How to Work the Film & TV Markets

Posted by Heather in In Production // August 6th, 2015

Book CoverHow to Work the Film & TV Markets takes independent filmmakers, television and digital content creators on a virtual tour of the entertainment industry’s trade shows – essentially the circulatory system of the entire global media landscape.

This book highlights the most significant annual events around the world, details a dossier of all the players and examines all the elements that drive the market value and profitability of entertainment properties. State-of-the-art, in-the-trenches insights are contextualized into immediately implementable practical advice. Demystifying these markets, Heather Hale makes them less intimidating, less confusing and less overwhelming and shows you how to strategize and navigate these events, making them far more accessible, productive – and fun!

Make the most of your investments of finite funds, time and creative energy and optimize your odds for success not only within this mainstream, business-to-business circuit but learn how to select, apply and scale its most prudent, proven principals and most promising disruptive strategies through your own Do-It-Yourself / Direct-to-the-Consuming-Crowd fundraising, distribution and promotional efforts.

This creative guide offers:

* An in-depth survey of the most significant film, TV and digital content trade shows around the world

* An overview of the co-production markets that offer financing and development support to independent producers

* Highlights of the globe’s market-like festivals

* An outline of most significant annual award shows

* A breakdown of who’s who at all these events (and how to best network with them)

* Hot Tips on how to prepare for, execute and follow up on these prime opportunities

* Real World Examples of excellent key art, pitch packages and investor proposals

Soon, this Annual Calendar of Events will be hyperlinked with all the market dates, locations and info relevant to independents and stay updated with helpful samples, instructive case studies and current interviews.

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Working The Film Markets Audio Interview


Protected: Bad Timing: Complete Synopsis (with Spoilers)

Posted by Heather in In Production // July 16th, 2015

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Once Again Executive Summary

Posted by Heather in In Production // July 15th, 2015

OnceAgain_1Sht_Drums Once Again is a gritty, unapologetic look at one man’s journey from a broken childhood, through a hedonistic youth to an alienated adulthood – and back again. It tracks how he deals with tragedy, loss, addiction and love until one fateful day, his accidental, in-his-prime death, gifts him with a surreal second chance – a “do over” – to re-emerge into one key milestone moment – and what he might’ve been able to do differently.

A Marketable High Concept with Identifiable Target Audiences

Our non-linear approach to this high concept promises great cinematic and marketing potential. Love and music are universal, evolving with us as we change – or don’t. The decades of our lives are often poignantly punctuated by iconic songs. Our plan includes cost-effective integration of one to a few clips of classic 80’s and 90’s rock songs. Alternately or additionally, we plan on recording covers or era-establishing sound-alike originals with current popular Christian bands who we will contract with to label the soundtrack and play at our festival premiere party. The score will enhance the film with a reminiscent resonance for a broad audience of rock and music fans while simultaneously attracting the huge and active adult Christian audience; a group that doesn’t limit their viewing habits exclusively to sugar sweet G-rated “preaching to the choir” films but appreciates their values firmly reflected in gritty, real world R-rated dramas, too. Without risking alienating a more secular audience with anything too heavy handed, Once Again will appeal to a diversified audience without compromising any of its core (harsh) truth.

Can Be Shot Anywhere

A low budget film flexible enough to be shot in any number of locations, Once Again’s team will shoot in the state[1] with the most generous tax incentives, in the city with the most cost-effective resources. Written with an eye to limited crew moves, the film will extensively tap in-kind resources that include a recording studio, music clubs, existing music rights and the possibility of a joint venture with a few high profile Christian rock Bands (discussed below). Once Again promises hyper-efficient pre-production, principal photography and post-production and crowd-sourced momentum paired with an excellent festival campaign strategy for profitable distribution at the right budgetary price points.

Low Budget Sweet Spots


Honoring SAG’s Ultra Low Budget union contract, we could aggressively pull this off for $262,500, working three grueling 6-day workweeks to get it all done on an 18-day schedule. We’d, of course, prefer to have much more breathing room for talent and marketing at $1.2M. But, to be realistic and responsive to whatever comes our way, we have focused our planning efforts in the middle of this spectrum at the SAG Modified Low Budget of $625K, assuming a 25-day shoot schedule with weekends off. While “Nobody Knows Anything” and each and every figure is undeniably a “Best Efforts Guess,” albeit off past experience, industry trends and vetted formulas, the investors’ waterfall (below), shows if we can hold to this sweet spot, we can deliver double the ROI at half the budget.


Everybody Has Skin in the Game


While our budget and schedule are both aggressively tight – times, they are a’changin’ – Talent and Above-the-Line crew are increasingly proactive and resourceful in the projects they commit to – and what they contribute. While we’re not asking anyone to work for free, we are asking everyone, regardless of hierarchies, to work for the most reduced rate reasonable given the scope and hope of our project. We will not only ensure this commitment will be capitalized on the most compressed time frame possible, but we will do our utmost to honor their preferred rate, provided they defer it ‘til after our break-even point.

Bottom Line: Cash-Break Zero


This goes for Above the Line crew, to favored nations for department heads, all the way down to firsts and seconds. We will make “finance contingent” feeler queries to top, distribution-worthy SAG talent until we have the funds to make official pay or play offers with a firm start date. Ideally, all the actors will agree to work for favored nations SAG minimum low budget minimum rates with Schedule F[2] flat rate deals for marquis value talent. We will negotiate either shared net profits or guaranteed box office bumps with every player we can, to kick in after the investors have recouped their initial capital and a 20% profit.

Low Risk


We will mitigate our investors’ risk at each stage in every way possible. By diversifying the risk amongst as many of our team members as possible, we’ll unanimously speculate our skills, talent, expertise and resources across the board as our sweat equity contribution, right alongside our investors’ direct cash commitment, ideally, inuring to the financial and professional benefit of all.

It Takes a Village


We have a solid social media plan based on proven techniques that have repeatedly built strong fan bases, attracted distributors and driven impressive box office, TV and OTT receipts. With everyone financially incentivized for an efficient production and their continued promotion of the end product, we hope to be able to generate great Word of Mouth and maintain buoyed momentum.

Social Media Promotion


The soft launch of our social media campaign is imminent. Upon securing sufficient key elements (such as financing, distribution, potentially presales and marquee-value talent), we will likely initiate an Indiegogo campaign as well, as much to build word-of-mouth awareness as production or marketing fundraising donations. We may reserve our investors’ commitments to kick in as separately traunched matching funds equity challenges to provide a shot of adrenaline to the typical but critical second week slump.

Our goal will be to emotionally engage acquaintances of acquaintances to track our creative venture from beginning to end, hopefully, financially committing everywhere we were able to capture their clicks.

To catalyze an entirely different tribe, we may even switch platforms and turn to Kickstarter for our post-production and festival marketing campaign. Provided we aren’t cannibalizing on any windows that third parties could better monetize on a grander scale, we may ultimately engage platforms like IndyOh and Tugg to sell directly to this accumulated and aggregated fan base.

[1] States and respective tax credits under consideration: CT (10-15%), MA (25%), NY (30%).

[2] $65,000 flat rate



Comparable Films


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Once Again Synopsis

Posted by Heather in In Production // July 15th, 2015

OnceAgain_1Sht_DrumsA serene suburban neighborhood in 1984. SAM (13) is caught in the middle of a tense fight between his father, ROBERT (40) and his mother, LAURA (37), who’s questioning her husband’s unilateral purchase of a new yellow corvette. Robert storms out of the house, yelling that she can drive the damn car. To try and make amends, Laura drops Sam off at school in the new Corvette[1] – but as she pulls away, a car crashes into her – and Sam’s Mom dies right in front of his young eyes – abruptly ending his childhood.

At the funeral, Sam flashes back to a recent memory where his mom assured him that God would always love and watch over him. She gives Sam the prized cross off her neck. Having now lost faith in everything, Sam tosses the cross in with her corpse – and turns his back on everything he’s ever known. At 13.

Wracked with guilt and grief, Robert sinks into a deep depression, aggravating his alcoholism and drug addiction. Sam essentially loses both parents simultaneously. Any attempts to bond with Sam’s father meets with rejection. His father allows the insurance company to replace the Corvette – which sits, collecting dust, brand new in the garage – a creepy talisman standing between father and son.

Sam stumbles upon up the drums and has a surprising natural ability. With nothing to play on but an old tire, his talent is obvious. It is the one thing that makes him happy.

Sam’s need for a father figure leads him to befriend a neighbor on his paper route, FRANKIE, who gives Sam outsize tips for delivering the paper. Frankie (a band manager) recognizes Sam’s talent immediately. Sam’s new “friend” seems too good to be true. He is.

Sam’s best friend, MIKE, takes up the guitar, inspiring Sam to buy a drum set which he can now afford, thanks to Frankie’s odd generosity with his newspaper route tips. Frankie pays for Sam’s drum lessons and becomes a sounding board for both boys but introduces them both to drugs along the way. Sam learns to play – for real. He’s amazing.

Discovering an escape from the pain, Sam pours his heart and what’s left of his soul into endless hours of practice. Frankie mentors the boys’ discovery of great bands and songs from the 70s and 80s which help form the basis for their original music. The mold has been set.


10 years later …



Sam and Mike (both now 23) have honed their skills to a fever pitch. The duo, along with their bandmates, PAUL and NOEL have branded themselves as a band called Phantom and have achieved a significant regional following.

Into the picture struts AMY (22). All legs and hair. She’s a gorgeous preschool teacher with a heart of gold. Her love and dedication to her kids and their devotion to her is obvious – but Amy has another side: she’s a party girl. And we’re talkin’ party. Their fates implode when they meet at Frankie’s house during a wild party – their instant combustion culminates in sex on a bathroom counter within minutes of meeting one another.

Sam falls hard for the first person he’s been able to be intimate with (albeit almost exclusively physically – and usually high). But he falls with the impact of a delayed adolescence’s first love. Amy becomes his enabling, omnipresent groupie girlfriend who asks for nothing but sex, drugs and rock and roll – and that’s all Sam has to offer – or wants in exchange. Constantly high and drunk, it’s hard to know what’s lust, what’s a trip and what’s real. But the love seems true – at least the rare glimpses of it that are in focus.

Sam, Mike and the boys pour all their energy and resources into the band, rehearsing in Sam’s rehearsal studio/bedroom above his dad’s garage. They play all over the region – parties, clubs, seedy bars – anywhere that’ll have ‘em. Their world is populated with bikers, skanks and drunks mixed in with the occasional upscale party, giving them a wide variety of situations and audiences to perform to and party with. Their success grows.

With Frankie now their manager, skimming excessively more than his fair share of their gig proceeds, he makes sure his Golden Goose has a steady supply of the weed, X and coke they need to be happy and ignorant of his thievery. The band’s dependence on Frankie is going according to his plan. Sam is a full-blown addict and the rest are along for the ride. Problem is: Frankie shouldn’t have become a heroin addict, too. It’s tough to be an effective Puppeteer when you’re beholden to the same strings.

The boys have fun on stage but the life of rock stars is anything but glamorous. The non-stop tour buses and revolving hotels wear on them. They’re beginning to wonder why they’re not getting ahead, making more money.

They’re frustrated but avoid a confrontation with Frankie because he has booked some larger venues with higher pay, including opening for a well- known band (TBD). They don’t want to rock the boat. Just yet. So, they soldier on. Ignoring the writing on the wall that everyone’s too stoned to read.

“Get on with your life,” his hypocritical dad demands. Distant and estranged, Robert gives Sam a two-month ultimatum: go to college (which he will fund) or get out of the house if he wants to continue to pursue what Robert considers a pointless lifestyle.

After a great show and interest from legendary producer, JOHN DAVIS, interested in signing the band, Sam and Amy celebrate – Rock ‘n’ Roll style. Already drugged out to the max, they do more drugs and have sex with wild abandon. She straddles him and joyfully rides him to an accidental drug overdose that kills her … on his lap … a second tragedy Sam never quite recovers from.

On the verge of success: the band breaks up. Sam is a no show to their life changing meeting to sign with the legendary producer. Mike and the rest of the band are understandably livid. Lifelong friendships end in that instant. With both loves of his young life ripped away from him by his own undoing, Sam is “lucky” to have his dad, now working on sobriety, holding out the college offer. Sam has no other choice. But he never loves anything so passionately again.


20 years later…


SAM (45) is now a successful media executive, numbly pursuing all the trappings of projected success but he and we know: he is empty inside. He has no one. Sure, he has what looks like a career, nice cars and a big house – but he’s not connected to a single person. He’s protected himself by never caring about anyone or anything ever again. He’s miserable.

Sam pulls out an old photo and letter from his top desk drawer. The letter appears crumpled and then smoothed out later. He stares at a photo of himself, Amy and her mother, JILL, in happier times. He reads the note that Jill sent him a year after Amy’s overdose, accusing him of being a coward for never reaching out to apologize. Sam is visibly upset as he reads the letter, even after all these years.

When his assistant, KELLY, suggests he take some time off from work, she’s shocked that – for the first time ever – he does. He’s out the door. She looks at the one plant in his office – dying on his credenza. She grabs it to water. We see that she genuinely cares for Sam, beyond being his assistant – something Sam hasn’t realized or appreciated.

Sam drives to the cemetery to lay a rose on Amy’s grave and gather his strength for the impending confrontation with her mother after all these years of avoidance. The meeting is tense and devastating for Sam. His wounds are ripped back open.

He drives to a nearby park and sits on a bench, oblivious to the beautiful day and carnival-like atmosphere all around him. A MAGICIAN performs for giggling, face-painted CHILDREN. Vendors and music are all eclipsed by his depression and loneliness. He comes to the realization that he can’t continue his life this way without help.

Out of the corner of his eye, Sam sees a homeless CRAZY DUDE[2] roller skating around the park, playing an electric guitar with a pug mini amp strapped to his back. In his colorful spandex pants topped off with a long, mismatched robe and goggles lost in his unkempt kinky hair, partially hiding his filthy face, he looks insane. But Sam realizes: his licks are amazing. He’s blissfully lost in his own world playing Hendrix as he meanders seamlessly through pedestrians.

Sam cracks his first smile in a long time. Suddenly: the Crazy Dude makes intense, unrelenting eye contact with Sam. He lazy figure-eights right to Sam finishing up his solo. He stops rolling. He stops playing. He just stares, making little, low, humming noises. Sam is very uncomfortable. Sam gets up. The Crazy Dude takes off his goggles, revealing wild eyes.

Embarrassed and tongue-tied, Sam walks away but the Crazy Dude follows, screaming obscenities at him. Sam is struck by what the Crazy Dude rants: “Yo. YO! Dis MUTHAFUCKA has GOT the music in him! It’s IN him. I can see it. He bonafide.” Startled that this Crazy Dude has somehow seen through his businessman’s veneer to his inner musician’s soul, Sam’s disoriented, confused.

The Crazy Dude jams on his guitar, circling him. He chants louder. Parents rescue their children, cover their ears and dart accusatory glances in Sam’s direction. The Crazy Dude swirls around Sam, backwards and forwards, making him dizzy. The Crazy Dude sings, chants, zigzags – completely off his rocker. Freaked out, Sam scrambles to get away. He trips off the curb and SMACK! into an oncoming taxi.

Medics scramble to stabilize Sam in the ambulance. He is taken to the hospital where he’s placed in intensive care. During a moment of lucidity, he reconciles his relationship with Kelly who saw the whole thing happen from their office window. After he assures her and she leaves the hospital: Sam flat lines. Nurses rush into the room in an attempt to revive him. Unaware of the drama in Sam’s hospital room, Kelly drives away as Sam dies.

Sam’s soul consciousness leaves his body and rises to the ceiling. From his POV, we see the nurses and now a doctor racing around Sam’s bed below, working frantically to revive him. Sam’s awareness rises above the hospital, high up into the sky. We pass up through clouds then fly back down through warped, colorful clouds at breakneck speed. We fly past trees, buildings, grass. We’ve all had this dream. As we move closer to the ground, we see a speck. As we near, we recognize that it’s a man … laying down in a back yard. Closer still: Its 23 year-old Sam taking in the sun. We dive straight for him – and into him.

Sam jerks up, gasping involuntarily – as if something has just entered his body. He sits up and looks around, disoriented. Tries to shake it off. Flashes of the life 23-year old Sam has yet to live through flood his consciousness. He smiles and winces at the good moments and the bad, trying to make sense of it all. Amy under the sheet. A flash of yellow.

Sam, 23 years-old again, wakes up back in the “present” – but “informed” of his future. He jumps up and rushes to the garage. He peers in through window, overwhelmed with hope. The replacement Corvette looms inside. His mom is still dead. He’s crushed.

Nothing has changed. Yet everything has changed! And he knows it! The question is … what will he do with this second chance at life and love? We join Sam as he tries to fix it a second time around – without anyone thinking he’s crazy. But …

…some things don’t change…

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Once Again Comparable Films

Posted by Heather in In Production // July 15th, 2015

OnceAgain_1Sht_DrumsFilm comps are always a challenge. It’s a tall order to find matches that accurately reflect the genre, milieu, tone, themes, sensibilities and target audiences while at the same time pair with reasonably comparable calibers of cast and budgets – while at the same time, only include those that are “current” in today’s wildly fluctuating economic conditions

Add to that finding a yellow needle in the haystack: finding ultra-low budget films the average investor or potential partner will actually be familiar with. It’s a tough list to compile that can’t be ripped to shreds from every angle.

As such, we have done our highest and best research and offer up four selected comps that we feel are reasonable on all fronts. The casts are comparable: Once was all unknowns. Winter’s Bone starred Jennifer Lawrence before she was Jennifer Lawrence – exactly the kind of break-out role we are hoping will attract the next Jennifer Lawrence! They were all R- or NC-17-rated. The budgets range from $150,000 – $9.4MM with an average budget of $1.6MM (we are half to a third that, depending on where we end up).

Most of these films are less than five years old with the oldest eight. Their box offices delivered between $6.5 – $14MM, with a mean of $11.4MM. Their widest releases ranged from 150 to 567 theaters, their runs: 16 to 45 weeks. While we appreciate there are infinite variables and factors in our constantly moving target, we adjusted the lows and the highs and used an average to develop our working projections.OnceAgain_1Sht_YinYang_WithProducers

If our budget is too lean, we won’t be able to afford any stars so we won’t gain the distribution interest or marketing traction necessary to create profitable momentum. On the other hand, it’s all too easy to throw excessive money at talent (and music, stunts and marketing) betting the store that you’ll hit the magic tipping point but that unnecessary overspend risk also dilutes the promise of profit in the most likely box office ranges.

Thus, we believe the SAG Modified Low Budget as our hard cost (with a $1.2 total budget including deferments and box office bonuses) is indeed the sweet spot budget range which will allow us to invest in at least one marquis value talent, ideally supported by a strong ensemble.

Alternate key art. Focus groups showed this variation skewed heavily female.

Financial Comps


$150K Budget

$9.4 MM U.S. B.O.

D: FOX Searchlight

ISA: Summit

Widest Release: 150

16 weeks in theaters

Ireland, essentially unknown actors

A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.

Academy Award for Best Original Song

21 wins

26 nominations


Budget         = $3.3MM

W.W.B.O.        = $14MM

D: Sony Pictures Classics

ISA: Sierra/Affinity

Widest Release: 567

23 Weeks in Theaters

A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student’s potential.

3 Oscars

74 wins

82 nominations



$2MM Budget

$6.5MM US BO

D: Roadside Attractions

ISA: Fortissimo Films

In theaters: 45 weeks

Widest Release: 141

An unflinching Ozark Mountain girl hacks through dangerous social terrain as she hunts down her drug-dealing father while trying to keep her family intact.

Nominated for 4 Oscars

94 nominations

Another 74 wins

Launched Jennifer Lawrence’s A-list career


$1MM Budget


D: The Weinstein Co.

ISA: Hyde Park Ent.

In Thearers: 16 weeks

Widest Relase: 450

The relationship of a contemporary married couple, charting their evolution over a span of years by cross-cutting between time periods.

7 wins

43 Nominations (incl. 1 Oscar)

Creative Comps


We are not using any of the following comps for our financial projections because their budgets were astronomical compared to ours or are simply too old but a quick survey of the following serve as good creative comps and marketing touch points:

Rock n Roll: Almost Famous has the same accurate, high energy portrayal of an up and coming rock band on the road lifestyle, neither over glamorizing nor demonizing it – just striking a balance, exhibiting a genuine love and respect from the trenches insight.


Non-Linear Storytelling: Jumper, with its teen lead, and Looper share the jumping through time element as does The Time Traveler’s Wife, which also shares the romance of destiny. 500 Days of Summer (2009) at $7.5MM was a sweeter, younger, lighter love story while Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) $20M shares the desperate hope of crawling back through memories to salvage an unraveled love affair. Budgets allowing, our scenes with the Crazy Dude, Sam’s death and portal into his second shot at life may be respectful surreal Charlie Kaufman-esque nods.

While a wildly different genre, the helpless relentless drive of Groundhog Day’s coming back over and over again to move through the stages of grief, love and social connection until you get it right is thematically on point. Our story is similar to Memento (2000 @ $9MM), trying to piece life back together (backwards) or The Usual Suspects, piecing together the past from different perspectives or even the ancient classic Rashomon and its slightly more current variation, Courage Under Fire (1996), moving through different points of view as things aren’t as they might seem. Also, Slumdog Millionaire (2008 @ $15MM), while not time travel, per se, has the gritty re-examination of how a boy so young might know more than he appears thanks to his tragic past.


Addiction and Love: There are infinite examples: the 12-step program in 28 Days, addiction ruining a family in When a Man Loves a Woman. Seven Pounds, a gritty, dark, bittersweet story of a man trying to make amends for his past and achieve redemption before he, himself, goes. While Leaving Las Vegas was a huge hit, Once Again is quite unlike that film in that our Protagonist does not spiral hopelessly into self-destruction – he goes back and fixes it.


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