Independent Film Producing: How to Produce a Low-Budget Feature Film

Independent Film Producing: How to Produce a Low-Budget Feature Film

by Paul Battista


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The number of independent films produced each year has almost doubled in the past decade, yet only a fraction will succeed. If, like many filmmakers, you have no industry connections, little to no experience, and a low or ultra-low budget, this outsider’s guide will teach you what you need to know to produce a standout, high-quality film and get it into the right hands. Written by an entertainment lawyer and experienced director and producer, this handbook covers all the most essential business, legal, and practical aspects of producing on a low budget, including:
  • Scripts 
  • Business plans
  • Copyright issues
  • Equity and non-equity financing
  • Fund-raising
  • Tax considerations
  • Talent recruiting
  • Scheduling
  • Distribution 
  • Securities laws 
  • Film festivals 
  • And more 

Also discussed are the new crowd funding laws covered by the JOBS Act, making this book a must-read for every indie producer in today’s economy. If you want to produce a film that gets attention, pick up the book that is recommended or required reading at film, business, and law schools from UCLA to NYU. Whether you’re a recent film school graduate or simply a Hollywood outsider, Independent Film Producing will be like having a best friend who is an experienced, well-connected insider.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781621532644
Publisher: Allworth
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 1,215,319
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Paul Battista is a Los Angeles–based entertainment attorney who has provided legal services to more than 125 feature film, documentary, and television projects. He has been a guest speaker at many film festivals and conferences, including Slamdance Film Festival and Film Independent’s Filmmaker Forum, in addition to lecturing at film and law schools in the Los Angeles area. He also wrote, directed, and produced the low-budget independent feature film Crooks (2002), which has been released by Warner Home Video. He lives in Los Angeles, California.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction xvii

Part I Developing the Film

Chapter 1 Overview 3

Feature Films 3

Hollywood 4

Deal Making versus Filmmaking 6

Filmmaker's Control Over the Filmmaking Process 9

Very Brief History of the Independent Film 11

Chapter 2 The Initial Stages in Making an Independent Film 15

When Is a Filmmaker Ready to Make a Low-Budget Feature Film? 15

Building the Core Team 16

Synergy and the Core Team 18

Working with a Writer 18

Hiring a Lawyer 23

Partnering with a Producer 28

Chapter 3 Selecting the Script and Evaluating Actors 31

Selection Issues 31

Researching Distributor Input 32

Selecting a Genre 33

The Story 35

The Scale of a Film 37

Filmmaker-Written Script 39

Co-Writing a Script 39

Registering the Script with the United States Copyright Office 41

Obtaining the Script 42

Option/Purchase Agreement for a Completed Script 42

Obtaining the Film Rights to a Book 50

Talent 53

Considering the Types of Films Distributors Are Distributing and Festival Are Screening 57

Part II Producing the Film

Chapter 4 Equity Financing of Independent Films "Outside the System" 65

Studio Financing 65

Private Equity 66

Securities Laws 67

"Securities" Registration and Exemption from Registration 71

Antifraud Provisions Applicable to All Offers and Sales of Securities 86

Finders 87

Chapter 5 Nonequity Financing of Independent Films "Outside the System" 91

Nonequity Crowdfunding 91

Loans 101

Credit Cards 102

Nonstudio Distributors 103

Tax Subsidies 104

Tax-Exempt Status & Fiscal Sponsorship 108

Chapter 6 Financing Independent Films "Inside the System" Michael Blaha, Esq. 113

Production-Financing-Distribution Agreement 113

Negative Pick-Up 114

Presales and the Basic Elements of a Film Package 115

Bank Loans Based on Presale Commitments 116

Gap Loans and Bridge Loans 118

Completion Guarantees 119

Chapter 7 Entities 123

Reasons for Creating an Entity 123

Costs of Creating an Entity 125

The State Where Entity Should Be Formed and State and Local Taxes 126

Choosing an Entity When Producing an Independent Film 128

The Sole Proprietorship 129

The Partnership 130

Limited Partnership 130

Corporations 131

Rules for Creating an S Corporation 135

Chapter 8 Limited Liability Company 139

Advantages of a Limited Liability Company 139

Creating a Limited Liability Company 140

Major Issues in Establishing a Limited Liability Company 141

Tax Trap When Obtaining LLC Ownership in Exchange for "Sweat Equity" 148

A Scenario Illustrating the Importance of Proper Formation of an Entity 149

Chapter 9 The Business Plan 151

Introduction and Definitions 151

Executive Summary 152

The Filmmakers 153

Film Project 155

Information on Budgets of Independent Films 156

The Motion Picture Industry 163

The Market and Marketing 167

Distribution 168

Chapter 10 The Private Placement Memorandum 173

The Summary of the Offering 176

Risk Factors 176

The Offering 177

Investor Suitability 178

Tax Considerations 178

The Company 179

Management of the Company 179

Financing: Return of Capital and the Share of Profits 180

Conflicts of Interest 181

Financial Statements 182

The Project 183

Additional Information 183

Subscription Agreement and Purchaser Questionnaire 184

Chapter 11 The Interaction of the Business Plan and the PPM 187

Underlying Purpose of Securities Laws 187

Relationship Between a PPM and a Business Plan 188

Who Will the Filmmaker Approach as a Potential Investor? 190

Inclusion of Return on Investment ("ROI") Analysis and Financial Projections 192

Chapter 12 Making the Film 201

When Is the Film Ready to Be Made? 201

Setting the Date for Principal Photography 202

Expanding the Team 202

Guilds: Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; Writers Guild of America; Directors Guild of America 210

Hiring a Lawyer 211

Actors, Crew, and Vendors 213

Miscellaneous Contracts 215

Accounting, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services 216

Independent Contractor or Employee? 217

Part III Distributing the Film

Chapter 13 Distributors 221

When Should a Filmmaker Approach Distributors? 222

Classification of Distributors 223

Studio Distribution 225

Sub-Distributors 228

Independent Distributors 230

"Other" Distributors 232

Self-Distribution 233

Chapter 14 Distribution Contracts 245

Term 246

Rights 247

Advances and Minimum Guarantees 248

Distribution Fee 248

Expenses 250

Marketing and Distribution Obligations 251

The Filmmaker's Right to Be Involved in the Process 251

Accounting Statements and the Right to Audit 252

Termination 252

Chapter 15 Preparing for Distribution 255

The Challenge to Achieve Distribution 255

Film Festivals 257

Producer Representation 258

Foreign Sales Agents 261

Summary of Delivery Items 268

Cost of Delivery 272

Careful Review of the Delivery Language 273

Epilogue 275

Appendix A 277

Appendix B 279

Index 283

Customer Reviews