From Angel Investment/VC

Interview with Former ICM Agent Jim Jermanok.


Ben: How did you Transition from ICM Agent to Filmmaker?

Jim: I think a lot of entertainment business executives are very creative. Many of them are shadow artists and, for some reason or another, did not follow their first occupational choice. I was an actor and stand-up comic before becoming an ICM Agent.  After 9 years there, I yearned to be creative again.  Indeed, I started becoming jealous of my clients and knew it was only a matter of time.  After quitting, I started as a writer and producer and then began to direct after a few more years. I had to start at square one and meet an almost entirely new contact network as my agent contacts were much too big for me!

Ben: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?

Jim: If you find yourself walking into a brick wall, try to avoid hitting your head against it over and over again—and find a way around it.

Ben: You travel across the country to lecture.  Do you think the film scenes vary by region?

Jim: Absolutely.  The biggest distinctions are those locations where the wealthy are encouraged to invest in film and theater. And if there is a decent film or arts tax incentive/rebate. It can make a huge difference in creating and encouraging a professional creative community.  It can also have a very positive impact on attracting tourism to their region.

Ben: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten about the industry?

Jim: To have thick skin and not to take rejection personally.  Usually, it has nothing to do with you.  To avoid toxic people or assholes whatever the sacrifice—it’s not worth it!

Ben: You’ve worked with a lot of notable names, which one had the biggest impact on your professional life?

Jim: I’m currently directing a documentary about the life and art of Oscar-winning actor Martin Landau.  I’m learning a lot about entertainment, life and art from him. I also learned a lot from Alan Arkin, Arthur Miller and John Chancellor.

Ben: Where do you think the industry is headed in the next 5 years?

Jim: I think it is on a collision course with Silicon Valley/tech—which will divide, conquer and acquire Hollywood.  I also believe that the obligation will be on us creatives to become more and more entrepreneurial and create our own audiences and followers.  Hence, the impetus for my Creative Entrepreneurship workshop on May 20th .

Ben: Get your Tickets for that workshop below!


Film Insight Season 2 – Episode 11 – Jim Cummings

This week on Film Insight, we have Two Time SXSW Speaker and avid Film Insight listener Jim Cummings.  We talk about some of the seedier sides of studio advertising, how to make a viral video, and the decline in storytelling.

In talks of the digital revolution, we discuss how while filmmaking has been democratized,  yet rising above the sea of content being created, and how to not eat top ramen for the rest of your days.

Later in the episode, Ben and Jim debate the merits of Marvel’s franchise management and the lack of original content in hollywood.

After the break, Jim talks about some advice on how to make a video go viral, and some tips on using Reddit.  He also shares a story of how one of his producing partners got to work with some of the Members of Pink Floyd based on a viral video they posted to Reddit.

And finally Jim goes over a bit of Film Finance, and alternative methods to get your movie made, and shares a great resource to find .pdfs online.

To find Jim online, follow him on Twitter and Reddit @JimmyCThatsMe

If you listened to Ben in our commercial breaks, and would like to check out his book,


Also, Check out Ben’s Workshop on The American Film Market here.

Save 10 dollars with code FilmInsight!

Film Insight is Hosted and Produced by Ben Yennie (@TheGuerrillaRep) and Randy Hall (@RandyHall)

Edited by Alex Nigro

Film Insight Season 2 Episode 6 – Claudia Christian and Adam Schoemer

In This week’s Episode Ben and Randy interview Claudia Christian and Adam Schomer who produced and Directed the Documentary “One Little Pill.”  Claudia is best known for her role as Commander Susan Ivanova on TV’s Babylon 5.  The documentary is follows the lives of several people who have suffered from alcoholism, and have been helped by a controversial new treatment called The Sinclair Method.

You can find out more about the Sinclair Method through The interview is more about the challenges of producing a documentary, and the celebrity effect on crowdfunding, and how even name talent isn’t aways enough to get wide-scale traditional distribution for your film.

Adam and Claudia talk about the issues of maintaining the confidentiality of documentary subjects, and how sometimes you need to shift focus and adapt in the middle of producing your documentary.  The crew also touch on the touchy subject of conflicts of interest for documentary subjects and their families.

Next in the interview we talk about their challenges approaching television stations and how “One Little Pill” got their first wide-scale television distribution deal in Finland, and the challenges the filmmakers are facing in getting US distribution for the film to help spread the message of the Sinclair Method’s efficacy in treating Alcoholism.  Adam talks a bit about how specialized TV stations can be in selecting which time slots for distribution of social issue content.

Later in the episode, Ben and Randy talk to Adam and Claudia about the difficulties of wide scale self distribution through platforms like VHX and Vimeo and the effects of social impact of viral growth.

The 12 Slides you Need in your IndieFilm Investment Deck

12 slides you need in your indiefilm pitch deck

Pitching to independent investors is a much different formula than we’re generally taught in Film Schools. The formula we’re taught in Film School is generally built around a studio pitch. A studio does a lot more than give money to a project. They have huge marketing, PR, legal, and distribution teams that they use to monetize any films they finance. As such it’s not the filmmakers job to pitch their projects on anything except story when working within that system.

Filmmakers must take a different approach when talking to independent film investors. Generally, angel investors are only looking to finance projects, they don’t have resources to help market and distribute the film. While Film is a highly speculative and inherently risky investment, and most film investors don’t invest in film solely for the ROI, they need to know you have a path to get their money back to them.

There’s a certain formula for creating a successful slideshow for investors. These presentations (Generally referred to as “Decks” in Silicon Valley) have been honed to tell the story of your company. Investors are used to seeing this format when deciding whether or not to invest in your project. It’s pretty easy to find samples of this formula for regular companies on SlideShare, but since the film industry is so specialized there must be some modifications made to the formula in order to make a good Deck to pitch your film to an investor. Below is a breakdown of what should go into a Filmmaking deck.

SLIDE 0 – Project Name/Artwork.

In a standard company pitch, the first thing that appears is the name of the company and the logo. For a film or media project, instead use the name of the project, the name of your production company, and the onesheet for your project.

SLIDE 1 – Project Overview

Generally, this would be where an entrepreneur would put an overview of his or her company, what it does, and what it’s mission is. For a film or media project, put the logline of your project, as well as the genre and a basic overview of the story.

SLIDE 2 – Why Does this Project Need to be Made?

In a standard company pitch, slide 2 and 3 would be the problem that the company seeks to solve, and the solution it offers. Since Films are generally made more as entertainment, they don’t always have a problem that they’re fixing. So instead, focus on why this project should be made.

Some approaches you could take on this would be that there’s not enough family friendly media being made, Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in media, young LGBT kids need a role model, or that whatever niche you’re targeting doesn’t have enough entertainment. Figure out WHY your story needs to be told, and it can’t just be that you’re an artist and it’s in your soul.

SLIDE 3 – Why Your Project is the One to tell That Story.

In the standard company deck, this would generally be the solution that your company offers. For film, focus on why you and your team are the ones to tell the story you established in slides 1 and 2. Don’t go too deep into the team, you’ll cover that later.

SLIDE 4 – Opportunity

This slide is where an entrepreneur or filmmaker focusus on the size of the market and how they plan to access it. Focus on any niche communities you can target, and the genre your film is in generally performs internationally.

SLIDE 5 – Unique Competitive Advantage

Your Unique competitive advantage will remain mostly the same as it would in a pitch for any sort of company. You need to emphasize why your film should be the one they invest in. Do you have a large following in the niche audiences you’re targeting? Do you have some unique insight into the subject matter that no one has heard before? Is there something unique about your background that makes you the ideal person to tell this story.

Focus on why your film or media project will stand apart from the competitors and has the best chance to make a profit. In short, How will you stand out from the pack when others don’t?

SLIDE 6 – Marketing Strategy

Long time silicon valley strategist Sheridan Tatsuno likens market research to setting up a target, and marketing to shooting the arrow at it. You’ve set up the target in slides 4 and 5, now it’s time to show how you’re going to shoot the arrow and make a bullseye. How will you utilize social media? Which platforms will you use? Are you already a part of communities of your target market?

SLIDE 7 – Distribution Strategy

Generally, this would be your Go-To Market strategy. In film, this essentially means your distribution strategy. What rights will you be handling yourself, and what rights will you be handing to a distributor? What platforms will you use? How will you handle US Sales? Are you planning on attaching an international sales agent? How will you go about doing that if you haven’t already?

SLIDE 8 – Competitive Analysis

Show other films in a similar genre that have done well. Remember, this isn’t your business plan, so only show about 3 if you’re showing individual projects, not the 20 you should research. If you’ve already done your full competitive analysis, show one or two profitable representative samples and then the aggregate on all of the 10-20 films you researched. Charts and tables are good here.

You only want to use content from the last 3-5 years. Content older than that doesn’t realistically represent the current marketplace. This is something that even professionals who estimate ROIs don’t always follow. It’s always a red flag for investors when your examples are too old,

SLIDE 9 – Financials

Generally, you’ll need a few of the major line items from your topsheet budget. A good bet would be your above the line, pre-production, principle photography, post production, and marketing and distribution (or P&A) costs. Due to union caps, it can often be beneficial to raise your marketing and distribution budget at a later date. Projected ROI will also go on this slide.

SLIDE 10 – Current Status

This should be fairly self explanatory, but here are a few questions to ask yourself. What have you accomplished so far? Do you have any talent attached? Are you talking with Sales Agents? Where is the script in development? Are there any notable crew on board?

SLIDE 11 – Team

Focus on why you and your team are uniquely qualified to not only bring this film to completion, but deliver a quality product that can give an excellent ROI to all involved. Has your leadership team won awards at festivals? Have projects they’ve been on done impressive things?

SLIDE 12 – Summary/Thank You

For the final slide, put the three most important and/or marketable things about your project into a single slide. Investors get approached with a lot of opportunities and their brains can get cluttered. If an investor walks away knowing only these three things about your project, what do you want them to be?

Most importantly, thank them for their time and consideration, and make sure there’s an easy to find way to contact you ON YOUR DECK. Ideally on the first and last page. We’ll often send out decks when we send out the executive summary, so make yourself easy to contact if they’re interested.

On that note, Thank you for reading. If you’re in the Bay Area and would like to learn more about pitching your film project, please come to Producer Foundry’s Pitch Workshop, on Wednesday, March 18th at Samy’s Camera on 9th and Bryant in San Francisco. Click here to register.

If you like my writing, Follow me on Twitter, or buy my book The Guerrilla Rep: American Film Market Distribution Success on No Budget on Amazon!

To Get more content like this, please subscribe to the Producer Foundry Mailing List, Follow Us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, or Join our LinkedIn Group!

Film Insight Season 2 Episode 2: Making Waves with your Webseries 2 – Financing

sanfranlandFilm Insight is back with a 4 part Web Series Panel. The audio is recorded from an event that took place in August as a partnership between the Bay Area Women in Film and Media and Producer Foundry.

The second installment focuses on Financing, and different methods filmmakers use to get their webseries funded.  Subscribe on iTunes to get all four parts!

Panelists include:

Maya Zuckerman
Co-Founder of TransmediaSF

For Bios please check out the original event on eventbrite

Come back in two weeks for the second part of the series, and in the meantime, check out the Producer Foundry Page and Group on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Join Our Mailing List!

Why Film Needs Venture Capital

There’s an old joke that goes something like this.  Three artists move to Los Angeles, a Fine Artist, a poet, and a Filmmaker.  The first day they’re in town, they check out the Mann’s Chinese Theater.  When they get there, a wave of inspiration overtakes them.

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One Simple Tool to Reopen Conversations with Investors

downloadThis week I’ll be offering a piece of useful advice for all the producers out there.  I should start this by saying that I am NOT a financial planner. I am IN NO WAY qualified to evaluate a security.  I am also not qualified to give professional advise as to what stocks to buy, how to manage a portfolio, or anything even remotely related to that information.

In my time at the Institute for International Film Finance and Global Film Ventures, I’ve heard many people speak on various tricks to get Films Financed.  One of the single most valuable tools in my arsenal is one that I will share with you now. I will say this was not developed by me, but rather by a speaker for one of my events a while back.  I will start by saying that in order to be a producer, you need to understand your competition.  Not just in terms of other movies and entertainment that are up against yours in the marketplace, but also how your investment stacks up against other potential investments that High Net Worth Individuals may be considering. This requires that a savvy producer understand the stock market, as it is the most common place where investors keep their money.

Read the Rest of the post on

Understanding Money

understanding moneySince my background is at the Institute for International Film Finance, and I put in a year at Global Film Ventures, I get a lot of filmmakers contacting me asking me to help them fund their films.  Some of them are good pitchs, most are not.  Getting investment for you film is incredibly difficult, if not nearly impossible.  There are many reasons for this, but one that is not often talked about is the fact that many filmmakers have a mindset that money shouldn’t come with strings, and that all they should need to worry about is making the film.

There’s this attitude filmmakers have that someone should just give them a check then go away so they can make the film.  I’ve had many filmmakers say that flat out to me, and the ignorance of it is incredibly disturbing. There’s a lot more to investment than just writing checks.


Angel investors didn’t get their money by giving it to just anybody.  Investors generally do quite a lot of legwork to research those who they invest in, and they’ll never invest in someone they don’t trust.  This attitude of “just give me the money and let me be” is a huge red flag, and makes an investor far less likely to trust you.  If they don’t trust you, they won’t invest in you.

Once you take money from someone, you have a responsibility to them to send periodic updates, and let them know how everything is progressing.  You need to be available to take their calls at most any reasonable time, and always return their correspondence within at most two business days.  All money has strings, and you can’t expect an investor to just write you a check then never check in on you.

Another attitude problem a lot of filmmakers have is that they feel they don’t need to understand business.  Many feel just need to make the best film possible and money will come to them.  While there’s a kernel of truth in that, relying solely on making the best film possible is a great way to end up broke with a film that never goes anywhere.  The best product without a marketing team will never make money.  Filmmakers do need to make a great film, but they also need to understand at least the basics of how to promote a movie and how it will see revenue.

Distributing a film, promoting a film, and selling a film are all incredibly different skill sets that require decades to master.  Filmmakers can’t be expected to be experts on every job involved in making a movie.  They do, however, need to understand what they don’t know and compensate for that by getting people on their team that do understand how to do those jobs.

In essence this is the difference between a producer and a production manager, or the difference between an executive producer and a line producer.  Line producers and production managers are great at understanding how to manage a crew and get a film in the can.  Producers need to have a good understanding of business, negotiation, deal making, finance, and distribution.  Executives do the latter almost to the exclusion of everything else.  Every film needs at least one of each of these people, and really they shouldn’t be the same person filling multiple roles.

Every film needs people who understand money, how to raise it, how to make it back, and creative ways to save it.  Filmmakers of all kinds can be excellent at the last part of that.  Innovative bootstrapping is a skill perfected by many guerilla filmmakers.  That said, you still need money, and people who understand how to make a film see revenue on your team.

Even if you find an intermediary who can help you get the money from angels, you’re still going to have to have regular phone calls and meetings with that intermediary.  In fact, that intermediary is probably going to have more contact with you than an investor would because they understand both investment and filmmaking.  You need people like this on your team, and you need to understand that you’re creating more than just a film.  Every film is in essence a business, and in order to run a successful business you need skilled business people just as much as skilled artists and visionary directors.

Whenever you seek investment, it is into your business.  You need to understand that the business is necessary.  You also need to have an appreciation and at least a basic understanding of what it takes to make money in business.  This should not be your sole consideration, but it does need to be part of your plan when creating a film.  If you do not include this in your plan, you’ll never actually see revenue from your projects.

So readers, if you’ve ever thought that all you need is someone to write you a check; remove that notion from your head.  In order to get money, you need to understand money.  Only if you understand how money works, and have a good business plan will you be able to successfully get investment and make a profitable film.