Mike Downey

Jump to content // Jump to navigation

The Film Finance Handbook

A practical guide to film financing for European producers, Volume 1

This isn’t a “How to….” Book that will tell you how and where to get the money to make your movie. Nor is it a shortcut crammer which attempts to summaries everything you need to know about producing films.

This book is something more valuable: a practical manual of suggestions for would-be film producers – whether currently at film school or working in other areas of the industry and are tempted to relinquish security and set sail on the rocky but exhilarating seas of independent film production in Europe.

This Handbook is intended to help focus the thoughts of anyone intending to set out as a producer of feature films in Europe. It is meant to encourage – because there is a shortage of competent producers at a time when the market for well-told stories on film is expanding at an unprecedented rate. But it is also meant to discourage enthusiasts who assume that “where there is a will there is a way”.

In the sphere under consideration, as in so many other professions, the way is arduous and requires not just a fair measure of intelligence and energy but also a set of particular aptitudes and attitudes. What complicates it is that there is no obvious way to get trained other than by doing it.

Sidney Lumet said of directing: “There is no right or wrong way to direct a movie.” In a sense, the same can be applied to producing – all we have are our experiences. It’s a complex and technical and emotional process. It’s art. It’s commerce, it’s heart-breaking and fun.

You wouldn’t entrust your appendix to an untrained practitioner. As a fledgling film producer you have to persuade investors to entrust you with relatively large amounts of money (not usually their own), which means that their good judgement is at stake. The talent also needs to be persuaded: actors, directors and technicians are entrusting their reputation to the producer. This it is essential to be plausible. And one can only be plausible when one knows what and how to achieve the goals set down.

That’s why this handbook is not a step by step guide, although it is arranged along the logical steps that need to be followed: filming a movie has a familiar stage of events producing a movie involves more complex and shifting ground.

Moreover, the place where art and commerce come together is naturally a tricky one. It needs special skills and extra care in avoiding the many pitfalls that can lie in wait when putting film finance together. Today’s producers are required not only to understand the craft of making pictures but also have a solid ground in story, development, finance and crucially marketing and distribution. By bringing together this series of experiences, the needs an questions of fledgling movie producers may be answered and satisfied.

This book is also an encouragement for young producers not to become just packagers of scripts, talent and money, but to assume the ambitions of an earlier generation of producers. This book can be used by professionals or by students seeking orientation. Whatever way it is used the final aim is to help producers all over Europe, and why not, the rest of the world, to understand the complexity of this business and, if possible, to help them produce more, better movies that people want to see.

It was Adam Smith, the great Scottish philosopher and economist who in his Wealth of Nations published in 1776, inadvertently and anachronistically identified one of the leading problems in European film production today:

Consumption is the sole end and purpose of production : and the interest of the producer ought to be attended to only so far as it may be necessary for promoting that of the consumer.

Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations (1776)

If this book has one message it is this: know your audience, understand your market. Without this, any attempt to create a sound basis for film production in Europe is doomed.