We’d struggled with stepping up to larger budgets on past productions and I knew something in our model had to change. The thing that got our first BIFA nominated film Little White Lies made was doing it on a very low budget. Our ambitions with The Machine were far larger, but it was always at the forefront of my mind to give value for money and make sure the film’s investors were looked after as best I could manage.
I also knew that I would require finance outside my direct circle so started canvassing angel investment networks and private accountants who cover film and EIS. If we were going to get taken on by an investment network I knew my limited knowledge of tax structure at that time could be a hurdle to investors – a good accountant was crucial at this stage.
Spring 2011 – Through research I knew that the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) could take a significant amount of money to set up a scheme so was mindful to track accountants who’d managed lower budget films, therefor dealing with companies who’d likely have a similar low level of liquidity to us. Through this process I found Robert Graham who managed the film City Rats, which although not well regarded in the industry, broke records for Revolver on DVD sales. Following a series of meetings and phone calls Robert began to trust us and our previous work enough to make introductions to his networks.
Summer/Autumn 2011 – I put in a application to the local Film Agency Wales (FAW) and Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) for production funding – the FAW production application was unsuccessful. People didn’t believe we could deliver as there was little precedent for anyone doing so at this budget level which on reflection was a fair assessment – public money has to be justified and carefully accounted for. However, at the time it was a big knock back to absorb and we knew as a company we were running out of money and time.
I wrote a 23 page Information Memorandum (it was as boring as it sounds) and began canvassing anyone in my contact network (even over Facebook!) with links to equity, both film industry and private. Just after writing the memorandum we were introduced to Xenos – the timing felt good as we’d not rushed in and with Robert on board we felt we had good backing. We put together a power point and went in to battle – the pitch was ok, but in financial terms it was a bomb – two people interested, but no cash pledged. I think several things were against us at this stage – concept art wasn’t strong enough, No money was raised already, the budget was too high, there was not enough money in the room, they had just invested in a film that had not recouped yet.
Soon after this a Swansea investor living in Dubai who writer/director Caradog James had made a connection with saw the proposal and became interested enough to write a letter of interest contingent on other film finance being raised and several other CP’s. This gave us leverage and Robert, the accountant, then introduced us to a new angel network, The Ideas Factory.
Having had the experience of the Xenos pitch and now refined the Investment memorandum, under the guidance of the angel network head, and renamed it an Offer letter – basically simplified it and made it more glossy. We did our new pitch and four and five figure chunks of finance started to come in immediately afterwards. But we did have to repeat this process 3 times over the next 6 months to rooms full of 100+ millionaires. It was a Dragons Den every 2 months and in the end I began to enjoy it (not so much when it bombed though, I didn’t enjoy that at all)
Autumn/Winter 2011 – Having assessed that the majority of people didn’t believe we could make a Sci-Fi, with what ended up being almost 400 VFX shots, for under £1M so thought a proof on concept would strengthen our case. We made an application to The Film Agency Wales for Development. The WAG funding was ongoing, but our application for the FAW development award was successful – we now had enough cash to beg and borrow a glossy promo together. Also, through doing the angel tour our finance gap was now slipping below six figures so we set a shoot date for Summer 2012.
We took the trailer to Berlin and myself and Caradog trawled the market and spoke to every distributor (perhaps a mistake on reflection) and sales agent we could find that fitted our agenda. Three were interested, two made offers and we ended up partnering with Content who have been an amazing company to work with. Content were attracted by the promo and script and in the company’s Presidents terms ‘how hungry we were’ (which was almost literal by this stage). Content offered to close our gap and used the promo to sell almost $500K of presales in the following Cannes Market which we were told was one of the hottest selling UK indies at the festival.
At the last minute WAG got in touch and were able to seal the gap with government ‘job creation funding’ which was substituted for the more traditional gap finance and gave far more favorable terms.
We went into principal photography July 23rd 2012 and shot for 4.5 weeks.
Myself and Caradog continue to work together and develop our film slate and company. We have several similar genre projects we’re in love with, a couple in advanced development and both look forward to being on set again in Summer 2014.
* The Machine Won Best UK Feature at Raindance Film Festival 2013
* The Machine is up for two British Independent Film Awards 2013