Raising the money
This is the question I get asked more often by aspiring movie people than any other: "How did you find the money?"
Short answer: Not easily. (Longer answer below....)
Orson Welles once said about filmmaking and financing, "I've wasted the greater part of my life looking for money.... trying to make my work from this terribly expensive paint box which is a movie... It's about two percent movie-making and ninety-eight percent hustling. It's no way to spend a life." (And that's if you're Orson Welles.)
Not much has changed.
We sought financing from just about every legitimate financier in the business. Everybody turned us down. Everybody.
Even with this extraordinary cast, an accessible love story, a relatively low budget (by Hollywood standards anyway - $4M), there was just no appetite out there among financiers for an adult drama.
These years (2010-2011) when we were looking for money were a financially difficult time all over the world. Not just for the movie business. Still, we were surprised to find that the dramatic love story genre, tried and true work-horse of Hollywood for the last hundred or so years, just wasn't financeable in Hollywood anymore. (This is changing by the way. And fast. Check out my blog for my thoughts on this soon).
So we looked elsewhere.
To mangle a quote from "Jurassic Park": Good producers will find a way.
In this case, Bonnie and Julie had made a movie the year before called "Albert Nobbs" that they had also financed entirely outside the usual Hollywood system. Here's how they did it:
Bonnie had called her Uncle John in Texas (this is true), and he'd introduced her to some good folks in Dallas who had the money and were open to hearing the pitch.
Bonnie and Julie (and Glenn Close, star of "Albert Nobbs") flew into Dallas and over dinner at Uncle John's, they lay out their "ask", as well as their plan for everyone to make back their investment along with a healthy profit.
Julie has the enviable track record of having produced nearly a dozen indie movies in the past decade in which her investors have always gotten their money back. She makes sure the budgets, the foreign sales, and the estimates line up in a way that makes financial sense. And she's got good taste.
They came away from that dinner with the lion's share of the money needed to make "Nobbs."
However, as you might expect, there were a few folks who decided to sit it out. They spent the following year watching their friends produce a movie, and then seeing that movie get nominated for three Academy Awards, including one for Glenn. It was an exciting and fulfilling adventure. And it was the right thing to do. (In almost every other country on Earth, governments and patrons contribute to financing the arts, not for profit, but because of the arts' inherent value to culture and society.)
This time around, Bonnie and Julie called those same folks again, and several of them, including a couple who'd sat out on "Nobbs," read our script, met with us, and decided to jump in on this one. (As an aside, all our investors are already on track to see their return on investment, maintaining Julie's stunning track record again).
Once we'd won the California Tax Rebate (incredibly, this valuable rebate is awarded in a lottery system (!) rather than a guaranteed rebate as in every other state and country - Canada, New York, New Mexico, Georgia, etc. - that's been bleeding the production jobs out of California - go figure), we went from a "maybe" to a "go"... we were in pre-production a couple of months later.
It had only taken two years to raise the money.