Christmas Eve and things might be quietening down. If you live in the north of England we hear that you’re being battered by storm Barbara. I hope you are safe and sound.
A quarter century since starting Raindance I’m still learning big lessons. And 2016 was no different. Did I learn some big ones in 2016.
Let me try to get to the meat on this bone:
Five Things I learned in 2016
5. I’m not going to let myself get burned (again)
Unless I’m involved in a project from the get-go or at least have a hand in the entire process. I just can’t and won’t come into a project at the end to try and get it cast, financed and completed.
In 2016 I got burned quite a few times by introducing so-called ‘packages’ to my talent and financing contacts only to discover that there were big gaping holes.
Once named talent wasn’t attached when the package claimed it was. Ouch. How embarrassing. On two other occassions there were chain of title issues that hadn’t been resolved. Mainly, however, the people I meet have totally unrealistic ideas of how much money their sweat equity is worth. They crank in a number so high that potential financial partners get one sniff and run a mile. A subset of the big lesson I learned was: Get a veteran producer and financier to review your budget in great detail before you submit it.
4. Development time has to be cheap.
Here’s the crux of the problem. Suppose you are working with a small team for months, even years on a project. As it edges closer and closer towards finance and talent the originating team brings in an Executive Porducer to clinch the finance. At their first meeting the original team members float a number for the hundreds and hundreds of hours they’ve spent on the project. These high fees now encumber the project making it unlikely the project will complete.
So near yet so far. The business plan and package you’ve created is now completely worthless.
3. Hindsight is golden.
That’s one big lesson I learned. I’m getting good at saying no to projects I look at with my producer hat on. I get offered a lot of projects. It takes a huge effort to check out potential landmines, I’ve walked away form a lot of ‘great opportunities’ which didn’t seem right to me. One develops a sixth sense and a nose for potential trouble.
2. Content is king, but audience is god
Another thing I learned the hard way in 2016. I should have been taking lessons from Donald Trump (seriously good marketeer although I despise what he stands for). You have to know your audience and sharply define your marketing plan. This should be the first thing a filmmaker does. If you’ve met me or taken one of my classes you’ll know my ‘Poster First a la Roger Corman’ stories. Get the marketing plan right even before you write the script!
1. The power of our Benefactors and members
We’ve had a membership programme for ages now. Raindance members have enabled Raindance to grow and flourish. It’s not enough to have a cool brand to get people to join, I’ve learned this year that our members expect more. And that’s what we plan to do in 2017. We have appointed a new Membership director to bolster our membership offerings and to provide new services.
In July this year we launched our Benfactors programme, A dozen benefactors shared a dinner with Jeremy Irons. The proceeds went to the registered charity we work with: The Independent Film Trust. The IFT teaches filmmaking skills to the homeless, disabled and disenfranchised children and teens in London.
A wholehearted thank you to our members and benefactors.
I’ve learned I’m not a filmmaker any more. I’m a multi-media content creator. I need to diversify my slate to include gaming and 360/VR.
Everyone is screaming for content: the websites, the TV chanels, the multi media outlets. They all want content. They have the hardware. It relies on us as filmmakers to supply the software in whatever format their machines demand.
I will be focusing a significant part of my enrgy and focus on this in 2017. It’s a fantastic time to be a ‘content creator’.
I’m sharing this because I hope you can learn from my mistakes and my experience. With the year-end fast approaching and the pace slowing down it’s a great time to reflect and evaluate the highs and lows of the last twelve months. I like to think I can learn from my own mistakes and discover ways I can strengthen my weaknesses and play to my strengths.
I hope you have a wonderful holiday.
To your success,
Let’s make movies!
Founder, Raindance Film Festival & British Independent Film Awards
PS: I’ll be leading Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking masterclass at the end of February to guide you through the process of getting your creative and production team together on Day One, and how to avoid the landmines of financing, marketing and selling your film on Day Two.
Raindance members can save 50% on tuition until 12/31.
Click Here To Learn More.