Funding is a continuous challenge for programme and filmmakers at any stage in their career. Emerging filmmakers within the U.K may apply for funding from Arts Council or BFI (or one of its subsidiary organisations), this source of funding is designed to help cultivate talent throughout the early stages of their career.
More established production companies will partner with a film studio to release their project, who will provide investment for the project and act as executive producers ensuring that the key business elements of the film’s delivery and distribution are taken care of. To help demystify this process we spoke with Sarah Poole, Producer & Investor Manager, at Goldfinch Studios to discuss how private film funding works and what you will need to have in place.
Big Picture Film Club: Can you briefly describe your role as a Producer & Investor Manager?
Sarah Poole: My current role is diverse and varies from day to day. On the producer side of my role, I liaise with prospective and current clients in regards to their projects. This takes many forms, from setting up SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) / EIS investment vehicles, creation of a bespoke Investment document, dealing with HMRC / Companies House on their behalf (the boring admin side of things *groan*), attending screenings & events and keeping in regular contact on the progress of their projects to report back to our investors.
On the investor side of the role, I liaise with our pool of high net worth investors and our Fund Managers in order to deploy SEIS / EIS funds to our producer clients. This involves a lot of paperwork and compliance work.
I also currently run the company’s social media accounts.
BPFC: At what stage in development do you begin to work with production companies?
SP: Our Goldfinch Studios brand encompasses a whole host of companies providing a “one-stop shop” for services at all stages of the lifespan of a film or TV project. At development stage, Goldfinch Entertainment can help set up an SEIS / EIS slate to provide monies for the development of projects. Recently we launched our Goldfinch First Flights initiative which works with emerging talent. We also have Goldfinch Media Labs (Brand placement) and Goldfinch Music (for all the music needs of the Film / TV / video game).
We also can help with sales and distribution of completed films / TV Shows and not forgetting we have our production facilities and VFX specialists in York! Our involvement with projects doesn’t end with the investment, we also act as executive producers and advise on distribution, playing a key role from script to screen and after.
BPFC: What criteria do you use to decide which films/Shows you will take on for investment?
SP: We focus on identifying the most commercially and financially viable projects in order to generate attractive returns for our investors. Our strict assessment process involves us analysing information provided about the project, such as reading the script and looking at the finance plan / budget to make sure that there is a high probability sufficient sales revenue will be achieved. We get around 30 submissions per week so we are kept extremely busy!
BPFC: Goldfinch Studios works closely with private investors to fund projects, how do you attract first-time investors and maintain good relationships with existing ones?
SP: We are very fortunate in that we have managed to maintain a loyal investor pool who continue to invest with us. These clients are mainly introduced to us through clients, contacts and word of mouth. With 18 years’ experience in a client facing businesses, I pride myself in making sure that clients on both sides of the fence are provided with a top-notch service 24/7 if necessary. Luckily I love my job!
BPFC: Both the increase in streaming services and the decrease in mid-level budget films making its way to the big screen have changed the movie industry in recent years – how have those changes in the industry and audience affected how Goldfinch Studios works with its projects?
SP: Our assessment process has remained the same, making sure we only take on the most commercial projects and due to the industry changes, we now have to establish that there is a market for the project and take into account the most suitable route to screen which is increasingly not spending big bucks on a theatrical release. As an avid user of Netflix, I find it very hard to criticise the massive impact they are having on the industry. The sheer amount of original content they are churning out is jaw-dropping and their offering is becoming broader & broader over so many genres of film / TV for the audience it can only be a good thing.
BPFC: Before a filmmaker or production company seeks private investment for their project what are the key things they should have in place?
SP: To be able to assess the commerciality of a project, we need as much information as possible in order to see the whole picture as it stands.
The minimum information we would need is a finance plan / budget, marketing pack / treatment overview, details of the team involved and a script.
BPFC: Can you tell us a bit about some of the upcoming projects from Goldfinch Studios this year?
SP: We have two projects entering principal photography in the next month which we are very excited about.
‘Waiting For Anya’ which is based on the book by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. The cast includes Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp, Hollywood legend Anjelica Huston and iconic French actor Jean Reno! The shoot starts in France very soon!
Production starts soon at our studio facilities in York for ‘Transience’, a sci-fi from writer / director Carl Strathie which follows a family who is terrorised by otherworldly beings! His most recent film ‘Solis’ starring Steven Ogg (Westworld, The Walking Dead) was also filmed at our Studios in York and is nearing completion so watch out for news of a release!
We have a lot going on behind the scenes at Goldfinch Studios so keep your eyes peeled for news of our exciting new productions and partnerships which are soon to be revealed!
To find out more about Goldfinch Studios visit their website www.goldfinchstudios.co.uk