your vision WITHOUT the cumbersome studio and their myriad of input and mind-numbing developing process. I have yet to know if Sama's road will get me where I want to go, but it looks far more promising than the nightmare I am almost guaranteed in going through a major studio. Buyer beware, this is not just the A-B-C's of film making but the full alphabet, everything you need to know about going indie! My strategy for absorbing it is listening to it, sometimes taking notes, most of the time, doing other things, but making sure every last item absorbed into my brain. Making a movie is part miracle and part elbow grease, and one thing is for sure, you can't get the miracle without the elbow grease, so buy this webinar. This man is not guessing. He IS the NAPSTER of film.
  • Better than I thought it would be. Gives a ton of info
  • Franco is that rare person in Hollywood that actually cares about the people involved in his Productions. After watching his presentation I decided to reach out and it was a very pleasant introduction to this world of film financing. From the beginning it was apparent that he wanted to make sure from script to screen, all are taken care of, both financially and creatively. His knowledge of the Indy film making world has been gained from a wonderful array of life, people skills and financial success on his projects. I would highly recomend him to anyone looking to break into the Indy world of film making because he is that one person that has the knowledge and actually cares about more than just the money...and he's nice!
  • First, many thanks to the expertise and detailed exposure provided by Franco Sama! Thank you Mr. Sama! Most of my personal productions have been documentaries, with a couple of Alaskan Eskimo Docu-Dramas, combining actors for real characters that are not available. But now I'm preparing to start my first "mini" feature film. I found Franco Sama's webinar to be fantastic for me since I'm a beginner at producing a feature film. I have written a feature film script with the help of a noted Hollywood screen writer (cant mention his name at his request); but now with the opportunity to produce my own film, it was imperative I learn as much as possible right up front; and Mr. Sama has delivered! I previously took Stge32's hosting of "How to Finance Your Project with Equity Investors Using the Internet". That is also a VERY GREAT WEBINAR, but after viewing it once, I realize that it is a jewel I will need over a period of 6-12 mos. to develop contacts, convey the essence of what's need; build a team of not only filmmakers of different talents, but also the same kind of scenario in the finance realm. Fortunately I have some very good contacts and friends in the finance and legal arenas. Again though, Mr. Sama's info is what I need RIGHT NOW, and I'm so grateful for his generosity to teach and share his experiences, knowledge, and encouragement. I would like to meet him some day, perhaps take a live seminar from him if he ever does one. ---Thanks Mr. Sama, and thanks Stage 32! What a combo!!! -Rod Thompson/Legacy Productions Cell:714-624-5366
  • I've produced and directed a film in the $50k range, thus the material wasn't all that different from things I've learned and applied in my own experience. Still, it was a good refresher and would benefit anyone who's never sought financing or developed a feature. I would have given another star but Mr. Sama ignored a simple follow-up question I sent him via email. Guess we shouldn't expect too much interaction for $45 bucks.
  • A very practical and informative webinar. I'm about to start raising money for a feature in this budget range and feel much better prepared after listening to this session. Thanks for the great info!
  • Good no nonsense delivery of practical information. Spoke from the overflow of someone with years of practice as a professional producer. Bravo! JD
  • Franco was great. But I can't seem to get any follow up from stage32 regarding the webinar.
  • This webinar has enabled me as a producer/director to further my knowledge into the art of film finance.What an amazing webinar and a huge thank you to Franco Sama for his information over load, passion and enthusiasm.Would highly recommend to anyone needing the extra details for developing a investment strategy and getting that film made. Bobby Hodgson - Dark Image Studios UK

Other education that may be of interest to you:

The Art of Self-Distribution: The Domestic Limited Theatrical Release

Learn directly from Franco Sama, 15-year expert of film financing and distribution with 25+ successful independent feature films to his name, including Guns, Girls and Gambling (Gary Oldman, Christian Slater and Dane Cook) and Petunia (Thora Birch, Brittany Snow and Academy Award winner Christine Lahti)! As a filmmaker you may find yourself at the mercy of distributors and the existing archaic, chaotic convoluted distribution system(s) that ultimately ends up costing the you profits and, more importantly, creative and financial control of your project. With many new options becoming available for your project to be seen, self-distribution is becoming an increasingly beneficial option. In this webinar we go over the self-distribution model of limited theatrical and limited platform release. We've brought in 15-year financing and producing expert Franco Sama to draw on his experience with over 25 successful indie films in which he has secured distribution. Franco will teach you step-by-step how to release your film in multiple theaters across multiple cities throughout the Unites States. Plus, he will take it a step further and show you exactly how to incorporate the release into your business plan as part of your development process so you can benefit your investors and increase your film’s international value. You will leave this webinar armed with knowledge and ready to self-distribute your film via limited theatrical or platform release.

The Tools You Need To Attach A- List Actors to Your Film (With Offer Letter & Sales Estimate Example)

Anyone who has ever tried to produce and cast a feature film is aware of the quagmire that attaching “A” List level talent represents. On one hand, you need the star power of a “name” actor in order to acquire funding and on the other hand you need the money in order to acquire the name talent. It's enough to drive even the most seasoned filmmakers crazy. Don't worry, there are proven strategies to solving this puzzle and assuring that your project is top of mind for managers, agents, and their talent. The reason why so many first and second time producers, writers and directors find themselves in this situation is simple. In most cases, they are attempting to approach “A” List celebrity talent to their film much too soon with the hopes of using that “name” to attract investors; a strategy that rarely works. The reality of the situation is that "A" List talent and the representatives get dozens of offers a month. And with more and more name actors working in television, streaming series, limited series and now even digital series, the competition is even higher. But you CAN compete and still attach "A" List talent to your project even if you don't have all your funds raised. Franco Sama has produced over 25 profitable independent films ranging from micro-budget to films up to $5MM. Franco is considered a pioneer in the world of film financing and casting. He speaks all over the world on the subject and has mentored thousands of filmmakers and producers on how to attach the best talent to their independent features. Just some of the actors Franco has cast in his films include: Gary Oldman (Oscar Winner, Darkest Hour, Oscar Nominee, Dark Knight) Christine Lahti (Oscar Winner) Christian Slater (Golden Globe Winner) Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) Chris Klein (American Pie) David Arquette (Scream) Vivica A. Fox (Kill Bill) Dane Cook (Comedian) Franco has also been a consulting producer on many films with many more in active development. Many top producers in the game turn to Franco to get their films off the ground. And now he's bringing his over 2 decades of knowledge exclusively to the Stage 32 community. Franco will teach you everything you need to know about attaching top talent to your film including a bullet proof method for ensuring that managers and agents not only put your script in the hands of "A" List talent, but that they read the material! He will show you how to make sure your script is attractive to "A" List talent. He will teach you how to turn a Letter of Intent into a Letter of Commitment. He will instruct you as to the proper timing to make your offer, so you assure that everything is in order and that you're in a position to answer all questions. He will dissect a physical offer so you know exactly what you should be presenting. He will discuss pay and play offers, deferred payments, using credits as currency and back end point deals and how you can identify which of these offers and strategies to deploy. He will go over proper etiquette and how to make sure everyone is happy so that you win the trust of the gatekeepers assuring you can return to the same managers and agents again and again. Franco will take away the fear, anxiety, and, most of all, doubt, that comes with the desire to attach name talent to your project. You will learn all the proper strategies and methods to assure success.   "I had the pleasure of seeing Franco speak live at one of Stage 32's live education events. He was so inspiring, so confident and so willing to help, this webinar became an instant signup. Even with my high expectations, I was floored by the wealth of information and the explanation of the strategies within. My fear, and let's face it, my insecurity of approaching talent was crippling. Not any more. I've put in 2 offers on 2 different features this morning and I'm already lining up my next move. Can't wait for the next one, Franco! And thank you, Stage 32!" - Pamela R.   "One word - Invaluable." - Larry S.   "This was a stunning presentation. One of the best yet." - Antonio H.   "I have seen the light and I am ready to make offers. Try and stop me." - Lydia W.   "Empowering. I'm going to watch it a 2nd and 3rd time just to make sure I got it all down. Then, I'm working the phones. Great job, Franco and Stage 32." - Reese K.    

How to Crack the Code: Needing Money to Acquire Cast and Needing Cast to Acquire Money

Having a known or in-demand actor in your independent film can make all the difference in whether it succeeds or not. A name actor gives your film a sense of legitimacy, which attracts new investors and more interested distributors. It also gives your film more opportunities for press and buzz, and will convince more people to watch it once it is released. That famous actor is very likely what you need to clinch your film, actually get it made, and have it ultimately find an audience and a home. But there’s a big, glaring problem with this truth: You need a name actor to get funding, but you need that funding in order to get the name actor. It ends up being a vicious circle, a catch-22 that can come across as frustratingly insurmountable, a barrier for entry that no independent filmmaker can get beyond. Let’s not mince words. Landing high level talent for your film is HARD, especially if your funding hinges on that actor saying yes. But at the same time, this isn’t the unsolvable puzzle it may at first seem. It comes down to finding the right investors and giving them what they need to say yes. This means pulling out all of the stops, preparing correctly, and doing the hard work. You’ll never be the only filmmaker going after top level talent, but you might be one of the few who’s able to do it the right way. First, it’s vital to understand what the “right way” actually is and what you need to know to do this right. Acquiring a talent is always going to be a hustle, but knowing what it takes and how to navigate this world can give you a serious edge. Independent feature film producer Franco Sama has produced an impressive array of over twenty independent feature films including cult favorite GUNS, GIRLS AND GAMBLING starring Gary Oldman, Christian Slater and Dane Cook, which was released theatrically acquired by Universal Pictures. Other films Franco has produced include; BLACK LIMOUSINE starring David Arquette, Vivica A. Fox and Bijou Phillips, TOOTH AND NAIL starring Michael Madsen and Vinnie Jones, THE PENITENT MAN, starring Lance Henriksen and Andrew Keegan and PAID, starring Corbin Bernsen and Tom Conti. Franco’s company Samaco Films continues to fund and develop independent films from burgeoning filmmakers. After nearly two decades of experience in film finance, distribution and packaging, Franco has come to understand how to crack the code and attract top level talent to independent films. He’s ready to share what he’s learned exclusively with the Stage 32 community. Franco will go in-depth on how exactly an independent filmmaker can find both cast and funding for their project. He will begin by explaining what budget range you should be aiming for to allow you to acquire the talent you’re looking for. He’ll then teach you the steps you must take before reaching out to either talent or investors. He will explain how to tap into an investor’s mindset and use it to your advantage, including why it might be easier for you to raise $5 million than $500,000, and how you should frame your project as an opportunity for investors. He’ll explain what development funding is, how it works, and why it’s now necessary in today’s landscape. Next, he will delve into how you should be building a strong team for your project before you start approaching talent. He’ll lay out the seven critical people you will need to bring on from the beginning, why you need an executive producer, how to choose the “right” director and casting director, and whether you can attract major talent as a first time director. Franco will explain the importance of acquiring international sales estimates and will lay out what your presentation deck to investors should look like to find funding and gain the cast you’re looking for. He will also talk about how pre-sales work and how many you need to be seen as successful. He’ll then start talking about the actual casting process, including how to create a realistic actor’s wish list, deciding between “A-List” and “B-List” actors and whether or not they pass Franco’s “Parentheses Test”. He’ll explain casting with an eye towards sales and then explain the difference between letters of intent, letters of commitment, and phone verification when going after talent. He’ll also break down contingency investments and how to know when to employ deferment and back-end offers with actors. Franco will explain how to make legitimate offers to actors and agents and how to ensure they’re never empty offers. He’ll go into how “pay or play” works in this world and why going out too early to actors can destroy your casting choices. Finally Franco will explain how you can use tax incentives to help with casting. Expect to leave with a thorough and comprehensive understanding of the steps you need to take to bring on your dream actor.   Praise for Franco's Stage 32 Webinar   "One word - Invaluable." - Larry S.   “Head & shoulders above the usual webinars on film distribution and finance. Franco actually knows his stuff and has a track record to back it up. Really good presentation.” – Scott B.   This was incredibly illuminating and really entertaining at the same time. I'm so glad I watched this" -Glenda T.   Wow. I cannot believe how much I learned from this webinar. Franco is the best. -Terrence R.

How To Package To Help Your Film's Distribution

In today's global climate filmmakers need to consider their options for distribution, which ultimately begins at the development phase. While your project is in development, packaging the right talent (actor, director, casting director, etc.) play a huge part in the pre-sales process, and ultimately have a hand in the successful distribution of your project. Distribution changes constantly and there are not many people who have their finger on the pulse like Executive Producer Franco Sama from Samaco Films. Franco has EP'd an impressive array of over twenty (20) independent feature films ranging in the "sweet spot" $5MM and under range, generally releasing 2-3 films each year.  We've brought Franco in to teach this exclusive Stage 32 Next Level Webinar on Packaging & Pre-Sales For Film Distribution. In this information packed webinar Franco will go over the entire development process from how to attract A-list talent and the offers they require, how to acquire "must have" international sales estimates, working with vertically integrated distribution companies, breaking down distribution options and much more. This is a go to guide to package with an eye towards distribution!   

The Filmmaker & Cinematographer Relationship: Creating Perfect Harmony

The relationship between the director and cinematography is critical to executing a great film. Whether you’re a director seeking a cinematographer to bring your vision to life or a cinematographer looking to strengthen your role in this partnership, you can gain these crucial skills and more in this webinar. As a director, you have to oversee every aspect of production, but you can’t micromanage it all. You need to communicate your goals and listen to your cinematographer to achieve your vision. When do you start developing this relationship? How do you know you’re hiring the right person for this role? As a cinematographer, you have to take charge while telling a director’s story. How do you lead without taking control? How do you ensure this is an effective dynamic? When do you speak up to ensure the director has everything they need? When this dynamic duo is at their best, the results can be breathtaking. But if they’re at odds, it will always undermine the success of your film. Directors, cinematographers, and directors of photography can all gain invaluable information from this Stage 32 exclusive webinar, showing you exactly how to find the right people for your production and how to work with them to ensure a cohesive result built on solid communication and trust between the director and cinematographer. You’ll have a toolkit, including a color palette, storyboard options, scene blocking software, and a cinematography style guide with real-world examples. You’ll cover style, tone, lighting, camera movement, framing, mood, visual themes, and more with an expert who has worked both as a director and cinematographer. Taking you through the inner workings of the director-cinematographer relationship is director and cinematographer Charlene Fisk. Her first feature film, THE FOUNDERS, won Best Documentary and the Audience Award at its premiere in Atlanta. She also directed the award-winning short films LIMERENCE, THE LICK, and RIDESHARE, and the web series INTERSECTION, which she also lensed. Charlene is currently signed on to direct the comedy feature CLASS OF 2000 and is developing her feature film FIVE. She’s also worked as a director of photography for 20 years, working with networks including FX, Netflix, PBS, ESPN, Disney, HGTV, TLC, Discovery Channel, Travel Channel, Food Network, and OWN. In addition to the incredible wealth of information from Charlene, you also have the opportunity to ask her any questions about her years of experience, the roles of director and cinematographer, or your own feature or role in productions. You’ll walk away with the tools to find the right partnership and cultivate it to create a powerful experience, leading to a fantastic feature film.

How to Navigate the Film Markets - AFM, Cannes, TIFF, EFM

If you're thinking about attending some of the major film markets - including Cannes, TIFF, AFM or EFM - it's important to understand how to navigate the commerce of the markets. We're bringing in international producer Alexia Melocchi, who has over a decade of experience at the markets to go over each of the markets and how you can get the most out of attending! 

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