General Question

jballou's avatar

How does a first-time filmmaker get people to invest in the film?

Asked by jballou (2108 points ) June 24th, 2008

Bonus Question: how do you cast a notable actor? (ex. Jake Gyllenhaal in Donnie Darko, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Brick)

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12 Answers

Riser's avatar

Have you made a short film or even a spec commercial?

As far as getting lucky with a great and undiscovered actor, it’s a luck of the draw and by draw I mean your casting calls. The closer you are to Los Angeles the higher chance you have at nabbing someone who at least as enough talent to get a bus ride from Proctorville, Oh to the boulevard of broken dreams, then again… maybe you can just go to Proctorville, Oh or Mimbres, New Mexico or a province in Croatia and find them before they get the bus fair.

marinelife's avatar

Look for talent around local film schools. See if you can find a filmmaking grant for financing help.

jballou's avatar

I’ve been involved in the production of several short films and spec commercials. However, I was not the director or writer for them. And I wasn’t so much referring to getting lucky with an undiscovered actor (as that is clearly a matter of luck) as much as I was referring to getting in touch (somehow) with an actor who is already working and successful- like the guys in the situations I mentioned in the question.

Riser's avatar

Jballou: You either have to be able to turn off your gag reflex many times, know someone who gets his nails cleaned by Steven Spielberg or have an absolutely incredible script that Variety and the Hollywood Reporter can’t stop talking about (and turn off your gag reflex at the same time)

As far as funding… for a first film… you’re looking at a mini DV to low-end HD feature for $50,000 or less. Do yourself a favor… contact Dov S. Simons (two day film school) spend the $300 + for his workshop (I recommend it going in person) then talk dentists into being “producers” for a share. After you’ve made that and you never want to look at another VISA bill again, then sell your mother’s wedding ring (and your mother) and put all of that money into film festivals, hope for the best, then do it all over again, except this time… go for doctors. If you’re good, one of the big boys will find your movie, believe me… they are desperate for fresh blood and they will find you if you have the balls they’re looking for (and can turn off your gag reflex)

jlm11f's avatar

instead of selling his mother, can’t he just whore himself on the streets? works for me. just kidding

Riser's avatar

PnL: You make a great point… I just realized… you can kill two birds with one stone if you go this route because.. if you perch your price-tagged ass in Los Angeles, chances are your clients could be your future bosses… this can prove to be advantageous.

jlm11f's avatar

yep. it’s networking really :)

jballou's avatar

@Riser Why dentists before doctors? Just curious

Riser's avatar

jballou: It’s actually psychology. Dentists do not have to attend school as long as doctors which usually means there is a superiority complex (please if you’re a dentist, don’t attack me. I am only going by what I was taught in film school and witnessed through friend’s projects) They want to feel as important as doctors. You offer someone a producer credit on a motion picture (whether it’s made in your backyard or the Universal backlot, it doesn’t matter) and it makes them feel important, powerful, etc… Dentists are easier to convince that you are a talented filmmaker, sight unseen, than doctors.

And that’s what your hard earned dollars teach you when you donate them to film school. :P

jballou's avatar

Huh. Interesting. When I’m done with my screenplay I’m hitting the phone book and looking up every dentist in San Francisco

shilolo's avatar

@jballou. I might know a dentist or two in San Francisco ;-)

rovdog's avatar

Jballou- I finally feel like there is question on here I can really contribute to. I’m a filmmaker, a friend of this site (the shadowy figures behind it), and a flutherer, so if you have any specific questions feel free to send them my way.

There are a million ways to answer your question obviously because there is no set way for this to come about. Yeah, I do think approaching private investors directly is a good idea, depending on the scale of the project. One thing, if you haven’t done it, is to make a short. I think someone mentioned that- but it is pretty important. I would say make a short for whatever money you can do it for and convince people (even in your own network) that you are credible and capable of making a film. Having something to show, even versus having a perfect script, will help you raise money. Then I would suggest reaching out into your own network first and seeing what kind of money you can come up with. Depending on the size of the project, one good thing would be to have an experienced assistant director break down the script and estimate the costs. If you know a good DP start talking to them about format, etc- if you can achieve the result you want based on how much you think you can raise. Figure out how much you think that you need to do your script and to do it justice.

To sort of answer the bonus question- there is not a set way actors get attached but if you know any casting directors sometimes (and this is mostly what I’ve heard) those people will bring in your name actors. For instance, I believe the casting director of Half Nelson brought in Ryan Gosling. That was on the commentary if I remember correctly. If you have actors that are perfect for your script, you can try sending them or their agents a polite letter. Certainly if you know a name actor you should write a character for them and get them on board but if you don’t (like most people) just go ahead and raise the money without anyone attached. It will be harder but most people are in that situation.

One thing to consider, once you’ve made your film, you have to think about distribution. Unless you have a distribution deal in place, in which case, we wouldn’t be talking about this. It may not be for you but look into getting a producer’s rep or sales agent to sell your film.

I realize I’m sounding kind of all over the place but if you message me and I’d be glad to address anything specific I can.

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