Filmmakers raising production finance may have to be bloody-minded, but this quality doesn’t translate well to distribution and exhibition. A different approach is needed, as this side of the industry works hardest for co-operative producers respectful of other executives’ expertise.
Inform yourself about the past and present activities of the company you’re approaching. Be sure that your work is appropriate to their agenda.
Make sure that you have the materials and necessary clearances to service the requirements of the company or individual you’re dealing with. Nothing will make you look foolish quicker than being unaware of materials your target company will expect and need from you.
3. Follow guidelines for submitting work to distributors and festivals
The usual requirements are a DVD copy of your film (check sound and image quality before sending) with an entry form or single page of information, and a short cover letter.
If you are approaching an investor for production finance, a teaser trailer or examples of short films are a good idea.
4. Less is more
Don’t send extra materials (stills, scripts, etc.) until requested. The arrival of additional, unsolicited materials will make you look amateurish and creates extra admin. Of course, if you have just won a major award or had another success relating to the project, your target party will be interested.
Don’t contact the company to confirm receipt of materials. If you’re worried about this, either use recorded delivery postage or enclose a stamped and addressed postcard for notification. Some companies will return unsolicited tapes and disks, but to ensure this, enclose a stamped and addressed envelope.
6. Patience is a virtue
Expect delays in the assessment of your film. Every company in the world operates at a different pace. Part of your research in No 1. (above) should tell you what to expect. Be patient.
7. Be straight
Don’t try to pressurize a company into taking your film by fabricating a bidding war. Not only do you run the risk of being found out as a liar, but you might also completely turn off the company.
If rejected you can ask for some feedback and further guidance, but do not call when you’re angry, and do not send a peevish letter of complaint to the head of the company contesting the decision. At Raindance we recently had a filmmaker suggest that we had cost them over £4,000 lost revenue, which really pissed us off given the amount of work we had put into the project. This filmmaker is now someone that we will never work with again.
Remember, even if your film isn’t right for a certain context, it may well find success elsewhere.
9. Listen to what people are saying
You will not get constructive advice from an executive who senses that you can’t handle the truth about your film. It’s best to be philosophical and objective, as dealing with other people’s reactions to your film is part of the learning curve. After all, audiences are huge disparate groups who will ultimately vote with their feet.