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By Hammad Zaidi | July 12, 2011

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing Fourth of July and that Mother Nature is blessing your summer with warm days and clear nights. But, wait! Before you settle into your comfortable lawn chair and tell yourself it’s too late in the day to make something happen for your project, just remember…

There are only 13 ½ usable “career weeks” left in 2011!

While there are technically 24 ½ weeks left in 2011, this article will explain why it behooves you to make a move in your career before you read the end of this sentence. It’s time to find out if your potential investor is actually going to sign the check he or she has been dangling in front of your nose since last fall, or if that actor you’re wooing is going to “officially attach” themselves to your film. It’s also high time to finish your amazing screenplay, so you can go after things like investors and actors. Thus, here are ways to take actions now, before your project is known as a 2011 proposal in a 2012 world.

So let’s first discuss why there are 11 “dead weeks” from now until the end of the year, and then we’ll get into how to get some answers on your project in a relatively swift manner.

The August Holidays
Several key players in Europe take “holiday” for most, or all of August and even into September, triggering most key film industry executives in the USA to also take vacation in August. Therefore, even though the film industry doesn’t shut down in August, it certainly slows itself to a crawl. What this means to you is that if you don’t make a move to help your project today, August will creep up on you; at which time you’re screwed until after Labor Day in September.

* The August Holidays house the first four “dead weeks.”

The Thanksgiving Blues
Thanksgiving week is when all “pending” deals, like turkeys, die a sorry death. In fact, the last feasible time to close a deal occurs on Monday or Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. After then, the entire deal-making portion of the film industry goes into hibernation until after the new-year. Thus, “act now” is not just my homage to bad infomercials; it’s what you need to do!

* This year, The Thanksgiving Blues is responsible for seven “dead weeks.”

The New Year Holdback
While the New Year rings in new opportunities to get companies interested in your project, don’t think you can start firing calls and e-mails off to studios, distributors, agents and production companies right after the New Year, because it usually takes them one to two weeks to be ready to take on new pitches. Regarding the upcoming year, not much new is getting done on Monday, January 2, 2012. While some executives and companies may be ready to hit the ground running by Monday, January 9th, most entertainment entities won’t be ready to charge into new projects until Monday, January 16, 2012.

Considering the fact that most pending projects die the week of Thanksgiving, having one without either a deal, an answer from an investor or a significant talent related attachment in place before mid-November, will kill your film’s chances of moving forward until mid-January.

Now lets get into what you get some answers! But first:

Filmmaker Warning: While the tactics mentioned below will induce responses from those you are waiting to hear from, the responses you receive may not be the ones you wanted to hear.  However, I firmly believe getting answers, even negative ones, are better than holding on to false hope for months on end.

Getting Answers From Investors
The thing to understand about first-time film investors (which is usually the case with independent films) is that they are often times more interested in being seen as a potential investor, rather than actually becoming an investor. Thus, if a potential investor has been on the fence about investing, now would be the time to contact them and see where they are with funding your investment. A smart play is to tell them you need to “secure the financing as soon as possible in order to move the project forward at a pace that will most benefit the investors.” Since it’s too late in the year to use the “Sundance deadline” excuse, you have to be a bit creative as to how you position the urgency element into the situation. Pushing too hard will turn them off, and pushing too little will allow them to keep you lingering for countless months.

One factor that may help you move negotiations along is the length of time your actors are committed to your project for. No actor will stay attached to a project forever, unless:

a) They’ve been paid well to do so, b) it’s a huge studio driven, tent pole franchise film, or c) it’s their own passion project. So, using an actor’s availability schedule is a great way to get some answers from investors. Just tell the investor that if your project doesn’t get funded quickly, you’ll lose your lead actor. Of course, you can only make this move if you actually have an actor with a time restriction.

The other move you can make is to ask the investor if there are any hurdles that need to be cleared, if any, before they invest. The idea here is to find out exactly why they are hesitating.

Lastly, you should inquire as to when the investor can give you a final answer about investing. Have them give you a date and then do not call them until then. If the date they give you is one to two weeks away, your project may still be alive in their eyes. However, if their time frame is three weeks or longer away without having a great reason why they have to wait until then, they are probably not going to invest.

The key is to spend time on those investors who seem the most credible and interested in your film.

Getting An Answer From Actors
Actors can take several months to answer a producer about a project. If you have a project out to an actor right now, contact their representation and ask when they can give you a final answer. The play here is to decide if the actor is worth waiting for. Rather than assuming the actor’s value yourself, contact a distributor and or international distribution/sales agent company, and ask them how much actual value the actor in question actually has. If they are worth waiting for, wait. If not, contact their representation and ask them to give you an answer in a reasonable amount of time (usually one week or less, unless the actor is currently in production on another project, or otherwise away from home).

Finish That Damn Screenplay!
It’s July 12th, and nothing will happen from August until after Labor Day, so write, write, and write more until your gem bounces off the page!

Okay everyone, that’s what I have for you today. Thank you again for lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them again next Tuesday!

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  1. Brian VanGeem says:

    Highly informative advice. This is film production knowledge they hardly teach in school, likely obtained from years of experience. Good to know the importantance of considering the time frame investors and talent in this industry operate on. I feel as if the many blockades and brick walls my company and I run into with studios and investors is directly linked to being young and freshly introduced into this business, a result of not having the below the surface information how everyone in the film business really works. Tactics we use while thinking it is a great way to place our foot in the door, may possibly turn into us just shooting ourselves in the foot. Regardless, the main objective is to produce professional, industry standard projects, learn from your mistakes, and work, work, work, until you see the fruits of your labor up on the bigscreen. Very inspirational. Thank you!


    Brian VanGeem
    Conquest Productions

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