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Archive for April, 2009

Invite

For anyone who can make it, a public meeting to discuss the film and give some background for potential investors. Among those speaking from his wide background in feature films is producer Tim Sanders (Whale Rider, Lord of the Rings FOTR, Perfect Creature). All welcome.

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Believers

Good video hook-up with one of the UK producers on Friday. Pip Piper (Blue Hippo Media) is someone I count as a good friend. He’s a tireless entrepreneur and relentless optimist. Pip has built his production house up from scratch, and is now recognised as one of the leading lights in film production in the Birmingham area.

It was Pip who optioned my novel back in 2002, and over the last seven years we’ve been through all the highs and lows together as the project has variously looked ready to go or else dead in the water. But together we’ve always believed that there’s a certain mojo about The Insatiable Moon which will get us there in the end.
We’re now working together on another project as well, about an American climber Gary Hemming who pulled off an amazing alpine rescue in France and became an overnight sensation, but ended up shooting himself.
Anyway, it was as always good to talk to Pip, who reaffirmed that we were going to be shooting Moon in November, whatever may happen between now and then. Those who carry the burden for a feature film need a few friends to keep the belief strong at the time when it flags.

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Investor Docs

For those who have an interest, the pitch docs for private equity investors in the project can be found here

There will be a meeting for anyone interested in finding out more about the film on Thursday May 14th at Ponsonby Baptist Church Hall, 43 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby (venue to be confirmed), at 6.00pm. There will be publicity materials, a promo film, and speakers will include BAFTA winning producer Tim Sanders (Whale Rider, Lord of the Rings), and film lawyer Matt Emery.
All welcome.

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Yesterday’s seminar in Auckland was called ‘Navigating the SPIF’ (SPIF being the Screen Incentive Production Fund). It was an excellent and well-organised seminar, with helpful and very practical information. The level of detail and careful manoeuvring required is scary – rather akin to sailing your way through the proverbial minefield. But then the rewards are great – potentially a $2m rebate on a $5m film.

Later in the afternoon it was a visit to the base of a television network to meet with a gatekeeper. I was trying to interest them in a licence deal, to show the completed film following theatrical release. And alongside it, of course, a joint application to NZ on Air for production funding for the film.
But the person I was dealing with wasn’t too sure about the project, and whether it would find an audience among their viewers. It was a difficult session. As I said to someone afterwards, it’s a bit like having someone tell you your baby is ugly, and you trying to persuade them of the child’s good points. I’m not the world’s best at pitching my own projects, and by the end of the time it seemed that the answer was a no.
I came out of the meeting depressed, got in my car and drove straight over a pothole, bursting the front tyre. Seemed symbolic somehow, but didn’t improve my mood.
Anyway, this morning the development exec, having looked at the promo DVD I’d left, was having a rethink, with a slightly more positive attitude. So who knows? Ah, the twists and turns of the filmmaking business…

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Ticking Along

Things ticking over as they should just now. A funding seminar run by NZFC and SPADA tomorrow morning, which aims to explain the mysteries of the SPIF (Screen Production Incentive Fund). New Zealand’s SPIF offers an automatic 40% rebate on production spend in NZ, as long as the feature qualifies as a NZ film (points basis). The catch is that the threshold to trigger it is a minimum $4m QNZPE (Qualifying NZ Production Expenditure). This is the Catch-22 for most indies. There’s some talk about lowering the threshold – be interesting to see if that is mentioned tomorrow.

Then a meet with a major television network re potential cooperation over the film. They’ve read the script and still want to meet, which is vaguely hopeful. But I’ve learned not to get overly optimistic about these things. They may just want to tell us what’s wrong with our project, and add to the mountain of notes which have already been accumulated.
I’ve scheduled an equity investors’ meeting for Thursday 14th May – now just need to sort out a venue and try to drum up some attendees. We’ve had a good initial response to the proposal, but then again $500k is a bit to raise in the current climate. Will post the documents about the funding pitch soonish, for anyone who’s interested.

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A List?

How much do ‘stars’ contribute to the likelihood of a project’s success? Pretty much anything that comes out of the States will tell you they’re gold. The money people love the A list, and therefore the producers love them as well. Convince a star to get on board and you’re more than halfway there to getting funded. So much is filmmaking orthodoxy.

But does the same thing apply to indies? Certainly a few ‘names’ help to raise the profile of your project, and lift it a little above the also-rans in the eyes of the financiers. But funding an indie is such bloody hard work anyway, that it seems the inclusion of stars is a mixed blessing. After all, they come with costs. Mostly they expect good money, and their travel and accommodation better not be economy class! So the budget needs to be pumped as a consequence.
We’ve always had Rawiri Paratene on board as lead, and he’ll do the part come hell or high water because he believes in it so passionately. We also have letters of intent from John Rhys Davies, James Nesbitt, and my all-time fave Tim Spall. Whether they actually come on will depend on budget level and schedule. I’d like to think they’ll hang in even if we’re at the lower end of the scale, but time will tell.
More importantly to us, and I’d say to all indies, is that the people involved understand the story and have some commitment to it. Magic is hard to come by, but you give yourself a better chance if the people at the heart of the film share a common vision of what it’s about.
I’ll keep you posted on how the cast shapes up as we roll toward November…

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There’s no quick way to learn patience… but anyone involved in the screen industry needs a ton of it. In some other industries decisions are made in a nanosecond. But in the film world everyone is hedging their bets, looking over their shoulders, scared to decide in case the make the wrong choice.

Currently I’m waiting for:
1. A New Zealand distributor to get back to me after reading the script (six weeks and counting).
2. An Australasian distributor to read the script (four weeks).
3. The NZ Film Commission to read the script (only two weeks).
4. Budget and schedule to be completed.
5. Recoupment template from NZ Film Commission.
6. Various documents from the UK producers.
7. The end of the world, which may well come first…
The frustrating thing (forgive me if I’ve mentioned this before) is that you’re constantly waiting for and dependent upon the decisions of others. The upside is that filmmaking is a team effort. The downside is that very few films survive the process.
Did somebody say interminable?

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