Cannes: 'Smart' Money Coming Back Into the Market

At a American Pavilion panel on film financing, participants agreed that shrewdly packaged project will attract equity that is looking for investments.

Smart money is flowing back into the film business. But unlike the wave of so-called “dumb” money that washed ashore in late ‘90s and early 2000s, today’s investors are looking at projects with a more critical eye.

That was one of the takeaways from a panel on film finance, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Pamela McClintock on Monday at the American Pavilion.

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For producers looking to put projects together, this “is a really good time because the studios have contracted the number of films they make. There is equity out there and there are actors out there who want to work,” said Paul Miller, head of Film Financing, the Doha Film Institute.

Agreed WME’s Deborah McIntosh,“Money is getting smarter, and that means better product is getting made. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the top-tier talent to do a sale. It has to be a really solid good movie.” Although, she advised, producers also have to pay attention on what’s likely to sell in individual territories: German and French TV, for example, have limits on how much violence they will show, and a movie with a lot of violence risks losing TV sales in those countries.

One strategy that has been particularly front and center at this year’s market has been utilizing A-list directors to talk up their future projects to buyers. For example, Martin Scorsese visited town on behalf of his next film Silence, an adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s novel about the Jesuits who brought Christianity to 17th century Japan. And Jim Sheridan visited to discuss Playing with the Enemy, Gary W. Moore’s book about German prisoners-of-war learning to play baseball during World War II.

Having a director on board to meet with buyers can boost to a project’s momentum. Advised ICM Partners’ Peter Trinh, “If I say the director is actually flying in to take these specific meetings, it creates a catalyst to say the director is really passionate, so if you want to play with this project, we need to sit down.” Agreed Miller, “It should be encouraged that people like Jim Sheridan and Marty Scorsese are flying here to sell their movies. Most directors are pretty good about talking about the material.”

The panelist also advised the aspiring filmmakers in the audience to take full advantage of production incentives and tax credits that many countries and states now offer. “It’s free money,” said McIntosh, with Miller adding, “It’s really important to have a production incentive as part of your package. It’s foolish not to.”