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The People You Need on Your Financing Team

Are you better at creating interesting character conflicts or balancing equity and debt financing? If the first part of that sentence sounds like more fun, then consider how you can compensate for this through your team. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should go all Occupy Wall Street on your project’s number crunchers when they tell you something is too expensive. After all, that’s their job; yours is to find a creative solution. Even better, bring them into the brainstorming meetings so you know what’s possible. Maybe you’ll be surprised by the left brain powers hiding behind that math nerd exterior.

Photo: Harris & Ewing

Lawyer

Depending on your media lawyer’s experience, you may need to find another attorney to handle the legal details of finance deals. Of course, if you trust your production lawyer to handle this, let them do the necessary research. Or maybe you don’t have the choice due to, well, financing constraints. Hey, we understand how these things go. Make sure your lawyer understand the rules for financing deals, because these change almost on a daily basis. The last thing you want is to have a success on your hands, only to find out that none of your investors – or you, for that matter – earn a dime because of some legal voodoo in the contracts. Ideally, your financing lawyer should have actual producing experience, with a knowledge of the process from development to distribution. And have we mentioned the chain of title yet?

UPM (Financing)

Wait, doesn’t the Unit Production Manager have more of a role in pre-production? Sure, but sometimes these two stages will blend into one another. It’s also not a terrible idea to have the UPM scour the budget to determine what is vital to the production. For this, it’s a lot better to find someone who has worked at your budget level before – essential items for a $100 million dollar blockbuster can be quite different from a $100,000 indie project. And don’t get too mad when the UPM only seems to bring doom and gloom. Again, it’s your responsibility to innovate; the UPM is there to make the wheels of your production turn.

Executive Producer

You’ve probably watched a credits sequence before and thought, “Gee there sure are a lot of executive producers on this 85 minute romantic comedy.” Of all the credits, it’s definitely subject to the most abuse within the industry, though it’s not always as bad as it looks. Basically, Executive Producers should bring a significant share of funding to the project, or have some important creative involvement such as finding a director or lead actor. However, whatever area the Executive Producer handles, industry experience is a serious strength for this job.

Sales Agent / Producer’s Rep

Maybe you won’t have the ability to hire a dedicated sales agent for your project. At the very least, you should try to consult with someone who has experience here. Whether you’re interested in your project’s commercial possibilities or not (you should be if you want to make it), it’s helpful to know where your project fits into the overall marketplace. Having an idea of what your project could sell for will inform your choices when it comes to the production and marketing budget.

Tax Accountant

We get it. You’d rather be spending your time with actors, writers and directors. The last person you want involved with your project is a tax accountant. Of course, if that tax accountant can allocate more money to your budget through incentives, it increases the likelihood of you hanging out on set with all the creative types. Potential investors will also take your project much more seriously when it looks like you’re examining every financial angle. So be sure to send a nice bottle of something to your hardworking tax accountant after the project wraps.

Proposal Writer

Though it sounds generic, writing proposal for media projects is actually a very specific skill. You want someone who can be concise without omitting important details – or worse, simply making them up. Most professional financiers will eventually want to look at the overall budget numbers, but it can help you get in the room with the big guys if you have a seasoned proposal writer doing your submissions. For documentary projects especially, a good proposal writer is a must have.

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