How to Find "Savvy" Money for Your Movie

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Celine Rattray

Producer Celine Rattray, who doubled her investors' money on 'The Kids Are All Right' and now has 'American Honey' at Cannes, talks about her upcoming project with Jessica Chastain and explains the complex new rules for global filmmakers ahead of her participation in Winston-Baker's seventh annual International Film Finance Forum, co-sponsored by THR.

When Maven Pictures' Celine Rattray sought investors to fund The Kids Are All Right, she didn't promise to make anyone rich. But she did anyway: The 2010 lesbian family drama, made for less than $5 million, grossed seven times its budget and more than doubled its investors' money. Rattray will explain how she did it — and offer other tips on how to raise cash to fund movies — as a panelist at Cannes' seventh annual International Film Finance Forum (tickets are 395 euros, or about $450). THR, which is co-sponsoring the event and providing moderators for several panels, spoke with Rattray about her presentation and the financing business.

What is the most important thing for global filmmakers to know about financing projects?

In the current marketplace, there's never one easy outlet. Each project is different: I've produced 40 movies, and I can talk about my experiences with all of them — like American Honey, which is going to be in Cannes. There are a lot of new sources of financing, like Netflix and Amazon. I feel that producers have to be as nimble as ever, really willing to make movies for a low price.

How did you raise money for American Honey?

In a collaboration between the British Film Institute, Film4, our company and a private investor.

When do investors get a return on their film investments?

The typical timing is 18 months from when the money is put in, but it depends on when you're selling the movie.

Is the money smarter than it used to be?

It's more savvy: Investors want to know the presales, the estimates. Over the years I've really worked to educate investors. Press, word-of-mouth, bad buzz and good buzz spread very quickly, especially at the festival.

How big a role do tax incentives play in financing films?

Huge. Many movies I've made couldn't have been made without the New York or Louisiana tax credits.

Do you pay attention to boycotts of states over gay-rights issues?

It definitely doesn't incentivize us to shoot in those places, but we haven't planned any productions in those states so haven't had to cancel any.

What type of track record does Maven have?

We've often done great on movies — summer films have been immensely successful financially. We have a lot of movies that made their money back; we have a couple that have not panned out as well as we had hoped, and we try to figure out why that happened. We want to be investor-friendly — there's nothing more satisfying than repeat business from investors.

Can you give an example of an investor doing well on one of your films?

The Kids Are All Right we made for $4.5 million, then we sold international rights for $9 million and the movie made $35 million [worldwide] theatrically, and the investors more than doubled their money. Plus they keep making money every month from overages in territories and its being exploited in ancil­lary markets.

Is there a particular genre selling well or that investors prefer nowadays?

We just try to find films that are unique. And Maven is supportive of females behind the camera and in front — it's an important part of our mission statement. Seven of our 10 films have been directed by women. We just closed a deal with Jessica Chastain and her company, Freckle Films, to co-produce films she has in development, and we're scouring the marketplace for projects for her.


Look Who's Talking Also at the Forum
Two CEOs and a Romanian actor are among those giving presentations at Cannes 

David Linde, Participant Media
1:15-1:45 p.m.

A keynote conversation with the CEO — whose company recently invested $200 million to help start up Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners — moderated by THR executive editor Matthew Belloni.

Stuart Ford, IM Global
3-3:15 p.m.

THR senior film reporter Tatiana Siegel will moderate a keynote conversation with the founder and CEO, probing for insight into the foreign marketplace — especially China.

Dragos Savulescu, Rising Glen Entertainment
4:30-5:15 p.m.

The Romanian producer and actor discusses "Getting Films Financed Today." Rattray also is a panelist, as are Black Bicycle Entertainment’s Erika Olde and Cinelou Films’ Courtney Solomon.

This story first appeared in the May 13 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.