By George Kevin Jordan
I hate statistics. They are the numerical equivalent to a drive by shooting – frightening, hard to take, and even harder to survive.
If you are a woman, a minority, gay, or even poor, chances are you have felt the merciless slash of a statistic in your life. If you are an artist, or God-forbid, a film producer trying to raise capital for your work, there is no doubt you have had to stare down a few statistics in your life.
You just want to make your documentary about roller skating gorillas in South America, and suddenly some angel investor is throwing stats at you, like some financial ninja.
“It will never work,” he or she says to you at your investor’s meeting. “According to ‘blah, blah, blah’ only 20 gorilla films have ever been successful in movie theaters.”
Your question is how do you even have that tidbit of information in the upper part of your cranium. Your second thought is that all the effort it took to find a good business suit for under $100 at H&M are wasted, as your dreams go spiraling down the conceptual drain.
I spent 11 months of graduate school, inserting statistical information in my business plan and papers. I have spent about 15 years injecting statistics in articles and essays.
Just today, I have come to the conclusion that it’s all bullshit. Don’t get me wrong. I have use for statistics to develop a case for something. But just as I can use information to build something up, some a-hole can use a different statistic (sometimes from the same source) to diffuse your theory.
When put in the context of movies and finances, there is often one bit of information that is valuable, but yet there is no statistical data to prove it. When seeking money – most people are investing in you not the product.
Yeah, yeah they may pull out the latest box office figures from a movie in your genre. But truth be told; it’s about you! This information should be very liberating in your quest to get money. For one, you are not dragged down into the muck and mire of the mass of failed projects behind you. Also, thankfully you don’t have to be compared to James Cameron either. People want to like you. And if they like you they are willing to fund your project.
To prove my point, let’s take a rather depressing statistic and see how it fits into your plans as a producer.
According Indiwwire.com, only one specialty film (Crazy Heart from Fox Searchlight) made over $10 million in the first quarter. And only six specialty films made more than $5 million.
Imagine being in a meeting trying to sell your indie film, and some executive throws this out – fear not. Having recently been hired to find funding for a production company, and having given more presentations than my little Mac can store (remind me to discuss external drives and rehashing old ideas someday), I can give you a primer into what most investors are thinking.
1. Will this guy/girl take my hard earned millions and squander it? How do you squash this thought? Be professional. Come on time. Have proper documents and materials ready – i.e. Business plan, proposal, or a clip of your work.
2. What’s in it for me? The film business is a risk, and I hate to contradict myself but statistically speaking most people will never get their money back. Fine then why do it? It’s up to you to find the investor’s buy in. If it’s fame, it doesn’t cost much to make a person feel like a celebrity. Do they want to be in the business? You need to negotiate a way for this person to feel apart of the process without hindering you from making the film you want to make.
3. Finally and most importantly – do I like this person? People have gotten jobs for less. When you want to put money on the line for someone you want to feel a rapport with that person. You don’t have to be friends but you better be friendly enough. If that means going out for drinks, impressing the hubby or wife, or showing up to dinner parties – do it. Whatever it takes.
A few years ago, I met some investors for a media project. Before our meeting, myself, and every other department head in the company were grilled about our jobs and the overall organization. When we met in person a month later, it was way more casual, and all about how we interacted together. I was convinced those investors wanted to know deep down if they liked us. Not like BFF friends, but business friends. Does this person have integrity, can they be trusted, and can I work with them? Some investors just give money, but many will be involved throughout the process, and it’s that relationship you have to nurture. It is that relationship that will determine whether you receive a check, or get unanswered emails.
Now, I didn’t just spend fourty-five grand on an MBA education, just to refute everything I was taught. In some instance statistics can serve you. But in the end, selling yourself is a much easier and more successful way to get money. If you don’t believe me just hold on, I am sure someone will create a statistic using this very article.