Sunday, March 24, 2024


Many filmmakers have struggled with the conundrum of attaching star actors who bring financial value to their pictures when they don't have any money to offer. Financiers have been known to say, "Hey, if you get that actor, I'll put up the money." And then most of us reply, "Why don't you put up the money then so I can get that actor?" Excuses abound, many of them feeble, but the honest reason is that most of these alleged financiers are full of shit. They either don't have the money or have no real intention of giving it to you.

So here we are, the old chicken and egg scenario. How do I get the money without the cast, and how do I get the cast without the money? A quandary indeed. But I think I have an answer as I navigate this same minefield that all indie producers navigate. And the answer is... Illusion. Both sides need to believe the other side is in play. What do I mean by that?

Well, on the one hand, you need a legitimate investor, so that requires some vetting. They may not be ready to part with their money now, but you have to be certain they will if you get that elusive star. If they're not willing to put the money in escrow, at least have them sign an LOI with their intention. Something, anything in writing is better than a handshake.

Simultaneously, you need to make offers to those star actors for specific work dates and you have to make the agents believe those are offers are pay-or-play (meaning the actor gets paid whether the movie gets made or not). If the offer amount is high enough, you'll often get a call from the agent wanting to verify certain things -- first and foremost, is the film fully funded?

But that's not really what they want to know. What they really want to know is... Is my actor going to get paid? They could give a shit if your movie gets made. They just want to make money. So your answer may very well be, "No, it's not fully funded. But this offer is pay-or-play and your actor will get paid whether it gets made or not."

Once you have an email from the agent stating an agreement to the key terms of the actor's deal, it's time to have your financier step up to the plate. No more excuses. You delivered on your part, and now the money needs to go into escrow. See, agents want to make sure you're not out raising money on the actor's name. The reason is that if enough producers are doing that and can't raise the money, it starts to devalue the actor in the eyes of the industry. ("What?! They can't get financing with him attached?!")

I'm playing this scenario out right now with two different features that are temporarily slated for production later this year. The in-roads I've made have been fantastic, with serious A-listers interested or in talks for key roles, but whether the strategy works out is a chapter yet to be written.

Of course there are other factors in closing a deal with a star, like script approval, director approval, compensation and the like, but I find that the risk of having to back out of a deal is likely worth the upside of pulling off the illusion, especially in an industry that has no problem trying to fool you with illusions at every turn. All of Hollywood is built on illusions, so you're just using an old trick from the same playbook. While this may sound like a cynical view, it's also a practical one that cracks the chicken and egg conundrum wide open.

Sunday, February 4, 2024


Happy 2024! I hope the first month of the year has been as productive for you all as it has been for me. Today, I'd like to share links to two articles I wrote that were published in WritersWeekly recently:

"10 Screenplay Competitions That Are Worth Your Money"

"The Impact of AI on Screenwriting in Hollywood"

The first is to help screenwriters navigate the competition circuit by suggesting contests that can provide a real return on the entry fee if the script does well. The second is me pontificating on the proliferation of AI technology in Hollywood, addressing in particular issues that were at the heart of last summer's WGA strike. Hopefully you'll find these articles enlightening.

Ciao for now!