Film Finance – Bankroll A New Approach To Financing Feature Films
Film Finance, according to a recent survey I held on Facebook last year, with a number of directors groups, is the number one problem that directors, on a worldwide basis are suffering from.
I know last year that when I made my movie Bad Romance, it would have been a lot easier if we have more money coming in from Film Financiers and if you're here today on this very exciting interview, I'm sure, you'll also like to know how to finance a film and today we are all blessed with a very special guest who's going to share some of his secrets and knowledge with us.
Tom Malloy was our my first guest in the series about Film Finance, designed to help new and independent film makers alike.
I'm very excited to be doing tonight's call. Hello and welcome, I am Tim Bennett from Awesome FM, it's a place where we talk and discuss film topics with some of the most awesome people in the world. But just before we get going I just want to make sure that everyone can hear me, you can hear me Tom?
Me: Sam you can hear me and Jane you can hear me okay?
So ladies and gentlemen, it's 9:30 or just after 9:30 East Coast of America. It's about 2:30 Downtown New Delhi, and it's almost 10:30 here in Manila where I'm living and it's great to have you all here.
If you have any questions for Tom, as we go along please type them in to the chat box and we'll open several lines and talk to some of you later on. Let's get going. Please welcome, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Tom Malloy! Yehey! (Clapping). Good to have you here Tom.
Introduction To Tom Malloy
Tom: Fantastic, with huge round of applause.
Me: Absolutely, absolutely. Well it's really fantastic having you here and despite all the technical obstacles we had, where are you based right now?
Tom: Right now, I'm in the East Coast in New York, normally I'm in Los Angeles, and for the next 3 to 6 months I'll be in the East Coast.
Me: Great! It's a long time since I've been to New York, maybe wow, 15 years!
Tom: Hahaha, it’s changed since then.
Me: I bet it out. Yeah! I came to America when it was very easy to get into the States.
Tom: Yeah! It’s unfortunate the way it's been lately, it's tougher and tougher.
Me: Yeah, ok so, Sam says he's from Syria, wow, awesome Syria. We got a worldwide international conference night, America, Syria and Philippines. So before we get going Tom, let's have a quick overview of who you actually are and what you've been doing in the movie world.
This is actually the first time that you and I have ever spoken and so I'm very interested in knowing what you've been doing, so maybe if you can just give us a little background about yourself.
Tom: Sure, you know, I started as an actor and still am in many ways. That was back in 98 I believe in a movie called “Gravesend” and I was one of the four lead actors and it was shot under the streets of Brooklyn New York and I mean it was, we would literally, you know we “improv” the whole movie, we would literally go up a street corner and there'd be a gang of thugs there and would say “you guys want to shoot a fight screen?”
And they'd be like "Yeah, Okay, a big fight would break out” and we'll capture it all on camera and when we're done with that movie, we got Oliver Stone to put his names on it, it was in theaters.
Me: Oh cool.
Tom: Yeah, it was called Gravesend and what happened was you know, it wasn't a hit we thought it was going to be. I, you know did a couple things here and there and was young and didn't know how to manage my career at that point.
Eventually to make a long story short, I just started trying to learn everything I could about the film business, every aspect down to editing, as much information as I could. I started producing almost as a means to an end.
I started kind of raising money, kind of creating our own method out of desperation, out of saying “You know, I know,”
I became a really powerful writer, I now sold 16 scripts and I'm in the Writer's Guild and in that, I got to get behind one my scripts, and well I want to make this and I want to be in this role.
I got a director, the first movie I did is called The Attic, and I got the director of Pet Cemetery and by the strength of the script and we made it. It wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be and it kind of disappointing but that was a great lesson.
I raised all my money myself on that and that started it. I remember back then, that was 2005, I kind of told an agent "Hey, I'm an actor, writer, producer" and she was like "You know, you got to pick one of those, you can't be all three."
The joke was now, if you would go to that some agent or another agent, they will recommend that. They would say "Hey listen, you got to act, write and produce." It's a trend setter in a way in that regard but I mean the rest of the story goes that I dealt with 8 films, I've raised almost over 20 million dollars private equity for films and for my projects and other projects.
I recently completed a stint as the head of film production for a company called New Films International. I was kind of a high demand as far as my money raising and putting films together and I speak across the country and the last thing I could say is I wrote this book “Bankroll” that has become the kind of a Gold standard as far as film financing in bookstores everywhere and you could get on Amazon and all that.
That was really just all my techniques on raising money and put it in a book.
Me: That sounds awesome. I remember watching Pet Cemetery many many years ago. I also believe you're in a part of Anger Management, is that right?
Tom: Oh yeah, that was one after Gravesend just trying to, to do only the acting thing, and the joke about that was the roles after Gravesend, I start my first role ever is a lead role on a film that Oliver Stone's got his name on and then it goes from that to like, a featured character on Law & Order-SVU and then a couple of lines on Third Watch, in the background of, in a couple of movies.
That was, I feel like I went the exact opposite path, by the time Anger Management, I think I played the right field for the New York Yankees, it's just less and less and less. This is the exact opposite of where I should be going. I had to put a change.
Me: It's pretty cool to have Oliver Stone as part of your intro.
Tom: Oh yeah, that really helped Gravesend, but then down the road, as I did this other films, working with bigger people, The Alphabet Killer, we have Rob Schmidt who directed Wrong Turn. We had Timothy Hutton, Cary Elways, Eliza Dushku, and Michael Ironside. they were all the cast. I was the third biggest role in there.
In both the Attic, it got bad reviews but the only good review was my performance. It was me and John Savage and Elisabeth Moss who's the star of Mad Men.
I was the only one that got the good acting reviews but the film itself got panned. But Alphabet Killer did much better and specially on video made the killing and then we went on and did a movie called Love N' Dancing right, co-starred with Amy Smart and Betty White was in the movie and Billy Zane with the director of She's All That, Robert Iscove.
Things were going great. Unfortunately with this last job got away from performing, and that something that everybody kind of has to have their own path and I want to go back to acting and performing in comedy and things like that but you know in the meantime, I know all these techniques, so now as far as raising money and helping people put their films together, I do conferences, I do consulting on films, people hire to just come in and help them shape their projects, so they can have a better chance of getting it going or better direction.
That's really what I do kind of the side, I'm still alive in the film business.
Me: Was this something you wanted to do since you were a kid or was it something that developed as you got older?
Tom: I wanted to be an actor since, I think since I was a sperm cell.
That was always part of the film business for me, now producing and writing happened as osmosis, you know what I mean like you're just there and let me try to write a script, then by the 4th script, I was really, I started to pick up techniques and a skill level and now it's like I'm really great in writing scripts.
As I said, I made a ton of money writing script. Producing was just, you know, if you went back to Tom Malloy the producer, one of the producers of the Attic, I had a couple of veteran producers with me.
I was the kid who didn't know anything, who was afraid to even raise his hands, you know, now I'm the guy writing the show and there are people back then, they would all be asking me questions. I kind of, you get your learning curve; my learning curve was quick I guess or steep I guess.
Me: It's funny the tables turn, how those people who say you can't do this, are the ones that come back and say, can I be part of it.
Tom: Exactly. Let's say there's a project that is funded, it's like a train is moving and everybody wants to try to jump on or get a piece of it. "Hey can I cater it, can I do that" It would come out of the woodwork. “My niece does make up and she get on.”
Me: I wanted to make a movie when I was 15 years old, that was I think the first time it sort of came into my head that I'd like to that but the cost of making movies, I grew up in England, mainly around London and North East area and the cost of making movies in London was horrendous. It scared me away.
Then about 14 years ago I moved out to Manila where I still am now in the Philippines and the costs of everything out here is much lower and I got involved doing special effects lasers out here. I've been doing lasers for about 21-22 years now.
We did a project which brought me out to Manila and slowly I got the money together and I realized that the opportunities out here were very different and last year, we made 2 movies and we're just about to release, next the 12th of February, we're actually having our advance screening of the first movie I co-produced.
So I'm a virgin in this business, this is why I wanted to help other people was because, I struggled so much with film finance and I used my own money to finance the movie and it's something I don't want to do again particularly.
Tom: Yeah, Use other people's money.
Me: I thought the obstacle I had putting the money together and the other directors I see around me, I thought it will be a good idea to approach people like you who are experts to find out different ways of doing it and put all this together in one website so that we can help the industry generally and that is where this series of interviews came for. Film finance had been a problem for a lot of my friends out here in the Philippines.
I did a survey on Facebook to about a 20 or 30 different directors groups last year asking what their biggest problems were. The 3 biggest problems were sent back to me. Number 1 by far was film finance so I know this is going to help a lot of people. Was finance something that hindered you when you first started?
Tom: Well yeah, it continuous to hinder everybody. You have to kind of get in that mentally that we are all in the same boat. Clint Eastwood, is begging me to get his films made and barking for his lunch.
That is just one Example. Martin Scorcese, everybody, it is a business and everybody has to understand that. We are all artists in a way and “hey I just want to make art.” But at the end of the day it's not the same as buying a canvass and painting something because if no one buys it, then you're ok.
You haven't wasted that much money. But in this case, the movies, you're wasting a lot of money. A lot of people's money if you make something that's not a marketable product that could turn a profit. That's really one of the main parts of the problem.
There's an old joke "How do you make a small fortune in independent film, the answer is you invest a large fortune."
That's a horrible way to think about it, but at the end of the day, that was what's been proven is that unless you kind of go in with that marketing from the beginning, you can be in big trouble.
The key is, let me say this, to the people in the line that did not know a producer, directors, actors. I say in my book it's the golden rule. He or she who has control makes the rules. There's no real ladder or sometimes in the film business. You don't go to this one, then the next one. It may not work that way.
You sometimes have to say “I'm here, I’m on this set” and if you have the money and you want to say “well I'm playing this role” or “I'm directing” or “I'm going to be, well the writer”, you're going to make that script, if I have the money. Any of those things, if you get that money, the financing then you're in control; you can be steering the ship.
Me: I noticed that when I was involved in a movie, we just made a movie called Bad Romance, which is the one coming out this February. This really is like my first major step into movies but because I have the checkbook in my hand, the doors open, the trumpets started playing and really felt like I was in charge quite a lot. Veteran directors would say “what do we do now?” I say, “I don’t know you tell me, I was just writing checks.”
Tom: Yeah, I was going to say it's tough in that regard. Especially when you're using your own money, you have to be really frugal. I did it once, when I was kind of experimenting back when I was still right after Gravesend, I was kind of messing around. I wouldn't even recommend it. It's scary. It's a lot scarier in that regard. You could really lose your shirts.
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This is the first part of an 8 part interview I had with Tom Malloy about Film Finance
This interview was broadcast live on 28th January 2013
For ArgonVision and Argonette by Tim Bennett