It’s a common complaint that we hear from people: how come the studios don’t make something really original?
Erik Feig, president of production at Lionsgate, distilled the salient issue in his speech to the WGA West last year.
“Every single movie that we make has to be sold twice. First, on a pre-sale basis, to a bunch of independent foreign distributors who are worried about losing money. And second, to a consumer who wants to see something that they haven’t seen before. Trying to find the right project and the right package that can satisfy both of those moments in time, separated by eighteen months of hopefully good execution, is really, really hard.”
So that’s the essence of filmmaking these days – first you have to convince risk-averse distributors across different countries (with differing cultural preferences for entertainment) that this movie package (script, director and cast attachments) is going to be good and successful at its given projected budget level. Then you have to make the movie in a timely manner and hope that the audiences of the world decide to go watch it in enough number during the opening weekend that it can continue to earn revenue through its various life-cycles in DVD, TV, VOD, Online and whatever new distribution technology sprouts up next!
So this is why producers and distributors stick with what has worked in the past – similar scripts, similar cast, similar marketing – because “why fix what ain’t broken?”
Do you have a good idea for a film that will appeal to international distributors and to American audiences? At what budget level would it make sense to make the film? What kind of director or actors do you think the script could attract and why? These are the difficult questions that producers wrestle with as they assemble the army that makes a film possible.
If you’re interested in the finer points of film financing, don’t miss this video from one of our recent events in which producer Cassian Elwes breaks down film financing.