Woody Allen said that 80 per cent of success is due to showing up and it was, perhaps, in this spirit that more than 90 tyro producers, directors and screenwriters packed the main reception at Lighthouse in Brighton to listen to a panel discussion under the heading ‘From Script to Screen – Understanding the Market’.
The evening, which was part of the recent Cinecity Film Festival, kicked off with a screening of ‘7:35 de la Mañana’, Nacho Vigalondo’s prize-winning short film, which tells an intriguing tale with wit, panache and, especially, economy. The 32-year-old Spanish director is living the dream of many of those in the room. His short film picked up an Academy Award nomination plus a Best Short Film Award nomination at the European Film Awards and scooped both the’ Bronze Moon of Valencia’ at the Cinema Jove – Valencia International Film Festival and the Prix UIP Drama at the Drama Short Film Festival. His first full-length feature film, Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes), was released in 2007. If anybody came along to the event thinking that Vigalondo’s achievement is the natural right of any hopeful with talent and ambition, they must have left a sadder but a wiser person.
The panel comprised Nicky Bentham, the co-producer of the sci-fi thriller ‘Moon’ (starring Sam Rockwell and Kevin Spacey); David Castro, a consultant in film and filmmaker development and training; and Leighton Lloyd, a specialist in film finance and production. They dispensed their collective wisdom with wit and candour. It has been said many times that people in the film industry can die of encouragement so it was pleasing to note that the panellists avoided airy aphorisms in favour of hard-headed facts .
“Who’s going to pay good money to watch your film?” Bentham asked.
“What is your unique selling point?” asked Castro. “And it isn’t ‘I’ve written it.’”
Leighton Lloyd pointed out that there….” can be a mathematical formulae for working out the worth of a script”. While it can be assumed that it has everything to do with groundbreaking dialogue, breathtaking scenery, or the fact that your friends and family all loved it, ideally, it is a business. There are many methods of calculating worth for a distributor but it may most useful to employ ‘the quadrant rule’; if enough dots hit the right quadrant then the correct audience is aimed at and the film has potential for release. The money merchants will want a clear sense that you know who your audience is. It’s no different to selling any other fast-moving consumer product.
Lloyd talked about the tortuous subject of film finance. A member of the audience asked if it was a good idea to forsake money up front in favour of a potentially more lucrative payout in the form of back-end profits. Front-end every time, chorused the panel.
Woody Allen came to mind once more: ‘Take the Money and Run’.