re·mark·a·ble

 [ri-mahr-kuh-buhl]
adjective
1. notably or conspicuously unusual: extraordinary: a remarkable change.
2. worthy of notice or attention.

I get invited to do a lot of guest speaking and generally my hosts want a few simple sharp film facts wrapped in an uplifting and inspirational package – not exactly a happy pill, but similar I suppose. I then realised that in order for anyone to succeed and rise to the top, one needs to be remarkable. Especially when filmmakers are approaching investors.

We all know that the filmmaking experience demands that a filmmaker is remarkable. But have you ever thought of how the investors must feel? How can a filmmaker provide a remarkable experience to his or her potential investors?

It’s pretty easy to understand a remarkable filmmaker experience: all that hard work then one day to walk down the glory aisle at the Oscars or British Independent Film Awards. We’ve all gone to the movies and known what a remakeable movie experience is.

Filmmakers, and especially filmmakers making content for the web (as celebrated in our forth coming Raindance Web Fest know how remarkable content has to be to gain any traction in today’s competitive market.

How many filmmakers know what an investor experience is like? Investors are not anything filmmakers normally associate with remarkable (unless they are writing a cheque). Investor relations and dealing with investors are not the kind of remarkable filmmakers associate with. Au contraire. Words like pain, irritating, bored and tedious are more the norm.

What does a remarkable investor experience look like?

At a recent Producers’ Foundation Certificate class I decided to ask this question:

What is the goal of any investor presentation?

Most people answer with statements like: To get a cheque, or, not to waste too much time on a “no”.

The correct answer is simply to have a great meeting filled with great conversation. Full Stop. It’s a unwise filmmaker who enters an investment meeting filled with thoughts of getting a cheque and stuffed full of facts and figures about how fantastic the rate of return is going to be for their potential investor or client. If these are the thoughts filling your head at the start of a meeting then your conversation will be manipulated and controlled. You give off the energy that you are simply waiting for a moment to pounce on any sign of a deal. This will give you an odour (if I can call it that) that will make an investor run a mile.

If you approach an investors meeting with an open mind, and are willing to be remarkable, and by that I mean are able to make sparkling conversation, then you will want to make an outcome list like this:

  • We just seemed to click
  • We were both on the same page from the start
  • They asked all the right questions
  • The meeting ended with a series of achievable and actionable questions

The strange thing about this list is, if you were to turn the situation around and ask the filmmaker to stand in their investor’s shoes, the list would be exactly the same.

The lightbulb moment

Here’s the short and curly:

Potential investors want to have the same conversation with filmmakers as filmmakers want to have with them! Which means if you can have a remarkable conversation with an investor, chances are you will be getting closer and closer to a potential deal. But if you start the meeting with that expectation it really won’t ever happen.

The world of securing film investment has changed drastically. Potential investors have not only come to expect filmmakers to lead them in great conversations, but investors actually deserve that from us. If we start thinking that investors expect these “remarkable conversations” then we have the wrong attitude and will likely perish. The modern filmmaker needs to realise that securing investment has everything to do with mindset than ever before. And the same goes for when we try to ‘sell’ our crowdfunding campaigns, or indeed, to sell the finished film, by whatever route we choose. Our customers (aka investors) have the right to quality and meaningful conversations.

How do you make remarkable conversation?

Most filmmakers haven’t a clue. Basically it means listening far more than you speak. It means asking great questions. It involves actually putting yourself in your investor’s shoes and actually caring about how they are feeling. And most of all, it means not pitching at the wrong time.

I learned a lot about filmmaking, not from going to any film school, but from my grandad.

My grandad, way back on the farm, taught me how to fish. There was a small stream that ran through a corner of our farm outside Toronto. He’d sniff the air, gauge the direction of the wind, wink at me and say it was time to go fishing. We’d prepare the fishing rods and equipment and dig up worms for bait. When we got to the river bank he’d sit down for a good twenty minutes gauging the stream, the light and the reactions of the birds and insects over the water.

Sometimes he’d look to me and shrug and we’d go home without even putting a line in the water. ‘Gotta fish when the fish are biting’ he’d say. Other times, after the waiting and watching ceremony he’d slowly cast his line into the pool and presto – a fish. He used to tell me that 90% of fishing was in the preparation and the waiting. Remarkable? I think so. He rarely came away empty handed. Had he rushed to the river, and quickly cast his line (like I wanted to) he likely would have waited in vain for hours.

Be forewarned that changing and making these adjustments (like becoming a careful listener) might come across as easy. In fact, I have found in my own life that this simple change is very difficult. Casting my mind back to any one of countless pitch meetings I have been at, I cringe at the number of times my potential investors or sponsors have tried to say something really profound to me and I have just steam rollered them with babble.

The few times it has worked was when I learned, like my grandfather, to sit and patiently listen, waiting for the bite. Doing it that way means that 9 times out of 10, you then have them hooked.

Your turn now: Stick some comments in the box below.

About 

Photo Credit Jay Brooks / BIFA 2015

Elliot Grove is the founder of Raindance Film Festival and the British Independent Film Awards. He has produced over 700 hundred short films and also five feature films, including the multi-award-winning The Living and the Dead in 2006, Deadly Virtues in 2013 and AMBER in 2017. He teaches screenwriting and producing in the UK, Europe, Asia and America.

Raindance trailer 2017

Elliot has written three books which have become industry standards: Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay, now in its second edition, Raindance Producers’ Lab: Lo-To-No Budget Filmmaking and Beginning Filmmaking: 100 Easy Steps from Script to Screen (Professional Media Practice).

In 2009 he was awarded a PhD for services to film education.

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