The fun part of your pre-production process is over and now it’s time to focus on the business side of things. And make no mistake: as fun and rewarding as filmmaking is, it’s a business. Your potential investor is looking forward to being part of the film industry; However, their main goal is to return every cent they have invested in your production with a significant profit. And it’s your job to prove to them that you will do just that.
The cover sheet: Simple and direct. If you have a PNG file of your script title in a font that characterizes the theme/genre/mood you want to convey, splash it in bold across the top. If you have formed an LLC for your production, on the next line below your title, write in capital letters “(YOUR SCRIPT TITLE) THE FILM LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY.” On the next line, write: “A company formed specifically to finance the feature film (your screenplay title). Enter your company number in the third line. Not having an LLC isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, but it adds credibility to your production. In most states, an LLC can be formed for around $250.00.
The content page: On this page, you list each section of your prospectus along with the page number on which it can be found. Keep in mind that you will be revising and editing your prospectus, so make sure the page numbers are correct as your text scrolls back and forth across page breaks. The best way to verify is to create a PDF of the presentation document and confirm everything matches.
The artwork page: When you have the DVD cover or sheet (movie poster) ready, insert an image on this page. You could also put a picture of the cast in the closet.
Your imagination: This is your pitch. Do this for about two pages and express your passion for the project without overdoing it (e.g. “This is going to be the best horror movie ever made in the history of cinema!!!”) Say Your investor why you believe in this project, why it is unique and why it will be successful. Don’t go into plot details; that comes later. Here’s an introductory paragraph I wrote for a prospectus that you can customize and borrow:
Traditional filmmaking is very often a frustrating process for both large studios and smaller production companies like (production company). Fortunately, for the micro-budget film producer seeking public funding, the road to success is the road less traveled. Once funding is secured, a major hurdle for our production company will be removed, allowing us to focus on the artistic part of the film endeavor and ultimately allowing us to create a worthy product for distribution and sale.
Summary of Risks: Remind your investor right up front that you will do your best to make this production a success, but there is no guarantee that you will ever turn a profit.
Summary of Principles: Write a short biography for each person responsible for your production, with a picture of their face. It could only be you. Include any relevant links that will increase your credibility such as: B. Your IMDb profile.
Narrative biographies: List all members of the production team with a quick one-line bio, relevant links, and their film credits.
Business structure: If you have an LLC, you must state that you are seeking an active investor in a limited liability company. In an ideal world, you would have a passive investor hand you a stack of green and let you run with it, but in the real world, most people would like to have a hand in how their money is spent. If you state in your prospectus that you’re looking for a passive investor, you’ll be faced with a lot of paperwork, and the SEC will come down with a hammer if you don’t follow protocol exactly. The main selling point of the LLC is that all members are protected from liability for actions and debt. If you don’t have an LLC, write a short paragraph outlining the business agreement and attach a copy to the end of your prospectus as a PDF file labeled “Schedule A.”
Movie Summary: Write a half-page synopsis of your feature film. Make it come alive – really sell your story. Your investor has to love the concept if he/she wants to skip the dough.
Screenplay rights: Simply state: “(Production Company) has sole control and exclusive ownership of the script (script title) and all associated rights. Write your WGAw registration number followed by “Writers Guild of America, West.” Include the registrant’s full name.
Market Snapshot: You will need to do some research here. If you’re writing a prospectus, you should have a budget with a pretty good idea of how much that production is going to cost. Look for other films in the same genre as your script that have roughly the same budget and have made significant profits. List each with a brief description of the film, production budget, and earnings to date. The more references the better. Remember that your investor wants to make money and this is your opportunity to show him/her that it has happened and will happen again if he/she shells out the money.
Tax incentives for investors: This is your KO. The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 was enacted creating a tax incentive that specifically applies to motion pictures: 181 of the Internal Revenue Code. This incentive was created to combat “runaway film” projects: productions slated for release in the United States but filmed in other countries. Section 181 allows for 100 percent write-off of all audiovisual work performed in the United States. In short, your investor gets all of their investment money back the next time they file their tax returns. Pretty cute – and a definite selling point for you.
Marketing Plan: Sure we made a movie… now what do we do with it? The fact that you were looking for an investor means you were probably dealing with negative pickup deals with traders and found it pretty damn unattractive. If you have good business acumen and/or a marketing background, explain your strategy for distributing and selling your film. Otherwise, you have to set aside at least 50% of your production budget, hand it over to a marketing company, and hire them to do it. Regardless, some of the money you’re asking for has to go towards marketing the finished product.
Budget: Okay, your investor is excited. Now hit them with the hard numbers. Write a short paragraph stating how much dollars you need and that the budget is available for review (trust me they will review it thoroughly…).
Locations: List any specific filming locations so your investor has a good feel for the logistics involved in production.
Time schedule: Here is an example:
Development: Two months (completed)
Pre-Production: Three months (current status)
Production: 45 days
Post-production: Three months
Turnover and Sales: You don’t work with a distributor, which means you produce the DVDs yourself. There are many DVD makers online that will create both your DVD and case at reasonable bulk prices. Break down the manufacturing cost and set your price point. The price point is crucial: set it too high and you won’t move units; Set it too low and you will move units but destroy your profit margin and scare off your investor.
Writing a feature film prospectus isn’t easy, but it is necessary, and if you do it right, you’ve just given yourself a boost over 99% of the other filmmakers out there vying for the same pool of money.