Film Funding | Reports

Corporate Expatriates: A Source of Film Financing

1 Dec , 2007  

Written by Garret C. Maynard | Posted by:

In part I of a II-part series, filmmaker and teacher Garret C. Maynard offers tips for finding funding in the most unusual place -- the cubes of corporate America.
Six adults, eight kids, an English bulldog, a former marketing executive and a filmmaker; what could possibly come from such a combination?  What else, a film! 

I met my collaborator about eight years ago.  She’s a former executive with a large soft drink company who was inspired to become a screenwriter.  Together we made Filmcamp, which screens December 1st at the Avon Theatre in Stamford, CT.  She is among a growing crop of former professionals (or as I like to call them "corporate expatriates") who enroll in my Screenwriting, Basic Filmmaking, Film History, or Acting for the Camera courses I offer at several universities in southern Connecticut.

Why so many expatriates?  I sense a pent up desire in these students.  They’re leaving the business world to find "something more creative.”  Recently a lawyer told me that he wanted to write a screenplay because he needed a break from the limited way in which his profession uses language.  A doctor is interested in telling the world about dementia and believes a film about the topic will be the best way to get the word out.  An ad executive who worked in commercials wants to break out of the 15-second storytelling model and try his skills at long form writing.  There are many reasons why they sign up but from the thousands of adults I have taught in the last 15 years, a common theme arises:  None have found creative satisfaction from traveling or remodeling their kitchens.

Instead, they’re all revved up by Hollywood, so to speak.  Well, fellow filmmakers, I say let’s take them where they want to go!

The good news is that some are halfway there.  Many expats have stories to tell.  Some have a novel or two already written and there are a good many with scripts or the desire to write one.  But one thing is for sure…they all have money!  That’s right, tons and tons of bucks.  And your job, as their newest best friend and independent filmmaker, is to get them to invest their children’s inheritance on a film — their film.  Sounds a little underhanded but it’s not!  Many want to make a film but are afraid.  They don’t know anything about casting, cameras, editing or distribution.  But they do have the desire to learn and the discipline to finish what they start.  For independents, that’s a ticket to being halfway in the can.

First thing to do is to draft a simple business plan.  Have a hard copy but offer it in PowerPoint.  (You have to communicate in a language they understand, and they understand PowerPoint.)  Limit your budget to no more than 50K with a 20 percent contingency.  If you ask for more you will be pricing yourself out of this opportunity. Tell them that you can make the film for this relatively low amount because you have chosen a minimalist story with few locations and you have your own editing suite.  Top sheet budget distribution will be 10K for you as camera, director, and editor and the rest will go toward a small crew, actor stipends, food, equipment rental, composer, lawyer and insurance. You’ll be shooting in HD for no more than three weeks, including pick-ups.  The entire process will take about two years.  You’ll need to illustrate all this so offer slides that describe, in a step-by-step process, how a film is made and distributed. 

Don’t compare yourself to a studio feature.  Remember, you are talking to skilled business men and women — you have to be careful about disclosure and making promises you can’t keep so it’s best to consult an entertainment attorney about the language and citings you will use in your offering.  Keep the presentation to about 30 minutes.  Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.  And anticipate questions but don’t make that part of your PowerPoint, make it a Q&A.  Doing that will show that you can think on your feet.

Once you have this all down, you can put up a teaser on YouTube, offering the highlights of your presentation.  Next you need to establish relations with groups such as the local rotary and yacht clubs and the like.  Remember, don’t try to sell the club just the club’s members.  Offer a free presentation at Borders Books.  Go in with a PMA (positive mental attitude), wear a suit, and look like a businessperson.  Later you can let your hair down.  But you need charisma that defined is:  looking like a person that people accept and trust.  They will admire you if you "do as the Romans do."

In your pitch, underscore that you are here to deliver an opportunity that they have been waiting for.  Tell them that you will give them an experience that will be much more interesting than a new kitchen — a film — a contribution to the popular culture that will last forever.  This may be a dramatic statement but don’t underestimate the power of a dramatic delivery.  Somebody in that room will get a chill at the prospect of becoming a filmmaker, didn’t you at one time?

The odds are in your favor since offering a possibly life-changing experience can’t be rejected by everybody.  Out of the hundreds of people you will end up talking to chances are you’ll find a collaborator. I did.

For proof positive that the above works go to and see what came from this simple formula. 

PS: In part II, I’ll give you some of the specifics on how to assemble funding from multiple expat sources as well as how to save money and time in pre, production and post. Of course you’ll need to know how it is to work with an executive, so I’ll outline the do’s and don’ts.

PS: In part II, I'll give you some of the specifics on how to assemble funding from multiple expat sources as well as how to save money and time in pre, production and post. Of course you'll need to know how it is to work with an executive, so I'll outline the do's and don'ts.