Ali M. Aksu is a film producer, founder of Untold and FilmCapital.io, and United Nations Association SoCal young professionals chair.
There are several new streaming platforms globally since the start of the pandemic. This is an incredible indicator of the streaming boom in Hollywood. With many studios focusing on bolstering independent content acquisition, the market is hungry for streamlined content production.
The combined value of acquisition is at an all-time high among the big streaming platforms. Even LeBron James sold a minority stake in his entertainment company, Springhill Company, which is valued at $725 million. And Candle Media, run by two former Disney execs, paid about $3 billion for Moonbug Entertainment. The content acquisition volume is expected to keep growing.
What does this mean for an independent filmmaker? In this article, I hope to empower all content creators in achieving financial success by giving you useful insights to plan a fundraiser as well as an exit strategy for your show.
Financing Your Project
Until the streaming boom, the best bet for an independent filmmaker to finance their project was their pitching skills and network. In an industry where content is king, many untold stories went to the trash without seeing the light of day. Now, with the advent of streamers, independent filmmakers are reliving the Golden Era of Hollywood again, similar to the startup boom in Silicon Valley in the early 2000s.
But how do you fund your film production? Just like any startup, film production begins at the founding team level. Track record is key. The producer must know every aspect of film finance. This includes tax credits, other incentives (such as sections 181 and 168, which I will talk about in another article), pre-sales, finishing bonds and talent onboarding.
There are a handful of existing ways to finance your films as of today, but one that isn’t talked about as much is crowdfunding—something my company specializes in helping filmmakers with.
Most filmmakers are shocked when they hear the real percentage of equity investments they need to raise based on the film’s budget (which usually varies between 20% and 50% of the overall budget). As the roadshow begins, equity crowdfunding serves as a useful tool to get the word out there and build an investment crowd.
There are many key factors that go into running an effective crowdfunding campaign, including having talent support. This is crucial in getting the word out there and creating a buzz that will help garner fans and bring passionate investors to the table.
The narrative around a crowdfunding campaign should revolve around the story itself as well as the founding team to make sure potential investors understand who they are investing in. On top of that, we’ve found that purpose-oriented projects that appeal to solve a global grand challenge or address a social issue tend to accumulate lots of support from compassionate individuals all around the world.
As a cherry on top, leveraging smart and creative campaign perks tied to certain investment levels can create more traction—for example, attending the movie’s premiere along with all cast and crew. The perks can easily be NFTs as well. Don’t think with a limited scope.
Establishing An Exit Strategy
Understanding the business side of filmmaking is key to establishing an exit strategy for any movie. Within that perspective, every filmmaker now needs to be better at creating a business strategy for their product so their acquisition can be faster and easier.
To secure an exit strategy, you might need someone who is well established in the industry to pull connections in order to obtain talent, get vendor discounts and structure financing. Therefore, an experienced executive producer is almost a must in each production as early as possible. In the case of startups, experienced board advisors or on-demand CFOs do a similar job. Luckily, in the film industry, a strong board advisor/executive producer can hand the filmmaker the trophy rather sooner with a sales deal.
It’s not easy to make it in show business, but it’s definitely easier now with the advent of streaming platforms along with emerging film finance technologies that streamline the content production cycle.