In this blog post I’m going to to do case study of how I managed to pitch for film finance at the IDC a few months back. I am going be sharing my process, it might not be perfect, but I hope it helps someone out there. You can apply this knowledge when you are pitching to the IDC or any other investors.
What is the IDC
Okay here goes, so the IDC in South Africa is a Government funding institution that offers film finance to South African film-makers. This is not grant funding, this is actually a loan that you can apply for and you have to pay back, after a certain amount of time. When I heard of this I got excited and decided to go pitch to the IDC.
What do they offer filmmakers
They offer film loans for fiction and doccie projects, from films to series. It’s very simple but not easy. They have spots for film-makers to come to pitch to them every two weeks, so all you need to do, is know when the pitching will be, then email them and book a spot to pitch.
How can you book with them
All you have to do is send an email and book with them you will have 10 minutes to pitch to them and you have to present to them your project in 10 minutes and you have to presents your:
- Script/log line/synopsis
- Production schedule- from your pre-production, production and post-production schedule
- A film distribution plan
- Film marketing plan
- Film finance plan
- film recoupment plan
- Team bios and roles.
- A skill transfer plan
- An SPV for the film project(Special purpose vehicle company)
- And bank account for SPV
It sounds so simple right? Hmm not so easy, before you pitch to them you need to prepare a lot of stuff.
If you want to watch a video were i go through my pitch deck, check out the video below
Things you need to prepare before the pitch.
So in my case I had a film project which was a one location revenge thriller. So before I could pitch I had a lot of things to prepare.
I knew my film was a one location film , with 6 actors and I planned to shoot with a minimal crew over 12 days. So I knew that before my pitch, I had a lot of stuff to prep for, I had to do a script breakdown, a call sheet, a shooting schedule and a film budget, a film finance plan and all the listed documents they would need.
Script break down
The first thing I would need before doing anything was script breakdown, in order to do budgets and to make a list of everything I need for the film project. I need to do a script break down.
What is a script break down
A script break down is a production document, in-fact a bunch of production documents, that break down everything that will be need in a film script, from cast, props, cast, cars, locations and, special effects.
Usually when a script is finished, it will be broken down scene by scene. And each scene will have a script breakdown in terms of which characters and cast members are need for each scene, and props and more, this helps the producers and crew member plan and prep to get all the things needed in order to shoot the film scene successfully, its all planning.
So this is what I did. I broke down my script , scene by scene, character by character and accounted for each an every prop in the script , special effect and special requirement I would need.
If you want to do a script break down you need to print your film script then get different coloured markers, then you will begin making marks on your script. And highlighting, characters, costumes, props, set dressing, sounds, stunts, VFX, music and extra in each and every scene
Once you are done marking your script you will make a script break down sheet for each and every scene as per the image below
The next thing I did, is create a shooting schedule.
What is a shooting schedule?
A shooting schedule is a film document that breaks down, each and every shoot day for your film. A shooting schedule informs what does you will be shooting, which scenes you will be shooting, the cast you will be shooting with and the locations you will be shooting at. For instance if you have an actor who needs to get to set at 2pm, so they can start shooting a scene at 4pm. Its good to know this and plan this and inform them, so that you don’t force them to arrive on set at 8am, just only to shoot at 4pm, that would be unfair on them. A shooting schedule is something you would have to workout with the producers, cinematographer and 1st AD, you guys will collaborate and pick the best times and days to shoot certain scenes.
If you are soloprenuer-producer, you gonna have to do this for yourself, its actually not difficult
After doing a shooting schedule its time do to call sheet.
What is a call sheet?
A call sheet is a production document which contains all the information a crew needs to know about a particular shoot day. It has information about where the location is, what time it will start, what crew is needed, what cast members are needed
and where and how. If that particular shoot day will need special equipment or props or any extra things. Usually 1st
AD/Producer compile one. If you are solo-prenuer producer you might have to put that together, just as I did.
Preparing a film budget.
Once I was done with my script breakdowns, shooting schedules n call sheets, I began to create my film budget.
So I tallied all the props that would be needed and got quote for hiring and buying each an every prop for the film.
Wardrobe and accessories
I broke down how many sets of wardrobe each actor would need for the film and got quotes for buying brand new clothes and added them to my film budget
film crew costs
I also broke down how many crew members I would need for the entire film, and i got film crew rates from sites like call crew and calculated the entire film crew costs and added them to my budget
- so if a make up artists’ rate is R3000 per day and I need them for 12 days
- Then my budget for market up artist would be 3000x 12 = R36000
How does it cost to hire actors in South Africa
I was lucky some of my friends would be actors in the film, so I asked them for their daily rates and added them to the budget. But if you do not have any actor friends you can look for acting rates on the South African actors guild website
FIlm location costs
How much do film locations cost in south Africa
When you talk to film location agencies, most of the time, they will ask you
- When do you want shoot?
- For how long?
- how many days?
- And the times
- how many crew members etc.
They also want to know if you are shooting a commercial or a film. I’ve tried telling them I’m just an indie filmmaker but haven’t had any luck to get reduced rates, Some of the location managers charge you the same amount as they would charge a big production company for producing a commercial
And example of South african film location agencies
- Amazing spaces
- Location masters
film insurance quotes in South Africa
Next I had to get a quote for film production insurance, this was insurance to make sure, the project is covered just in case, film
gear breaks on set, someone dies or gets hurt on the film set.
This was a lot of paper work, so what I did is contacted a few film insurance companies and they sent me a form to fill in order for them to give me a quotes.
The form has a lot of questions like.
- Where will the gear will be stored
- When are you shooting
- When you not shooting
- What cars will be used to transport for gear
- The make of the car
- Who will be driving
- How actors and crew will going from home to the production.
- What cars are they travelling in
- They want to know about most of the cars that will be used for the
film competition guarantee insurance
What is completion guarantee insurance
Usually when investors fund your film, they want you to have a film guarantee insurance. This is insurance to make sure, if you don’t complete the film, they will still be able to get their money back.
So I got a quote for film guarantee insurance also, they also sent me a long form just like the film insurance form.
South African Post production costs
Post production is the act of putting the film of shooting, from video editing, colour grading, design, animation, visual effects, sound editing, sound mixing and mastering.
For my project, I knew I was gonna be one of the video editors, I just calculated how much I would pay myself or someone if they had to edit the film and how long would that take. From the editing day rates/ machine rental. This helped me come up with the budget for editing.
If you have no idea what video editing rates, you can check out the editing rates at the South African editors guild, they have different rates from, junior or senior video editors.
A film usually needs off-line editing and online editing.
Off-line editing costs
Off-line editing is the act of cutting the film, syncing the sound and making the first picture lock of the film
Online editing costs
Online editing is just a fancy word for colour grading, once an edit is locked(finished) it has to be handed over to an online
editor/colourist, who will proceed to grade the film shot by shot, from colour balancing each shot, adjusting contrasts, saturation and giving the film a unique look
There is a number of post production facilities that do colour grading in Johannesburg and cape town, If you want to get a quote it is very easy to contact them and ask them for rates and quotes
I knew I would need a title sequence for the film, so calculated how many days a designer would take to design titles for the opening sequence and how much they would charge per day.
If their rate was R3000 and they were gonna take 3 days, I made my calculation, as 3000X 3= R9000
I’ve watched a few south African films and I have noticed some of them don’t even put much effort intro creating great title sequences for their films, maybe its a budget thing, but it sucks to watch a film when you can clearly see they didn’t put much effort into the title sequence, its just a missed opportunity
I knew I would also need an animator to animate the designed titles, so I search for animation rates, and did a similar calculation, just like I did for the designer. If you don’t know how much animators charge for work, you can post on one the south African advertising and film making groups to get quotes, if you are not sure.
Some examples of great film title sequences below.
South African post sound, mixing and master costs
I knew after the film was done with off-line and online editing I would need to send the files to a sound post facility which would do sound mixing n mastering for film. I knew I would need two types of sound mixes, a stereo mix of the film and a 5.1 surround mix for the film-makers
I got a quote from various south African post sound facilities for
- Sound editing
- dialogue editing
- ADR doing
- sound effects, ambience and foleys
- A stereo mix
- A 5.1 surround sound mix
What is 5.1 surround mix.
If you have ever been to the a cinema and watched a movie and while you were watching that movie, you heard, car crashes and explosions from behind you and all around you that are the effects of a surround sound mix, it is a sound mix in which, is designed and mixed to feel like what’s happening on the screen is all around you.
Just if you are curious, the average costs of doing all this sound mixing and mastering is around R200k for a single film
cost of creating film Delivery files
I knew also that I would have to take into account the cost of creating film delivery files. So I asked a few freelancers and post facilities the cost of a creating a DCP delivery file for cinema.
What is DCP(Digital Cinema Package)
A DCP is a unique file format in which films are delivered to certain film festivals and cinemas. A DCP is a complex file that contains, video files, sound files and mix files in one file, which enable cinemas to be able to play and project a film on a film projector
When I was done with my budget it looks like the image below
Once my film budget was complete I began to put together a film finance plan. A finance plan is basically an over view document which showcases how much money you need for a film project and basically how you are going to raise money and from which organizations.
Since the IDC only finances 49% of your film budget, I put together a film finance plan.
I planned to ask IDC for a certain Percentage
I also calculated how much I would be personally putting into the production, from my script fee, directing, producing fee and video editing fee, and the cost of using my video editing machine. I added these costs to the finance plan with the plan of having these fees deferred, So I would not be paid for these fees. This would be my contribution into the project.
I also planned on getting more money from the DTI, as they usually help filmmakers with up to 35% of their film budgets. I planned on getting 28% percent of my budget from the DTI and 49% from the IDC and 22% would be my costs.
Once lessons I learnt though is that I should have went to the DTI before going to the IDC first.
Finance recoupment planning
A film recoupment plan is a document which highlights how you plan on making the money back for the film. I knew I had the plan to sell the film to cinemas so I made projections in terms of how much I thought the movie would make a cinemas.
For this I compiled a data report of similar films in the south African box office.
Broadcast & VOD rights
I also planned on selling the broadcast rights for the film to various TV stations and VOD platforms
I also planned on selling ancillary rights which is to sell the film to airlines and travel agencies that need film content
I also planned on organizing an academic tour of the film and playing the film at different colleagues and school with hopes to charge the school for playing my film and for speaking the schools.
The Day of the Pitch
So the final day of the pitch arrives, I’m suited, bearded down, fresh fade and I’m ready to pitch my heart out. I have booked a pitching slot.
So I arrive at the IDC, I walk into the board room when its time. As soon as I walk into the board room they tell me hey thanks for coming in, just before you start, just know
We don’t care about the story, or the creative, we are numbers people, we just wanna know how you are gonna make the money back, how much you need and how you are gonna pay us back
So I thrown off a bit, but I got on I pitch, film story, budget, marketing plan, finance plan and film recoupment, distribution plan and everything
Big mistake & lessons learnt
So after my pitch they tell me, we cannot go further and they will not be awarding the funding to me. They tell me, they only productions from a minimum of 2 million, which means 49% of your budget must not be less then 2million, and in this case, my whole budge was 1.5million, which was too little for their requirements
I messed that up, I should have doubled checked. Also they told me they cannot except my film projections as they only only want estimates and film projections from reputable sales agents and film distributors. So i should have brought signed sales projections from sales agents and film distribution
They also say because they are not creative people they need my script to have script coverage, script coverage is basically the process of sending a film script to a writer who a scriptwriting professional who will then rate your film script in terms of story, script, character to tell investors that your script is strong enough to be funded.
Extra lessons and new findings
So after the pitch I approach south African sales agents with my project with hopes that they help me with film projections and I hit a wall again, they tell me that they only help filmmakers with track records, like big name directors, and projects with big name stars attached to star in the film. Bear in mind, my film has not big stars or big producers or directors attached
So this was a little disappointing but it taught me more about the business side of film making
Another final lesson I learnt about film making is that there is something called a film distribution waterfall
Basically what I learnt is that when a movie is made, and it makes a lot of money, and then the money has to distributed it has to broken down into a distribution waterfall.
For instance lets say you as a filmmaker make a killer film or 5million, then the movie makes 100million world wide. When the film is done with its theatrical run the film monies go through the film distribution waterfall.
From that 100 million
- The film distributor will minus 40-60% of that cash, that is their distribution fee
- Then what is left from money will be split again
- If the film distributor, spent money promoting and marketing the film, they will minus that money from that amount also
- Also if the film distributor paid the filmmaker a MG(which is minimum guarantee) they will minus the cost of the MG from the left over money
- Then with what’s left the sales agents will minute 10-20% of the money that is left of that money
- After that sales agents will charge you for their admin costs for their working trying to sell your film.
- Then the investors who invested in the film, will minus the money they put it plus 20%
- Then if you have cast n crew members that worked through deferred fees, then their monies will be paid from what is left.
- Then with that money that is left, that money will got to the film producer
- This will all happen, usually after 12-18 months after the release of the
Don’t be deterred but the ton of working needed to just pitch and get to make your movie,, making movies is hard, but its worth it.
I hope this article has been helpful.