Richard Holmes is an award winning independent producer with credits such as Eden Lake, Shooting Fish and (one of my personal favourite films) Waking Ned to his name. Taking us through the life of an independent producer, the dream version, the ideal version and the reality, he gave us an entertaining and very frank look at how independent films are produced at varying stages.
The reality version usually involves a producer that does a lot of the work themselves and often from home when a production office isn’t strictly necessary when productions have finished. They have a lot of projects in development and only some will make it through to production and he took us through a number of ways that raising the money to get them off the ground is hard. It’s probably nothing we didn’t know. Talent finds it difficult to commit. Money is hard to come by without committed talent and things get put off and put off, often becoming irrelevant in the process as the likelihood of it finding an audience can change if it gets overtaken by time, trends or someone else doing something too similar. These things, Richard showed us can happen to the most committed of producers and the best of projects and I suddenly realised that getting work to principal photography is not just painful for the writer but equally, if not moreso, for the producer. Budgets have come down as audience numbers in cinemas have come down, there’s very little deferment or percentages on offer and it’s an honest but frustrating thing to hear. However, told in a straightforward and humorous way, you realise that when you do get a project into production the joy that can bring.
There’s certainly hope out there. The EIS and SEIS have proved a good way to encourage investors as has VCT. In short, investors employing these take a risk as with any film financer (film is a risky business) but the risk is much lower, around the thirty pence in a pound mark which means the wealthy can make an investment without embarrassment if it goes pear shaped and the film loses money. Richard advises complete honesty with investors about the risk of investing in film and exactly how much they stand to lose. Then the choice is theirs.
Making films and getting them distributed is no easy task either. However there are some great film markets and it’s worth just going and checking them out at say, Cannes which Richard suggests you can fly out to and back in a day without incurring too much expense if you book early (like now), just to get a flavour for the festival. Great advice! Distribution once gotten has it’s own issues of course with P&A costs usually far exceeding what the film’s budget is so profit coming back over and above the initial territory sale can be rare depending on the territory and distributor. However films can and do make money and have success in reaching audiences. It’s not a perfect system but it does still seem to work overall for those independent projects that run in the millions bracket. And as there’s plenty of them to love, including Richard’s newly produced project ‘Jadoo’ which we were given opportunity to watch a sales promo for and that I have to say looks excellent and I’ll definitely be seeing when it comes out, I can only say that I came out of this seminar feeling both informed and still brave enough to want to make independent features. Knowing the facts is knowing the odds, and knowing the odds you can work out how to better them. Richard Holmes certainly helped me to feel more secure about that process.