Monday, September 14, 2009

Blog 14: What goes into the proposal?

This blog is a little different as it carries a homework assignment on your part.  We now get to what is probably the most boring part of making the movie, the business plan and/or proposal. This contains mostly business information, including a synopsis of the story, information on the cast and director and producer and writer, investment requirements, sales projections, marketing and distribution and a lot of appendices that relate to the above requirements. 

That's why we started with pictures,  lots of visuals to give the reader a feeling of seeing the movie.  You can see these above.  This is the 2nd page of the proposal. We chose these images from a variety of sources and are not actually from our movie of course, because it hasn't been made.  But you can get  a sense of what the movie is about.  Snow, cemeteries, truck stops,  a young woman and an older woman. We're conveying a mood that we hope will keep you curious.

What we are doing here is giving the reader an idea of what we're trying to do, how we intend to do it, who we are using to do it and what we're going to do with it once we're finished. I'll break it down a little, but reading it is the best thing to do and I recommend downloading the proposal.  Every proposal is somewhat different, but they all contain the same information, some are 3 pages, some are 35 pages. Ours is around 18 pages in total and took Shirley and I the better part of a month. 

Since I have a lot of different proposals that I've collected in the past 30 years, I have a lot of examples to follow.  The trick here is to imagine who is going to be in your film, both cast and crew, since we don't have the money to hire them until we get the money.  

Cast is a little trickier as you usually need money in order to get interest from any recognizable actor. We were lucky to get interest from two actresses, both Academy nominees but we are still looking for a cast that will push the interest up even more.  Name stars won't even open a script unless there's money on the table, and it's often impossible to get their agent to take your call unless all the money for the movie is made and you make a solid offer.  More on this in the next few posts. 

We also include a Top Sheet budget for the movie, a list of the costs and expenses.  Nobody wants to look at numbers much so we use is a 1-2 page summary of the budget which can be 20 pages or longer. The current budget was made up by myself with a software designed for movie budgets and I confess I seem to really enjoy making these charts with numbers which would surprise the hell out of my high school math teachers.  

One of the more interesting pages is the one on potential earnings (Sales Projections). There is really no idea of how much a movie can make at this stage.  Some proposals wildly exaggerate the potential earnings, others downplay it.  I have a system that has worked for years and seems to reflect as close a realistic earning potential as I think possible. 

I use income grosses from a dozen or so recent movies   (2-3 years) that have already been made and played in theaters. These grosses are available in many box-office related websites.  I'm also careful to select movies that are comparable to our budget, storyline, cast and the genre (in this case, road movies, young/old cast,  winter, and comedy/drama) and come up with three different earning potentials;  low, medium and high. Is it accurate? Some would argue it, but I feel that it's pretty damn close, reflecting a sense of both reality and experience. 

We also include a "director's vision", in short a sense of how Shirley will direct the film in her own words.  This helps give the reader confidence in how the film will be shot, what the visuals will be like, without actually seeing them, how she wants to choose the style of it's look and feel.  Films are one of the few businesses in which people are buying a product that hasn't been made yet. 

Like ordering a mail order bride .

And that's the main theme of a proposal like ours; to offer the reader a sense of what the movie is going to be, who's going to star in it, how long it will take to make it and how much it will cost.  It's our calling card to everyone,  investors, distributors, actors,  and  you.  We want to offer a clear and concise summary of our intentions. 

Your assignment should you accept it: Download the proposal and have a glance through the pages and see if it would impress you enough to want to see the movie made.  

(Next: How do we find actors for free?)