Cinematech recently did some interesting coverage of current projects out there seeking finance online, Howard Dean style.
It’s too easy to view these projects a little harshly, and no doubt some of them may be finding finance difficult for a reason. But generally I think that would be too simple. Film financing is such a complex problem, this approach has many benefits.
This could suit some documentaries really well. A lot of documentary makers have unique problems, their projects typically develop over years and they progress through actually shooting stuff, as opposed to pitching and refining scripts and creative packages. They go and gather material, often tons of it, offering them good opportunities for disseminating it in new ways.
I can see documentary makers building rich and illuminating web presences which track their projects, offering their individual backers an ongoing relationship and insight into it’s progress.
That would certainly work well with political or advocacy style projects which highlight issues and can attract an audience who care about the issue.
Even excellent drama projects face many hurdles. I remember during financing our first feature the Coen brother’s finance disintegrated. It happens all the time in film no matter where you are on the Hollywood food chain.
It’s because the chunks involved are just so big. The pressure is always on, you are exposed to the vagaries of that particular source of finance. If something goes awry, a whole side of your film’s finance falls away and the entire structure can collapse.
And as a result people enter it cautiously. The financiers are exposed to a high level and are cautious as a result, the film makers are exposed to their nervousness.
Even getting the initial finance is unpredictable. In the US, it’s usually the ‘guy’, whoever it is at the top of the food chain, and whether he ‘gets it’. ‘yeah, I get it’ can be a green light in the US of A. Over in the EU, it’s about panels and committees, equally unpredictable, their version of ‘I get it’ is usually an avalanche of required documentation, combined with panel members who aren’t exposed but nonetheless whose opinion is taken on board. Go figure that one out. Gimme the ‘I get it’ guy any day.
We had eight sources of finance in our film, the legal documentation totalled over 2000 pages. A part of me is wondering if I’d prefer 2000 sources of finance each with the same 1 page contract.
And if one or two go wobbly, would it all fall apart?