"Learn to ignore what people say because what they say ultimately doesn't matter; it's what they do. If you want to collaborate with someone, watch their work first."
- Kris Wente, Actor
As Executive Producers, this comment really hits home. Several times a year, we get pitched a new film project by a filmmaker seeking financing. We read the pitch decks, review the comps, immerse ourselves in the lookbooks, and we study the financial projections based on the investor splits. We even have follow-up discovery calls to talk about the reason they want to make this film, right now. But that's just the beginning.
A film investment is not just an investment in a film; it's an investment in a filmmaker. It's an investment in a multi-year journey from pre-production to post-production, from post-production to marketing and sales, from sales to distribution, and from distribution to exploitation. It's a journey that we have to be willing to go on, not with a film, but with a filmmaker (and their team). To determine if we want to go along for the ride, we need to understand the filmmaker's body of work and their track record for success. As Kris says, "what they say ultimately doesn't matter; it's what they do" or, in this case, what they've done.
When pitching your film to a potential investor, it's a little bit like "show and tell". SHOW us what you're capable of and then TELL us how you'll leverage your talent, your network, and your story to turn a profit. After all, without the SHOW, there's no BUSINESS. It doesn't matter how passionate you are about your work, if you don't have something to show us that demonstrates what you're capable of, we have little more to go on than an idea.
Before making a pitch, be sure that you've developed a body of work that can speak to what it is you are trying to accomplish with your next film. This body of work should clearly articulate your brand at the height of your creativity. It should serve as an example for the audience you are targeting, the quality of your work, the genres in which you specialize, and the stories you wish to tell. The project you pitch should simply be an extension of this body of work and therefore an extension of you as a filmmaker. Don't expect someone else's work to speak for your potential by simply presenting lookbook images and comps that don't actually demonstrate your creativity.
Now, we won't go as far as to say that we ignore what people say as that's not the true intent of Kris's comment. We want to hear the passion behind every pitch and the "why" behind every story, but at the end of the day, an investment is a business transaction with the intent of making a positive return. That business decision has to be based on the tangible proof of artistic and market potential. So, be sure to build the proof before you make the pitch.
A big thanks goes out to Kris Wente for dropping this piece of wisdom on us and for all of the other great insights he provided on the inaugural episode of the MAKE IT podcast. His advice continues to stand the test of time as does his acting prowess. You can see him in the feature film Another Version of You, streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
Be Better. Be Creative. Be Engaged.