From Writing to Producing with Tom Palmer

Tom Palmer, writer and producer of All My Friends Hate Me chatted with hosts, Giles Alderson and Andrew Rodger, about his incredible journey of making his debut feature.

Tom started listening to the podcast after a bad experience with a financier who had ‘secured’ investors for their film All My Friends Hate Me

“The short story is we’re privately financed with 30 investors investing from 2 grand to 20 grand, which objectively is a lot of money, but in film, it was really scraping stuff together and patching things over. The longer story is more of a cautionary tale involving a film financier who said he was going to get a lot of the budget and then didn’t.

And suddenly the train had left the station and I was producing this thing, having never produced anything before and having to do another round of financing to patch things up.”

The filmmakers would’ve never known the sheer volume of his deception until Tom reached out to one of the investors who knew very little about the project but had given (a small amount) of money to the financier.

How Tom Got Around It

They had wrapped the film but had a hole in the budget that needed to be patched up. Fortunately, due to COVID, there were good loans available.

“Some of the top team had to discuss taking an equity deal and we managed to pay all the crew. It was around then that I started listening to this podcast because we’d wrapped and not only did I think this guy was gonna provide a big chunk of the budget. But I also thought he was the one that knew what he was doing. 

The shoot had gone brilliantly, we were really happy with the cast and the way that we’d managed to capture the story on a really tight budget. But I had no idea what to do with a film that you’d just made. I didn’t know about sales or distribution or festivals or how to get tax credits and so I just listened to podcasts and read books and spoke to people and gradually patched together some knowledge on this whole thing.”

What He Learnt

“The Film Entrepreneur book by Alex Ferrari is really good. Although it had a terrifying opening, which basically describes our film. It was pretty much our budget where the strategy was to get it into Sundance and then make millions of pounds.”

Tom thinks, in hindsight, that it was a strength that they wrapped without sales or distribution attached because it gave them creative freedom to make the film that they had wanted to make.

“The director (Andrew Gaynord) and myself and Tom, the other writer, and Saam (Hodivala), the editor, had all worked a bit in TV and had this really weird experience where we would be looking at edits and waiting to pass the edit up the chain for notes from the exec or commissioner.

And then we suddenly realised it was just us giving notes. And that was terrifying, but also liberating. And then, when we did finally get into Tribeca, which was just really lucky that they saw it, that gave us a bit more leverage to go into negotiations with sales agents and distributors.”

Making Their Film

Originally they wrote the script due to “frustration from writing treatments, working in TV, rarely having that connection of writing something and then seeing it on the screen, and having full creative control over the process.”

They’d initially planned on shooting the film on iPhones, in a week, with no budget; but the financier who had ‘found investors’ suggested upping the budget, and moving away from filming on phones.

“The problem being it felt the antithesis of our creative spark, which was, let’s do this project ourselves. But we got a great director on board, Andrew, who wanted to do something a bit rawer. He’d done a lot of Netflix stuff in the US but wanted a hands-on project, so it was a really good meeting of minds having him on board. Raising a tight but decent budget where we could shoot it properly.”

Producing His First Feature

“It’s a funny lesson to draw really because I guess if it wasn’t for this guy we probably would not have made this film.”

Tom, who had only produced a short before, had some knowledge of setting up a company and dealing with EIS but learned a lot about producing while treading water in the deep end.

“When you don’t work in business or law, it feels more simple. But actually, it was stressful. It was also quite thrilling. I got quite into the pitch and seeing if you can up the numbers a bit.

When you are being backed by someone, someone is literally investing in you. Someone was talking about how the word credit comes from the Latin credo – I believe – so ‘I believe in your project’. 

It’s a three to five-year cycle because I’ve been really surprised by how long it’s taken for the money to physically come back into the bank account.”

Resolving the Money Concerns

“The first two weeks of invoices were paid and then the third week was not paid and that’s when we wrapped and when this guy suddenly went quiet and didn’t respond to any texts.”

Tom took it upon himself to reach out to one of the investors to ask for money, and that was when “the penny dropped”. The main concern was that this financier was still legally a director of the company that they’d set up for the film. So after some advice from lawyers and an accountant, and a lengthy process through Companies House, all the while trying to keep the financier sweet, they managed to get him out of the company before he did anything crazy – taking out loans, etc.

They managed to take out bridging loans, from family members, to pay the cast and crew. “The people – us – that were getting writing, director and editing fees talked about equity deals. Our tax credit came through a few months later to pay off the bridge loan and cover some other people. And it was really horrible because the buzz and the charm had gone.

We had a couple of our execs who were amazing at swooping in and covering an extra chunk here and there. I put in some of my own money, we took out some COVID loans and we just literally patched things up.”

His Advice to Filmmakers

“It’s always worth that extra bit of due diligence. Ask to meet your investors, face to face, if possible”

For more from Tom and his filmmaking experience, listen to the podcast here.

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