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07/31/2007 - BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF FILM FUNDING ? Alternative Financing Concepts

"BOOK REVIEW: THE ART OF FILM FUNDING - Alternative Financing Concepts"
Author: Carole Lee Dean
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 1932907319

When I opened this book, I expected two things. One: Due to the sub-title "Alternative Financing Concepts" - I expected a chapter on "How to Sell Your Body Parts!" and, Two: I expected this book to be boring.

Happily, I was wrong on both parts - but why do I need an extra kidney anyways?

Ms. Dean does a great job in making the art of film fund finding, well, fun. With years of experience on both sides of the business, she explains in a mix of interviews and stories the process of pitching your idea, looking for those willing to fund your film and all the nuances and approaches you should take. Not only that, she includes an EXCELLENT reference section (50 pages of a 250 page book) with names, addresses, phone numbers, websites, etc. That alone is worth the price of the book.

Much of the first few chapters in the book revolve around pitching your idea. Even if you are on the fence in terms of whether to make your film or not, Ms. Dean emphasizes a lot of the aspects of Pitching that can come in handy in any situation where you have the opportunity to talk about your idea.

With my own independent film on the horizon, and the aspect of me trying to sell a kidney to raise funds, I was surprised when the first half of the book focused mostly on documentaries. I wondered as I read through those pages as to how the rules and ideas and suggestions she was giving would fit my project: A feature film with 15 actors using an original script written by me. Not my documentary on the slaughter of innocent ants by rabid 10 year old boys with magnifying glasses.

Half-way through the book, though, she does focus on the aspect of how to find funding for your independent film and then she goes on in later chapters to deal with "Branding" (making your pitch unique with photos or other graphics), "Finding Partnerships" and even a chapter on "Federal Tax Laws" - and again, if you think these chapters are pages and pages of droning commentary - think again: Most of these are interviews with people in the trenches who have worked through the process, know the process, live the process.

One of the things I found surprising in this book is there is a lack of focus on story and the story you are trying to tell (whether it is in Documentary Form or Fictional/Non-Fictional 3-Act Structure Story Telling). A recent seminar I went to on Independent Film one of the speakers came right out and said: "Is your story worth telling?" Though Ms. Dean touches on it a little, there is not a lot of time spent on making sure that your story is one that has an audience. Granted, a book about film financing should be about film financing not a book on whether your documentary of sadistic 10 year old boys is worthy for a slot on PBS during their next pledge drive.

Another issue I have with this book is a common one: Create a list of all the websites mentioned in the chapters for easy reference. Though the expansive reference section alone is worth the price of the book, Ms. Dean sprinkles almost every chapter with names, websites, even phone numbers of people to contact. It would have been the icing on the cake to also include those in the reference section under a separate heading broken down by chapter. That way lazy writers like me don't have to skim through the chapters looking for the familiar www. Though, in their defense, they did a unique thing of highlighting the interviews so they could be found quickly.

Once again Michael Weise Productions has produced a great book, unique to the marketplace filled with all the nitty-gritty details of what it takes to find financing for your film. Hats off to them, and Ms. Dean.


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