Workshop give filmmakers funding tips

Coin-seekers were told to put together a slate and create a library at the Variety-sponsored Peacefulfish Entertainment Fund Structures workshop Friday.

Moderator Patrick Russo, topper of financial and strategic advisers for the Salter Group, ran through the options: Sequential Slate Transaction (good when you have 25 movies on the go), Pre-Selected Slate (good for six to 10 films but not so hot if one happens to be “Poseidon”), Studio Co-financed Producer Films (investors bet on producers picking the right projects) and the Independent Production structure, which is where most of the 40-strong audience came in.

“It’s an evolving model,” said Russo. “Smaller, leaner, edgier indies want access to funds, $75 million to $150 million for a slate of three to five films per year over three to five years. Then they have a reasonable library to sell and investors can exit.”

Diane Stidham, topper of Newbridge Film Capital, favored the sequential way.

“If you have 20 films,” she said, “you might get a ‘Poseidon’ but also a ‘Home Alone’ to balance it out.”

But how do you get the loot if you’re not a studio or mini-major?

“New producers must be persistent,” advised Stidham. “It’s such a difficult job it’s astounding any deals get done!”

“It’s a guild structure,” said Joseph Woolf, head of Entertainment Finance at Citibank. “You put experienced people together with the inexperienced. Then it becomes an underwriting job.”

Stidham emphasized the importance of having sales projections and advised, “I’d rather have 10 percent of a deal that gets done than a hundred of one that doesn’t. If agencies can help you, let them have their fee.”

Woolf told appreciative ears “there is a whole generation of capital coming in. Investors are exploiting risk-reward premiums.”

On Europe, Stidham, who recently ankled London for Los Angeles, was downbeat.

“It’s a big problem,” she said. “I went with grandiose ideas and I never got a deal done. Every time a European company like Polygram or Working Title gets big enough it gets bought!”

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