The Film Finance Forums Give Filmmakers Fundraising Info
Back in March 2009, when I was at the beginning of my own journey into filmmaking, I had the good fortune to attend the Film Finance Forum held in Los Angeles. The brainchild produced by the firm of Winston Baker has expanded into an International event adding conferences in Cannes, Zurich and next week on September 14th and 15th in New York. Since so many filmmakers have an interest in exploring different types of financing options available for their projects, here’s a Q&A with partners Katherine Winston and Amy Baker sharing some of their insights.
How did you come up with the concept for the Film Finance Forums?
The various film finance conferences we saw in the marketplace usually focused on topics and speakers who could help filmmakers fundraise. Being that Winston Baker specializes in organizing educational and networking events for alternative investors, we wanted to be able to offer the financial community a platform to hear from active industry players regarding investment opportunities within the film sector. And in the process of catering to financiers’ educational and networking needs at the conference – we are able to provide producers and filmmakers with an opportunity to meet with investors and lenders who are interested in investing within the entertainment industry.
What has surprised you most during the past few years as you’ve held the Forums in different cities?
It does feel like we’ve been doing the Film Finance Forum series for years – but in actuality, we only started offering these forums in March of 2009. So in the past year and a half – what has surprised us most is the amount of support we have received. We’re so honored to be able to bring on board high-caliber speakers at each event in every city and be able to partner with such established organizations as Variety and Thomson Reuters, plus gain support from such sponsors as Aon/AGR, Entertainment Partners, Magnet Media Group, Motion Picture Association, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Rothstein Kass, Sonenshine Partners and TroyGould.
In terms of value what do you think producers and filmmakers gain the most from attending?
Our speakers: We work very hard to secure some of the best speaking faculty possible, from seasoned industry veterans to up-and-coming movers and shakers.
The size of our events: Winston Baker conferences tend to be no more than 200 participants as we want our attendees to have access to our speakers and have a real opportunity to learn from and network with the industry’s best.
Do your presentations or types of attendees vary at all depending on the locations?
There seems to be more financiers at our NY events, more filmmakers at our L.A. events and more distributors at our Cannes forum – which is expected given the locations. However, the difference is minimal. For the most part we tend to host 1/3 financiers (private capital providers from debt and equity funds and high net worth individuals, active lenders, finance agents and investment advisors), 1/3 entertainment executives (producers, distributors, sales agents and filmmakers) and 1/3 advisors – which include lawyers, insurance agents and accountants.
To what do you attribute your success at attracting such prestigious people within the film financing community for your panels?
We take our time exploring topics and speakers, going beyond the usual conference research methodologies. We make it a point to meet with various industry insiders and prospective speakers as often as possible – listening intently to what they have to say and taking their advice into consideration. We also attend various events that relate to the subject in order to gain a better understanding of what we need to offer at our forums.
Since you began the forums what have you noticed has changed the most about the film financing part of the industry?
Money is trickling back into the industry more so today than it was when we first began hosting these events – of course we’d like to say we were a part of that – but what it truly marks is a sign of a recovering economy. Thank goodness!
You’ve listened to some of the most impressive people in the industry speak, so who do you think has resonated the most with the attendees and with the two of you and why?
Jill Gwen of Fox Searchlight seems to be a favorite amongst the attendees because of her enthusiasm for the independent filmmaking community and her approachability at the conferences. We enjoy working with her as well and have been lucky enough to work with so many amazing people that it’s hard to name them all!
As organizers what is the most valuable lesson you have learned from producing these events?
We’ve learned the value of quality over quantity. We keep our forums small and intimate; we also limit sponsoring speakers to a minimum in order to keep our program focused on relevant topics rather than marketing presentations.
Aside from the four locations you’re in now, do you have any further plans for expansion?
We are looking into Asia for 2011.
For more information about the Film Finance Forums visit their website at http://www.filmfinanceforum.com/