On June 8th, Ziliak Law’s Elaine Wyder-Harshman moderated a panel of three film and financial industry professionals, focusing on the ins and outs of film funding. The event took place at Chicagoland creative industries incubator, 2112.
The panel consisted of Angie Gaffney, Ted Reilly, and Bobby Schwartz. Angie is a producer, entrepreneur, and co-founder of film industry incubator, Stage 18. Ted heads up Chicago Media Angels, an investment group focusing on media content from the Midwest, and is also involved with the development of Stage 18. Meanwhile, Bobby, the founder and principal of RCM Asset Management, has produced films, created film-based investment products, and consulted on the entertainment industry for major funds and investment banks.
Despite the wide range of sophisticated industry experience, the panel was able to delve into the nitty-gritty of film finance in a down-to-earth way that made the content accessible to attendees of all backgrounds.
In the first portion of the program, Elaine asked the panelists to explain the differences between equity and non-equity funding, and how to decide between the best financing approach. Predictably, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, and each panelist weighed in on what methods they’ve used in various contexts.
Out of the gate, each speaker offered their views on their approaches to film funding, but as the conversation became more and more technical, an audience member reined in the panelists and requested an explanation that’s friendly to those who aren’t as familiar with the finance world. From there, each of the panelists explained concepts such as equity and leverage in layman’s terms.
The discussion then turned to crowdfunding, a non-equity approach more applicable to financing social justice documentaries and certain passion projects. Sites like Kickstarter allow for the development of grassroots campaigns, which in turn can lead to serious interest in a particular project. Both Angie and Ted agreed, however, that this type of endeavor is more of a marketing tool than practical means to finance a film. Nevertheless, if your crowdfunding campaign generates enough public interest, then opportunities for equity financing may follow.
The bottom line is that the sooner you’re able to define the type of project you’re trying to create, then the sooner you can come up with a realistic financing strategy. The best way to ensure that your movie actually gets produced is to identify the film’s niche within the industry and to keep that focus in mind as you move forward.
The next post will spotlight the panelists’ discussion of what investors look for when assessing a potential investment opportunity in film. (And yes, we’ll provide video of that as well.)