How to Create a Film Business Plan (Part 1)

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I’ve been raising money for films for almost 25 years now and am always asked about what goes into a film business plan, or worse, am asked to write one for a fellow filmmaker. So here’s the skinny on how to write your own film business plan. It’s a general overview, not intended to be a step-by-step guide. But it should get you started.

“Can I just download a film business plan template and fill it in with my film’s information?

Yes. There are a number of places online where you can purchase a film business plan template, download it, and fill in your own information. My own Indie Film Business Plan Template, of course, is one I can recommend which is very comprehensive, and available for purchase on this very site (what a coincidence!) .

“Can I have someone write my film business plan for me?”

Yes. There are lots of folks with great experience in writing film business plans on the internet you can pay to write you one, but just a heads up: a lot of them are uber-professionals whose rates may be out of the typical independent filmmaker’s budget range. For the most part, what you’re paying for is years of their expertise. Some are simply AWESOME, (FilmProfit.com is one such place.) but just like any profession, there are some who really don’t know what they’re doing, so watch out. Also, attorney John Cones has some great info here on Surview Entertainment.

“What are the sections I need to write into my film business plan?

Every film business plan should at least contain the following sections, in whatever order you prefer:

Title Page

A Pro-looking title page which, optionally, includes a logo or graphic of your film or film company. At the bottom of the business plan you should list your “Forward Looking Statements” disclaimer, which is something like this, but consult with a lawyer – don’t just copy and paste this text.

Any statements in this business plan that are not historical facts are forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties; actual results may differ from the forward-looking statements. Sentences or phrases that use such words as “believes,” “anticipates,” “plans,” “may,” “hopes,” “can,” “will,” “expects,” “is designed to,” “with the intent,” “potential” and others indicate forward-looking statements, but their absence does not mean that a statement is not forward-looking. The Company undertakes no obligation to publicly release the results of any revisions to these forward-looking statements that may be made to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events.

Table of Contents

The next section you should have in your film business plan is a solid, easy-to-read Table of Contents. That table of contents basically gives the reader a page-by-page listing of everything in your film business plan. And not only that, but it shows that you have the ability to organize a massive document into sections that make sense. I know it sounds a bit silly, but the Table of Contents, if properly written, is one of your business plan’s most impressive features, because it’s one of the first thing the potential investor or vendor sees, and can convey a wide swath of what your film business plan is all about in a single glance.

A good film business plan has got to impress people on a technical, informational level, but has to leave them with a “gut feeling” that you know what you’re doing. That gut feeling is sort of like “Well, if this guy can put together this comprehensive of a film business plan, he’s probably a professional who’s organized and meticulous.” Don’t quote me on that, but you get the idea, as ridiculous as it sounds.

Overview Section

After the Table of Contents, your film business plan has got to have a solid Overview Section, also known as the Executive Summary. This is a section where, basically, you give a little blurb about all the major sections in the business plan that are to come. You don’t want to be super-verbose here in describing each section, but you do want to convey enough information about the sections ahead to, again, show your organizational professionalism, by showing the reader/potential investor that you’re able to “feed” them “bite sized” chunks of the information they need without overwhelming them, and enticing them to read further.

It’s a well-known fact that copywriters, who make a living off of crafting words and sentences into material which attracts people to buying products, know that breaking things into “bite sized” chunks is a valuable skill to have. Take, for example, how many times you yourself have been enticed into reading someone’s blog, about a topic you really have no interest in, but which you felt compelled to read, simply because the title was something like “10 Ways To Make Your Script Better.” Then you look at the blog briefly, see that it’s broken into little, easy-to-read chunks, and then you decide to read it. It’s all about getting people to keep reading the material.

Your Film’s Objectives Section

The next section in your film business plan should be your Objectives section, which details what you plan to do with the film, or what you plan to do with the film company, using the film. Be very specific here. You want to list your specific, measurable, tangible goals that you want to achieve by making and selling this film. “Make millions of dollars” is not what you want to write. “Gross $14 million in domestic and foreign revenue, both theatrically and through ancillary markets by Q4 2015″ is more specific. Naturally, you don’t want to use too many difficult, oblique business terms if you’re going to be asking for investment from folks who don’t understand them. Then again, if you’re targeting people who appreciate that kind of language, go for it.

About The Filmmakers Section

The next section you want to include in your film business plan is a section about your team of filmmakers or your company. Include bios of your major players, including the film’s director, lead producers, and any name cinematographer or art director or special effects creator, or whomever you feel would help your cause. Listing every friend and extra you’re planning to cast in your film here is probably not the best idea. Keep this short, and put your best people here. The people you want to list are the ones with the most experience, the most respectable “pedigree,” and/or the biggest names. You might not have anybody you feel is worth putting here, but do your best. Include photos and bios of these people.

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