Thursday, June 25, 2015

When It's Not About the Money....

"When they say it's not about the money, it's about the money."
H.L. Mencken
Recently, I watched what may be the worst film I have ever seen. Ever. And I've seen some very bad movies, some of which, I'm afraid to say, were films where I was on the production side.

Characters didn't talk to each other, and they certainly didn't listen. Every scene involved one character sharing a heart-rending story from their past for a few minutes, followed by the other character doing the same. Might have made for a good monologue class, except the writing was predictable at best, and unbelievable at worst.

For years, I have said that the reason I was a line producer and not a producer is that I hated raising money. When people ask "why," I, like the people in the movie, share a story. Unlike the movie, I'll keep the monologue short - for once.

This goes back to my years as close friend of Eran, the director of The Rook*. He commissioned me to co-write an erotic romance story, and I did. It was the type of story that was inspired by Red Shoe Diaries, in fact, we were hoping to attach Joan Severance in the lead. There's little else to say about the story other than Eran and I probably made it much more complicated and multi-layered than it needed to be, as was our wont.

We started with a budget of under $1M. After months of trying to raise the funds, we thought we had hit pay-dirt with a production company of an old friend of mine. There was just one catch. First, we had to make sure they made money. Then, we needed to attach better talent to attract their investors. Then, the investors wanted more for themselves. More months and many budget revisions later, we were at $3M.

All of that work was worth it, we thought, when a company agreed to put up the money. On a Friday, they asked for our bank routing information, the deal was signed, and our bank confirmed that they had, indeed, authorized a transfer. It would take the weekend to go through, but should post the next business day, Monday.

Eran and I did what any normal, struggling artists (a bit of an oxymoron, that - normal struggling artist) would do - we celebrated. In fact, we celebrated pretty hard and spent a good deal of money celebrating. What did it matter? We were in the money!

You can see where this is going.

On Monday morning, no money had been transferred. Over the weekend, the Korean markets had crashed, and the entire deal was contingent on Korean money and pre-sales.

We were devastated. We asked the production company if there was anything we could do? They told us that the money folks said they would have done it for less, but that there was no way at $3M. Why they asked, was the budget so high anyway?

This experience soured me on the art of raising money for film, much as chasing "angels" and grants had in theater. I pretty much walked away from that world.

Until now.

In my new job, I am working with two guys who have connections in the finance world and experience putting deals together. Furthermore, they enjoy it. It's a good combination, as I look after the production side and need to do only minimal glad-handing.

The two worlds met recently when I showed them a script I had budgeted for the past three years. Both the script and the budget had gone through many revision,  but we were now at $1M. Both the guys loved the script, and also loved the directors and writer of the script, two other guys who have become like old friends to me.

I'll share more about the script at the appropriate time, but we brought the package to a finance contact of my partners, and they like it enough to have set up a meeting.

We aren't there yet, but if all goes as we hope, it will mean that I will have helped two old pros who I truly like very much bring their script to the screen.

I won't say it's not about the money - we know what that means - but this would give me some special satisfaction. To see my new partners and two old friends all benefit from a script that is screaming to get done would make me very happy.

At least on this one, it's also about more than just the money.

*For those newer to the blog, there was a long series on The Rook that probably could be a book by itself. My experiences there shaped much of my line producing later, and, especially for those who enjoy the production lessons (or the stranger, funnier war stories, it's one of the best series you can follow. Check it out if you have not done so.

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