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his year’s Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) Production Conference was held in Century City, California. Featuring some of the top CEO and producers in the indie industry such as Cassian Elwes, Nicolas Chartier, Kirk D’Amico and Avi Lerner, the conference was a four hour intensive on producing.


Producer Mark Damon (Das Boot, Lone Survivor) painted a bleak picture, “Most films that mean something don’t recoup their costs. Most independent films release to two or three screens for contractual purposes

Nicolas Chartier

and then go straight to VOD... In the comic book era, we have to be brave and cut the talents costs to support the investors, so they can at least get their money back.” Nicolas Chartier (The Hurt Locker, Dallas Buyers Club) concurred, “Dallas Buyers Club has a $5.5 million budget and investors still haven’t seen money.” Chartier talked about how he got involved in Dallas Buyers Club. One of the financiers pulled right before the shoot. Matthew McConaughey had already lost a considerable amount of weight for the role, and doctors said it would not be safe for

Cassian Elwes

him to put it back on and then lose it again. The film couldn’t push back its shooting dates because McConaughey was already contracted with HBO to start shooting True Detective in January. Chartier, who had initially passed on the project, got a call right before principal photography from Cassian Elwes asking for a very big favor. Elwes had kickstarted Chartier’s career. Elwes told Chartier this was the only favor he would ever ask of him. Chartier felt he couldn’t say no and wired the money the day before the shoot. “Where are you in the waterfall for getting your money back?” Chartier stressed this is the key question producers and investors should be asking. “Most mistakes made are initially in the financing,” said Michael Ryan, partner at GFM Films. Financing has become more complicated since the demise of DVD sales. Producer Kirk D’Amico (Van Wilder, Margin Call) painted a picture of film financing today: • 20-30% presales • 20-30% soft money such as tax incentives • 20-30% bank loans The remaining hole in budgets (10-40%) must now be filled with equity financing. Kevin Goetz, CEO of Screen Engine LLC, has made a business of performing postmortems on studio and indie films that failed to perform. “Every movie can make money if you know what you have,” explained Goetz, “but you need to know who is that audience. How large is that audience? The problem is people are not computing their movies correctly.” Terry Press of CBS Films painted a different picture, “We have too many movies and not enough space. If you have no awareness of product, your film will not succeed. Fortunately, money can buy awareness.” Goetz cautioned, “For wide release markets, your film must appeal to two adjacent quadrant audiences because that is the only way the marketing is cost effective.” Press agreed, “Adjacent markets are very important… Additionally, the film must be big enough to warrant $13–17 million in marketing per quadrant for a 2,500 screen release… The people at Yahoo aren’t running a charity. The cost of taking over a page at Yahoo is more expensive than a TV commercial.” The good news? The box office is up 22% compared to last year. “I have never had a bank loan close before principal photography,” said Damon consolingly. “Make movies and go with God,” suggested Goetz with pun intended as he also underscored the highly successful strategy of creating content for under-served audiences. LFV ISSUE THREE 2014



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