First and foremost, let me just share some great news! You know that screenplay that I’ve been trying to get in front of Mr. Bigwig Producer? Well, guess what. Mission accomplished. A nice fellow that I met at this seminar this past weekend was separated by one degree from Mr. Producer and the fellow said he’d gladly pass the script along. Mr. Producer read it, loved it and had his assistant call me today to set up a pitch meeting. I’m still reeling from all of the excitement. That just goes to show you the power behind networking. I’ll keep you all posted on how it goes. Cross your fingers for me. This could be my big break.
If you’ve checked out the site, you’ll see that it promises a lot. Not only will they show me how to get the funding, they’ll “introduce [me] to who can do it.” On top of that, representatives from top talent agencies in Los Angeles were going to be there, too. Being put in-touch with agents and financiers was worth the price of admission alone. Of course, I had to go.
The instructions said to dress professionally for the networking event at the end of Saturday, so I got up early to press my dress shirt and slide into my suit. I made sure to wear my trusty fedora so that everyone would remember me (especially since that’s the icon on my business cards). I hit the road by 7 and got to the WGA theater on Doheny in Los Angeles by 8. A line was already forming out front and it looked like any other line you’d see flailing out from some club entrance in LA except it was daytime and no one was really dressed for partying. Come to think of it, no one was really dressed professionally either. I’m starting to notice how burgeoning filmmakers/actors always disregard dresscode when it comes to these events.
As far as this crowd of filmmakers went, I was on the younger edge of the age pool, which was good, because that meant these were probably more serious filmmakers.
The event organizers opened the doors to check us in and hand out badges and folders. Once inside, we had about an hour to kill before the theater doors opened to us for the first speaker. And then everything started to go downhill. Not steeply, mind you, but the decline was definitely there.
The first speaker on Saturday was entertainment attorney Mark Litwak and was presumably going to discuss the advantages and disadvantages to forming a business for your film, such as an LLC or S-Corp or Sole Proprietorship, etc. The folder we had contained pictures of the slides we assumed he’d use during his presentation. Instead, the first thing Mr. Litwak said was that he’d essentially wing the presentation since he’d never seen those slides before in his life. While his presentation was informative, it definitely could have used some visual aides. The long and short of his advice is: insulate your personal assets as much as possible from investors suing you for their investment back.
Other presenters came and went throughout the day. Unfortunately, they seemed to stray from the topic they were slated to discuss. One speaker’s presentation was titled: Find Out Who Will Fund Your Film Nobody Thinks It’s Profitable. This would have been perfect for me, since I’m trying to find funding for a five-minute short, for which there are no profitable markets to sell it to. The speaker’s presentation turned out to be more about working with her particular company that specializes in documentaries. Useful for documenters, but not me specifically.
Handy information I did pick up throughout the day included finding out what states offer rebates for filming with them and how a particular law gives tax incentives to film investors. Those two tidbits could come in very handy in the future when I’m dealing with million dollar budgets, but I think I’m getting ahead of myself here.
At the end of the day, there was a cocktail networking event for about two hours. While I appreciated that I was in a room full of serious filmmakers, I also realized that these were people who were much farther along in filmmaking than I was. With that said, it was difficult to network having basically nothing to offer. Still, I made sure to shake some hands and exchange cards before the seminar was over.
Day 2 didn’t get much better. It was supposed to focus mostly on how to put together a business plan. Unfortunately, it got bogged down in personal anecdotes and jokes and the “course” was geared more for people who were already working on a business plan, because I definitely didn’t come away from that workshop knowing the “essentials.” Breaking up the business plan part of the day was a brief interlude on networking, delivered by David Nour. This was probably the best presentation of them all. Despite having no visual aides, you could tell he had rehearsed what he wanted to tell us. Furthermore, his information was instantly understandable without any necessary follow-up research. But then it was back to more business plan learning with some formula number crunching thrown in for good measure. I may have fallen asleep during this time.
Then I went home.
Overall, I’ll say that the seminar was useful, but only if you already know most of the information and just need clarification or pointers. It definitely wasn’t for the uninitiated like myself. Additionally, most of the people on the list, like talent agents and business members, weren’t there, which was really disappointing. And we’re all supposed to have CD packages mailed to us, but the organizers have yet to respond to my email asking for confirmation that they’ve received my address. If I can only have one criticism of this seminar it would be that it could me more organized. It is, however, still worth a look, if for nothing more than to network with other people in the industry.
And by the way, Mr. Bigwig Producer hasn’t really read my script, nor has his assistant called me for a meeting. Happy April Fool’s Day. I thought I’d sneak one joke in before the day was over.
EDIT: One of the speakers contacted me regarding my criticism of the seminar and of this person’s presentation in particular. I have been made aware that the speakers are not compensated for their time and know-how. Moreover, my representation of this person’s presentation was inaccurate. I have edited the review accordingly. I regret the error.