Q. I have the ability to direct movies without scripts but just outlines. I can schedule and budget on the basis of an outline and then complete the production. So far all of my productions have followed the same pattern. Is it impossible to find investors for such kind of film-maker even on low-budgets in the US?
Okay, let me clarify that a bit. I am not sure Henry Jaglom has scripts. He seems to shoot a great deal of improv and then edit. And there are other directors who have shot pictures that way; a lot of experiments were done in the '60's and '70's.
And, of course, "reality" tv shows have outlines, but no scripts.
So if your selling point is that you like to let the actors improvise, you may be able to get away with it. But it's a hard sell. Buyers can't see what movie you're planning to make. There's no way to tell if the comedy is funny, if the romance is suave, etc. They have to trust that you can direct the hell out of your outline.
What you would need to finance an outline would be at least one and hopefully several brilliant finished movies made the same way, without a script. And you would probably have to show that these movies have made money for their investors.
Unfortunately, now is just about the worst imaginable time to try to get new investors. The credit crunch has dried up all the loose money. I'm not sure investors are in the mood for experiments right now. I'm not sure audiences are, either.
Investing-wise, I think now is actually a good time. Well...it's complicated and depends on the person. Obviously no-one is going to want to throw money at a film at the moment, but what if there's a strong chance they will make money back or at the very least, cut even.
That's what we're doing for Michael's Resignation (http://www.michaelsresignation.com/).
Instead of asking for money from big companies, like the UKFC over here, we're getting fans on facebook and asking them to invest in the film. They can buy as little as 1 share for £1. So that way, they don't really lose anything and if we make £100,000 from the film, they get £2 back
Something for everyone to think about. Because for some people in the community, they'll see the chance to invest in a movie as a preferable way of holding onto their money (rather than sticking it in a low interest bank account).
Just something to ponder on for everyone out there. Of course it's going to take a while, but you never know.
Even Mike Leigh has problems raising the finance he needs, and that's with his terrific track record of improv-based movies.
His method's about as proven as you can get but it it demands a lot of faith from his backers and -- perhaps even more importantly -- from his production guarantors, who'll have to carry the cost and complete the project if any part of it falls through.
Yikes -- and how would the production guarantor take over a Mike Leigh movie?
There's a good discussion of Leigh's financing process in an interview with his regular producer, Simon Channing Williams, in this listen-online edition of BBC Radio's THE FILM PROGRAMME:
From the point of view of someone who chooses to invest in odd things, there is really only one piece of information needed.
The person said they've made several films using this method.
The only thing that really matters is what ROI the investors got. (eg: Did it take 8 months to make their original money back, then have 2 years at 10% return?. Or have they not made back their investment yet?)
If you have a history of making a good return on investor's money, then that changes things entirely. For a start, the people who invested in your last film with profit are likely to be favourable.
If you DON'T have a history of making a return on your investor's money, then you aren't really looking for investors .. you are looking for people to donate as a charity !
I know that unconventional filming methods (etc) are an additional issue, but given that most people don't really have a strong idea of the 'correct' method anyway, it might not be much of an issue.
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