Tuesday, October 07, 2008

IndieVest provides a portal for investors in independent film

On Monday, Oct. 6, The Wall Street Journal “Marketplace” ran a story (p B1) about a company called IndieVest which offers small ownership stakes in people who want to invest in movies. IndieVest (“connecting film and capital”) calls itself an “independent film studio, financier and distributor” on its webpage, eager to work with wealthy individuals interest in sponsoring film. (Hint: if you’re a fledgling filmmaker, you need to find somebody rich to sponsor your film—and it may be more complicated than that.) It has a membership page intended for potential investors only (not filmmakers needing money). The Journal says that there are several levels of membership, the highest being $5000. Members can review film projects and decide which one’s to invest in.

The WSJ mentions the film “Saint John of Las Vegas” in production, to star Steve Buscemi.

The WSJ story is by Peter Sanders, and is called “High-Risk Glamour: A Piece of an Indie Flick: IndieVest members pay fee, get right to buy into a film”, link here.

I’ve seen effective films made for less than $10000 (such as Brian Herzlinger’s “My Date with Drew,” 2003, from Lucky Crow) and the sci-fi time machine fantasy-drama “Primer,” 2004, by Dallas filmmaker Shane Caruth, from ThinkFilm.

It’s typical, though, for a film that aims to make a social or political statement effectively and get major attention in the “establishment” indie market to cost $5-$40 million to make professionally, but sometimes they get made more cheaply. “Good Night and Good Luck” (Participant and 2929) cost a little under $10 million. “Fireproof” (a “Christian” film, distributed by Samuel Goldwyn Films) cost about $500000 because many people worked without compensation. Josh Stolberg’s libertarian satire of public school suppression of free speech, “Kids in America” (Launchpad, 2005, with Gregory Smith as “Holden”) cost a bit less than $1 million. A key to successful financing is finding big name stars and talent who will work for less (or even invest themselves) because they believe that the message of the film is necessary. This is likely to be true in the future for films with major themes about the environment (global warming, oil), the economy (like health care or the fiscal crisis) or international outrages (like Darfur), or social issues (ranging all the way from gay rights to evangelical Christian material).

It would seem that companies like IndieView can provide an effective alternative for filmmakers who might be frozen out by today’s difficulties in more conventional credit markets, caused by the recent global financial panic.

In another brief topic, the Oscars (the National Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) has created controversy by requiring that documentary features have at least a one week platform theatrical run by Aug. 31 of the year of consideration. The Academy says it is trying to get more documentary into theaters. It seems to me that Landmark, Regal, and AMC Select are showing a lot more documentary already.

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