The Film Business

Want to make your movie? Try asking for help.

Photo by Cory Doctorow

Some of the many challenges filmmakers face are not having enough money or resources to either complete their film, or to help publicize their movie. What many seem to not understand is, if they just asked for help they might be able to get what they need. The fact is, that many filmmakers are artists first, and business people second. This means that while they have the capacity within themselves to create master works of film, they just don’t have the social and business skills to make the impact they need to make to succeed in the industry. Now this article might sound like a bunch of self-help malarkey, but truthfully it is staggering how often many of the techniques below work.

The first thing you need to do is evaluate exactly what you need. Not just in terms of money, but in resources as well. If you need a crane or jib for a particular shot, before you set aside money in your ever-growing budget for a new piece of equipment, go directly to the companies that make them and ask if you can have one, even if it is only for the duration of the shoot.

Overcoming your fear and asking for what you want can yield results. Just because you are approaching a mega-conglomerate for a freebie doesn’t mean they are going to shut the door in your face. Often you are the exact demographic they are trying to reach, and many larger companies have product and even funds set aside to sponsor people like yourselves. Marketing and PR is just as much a part of these companies as it is to your production, and the goodwill that can be generated from helping you out (especially if you turn out to be the next Soderburgh) will help them out immensely, and they will also most likely get your money further down the line as a sign of loyalty to their brand. Getting those first few phone calls and emails out of the way can be nerve wracking, but you’ll find that once you have a couple finished, even if they end with a “no” response, they get easier and you get more confident with your responses.

It is definitely suggested that you have your “pitch” down cold. That is to say, be knowledgeable about what you are asking for and be direct. Getting the right person to help you on the phone is just the first step. Getting them to listen to you and respond positively to your request is a whole other animal. Have a press kit or pitch packet ready to email to them, because they will often ask for it. You can even feel free to offer to send them one. This can be construed as a sign of professionalism and confidence. It won’t make it seem like this is the first time you’ve done something like this. People’s time is valuable in any industry, so it is important to be cordial and conversational, but also get your message across. It can be difficult, but try to read the person on the other end of the line (or email).

Give them a reason to do business with you. In the sales world there are things called feature/benefit statements that are used in conversation all the time. Basically you should have at least a few notes jotted down or committed to memory as to what you are offering, and then how it would benefit them. The idea is that people, and that includes companies, want to know they are getting something for their freebies (whether money, equipment, or services). They want to know what’s in it for them. It is your job to convince them that if they would be crazy not to do business with you.

Once you’ve made contact, and even if that company has turned you away, it is important to follow up. Having a couple of simple form letters created to send out after a conversation will reinforce your name, film, or production company in their minds, and it’s the professional thing to do. This also gives them another means of communication with you that they possibly didn’t have before. In the film industry especially, but really in any corporate environment, people want to do business with men and women they have relationships with. If they know you are legit, easy to deal with, and easy to communicate with, then you may hear from them again in the future.

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1 Comment
   Rod Lisbon said on February 14, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Very intersting article. I never really thought about just asking.

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MasteringFilm, powered by bestselling Routledge authors and industry experts, features tips, advice, articles, video tutorials, interviews, and other resources for aspiring and current filmmakers. No matter what your filmmaking interest is, including directing, screenwriting, postproduction, cinematography, producing, or the film business, MasteringFilm has you covered. You’ll learn from professionals at the forefront of filmmaking, allowing you to take your skills to the next level.