About Film ProductionThis is the third and final part of a three-part series of articles, which concludes an examination of the transfer of power and influence in the development of a film. We will end the series by exploring the process of gaining  commitment and securing funds from a financier.

There can be difficulties when it comes to gaining commitment to a film from a financier. The producer must understand that the executive he is working with might not necessarily have the decision-making power to give the project a final go-ahead;. He may need to confer with colleagues or even defer the decision to a superior within his organization. This remains true for any situation where there are a number of people involved in making the final decision; , in organizations like big budget studios and public financiers, for example.

It is the producer’s responsibility to convince prospective financiers to make a commitment by helping to resolve any conflicts and alleviate any concerns. It is not uncommon for a producer to push his project into pre-production to pressure financiers into making a decision. This is a complete gamble on the part of the producer because the financier may decide not to commit; souring the relationship and leaving the producer to cover the costs when pre-production starts.

Gaining the Commitment of a Financier

There can be many obstacles in the way of getting the final go-ahead from a financier and a variety of scenarios can play out. Open conflict and opposition to ideas can be dealt with accordingly in an open fashion, whereas secret conflict from within the financier organization can involve efforts to undermine the producer’s attempts to secure production funds. This may occur when a certain executive passively opposes the project by refusing to cooperate, or openly opposes it within his organization. This can be particularly disastrous because the financier is cooperative and enthusiastic on the surface, causing the producer to be unaware of his true thoughts and intentions.

Ambivalence can be a massive hurdle to overcome when attempting to get a positive decision from a financier. To understand the process of securing funding, it is important to understand the ambivalence factor in decision-making. Individuals may be hesitant to make what they perceive to be risky decisions, while organizations can experience indecision in the form of internal conflicts and lack of consensus. Large organizations with lots of influential parties can host a variety of different mindsets, with individuals rejecting or approving the project to varying degrees; both explicitly and covertly.

As new drafts of the script are produced, it is a  distinct possibility that sceptics can be convinced of the value of the project, leading the previously ambivalent to finally give the go-ahead. This can be especially likely if the new drafts also include some of the financier’s suggestions and feedback.

A financiers’ decision to jump onboard with a project can be influenced by a variety of other factors, including a favourable change to the cast list or the involvement of another organizations that they wish to be affiliated or associated with.

Conclusion

This series of articles should have provided you with some basic understanding of the many variables involved in film development.

The crucial point for producers is to form strong relationships with writers and directors. Furthermore, it is important to understand that other individuals may begin to get involved in the creative process as production progresses, but a solid core team will help to retain the original vision for the project.

Here are some remarks from individuals in the industry, discussing the relevance of having writers involved in the latter stages of production:

Sam Lavender, Head of Film4 Development:  ‘Should it be policy for the writer to be involved on set? It’s a really interesting argument, but again it’s about how best that set operates, and how those egos come together.  There is an argument for having writers in edits, but then again, there’s something quite painful about seeing what’s happened to your stuff. Anand Tucker [director] talked about the process of directing and saying you have this amusing painting in your head. It’s done on glass, then you smash it on the ground, and you throw away a third of the pieces, and then the edit is putting that back together as close to the picture as you had in the first place…But at the same time the original editor of a piece is the writer, so a writer might have some very useful input into that editing process. There’s no set way, but there is a dominant way which is: ‘I’m the director and this is my film’.

Christine Langan, Head of BBC Films: ‘I don’t think the set is a great place for your average writer… I think the director is responsible for the mood and tenor (of the shoot).A deeply confident director will make it feel like everybody’s opinions are valid, without being crowded and having too much disruption, and some are much more controlling than that, in a more overt way. But it is the rule to have control, so they’ll either do it charmingly or defensively or whatever. The edit is a different story. I think some writers are very talented in the edit. The script is being rewritten to some extent in the edit. But again it’s a question of how much should they be there, or how regularly. And this is why it’s such a fascinating business, because it’s different every time’.

Sarah Golding, Script Editor: ‘Some directors like the writer to be on set. …well, why wouldn’t you if you could have them there, just in case there’s something that they can do for you, to get you out of a hole at some point …But I think that it’s in the cutting room that the writer’s presence can be fantastically productive. It can be so valuable for writers to have the experience of seeing how a story may be reconstructed by the film editor…Once they’ve got over the initial shock – ‘Oh my god it’s not the film I saw in my mind’s eye’ – and you get past that and you’ve seen the footage, then you begin to look at it as something separate from your imagined film. I know writers who are brilliantly pragmatic in the cutting room. They put aside everything that was in the script and invent new ways of dealing with issues that have arisen…But it’s just not custom and practice to automatically involve the writer in this way, and sometimes it’s, ‘not allowed’. A lot of that comes down to the confidence of the director and their openness. And if the writer’s prepared to participate in the edit, then it’s another opportunity to engage imaginatively with the film and it might help connect them strongly to the director or producer for future projects’.