With crowd-funding being the go-to source of income for most short and feature films these days, it’s easy to forget how crucial a detailed business plan can be to the success of any film. However, many indie filmmakers are often puzzled as far as where to begin, let alone how to complete, a thoughtfully drafted business plan for your the benefit of hooking investors in on your project.
Naturally, each business plan (much like each film) is different. Therefore, the following is by no means the absolute end all be all of business plan writing. It is, however, a good place to start. And where to start, is quite simple really:
Page one of any business plan should always start with the film itself.
What is the TITLE of your film?
What GENRE is it?
Give a brief SYNOPSIS (no more than two or three paragraphs) of your film.
This, not only gives potential investors an overall view of what kind of film you have in mind, it also sets the tone for the film and, essentially, the plan itself. Much like those first few pages of your script, the first page of your business plan should leave your reader/potential investor wanting more.
For example: If your film is a comedy, your synopsis should be funny and/or upbeat. So, instead of simply describing what happens in your film in a dry matter-of-fact tone, create an image in your reader’s mind just as you would with your script. Remember, you have a very specific audience: Your investor. You want to hook them in as soon as possible before they get to all the numbers.
Personally, I like to go with the beginning, middle, and end paragraphs. This may seem like a very elementary approach to your synopsis but I find it the most effective when it comes to investors. They’re busy people without a lot of time for a “smoke and mirrors” type of presentation.
Also, don’t worry about revealing the twist ending of your suspense thriller. Most often, you’ll find, this element to be key in hooking your investor right away. But if you’re wary of giving away too much on paper, it’s perfectly fine to wait for them to ask about your twist too. That is, assuming you will be in the room as they’re going over the document. It’s up to you when and how you reveal that twist. Just keep in mind that, at some point, you will need to give it away.
THE FILMMAKER’S VISION
A good cheat sheet for writing the filmmaker’s vision for your film is to break it down into 3 parts: the Style, Tone, and Look you wish to achieve in your film. Give examples of films you admire for each so your investor has a point of reference to build from.
The style of your film should have more to do with logistics, like camera angles and lighting. The tone should portray the movement and pace of your film. And finally, the look of your film will add color to the image you have set up for your reader.
THE DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT
With the director’s statement you want let your investor’s know how passionate you are about this project and why. This is a good place to talk about the reasons you chose this script. Or, if you are a writer/director, what prompted you to write it in the first place. Talk about your characters and themes, as well as what you hope your viewers will take away from watching this film. What’s the moral of your story? And why is it important for you to make this film at this time?
CAST & CREW
For many, this section can be a bit tricky. If you’re a first time director it will be difficult for you to attach high profile actors to your script. However, with the right producer, it’s not completely unheard of. If you’re working on a low budget feature or short, my suggestion is to start with your lead character and work from there.
Make sure you include their most recent and relevant headshot and that they have a stellar reel your investors can reference to. I would also suggest bringing a laptop or tablet with a good wi-fi connection to your meeting, so they can watch at least two reels immediately. As far as crew goes, make sure your key collaborators’ imdb pages are up-to-date and have those bookmarked and ready to view in the event your investors want to see what else they’ve worked on.
This is usually where your investors will sit up in their chairs. The production section of your business plan is where you show your investors how great you are at planning, scheduling, and organizing. It’s also the part where you break out (and breakdown) the numbers for your film.
Essentially, this section will consist of your BUDGET TOP SHEET and PRODUCTION SCHEDULE.
Although it’s not necessary to have every penny accounted for, you should estimate as much of your budget as possible including post-production and promotional costs.
Your production schedule should be a general timeline beginning with the development of the script and ending with estimated time of distribution. It should also reflect any festival circuits and/or VOD release dates.
WHAT I CAN BRING TO THE TABLE
This section is pretty self-explanatory: What resources do you have access to that can potentially benefit the production of your film? Do you own a digital cinema camera or sound equipment? Do you have insider access to various locations? Or will you be doing all the post-production editing yourself? Basically, this is where you get full “bragging rights” in hopes of putting your investors at ease.
MUSIC & SCORE
Music is a key element to your film. It can set the tone, cue plot points, and even become a character of its own when incorporated creatively into a film. In Tarantino’s Jackie Brown it does all three when Max Cherry meets Jackie Brown for the first time. Even if you don’t have a composer lined up for your film this is a good time to give your investors an idea of the type of music you’d like to acquire for your film. If you have specific tracks already in mind, use this section to talk about acquiring the rights to those tracks and/or hiring an artist to record a cover.
WHY THIS FILM?
Not to be confused with the Filmmaker’s Vision, this section is where you explain why it’s a good idea to invest in your film. Why the world needs this film, and what demographic would most benefit from it.
A list of about a dozen COMPARABLE FILMS will also aide in giving investors an idea of the market you are looking into. However, I would try to stick to films made within the last 5 years or so, as investors may feel the market for your film is out-dated.
MARKETING & SELLING
How will you reach your audience? Will you take your film to festivals? If so, which ones? If not, why? How and where will you screen your film? What distributors do you think will be a good fit? If you are unsuccessful in these avenues, how will you ensure your investors get the most return on their investment (ROI)?
Again, you want to put your investors at ease, knowing that their money is going to a worthwhile cause.
VISUAL PROMOTIONAL SUPPLEMENTS
Posters, websites, social media accounts for your film should all be added here. These will not only help your investors see all that you’ve already put into the promotion of the film, it will show them who your audience will be and help them track your film’s momentum as production goes on.
I hope this helps shed a little light on how to build a comprehensive business plan so you can win your investors over and get them on board with your project. And if you plan on crowd-funding your film, remember that your backers are also your investors and creating a business plan can set a blueprint for a killer campaign video.
Is there anything you would add to your business plan that was not covered in this post? Feel free to share in the comments section below or via social media.