Monday, April 21, 2014

"SouthLAnd" Movie Pitch

The idea of a "SouthLAnd" movie has been floated on-and-off since the cancellation of the show last year.  Both the cast and the fans seem to want this project to happen, so I thought I'd put together a little presentation, in order to more fully explore the possibility of such a film.

"What," you may reasonably ask, "are your qualifications for pitching this project?"  None, actually.  My background is this: I hold a bachelor's degree in biology from San Francisco State University.  I earned a teaching credential from the same institution, and I then taught high school for a couple of years before having my own family.  I homeschooled my three children, who have all enjoyed success in college (although, that is more to their credit than mine).  Currently, I am a school sponsor for the Young Storytellers Foundation.  Aside from my family, this organization is my passion, my joy, and my primary commitment.  I fully intend to remain involved with YSF as a school sponsor -- and in any other way in which I can be of help -- for as long as I am able.   "SouthLAnd," though, is the television show which I have most enjoyed in my life.  And I have some time and a few resources -- now that my children are grown -- to dedicate to the worthwhile endeavor of seeing a movie made. 

That being said, here are some of the primary considerations (at least, to my rather uneducated mind) concerning what would be necessary for a "SouthLAnd" film project to come to fruition.  I am sure this is in no way complete.  I also apologize, as I realize it is rather unprofessional to present these ideas on my blog.  It seems, though, to be to be the most effective means at my disposal for communicating with the necessary individuals.  I also hope that I shall not be too long-winded.

I have based these ideas on the following sources:
     a.  the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter project,
     b.  Deke Simon's book, "Film and Video Budgets" (Copyright 2010), and
     c.  the wonderful advice and direction of Andrea Lynch, Kiaya Mangan, and Julia Swain -- film students and budding film-makers.

So, here we go -->

CONSIDERATION #1:  Who owns the rights to "SouthLAnd"?

     This is probably the key question in even beginning to plan a "SouthLAnd" movie.  Who owns the rights to the show?  Is it the creator(s)/executive producer(s)?  Is it the studio (Warner Bros.)?  Is it the network (TNT)?  Is it some combination of these?  It seems to me that it would be ideal for the person or entity that owns the rights to spearhead a Kickstarter project, if that was the route chosen to secure the necessary funding.  To use as an example the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter, it was run by the creator of the show -- Rob Thomas.  Attaching his name to the project and committing to it were probably essential elements in the success of the fundraising effort. 

CONSIDERATION #2:  What is the goal of the project?

     To use again the example of the "Veronica Mars" film project, Rob Thomas explained that he wanted the audience to be satisfied with the conclusion of the story in a way that the final season did not manage to accomplish.  He stated, "I wanted to go down swinging on this series."  To me, this aptly sums up the desires of those involved with the "SouthLAnd" series.  The creators, producers, and cast have all expressed sentiments similar to these.  And, to me, this is an admirable goal -- one which I would be willing to support with my time, effort, and resources.

CONSIDERATION #3:  Costs and Funding

     Looking again at the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter campaign, the goal was to raise $2,000,000.  The amount that was actually raised amounted to $5,702,153 -- with the number of backers being 91,585.

     In providing an example of a feature film budget, Deke Simon, in his book, "Film and Video Budgets," allows for a price tag of $5,000,000. 

     Therefore, it does seem that a budget in the millions is not an unreasonable estimate for the cost of a "SouthLAnd" movie.  I know that the show was done on the frugal side, but "frugal" in Hollywood is probably not the same as "frugal" in my little household in San Diego County.  Doing a film "on the cheap" may well require a budget of at least $2,000,000.

     Lest this seem an incredibly large amount of money, there are many costs that would need to be covered:
          a.  Above-The-Line Costs -- such as, expenses for story rights (if that needs to happen), script development, and costs associated with paying producers, directors, cast members, and associated staff.
          b. Below-The-Line Costs, or all those expenses associated with actual production and post-production -- such as, production staff, extra talent, sound stage, production design, set construction, set operations, special effects, set dressing, wardrobe, make-up and hair, electrical, camera, sound, transportation, location expenses, editing, optical/visual effects, music, post-production sound, titles and graphics, insurance, publicity and marketing.
          c.  There are also taxes and union expenses to be taken into consideration.

     All in all, then, even a movie done with an eye to careful cost-control is still a very expensive undertaking.  And doing it too cheaply may sacrifice quality and safety, both of which are out-of-the-question to me.

     In thinking about the budgetary considerations, I did like Ben McKenzie's idea of having the story revolve around a specific situation, into which the whole cast is drawn.  This would minimize the number of locations required and reduce the need for sound stage use and set construction (although, some would most likely be necessary). 

CONSIDERATION #4:  Looking More Carefully At A Kickstarter Campaign

     As I have said, the individual/entity running a Kickstarter campaign for a "SouthLAnd" movie should own the rights to the show.  This would be necessary legally, unless that person/entity gave permission to another person/entity to run the campaign.  There is also the possibility of the rights being purchased by another party, but that could be prohibitively expensive and may jeopardize the chances of the movie being a commercial success, as the fans may question whether or not the new owner of the rights would give them the kind of story they had all come to expect from their favorite TV show.

     A Kickstarter campaign is also not worry-free.  Kickstarter charges a fee of 5% of all funds raised.  The funds raised are also considered to be taxable income.  And if the project should fail, those who run the campaign are actually legally liable.  There is also the issue of rewards for backers, something that project funders have come to expect from Kickstarter campaigns.  These can be problematic.  Rob Thomas explains that, as rewards, the "Veronica Mars" project gave out 40 Associate Producer credits.  These people were flown to LA to see a rough cut of the film and were invited to provide notes.  "The Producers Guild did not approve, " Mr. Thomas states.  This intrepid man also tells the tale of having to arrange 5000 autographed movie posters for backers.  "It's been a 3-day assignment for us, with nine boxes at Kristen's house and 10 boxes at actor Ryan Hansen's house."  Other rewards offered to the "Veronica Mars" backers included actual walk-on roles, and even a speaking part for the top backer (if I recall correctly).  You may be thinking that this type of reward system is unnecessary, but I beg to differ.  Those who run Kickstarter have explained that the amount of funding secured for a project is, more often than not, influenced by the types of rewards offered to backers.

     A Kickstarter campaign usually requires a pitch video, as well -- another cost to be considered before any fan-based funding is even secured.

     I don't mean to sound excessively negative here.  It's just that an examination of these issues underscores -- at least for me -- the complexity of this endeavor and that the person spearheading the campaign should most preferably be the creator/executive producer of the show.  Legally, he/she would be the best choice and would bring the reputation/name recognition necessary for such a large undertaking.

CONSIDERATION #5:  Selling This Idea To Warner Bros.

     I have gathered -- also from studying the "Veronica Mars" campaign -- that somebody with heavy influence would be required to sell the project "hard" (Chris Chulak's word) at Warner Bros.  Because, after all, it is the studio which has all the actual "stuff" that would be required for an actual production.  I would, of course, be happy to walk the halls of the great WB, pitch video in hand, talking to people.  Somehow, though, I don't think that would work out so well.  "Who let that crazy homeschooling mom in?" people would be asking each other, probably resulting in my being tossed out of the building by security.  Assuming, though, that I had actual permission to enter the halls of that famed studio, I don't know if anyone would listen to me much.  So, somebody of greater importance would need to step up.  It's not that I wouldn't enjoy talking to people, selling the idea of a "SouthLAnd" movie.  That would be great fun for me.  And I do live relatively close to LA, which is an advantage.

CONSIDERATION #6:  How would the final product reach its target audience?

     If this were to be a TV movie, how would it be aired?  Would TNT pick it up?  Could a distribution deal be done with Netflix?  Or would the best avenue of distribution be DVD and VOD?  What are the legal/financial issues surrounding each of these distribution methods?

CONSIDERATION #7:  Other Funding Options

     There are, of course, other funding options besides a Kickstarter campaign.  I have read that often film projects, these days, are financed using a variety of sources -- such as a combination of "investor money, state tax credits, loans, and advance sales of.... distribution rights." (Source for this quote is unknown.  I wrote it down from my reading, but forgot to note the source.)  It may be worthwhile to investigate such a funding mechanism for a "SouthLAnd" movie project.  Perhaps a Kickstarter campaign could be part of the total mix.  The advantages to this method would be that the diversification minimizes the risk for any one entity and would probably increase the amount of money that could be raised.

     Another possible idea is to bring UCLA MFA students into the mix.  Perhaps a "SouthLAnd" movie could be incorporated into a project or projects for them.  This could help control costs, as well as provide opportunities for the up-and-coming generation of filmmakers.  Julia Swain is currently a student in this program (her emphasis is cinematography), so perhaps she could provide some input as to the feasability of this option.

If you are still with me at this point, I would like to thank you for your kind attention.  I will use Twitter to get copies of this presentation to Regina King, Michael Cudlitz, Shawn Hatosy, Ben McKenzie, Deb Craig, Andrea Lynch, Kiaya Mangan, Julia Swain, and Kim Sherrell.  Who knows?  Maybe we can actually do this thing.  It would be pretty awesome.

I hope I have not insulted anyone's intelligence here.  I am aware that many of you reading this already know these things.  It is simply my goal to set everything out for the consideration of all those who might be involved in a fundraising effort.





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