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Producers urged to ‘get in the game’ at finance forum

Experts talk shop at Winston Baker event in Toronto

Breaking into film production requires preparation above all, asserted a quartet of industry experts at Monday’s Winston Baker Film Finance Forum at Toronto.

“Make sure you have the goods or no one’s going to pay attention,” said Scott Lambert, a producer with Film 360, at the event presented in association with Variety.

Lava Bear chief operating officer Adam Rymer stressed that newbie producers are probably better served by starting with their own equity on their first project.

“The best way to start is to get into the game,” he said. “Get your project into a film festival and use that as your calling card.”

During the hour-long panel, titled “The Art of Project Development and Strategy,” panelists stressed that opportunities abound with the six majors spending more resources on tentpole franchises and reducing or shuttering their once-burgeoning specialty units.

“Studios are making fewer films,” noted Mark Ankner of WME’s finance and distribution group. “Yesterday’s New Lines are today’s independents.”

Additionally, Lambert advised that recognizable actors will agree to reduce their fees if the indie project is attractive enough. Christopher Woodrow, chairman and CEO at Worldview Entertainment, agreed that thesps are willing to do the work for far less if it a major studio isn’t financing.

“We were able to pay one actor $100,000 for six weeks work at a time that his studio quote was $10 million,” Woodrow said.

The opening panel, “Financing Single Picture Deals in Today’s Market,” featured Michael Benaroya, whose “Margin Call” scored major success theatrically and with VOD. He noted that the financial thriller generated seven bonus payments — each for 100,000 streams on VOD — along with two bonuses for eclipsing $3 million and $5 million at the box office, but added that the business still requires financial rigor.

“I claim poverty every day,” he added.

Oddlot Entertainment’s chief operating officer Bill Lischak said his company, which developed and produced next year’s Lionsgate-distribbed “Ender’s Game” — has to be creative in how it structures its financing of projects.

“Five to seven years ago, independents could not touch the level of talent that’s available now,” he noted. “It’s a fertile opportunity.”

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