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CATCH 22: FILM FINANCING & CASTING
A student filmmaker recently asked if it was mandatory to have a name actor in place to raise financing.
First, our aspiring filmmaker is correct in connecting the actor with financing. It may seem obvious, but many newbies miss this point and depend solely on the strength of the script.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to attract investors without a name actor. The more popular the name, the easier the job becomes.
It's a Catch-22, though, because name actors want to see the financing in place before they sign and investors want to see the actor signed before they invest! It takes a bit of practice to pull this off, but with the right strategy, you can do it.
Here are three strategies for signing just the right actor to attract investors:
- Aspiring producers often start with the idea of approaching name actors directly, which is very difficult and not recommended. The best way to approach an actor is by hiring a casting agent to do the job. It is generally not that expensive and lends a great deal of credibility to the project. Some producers use an attorney, but a casting agent is better.
- Even seasoned producers have difficulty landing "A" actors so we don't recommend that approach, especially when starting out. A better strategy is to aim for actors on their way up. Anticipating future stars takes a bit of research, instinct, and luck; much the way stockbrokers pick companies with future potential. Again, a good casting agent can help you here since they are familiar with available talent.
- Another approach is to use actors that are past their prime. Such actors are easier to sign and add appeal to the project. They certainly can be used as leads, but since they are generally older, they are best used in supporting roles. This gives strength to an otherwise unknown cast.
Letter of Intent
When financing is already in place, the casting agent will arrange for a formal contract to be signed. More than likely, however, you will not have financing in place. In this case, the casting director will arrange to have a letter of intent signed.
The letter of intent is not a contract, but rather a formal document stating that the actor is interested in the project and intends to act in the movie subject to future availability. Its main purpose is to attract potential investors.
Here is a sample Letter of Intent.
Pre-Production Package & Pitching
The pre-production package is essentially a project proposal designed to attract investors. The package should contain the letter of intent along with the script and budget. It is also helpful to have a good director and/or cinematographer attached to the project. The more you have in the package, the better.
Convincing people to invest in your project is called "pitching." It is basically about selling, so the person who pitches your project should be an outstanding salesperson. If you cannot do this yourself, we recommend that you partner up with someone who is good at it, someone who can "spin a tale," as they say. -Lou LaVolpe
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