Bizzers say producers need more than just a good movie

During a wide-ranging discussion about P&A funds for investors and borrowers, panelists agreed that producers are under more pressure than ever to bring more than just a good movie to the table.

“We do have the money out there. It’s just attracting it with the right project,” said 120dbfilms principal Peter M. Graham. “It’s not just about a good film but about the marketing.”

The importance of marketing has been a recurring theme at this week’s Film Finance Forum West, presented by Winston Baker in association with Variety. Across the board, bizzers agreed that while money is creeping back into the film financing market, the pressure’s on to give investors security on loan repayments.

That security can come in many forms — foreign pre-sales and tax incentives are two of the big ones. But an executable, well thought out marketing strategy tailored to a particular film can entice many investors back into the marketplace.

“There’s just a ton of money piling up because everybody’s just been so scared,” Graham told the audience.

Panelists, including Fierce Entertainment CEO Christopher Petzel and Harris Tulchin & Associates owner Harris Tulchin, agreed that producers should have extensive discussion with sources of potential P&A funds about marketing strategies, bringing their own ideas to the table.

And the earlier in the process you can identify a business plan, the better. “Most producers struggle just to make the film,” Graham said. “In an ideal world, they’d be working (on marketing strategy) before they make the film.”

That’s not to say, however, that potential investors care any less about the product.

“If you’re a P&A fund, you kind of want to see how the audience reacts to (the film) before you put your money in,” Tulchin said. “What you have to do as a producer is to be strong and say, ‘Look, we’re going to promote the hell out of (the movie), but we’re going to make a good fucking movie.’”

Both lenders and borrowers need to prepare for the possibility that the movie will become a huge hit that will require even more P&A.

“You don’t want to have a situation where you’ve got a hit on your hands and you don’t want to lose momentum, but the investor is out of cash,” Graham said. “So finding a partner with a reasonable cash cap is important.”

A big part of a good marketing strategy, said panelists, is finding out what release windows distributors can offer right off the bat. This can be tricky, however, as many of the major studios already have some of the best release dates locked in

“There’s only a couple of windows you can shoot for,” Graham said, adding that sometimes the best bet is to catch the tail-end of a summer tentpole or other top-grossing title that fits with the film one is looking to release.

If none of those windows are available, however, just knowing what’s coming down the pipeline may also be enough.

“You may want to do a slow build,” Tulchin said. “It may be okay to come in on a certain date when you know what’s coming out over the next four, five or six weeks.”

The panel cautioned that no matter what the rollout strategy, the right P&A partner is key.

“The last thing you want is to commit to this huge rollout and then somebody says, ‘Sorry, we’re out of money,’” Graham said.

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