Writing a Film Business Plan: What Should I Include?

Picture of calculator, glasses, and papers

 

Film business plans. Whether you’ve learned how to make one in film school or not, it’s likely that it’s an essential aspect of your production that you could be overlooking at your own risk.

Those involved in making movies tend to be creative folk and view spending hours pouring over figures on a spreadsheet as anathema to the craft. Even some of the pros dread this unavoidable task… and don’t think that you’re not “pro” enough to get away without doing one.

Even if you’re operating on a micro-budget, it’s still a good idea to get to grips with the best practices of compiling a solid film business plan. It’ll help keep you right on path, it’s good practice for your future career, and it might just help you see the bigger picture and drive you to finish the project.

Today, we’re going to take the sting out of the tail by offering some guidance on how to get started.

You’ll also be pleased to hear that it’s nowhere near as arduous a task as it may seem, which brings us onto our first business plan tip:

However You Start, Make Sure You Start

As is often experienced in screenwriting, putting pen to paper in the first place is usually the hard part. Once you get going, you find your brain kicking into high gear (sometimes to the extent that it’s hard to stop typing!)

The same is true of film business plans. Initially, you might feel like the proverbial rabbit in headlights with no idea how you can possibly account for what you might be spending in the future. However, by starting with the very basic and known figures you do have, you’ll slowly begin to break the back of the spreadsheet and the rest should follow naturally.

And remember, you can always go back and revise things, so don’t be afraid to start jotting down random numbers with the intent to refine them at a later date.

Consider Your Audience

Not the movie’s audience; we’re talking about the people who are most interested in your film business plan.

Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 11.45.07 AM

Don’t make the classic mistake of assuming investors and potential production collaborators want to see every dime and nickel accounted for, because they really don’t.

What they want you to answer as concisely (and accurately) as possible is this: How are you going to sell the movie, and what will be the return on investment?

And that’s it. Everything else is secondary.

Of course, you’ll probably want to keep a more detailed plan for your own reference and that can be produced if requested, but strip out extraneous details that won’t be of interest to an investor (they don’t want to know the hourly rates of every show runner working on set; they just want to know how much it’ll all cost.)

There are a few more sub-sets of this question that you’ll probably tackle along the way, including:

  • How are you spending the cash?
  • Why is this film sellable right now?
  • What is your sales/marketing strategy?
  • What share of the proceeds will you receive?
  • What share of the proceeds will investors get?
  • Are there any perks to investing in this film?

Thinking about these questions will get you ready to pitch your movie efficiently at the drop of a hat, and will help shape your business plan as you put it together. There are a number of other questions over on the Raindance website which you can expect investors to ask, so do check those out.

Calculator and pen

And on the topic of how to go about answering a potential investor’s concerns…

What Should I Include?

The following is by no means exhaustive (and not all of it may be necessary for your particular business plan), but here’s the meat and potatoes that most filmmakers use to convey their pitch:

Outline: A very brief summary of the screenplayideally just your loglineand some key figures regarding financial requirements. Bullet points regarding your previous work (or any notable team members) may be of benefit but only if they really are selling points, otherwise, brevity is preferred.

Shooting Schedule: A detailed plan outlining every expected cost behind each scene of the screenplay, including any props needed, cost of travel to locations, and compensation to crew members. A highly important part of the business plan which you may want to work on with the rest of the team, this will be the foundation of an accurate budget projection.

Production Budget: The shooting schedule total, plus the overall production expenditure of the movie.

Marketing Plan: The movie’s target demographics, how you’re going to get it in front of them, and how much that advertizing will cost, as well as conversion rates between how many people you’re expecting to reach and how many of those will go see the movie/buy the DVD.

Distribution Plan: The costs, profits, and expected reach of physical media sales (and the same for online streaming.) If you have details regarding the profits you’re hoping to make from rights sales, this is the place to add them.

Revenue/Profit Projections: Based on extensive market research (rather than guesswork or comparing your film to something similar that was released back in 1992), here you’ll get the chance to really hook the investor by outlaying expected profits and how much of those they’ll receive.

Letters of Intent: A hugely valued part of the business plan which can really pull an investor. Don’t just stop at crew members; letters of intent from other investors really inspire confidence, and don’t forget to also hit up relevant insurance companies covering the production.

31-365 (Year 8) Accounts

You’ll want to close the package off with your executive summary—one or two pages delving more extensively into why the screenplay is a winner, the talent working on the movie and why the investor would be a fool to miss out (although not in those words, obviously!)

In Conclusion…

Rather than seeing your film business plan as an unavoidable headache, instead see it for what it is, i.e the tool you need to attract funding. Sounds a lot more alluring that way, doesn’t it?

Stay focused and get your film business plan nailed down as a matter of priority. The sooner you do, the sooner you can focus on the task at hand: getting to work on your big idea.

Best of luck!

Learn more about the Film School at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.
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