Los Angeles Film Festival - Financing Conference

Held at the distinctive Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, the Financing Conference started at ten in the morning and wrapped up after seven in the evening and provided a full schedule of events throughout the day. The well-attended Conference presented panels discussing basic film financing, international film financing, financing opportunities, the case study for the film Garden State, the new federal tax incentives, the selling of your film, and a chance to meet the buyers and distributors. The day was so packed with information that the event had to present some of the panels at the same time, and at opposite ends of the facility, which was very unfortunate; however, each presentation was recorded so that people will be able to access the information at the main office of the film festival anytime in the future.

Lewis Horwitz

The Basic Film Financing presentation was handled by consultant Lewis Horwitz. Mr. Horwitz provided a wealth of information for the inquisitive crowd. The bottom line is that it is not easy getting a film financed but as long as one stays persistent then the path will provide the filmmaker with various options. There is the domestic production-distribution deal, which will provide a portion of the budget, equity financing, pure hard money invested by a corporation or a friend, foreign presales, the selling of rights on a territory-by territory basis, and gap financing, which comes into play when most of the capital has been raised but it will be expensive. All along the way the filmmaker will beg, borrow, and steal. Mr. Horwitz offered much insight as a result of his thirty-five years experience with entertainment and entertainment related projects. He is regarded as the father of independent film financing and is now consulting for a number of independent production companies, banks, and a German media fund.

Michael C. Donaldson

Lawyer Michael Donaldson moderated the panel for International Film Financing, which consisted of producer Sean Furst, attorney Ed Labowitz, Alexander, Nau, Lawrence, Frumes & Labowitz, LLP, Jared Underwood, Senior VP and Manager of Comerica Entertainment Group, and Pierre Weisbein, founding partner of Green Room Pictures. These experts in international film financing discussed the future of independent film financing within the context of current international and domestic market trends. The panel explored international co-productions, domestic/international incentives, which Canada figured out over twenty years ago according to Mr. Labowitz, and pre-sales. Mr. Furst maintained that one should get it on paper or it will only come back to burn you in the end. The attachment letter, the element letter, and so on. If it is not written down, then it does not exist. Mr. Labowitz summed it up with the statement, 'believe in yourself and be persistent'.

The panel of Richard Klubeck, UTA agent and co-head of the independent film and financing and film packaging department, producer Gary Gilbert, and producer Dan Halsted presented their Case Study: Garden State. In this situation, the good creative producer is worth his weight in gold. Along with the perseverance it took to find the financing for the film the independent filmmaker's biggest asset was the creative producer who pulled and organized resources, saving the production thousands of dollars, and who kept the project on track through the long months of bringing the project to completion. The panel explained how they raised the capital and how the production was managed in order to make the film within the limited budget.

Producer Shelby Stone moderated Financing and Funding Opportunities with Tommaso Fiacchino (VP of development and acquisitions for Cherry Road Films), Erika Green (Director of Acquisitions for Oxygen Media), Richard Saiz (programming manager for ITVS), Hal Sadoff (Head of International and Independent Film), and Robin Schorr (President of Production for Sobini Films). These representatives from cable, independent production companies, public funding organizations, and one of the world's largest talent and literary agencies explained their financing structures, how to approach their companies, what products they are looking to produce, and shared tips for concise and effective ways to present narrative and documentary projects for cable, television, and theatrical distribution. The pleasant panel went into their own clear procedures that they deal with in regards to the material they undertake. Each have a specific style and they know the market they are going after within the business.

New Federal Tax Incentives kicked off the afternoon session. Moderator Jean Prewitt (President and Chief Executive Officer of the Independent Film & Television Alliance) led the panel of Kathy Garmezy (Assistant Executive Director/Government and International Affairs for the Directors Guild), entertainment attorney/producer Hal Kessler , and Jeff Tolin (senior tax partner at Ernst & Young). In October of 2004, the Federal Government passed new tax legislation that benefits film productions under 15 million dollars. As this legislation begins to be applied and evolves, the panelists explained the new incentives, what the initiative represents, its impact on local productions, and how it is currently being applied and used in combination with other state domestic incentives. Louisiana offers one of most ambitious production incentive programs in the country, and the economic impact has been substantial. More and more states are offering incentives along with the federal government.

Peter Broderick, President of Paradigm Consulting, handled the Selling Your Film/Maximizing Distribution event. Mr. Broderick discussed the latest distribution techniques - from innovative theatrical service deals to cutting edge video strategies, the mixing of retail and direct sales online. He emphasized how important it is to reach target audiences effectively, and whether to make an overall distribution deal or split up the rights to your film. The approachable and charming Mr. Broderick is focusing on the coming revolution in independent distribution, which is meant to help filmmakers reach target markets effectively and build core personal audiences. He stated that filmmakers should try and retain the rights to sell off their own DVDs.

Meet The Buyers and Distributors was the final panel, moderated by Peter Belsito, Film Finders partner and VP as well as Head of Sales and Marketing. The speakers were Howard Cohen (who, with Eric d'Arbeloff, started a new theatrical distribution, Roadside Attractions, which acquires North American rights to finished films), Joe Pichirallo (Executive VP of Production for Focus Features), Tony Safford (head of the Twentieth Century Fox Acquisitions Department), and Susan Wrubel, who oversees acquisitions of completed features worldwide for Paramount Classics. The representatives from these different companies explained the scope of their companies, the types of projects they acquire, and the different stages at which they get involved. Each and everyone of the panelists stated that they will only see finished projects through the necessary route of an agent. Mr. Belsito offered to be a connecting force between the two sides..

The Los Angeles Film Festival event was sponsored by Surpin, Mayersohn & Edelstone, LLP, a law firm offering a wide range of services in the entertainment industry, Comerica Bank, whose client base includes the full spectrum of participants in the entertainment industry, HSBC Private Bank, a trusted financial advisor to wealthy individuals and families for nearly 150 years, Pacific Design Center, the architecturally distinctive PDC is the leading source for regional fine, traditional and contemporary contract and residential furniture and all other interior decorating items, and DeWitt Stern Group, one of the nation's leading insurance brokerages dedicated to film and entertainment industries. The day came to an end with an reception that allowed people to discuss the day's events in further detail and start planning their goals for the future.

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