It can be dizzying how many film finance networking events there are. The Summits, The Forums, The Seminars, The Conferences, The Symposiums, The Markets, The Gatherings, The Workshops, The Roundtables, The Consortiums, or maybe even, The Speed Pitch Mosh Pits.
Spending money on these events range from as little as the cost of gas to 5K a pop. Those in attendance all have the same high hopes of learning that silver bullet of information they are dying to know, or meeting the people they need to meet to finally make their financing dreams come true.
Should you attend or should you not attend, that is the question and here is my answer:
- Yes, if you want to network
- No, if you want to learn groundbreaking information
A few things to consider before you drop your coin:
1. WHO IS ATTENDING: A mix is key. Make sure there will be a grouping of producers, financiers, sales agents, lawyers, packaging agents on the panels and in the audience. Are there fresh faces in the mix? Or is it the same participants and panelists from last time. Do the panelists relate to where you are in your career or have they become so out of touch that their wisdom holds no relevancy for your situation.
2. WHAT IS THE VENUE: A smaller venue with quality panelists can often foster a more casual, open and approachable experience than big ballroom conferences. Conversely, muti-day conferences can give you an opportunity to identify the people you want to meet and establish a repoir over those few days.
3. WHO IS MODERATING: Who’s moderating is just as important if not more than the panelists. They are responsible for creating an interesting and informative discussion for all. Moderators can put the experts on the spot, I know I like it when a moderator does this to me when I sit on panels. You want a moderator who can drill down with the right questions. It’s important the speakers stay on the point you came to hear about or was advertised. At the very least a moderator can help make the discussion a bit more entertaining and in-turn more palatable.
What’s on the docket?
TOO REMEDIAL: What I find frustrating, however, is that most of the information provided is either run-of-the-mill, or too abstract. Students aside, I think it’s safe to say that most producers know by now now that independent movies are made with a combination of foreign presales and gap loans, equity investors, and tax credits advances.
TOO ADVANCED: Panels consisting of slate/facility deals, studio/mini-major economics, Monte Carlo simulations, structured fianncing deals, investment bankers, hedging and so on, are very interesting and informative for the select few who can understand, but if you haven’t actually experienced these types of transactions, then you can’t contextualize it, which means it won’t stick. You’ll have spent good money to be bombarded with a lot of information you won’t retain.
WHO IS THE HOST BEHIND THE CURTAIN:
This is important, because you’ll know why the event is being put on in the first place. Here are a few of the different motivations.
Is it attorney sponsored? Because those are typically the most expensive due to the fact they can be counted as continuing education credits and the employers will pay. Is it business sponsored? These are the events to help market the sponsors business while using the event as a self promotion vehicle disguised as education. (hence your new found tote bag, key chain, or mini flashlight.) Lastly, there are events created by the entrepreneur who themselves might be interested in filmmaking and meeting the key players while at the same time creating a organization business model for hosting events and collecting memberships.
Note: None of these are bad motives; it just helps to know which type of event you are attending.
Worth the money or waste of time?
There is nothing more important than the relationships and connections in getting deals done. I have said this before, people do business with people they know. Your job is to get to know people face to face, not just through, online forums or message boards or social networking sites and email. Meet them in person. Give them a face to your name. These events are not the time to be shy. Panelists are usually well meaning while they are there and like to feel helpful (to give back). And who knows you might be sitting next to a new co-producing partner, lender, or future sales agent.
What I can promise you is that you won’t be sitting next to anyone alone at your computer.
Here is a list of some of the groups who hold film financing events.
(If your group is not listed and you would like it added here, just post it in the comment section of this post)