Money and Dreams… How do you get them in the same room? Part 3
When I last left you hanging, I had finished editing the trailer for Junior Crew, the sci-fi adventure film I was trying to make. A friend had asked me to direct a short film which was 180 degrees away from Junior Crew and I thought it would be a nice change of pace. After all, I had done my job on the trailer and now the money should start rolling in...
Regarding the short film that my friend and I did, we used Kickstarter to double our budget. We knew how much we had and set up a Kickstarter account to try and get more. We knew that worst case scenario we could drop our own money into the Kickstarter to get the extra money, but as it turned out we more than doubled our budget in 4 days. I'm a huge fan of Kickstarter, though it's certainly not set up to raise the kind of money I was looking to raise for Junior Crew… But we did shoot the short titled "Stray," which is now in post.
Ok, so perhaps I was a little worn out, naive, frustrated or all of the above, and I wanted to shoot something that I could complete. As I made that film, basic interest started coming back about Junior Crew. When I would meet with people they liked the trailer but didn't understand who was involved or how they were involved. When you are in a meeting you can say J.J. Abrams is interested in your film and people will just nod, probably because everyone lies in those meetings. So we decided to shoot some interviews of the people involved in the film, and explain all of the work that has been done in advance of any real money coming in. It was a great way to show off our co-producer Ian Hunter and New Deal Studios, showing clips from films they have worked on like Inception and Dark Knight. In this video the principles explain their involvement as well as how we plan to make the film. This video proved to be quite helpful as I'll explain later.
Another interesting thing happened over the past few months because of the Action On Film Festival which premiered a film I was a part of called Stranglehold. My DP won best cinematography and we were nominated for best ensemble cast, but that was a year ago. However, Del Weston from the Festival started a tv program which airs locally in Los Angeles on NBC and he asked to interview me for the show as well as feature the Junior Crew trailer. This was a great thing for Junior Crew, and I received several calls after it aired. It's always great to find people like Del who just appreciate good work and do anything they can to support it.
Every bit of promotion you can do certainly helps your cause, but you never know where that golden opportunity is going to come from. All you can do is keep setting up dominoes. In my case, a parent of one of the kids who acted in the trailer for Junior Crew introduced me to Ed Kramer, one of the founding members of Moving Pictures Media Group. Ed became a champion of Junior Crew, pitching it to the other principals in the company until they became highly interested. A few weeks later, Moving Pictures Media Group vetted Junior Crew through their distribution and finance divisions, and agreed to produce the film!
Here is something you may not know, which was new to me. One of the more common ways that independent films are financed happens in two parts. A production company can go through the arduous vetting of a capital funding company which is usually a gatekeeper to private investors who spread their risk across a number of films. The key is that you have to jump through a great number of hoops in order to meet their requirements, and have a good track record for making money with your films. Okay, so there's the chicken or the egg situation, which is rampant around the film industry. But if you are lucky and your project is good enough, you can link up with a company that already has a track record to produce the film with you. This isn't the final step, and once again we run into the chicken. The capital funding company will agree to finance your film with a decent return as well as equity points on your film but you have to provide your own funds for the development process. For a film the size of Junior Crew, these funds are somewhere in the neighborhood of $100k. This money is used to set up the proper legal LLC for the film itself and start to attach talent. The good news is, it's MUCH easier to contact people and tell them you need to raise $100k that will be returned to them plus interest before the film is even made than it is to get $10 million in a high risk situation. It also makes sense. If you buy a house you have to put a lot more than 1% down.
That being said, I still wasn't able to raise that money on my own. Moving Pictures Media Group raised it as part of a slate of 6 films they are going to produce, once again coming through with flying colors.
More important than that, I have been able to hang onto the reigns as director. Being stubborn in the past has certainly made a few potential deals turn sour. Once I was close to selling a tv series that my writing partner and I wanted to star in. Can you guess how that went down? When we changed our minds and returned to them they had already moved on. I had already decided with Junior Crew that I would step down as director if necessary as long as I was properly compensated, though everyone around me who was a part of it wanted me to push for the helm. I definitely wasn't going to lay down and give up, but I didn't want my stubbornness to kill the deal. I just kept moving forward as though I was already directing the film. After all of the work I had put into it, not one person questioned my ability to direct the film. With the boards, shot list, designs and of course the trailer as proof, I was able to jump that huge hurdle that often stands between creative people and those who control the money.
One thing that is important to remember is that we as filmmakers are a part of an unspoken pact…a brotherhood that cannot be broken because we all share the same dream. When I rent or loan my equipment to people I can tell from one meeting if they are truly filmmakers. Once I know that, I don't worry about my gear because they will take care of it. I edit projects for friends even when I don't have time because they donate their time when I need a hand on set. There are filmmakers out there in more powerful positions and they are willing to be a part of your dream. You just need to pull them into the world of your film, get them excited about seeing it and being a part of it, and you are on your way. I have been amazed at the hard work put in by people working for nothing and businesses like New Deal Studios and Moving Pictures Media Group grabbing on to be a part of Junior Crew. Filmmakers, all. The soldiers are out there, ready to do the job. Build an army and watch in awe at how your dream will come to life.
A.J. Wedding is a graduate of Western Michigan University and has won festival awards for his first feature film, "Pop Fiction". As a writer/director, he has won several awards for his short films, and recently garnered worldwide distribution for a feature film titled “The Disappearance of Jenna Matheson” releasing this year. His hit web series, “Infamous” created an instant fanbase, and spawned interest from networks to create a tv series based on it. A.J. currently works with The Production Green, directing and editing commercials as well as developing his next feature film, "Junior Crew."