Our hosts Giles Alderson and Ian Sharp had a filmmakers Q&A with Borat’s Dan Mazer at American Film Market. They chatted about their experience of working during the COVID pandemic, getting funding, meeting financiers, pre-sales and Borat 2, among other things.
Q: During COVID, have you found that investors or studios still want to put money into your films?
Dan: “More than ever, we need films because we’re stuck inside. There’s the whole question of the future of cinemas versus streaming, which I think is massive.”
Q: Has anyone been put off by COVID?
Ian: “There’ll always be a want for stories. We’ve consumed an ungodly amount of content whilst locked down. (HNI’s) are always very keen to throw money into the film, regardless of what’s going on. The buzz, the excitement of being involved in the film space is always there.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Borat 2 premiering worldwide on Amazon as VOD?
Dan: “It was a very unique experience, where we were keen to get the movie out before the election. That sort of trumped everything. It was originally meant to be a theatrical release, but obviously, with the world the way it was, that wasn’t feasible. Circumstances just made the decision for us and I think it’s paid dividends. It’s already the second most-streamed movie of the year.”
Q: Do you think that filmmakers should be thinking about clever marketing tactics from the beginning?
Dan: “It’s more to do with making yourself feel unique and special and different somehow. And if that breaks through then that’s brilliant.”
Ian: “From a smaller, independent point of view, for a potential pilot, we threw probably about a thousand pounds, into social media and Facebook. And it got over a million views that teaser. So then as the producer pitching off the back of that just validates that idea.”
Q: We completed a feature film, how do we use that film to raise funds for our second? Where should we focus our energy right now?
Ian: “If that first film has had any kind of success, not necessarily financially, but maybe it’s gone to a festival or it’s had some kind of good exposure, you can leverage that. I mean, not all investors are bothered about financial returns. Sometimes they just want to walk down a red carpet or meet an actor. So you just got to think out of the box a little bit.”
Giles: “I found that people wouldn’t let me make my first film because I hadn’t made a movie. So my advice is: go make a movie.”
Q: Where do you find financiers?
Giles: “If you’re talking about something that you’re passionate about, it instantly makes people go, ‘Oh, well, tell me about that.’ They might not have money, but they might know someone who does.”
“I’ve always found when I’ve met HNIs I’ll never ask them personally for money. I word it: ‘Hey, you might know someone who might be interested in the film.’ It takes the pressure off them, but also they then feel like they might be able to find someone. And then if their friend gets involved, they then feel like they should as well. It’s kind of win-win for you.”
Ian: “There are financiers. There are companies out there. It’s my job as the producer to know these guys. Make sure you’ve partnered up with producers, don’t try and do it alone.”
Q: How many people read the script before they give you the green light?
Dan: “There were so many different variables. If I have a script with Chris Hemsworth attached, then they might not even read it. They’ll just go. ‘Yes. Great. Done. And if you don’t, then it’s talent-related, and what you can do is you can get a studio behind a good script. If your script is great, then they can go all guns blazing, and go after talent.”
Q: What is the most difficult part of movie-making? Finding funding, unique stories or distribution?
Dan: “Try and be different, try and be brilliant, get your script to be the best it can possibly be. It all has to come down to the creative, and if something is brilliant, then it will find its way to funding and distribution. Unique stories with unique voices and brilliantly executed.”
Q: How did you ensure your pitch deck was ready when you took it out to meetings?
Giles: “So many people had sent me pitch decks over the years and I’d learned and got better. I made them look like the film would look. I made them glossy. I made them interesting. I made someone actually want to look at it, and I really researched. It wasn’t too long and boring. And I’d send it out to some like Ian and go ‘What do you think?’”
Final Words of Wisdom
Dan: “Keep creating, keep going, keep producing stuff, keep writing, keep finding people. I think tenacity is absolutely key. And if you’ve got the combination of tenacity and talent, then you’ve got a good chance.”
Ian: “Just never give in. Never give in.”
Giles: “Keep going, make your projects happen. You can do it, believe in yourself.