If you’re an indie, you know how difficult it is to get financing for your movie. The internet is booming with webinars, books and articles that want to teach you the secret sauce of getting the money for your production. At the same time, the checklist that you need to complete in order to have a shot at actually getting any money is getting longer by the day. The investors are looking for more and more insurance for their ROI and the big studios are hard to reach. And once you got a meeting with a potential investor, you’d better have a production manager, an accountant and a lawyer at your side. You’ll need these guys for answering all the questions related to the business plan that you’ve prepared in advance and to negotiate the profit distribution in the happy event that there is one. There are also the options of doing crowdfunding, or pre-sales, and they all come with their own challenges.
This entire experience, I believe, is very similar to the process of creating and launching a startup. The
hoops stages you need to go through are pretty much the same, and the compelling arguments for investors are similar: crew’s previous experience, a valuable idea and execution. In both worlds, there is also a strong concept that can weigh heavily towards the success (or failure) of the initiative: the Minimum Viable Product or MVP.
In the startup ecosystem, you have access to the same financing types as in the film industry: the 3 ‘F’s (Friends, Fools, Family), the angel investors and the VCs (venture capitalists). If for the ‘F’s an MVP is not always necessary, as they’re Fond of you and they’ll help anyway, for the other two categories it’s almost mandatory. Why? Because the MVP proves two main things: your ability to execute and the interest from the customers (the traction).
In the movie industry, up until recently, the MVP was difficult to define or create. Yes, there was a script and there was the concept art. However, as every artist knows, art is about feelings and emotions, and a vision is notoriously difficult to express in writing, or in a storyboard. These tools are also difficult to use in getting people’s opinion and it’s generally tough to get people to ‘buy in’.
Fortunately, the world is moving forward and the capabilities we have today (both technical and social) are hugely different than the ones in place 10 years ago. Enter the new MVP for the movies: the short. There is an increasing number of shorts that are being used to ‘pitch’ a feature film or a script that end up under the umbrella of a big studio—the most recent ones being Leviathan and Sundays. To go back to startup language, the teams hacked the funding process with great results.
What do they have in common? They went viral, with millions of views showing people’s interest in the story, and they both got offers for their production rights from big studios. In startup terms, they showed traction and this made them interesting for further investment.
With more and more powerful tech available on everyone’s desktop, and with collaborative tools to make it possible for teams to work remotely across the world, is this the way scripts will get pitched from now on? If it is, I think we’re going to experience interesting times. And maybe we can apply the same to ‘hack’ other processes of the global village we’re now living in, and let the voice of the small players be heard louder.