By Grant Chatham
02 May 2019
Do you remember the last time you went to watch a film with no expectations and were blown away by how good it was? We would all love to know what the special ingredients to create a masterpiece are time after time. Alas finding the right recipe is not that easy. While creativity and inspiration are intangibles, there are tangible processes which, if followed, provide the best chance of creating the perfect flavour.
Producing a film in many ways is like starting a new business and finding the right balance is influenced by many factors. A business may be serviceable or even considered good, but what is it that makes a business great? The differences between good, great and even failure are often due to basic mistakes and traps.
Planning – producing a film is complex business
Success in film production can be broken down into artistic and economic factors, through the bestowing of awards, nominations, through to revenue and box office success. Both external and internal factors need to be meticulously planned and managed. There are many factors to consider, for example, seasonality will dictate when to launch a product, and when to release a movie. Target audience, market size, and level of competition will impact the nature, size and budget of a production. While a degree of uncertainty is always likely to exist with any plans and forecasts, failing to plan is planning to fail. Some may think that producing a film is all about a script and direction – if that is what you think then your production will most likely fail. While these factors are critical to success, seasoned producers will not start planning for production until meticulous ground work has gone in to determining whether there is a need for the movie, it fits a target audience, and whether distributors, stations and talent will support the production. A seasoned production house will have a plan b, c and d in place, should financing, suppliers, or talent, not work out as intended.
Setting up and establishing systems and processes, distribution networks, resources and contracts are fundamental to success. Businesses with sustained long-term success address needs now, whilst setting up plans and structures for the future. Dedication to a continuing cycle of improvement goes beyond re-writing and re-editing, rather it is a mindset and strengths accumulated over many productions.
Getting the right people on the bus
A business needs the right balance of talent, people, strategic and execution skills. To arrive at your desired destination, you need both the right driver and passengers on the bus. Equally applicable to both business and film production, having a strong, balanced and cohesive team to navigate through the myriad of contracts, finance requirements, people management and other administrative matters is critical for success. An elite business will get the balance and culture of the team right.
Followers and telling the right story
Having the right distribution platform and followers can mean the difference between success and failure at the box office. The best businesses are concerned with sustained success and longevity which requires both a good story and a dynamic base of followers. To sell your vision and achieve buy-in, the clearer the message the better. People have a smorgasbord of choices when it comes to investing and spending their money, so the easier it is for them to understand your vision the more likely it is they will come along with you on your journey.
A film is a product delivered by a producer to its customers. Whether it is a building, launch of a new phone or a television series for children, like a business, from the time the order is received to the date it is delivered, it’s game on. Every day the product is late the risks and costs of film production continue to mount. Film production is risky and complex. To deliver, survive and thrive in the business of film production takes meticulous planning, team building, and buy-in. Whether you are producing the next big blockbuster, working on a small-budget film or you are in business, nothing is more important than surrounding yourself with the right people.
Grant Chatham is a chartered accountant, auditor, business adviser and a Partner at PKF Gold Coast. Grant leads a specialty film and television team who work closely with his clients, to get a deep understanding of the goals for the production and works with the team on a wide variety of business aspects including strategy, financial modelling and cashflow.