The First Principle of Raising Money

I’ve been raising money to make a movie for the last 18+ months now, and I’ve tried to be methodical and process-driven in my approach, hoping to one day be able to write a post JUST LIKE THIS ONE.

How prescient of me, right?

The other day at lunch a friend asked if I had any advice for raising money, and I was caught a bit off guard. Even though I’d been thinking about this process for so long, I hadn’t really reached a consensus yet. Plus, I’ve been thinking about this quote from Mike Rowe from his interview with Tim Ferriss:

Advice is that thing you ask for when you secretly know the answer and wish you didn’t.
I haven’t reached an opinion on that quote either, so this post isn’t super helpful yet, is it?
Let’s get on with it then. Here’s what I (currently) feel is the most important principle when raising money:

SEEK OUT THOSE THAT ARE ALREADY LOOKING FOR WHAT YOU’RE OFFERING

I spent the first ~6 months seeking out investors and VC firms based here in Utah to try and find money for a film fund. The goal was to raise $2M and make four films…

(The faults in the business plan would make a great post, so let’s just gloss over that for now, k?)

Six months of nothing, then finally I got a great meeting that ended in an offer. It was different than I was hoping for, but a great offer nonetheless.

It came from the head of a private equity firm in Park City who’s website states:

We invest in the following sectors where our team has deep experience and has previously invested with success: aerospace, banking, business services, energy, technology, transportation, and utility infrastructure.

They had never done a media or film investment, though this executive had some previous experience 20 years ago. Yet, I was hopeful that we’d be the first and the exception, despite their typical investment being in the $20-50 million range…

That was followed by two months of emails, calls, follow up meetings, and ultimately…the deal falling through. The co-lead of the company was against the deal from the get-go – a red flag I should’ve seen. Instead, I put all my eggs in that basket and was super let down when the deal unraveled.

We followed that up by–get this–doing the same stupid thing. We found another company who historically has invested in real estate (yeah), but who wanted to branch out and start a media and entertainment division. They made an offer, we took it, papers were signed and…

Then the deal fell through.

Two strikes. At least, this time, we learned from our experience.

This brings us to around February of this year, where I changed who I was going out to. I stopped reaching out to VCs and other investors that hadn’t ever done a film investment.

Screenshot 2016-06-17 11.59.13I started reaching out to film investors, companies, and producers that I found on sites like Slated.com and IMDb Pro. I tested the emails I sent out. I tracked the number of emails sent, the response rate, follow-up, etc.

Things started out slow but I started to get a few responses a week off of 10-20 emails per day going out.

The highest response rate, however, came from when I targeted producers of other films that matched ours on budget and genre and had been produced in the last 5 years.

You can do this by clicking on Movie Meter on IMDB Pro and then refining your search on the left side of the page.

Then, just click on each producer for each film (I’d stick to the producers, executive producers, and co-producers, avoiding the associate producers and line producers) and see which ones have contact info listed.

Many (if not most) of the producers will not have any contact info listed. Some will just have the name of their company, which is just a generic email. If it’s just info@companyname.com, don’t expect much from shooting an email off, but if it seems like it could be a personal email, then send away!

The first day that I used this approach, I got two responses, both that were interested in looking at the script.

And look at the difference from a typical VC firm:

That’s not an area that we invest in. Best of luck.

And one of these producers:

I do have some interest in this genre. Would be happy to read script. If you have a budget send me the top sheet so I can see roughly where you are at.

Night and day. That producer went on to read the script that night, respond the next morning–with notes!–schedule a call, and offer to come on board and pitch the project to his partners.

This is what happens when you find the people who are already looking for what you’re offering. Quicker response, excitement, and forward momentum. Man, it feels good. Not trying to count my eggs before they hatch, but it’s nice when your assumption–in this case, targeting producers–gets validated this way.

There are plenty of other principles that go into successfully raising money, but if you’re looking for that “lead domino”, the thing that makes everything else easier, this just may be it. You could have the best pitch, the strongest team, incredible financials, but if you’re pitching to the wrong person, none of that matters.

What do you think? Have you experienced this in your fundraising efforts? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading!

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