Last Thursday we had the finale of our Creative Business Base programme run by Screen South. After six months of support and advice we ended up in the Blue Room at the BFI pitching to Film 4, Bfi, Prescience, The Works, Vertigo, Revolver, Bankside Films, Moviehouse Entertainment and Guerilla Films.
Set up like a speed dating event, we had ten minutes to impress before moving to the next table. It was a lot of fun, and seemed relatively easy to impress with our crisp one-pagers featuring the new poster design and my passionate animated pitch of the story. However it was also a sobering moment of truth as we learned of the sheer size of the difficulties we will have to face if we are to succeed in bringing this wonderful story to a big screen international audience.
Although nearly everyone who attended the pitch really enjoyed the concept and would be very keen to see it made we had several issues to address:
- Henry Bramble is not a successful entity in any previous form (e.g. best selling novel or computer game) and will require large amounts of strategic marketing to get it into the public's psyche.
- It is unlikely that we will be able to raise enough finance from the UK or Europe.
- No financier in their right mind is going to let a first time feature film director like myself be in control of $40 million.
- Despite her impressive low-budget feature film achievements, Charlotte as Producer is also considered a high risk .
The advice that we received was extremely welcomed and gave us a lot of interesting facts to mull over. Here are a few of them:
- You need a strong Executive Producer backing you who has produced a similar film (in terms of content and budget) - someone like David Heyman for example.
- To compensate for not having directed a feature film before you will need to surround yourself with very experienced crew in particular the cinematographer. That way if you turn out to be a complete waste of space, the film can be competently made without you.
- You will need to attach an extremely attractive cast (monetary not aesthetic).
- If you want to make an independent film outside of the Hollywood system then you will have to slash the budget considerably.
- Even if you get the film financed you will not be able to raise the sufficient marketing costs required for this kind of film in order to compete with similar Hollywood titles.
- If one of the Hollywood studios agrees to distribute the film, they may (like Valiant) bury the film on purpose so that it does not compete with their current release slate.
- Hollywood will want to develop the project from the beginning and would more likely buy you out than let you direct the film. However you could probably pay off your mortgage with this fee though!
- If you publish it as a novel first, it will take a minimum of three years to become a bestseller, which statistically is unlikely anyway with such competition already out there.
As you can see, it was a daunting experience, but a valuable one and something that I am certainly not phased by. I have a plan on how to deal with these issues and will report back with my final conclusions very soon. In the mean time I will leave you with the news that I am literally pages away from completing the first draft which although will be very rough and full of poor punctuation and verse, underneath is a very exciting and emotional story that I am desperate to share.