12 September 2010

Executive Summary for Filmmakers

I was recently asked to speak at a business planning session for film makers.  While film making is a little different than a technology startup, I was happy to lend my expertise on making a great executive summary.  I tailored my talk as well as my sections to filmmakers and it was well received.


First, we must acknowledge that you only have 30 seconds to impress anyone in life.  That is especially true if you are trying to pitch an investor for money.  An executive summary is your written form formal pitch.  Your Executive Summary is that 30 second window. 

The reader in this case an investor needs to be intrigued enough by your executive summary to read on as well as meet you.  Intriguing does not mean you should use your artistic talent and use fanciful story telling.  The summary consists of the most salient points -- your business plan is the time to be long winded.  Just give the reader the facts with no embellishment.  This is a business proposal, not a script.

Here are the 7 sections your film making executive summary should have as well as 1 optional section.  At the end of these sections I provide my 5 pro tips on making an executive summary for your film.


Executive Summary for Filmmakers

Section 1: Strategic Opportunity (aka Overview)
  •     What's the name of the company?
  •     What type of film or films are you making?
  •     Who are you?

Section 2: Management Team
  •     Give the investor an idea of the team's experience and expertise.
  •     Well known people should go first.
  •     Don't list people who have not officially signed!
  •     Note that the investor is investing in a business.  The business team is very important and distinct from the artistic team.

Section 3: The Film(s)
  •     Only the most important information about your proposed film(s).
  •     This is not the place for a synopsis.
  •     Indicate notable artistic attachments (director, actor, producer) -- no bios though.
  •     Don't list people who have not officially signed!

Optional Section: The Industry
  •     What's the health of the film industry at the box office, ticketing, indie, mainstream?
  •     For investors that are less savvy they will need this section to assess whether film is a good investment for them in general.

Section 4: The Market
  •     What are the target markets for your specific film(s) and products.
  •     Demographics and numbers around your market.  Be specific.
  •     What self marketing methods can you use and how valuable will they be?

Section 5: Distribution
  •     Worst answer: we will get distribution.
  •     If you have distribution already list the names, but only those that have really signed!
  •     We have interest is good PR but bad business planning.
  •     Describe your knowledge for how distribution will work for this specific film(s) you are making. 
  •     Give reasons and show your knowledge in the area of distribution.

Section 6: Financial Highlights
  •     This summarizes all the financial information in your plan.
  •     Summary of projected profit and loss over five years (especially for a multi-film plan)
  •     Always qualify expressions of future gain with one of these words: projection, forecast, and estimate

Section 7: Investment Opportunity
  •     Always include how much money you want -- people leave that out all to often.
  •     Do not keep it a secret.
  •     How will investors get their money back?

My 5 Pro Tips:
#1 Don't list people who have not officially signed.  Interest doesn't count either.
#2 Less is more.  Get it down to 1 page.
#3 Do not deviate from the path of the outline you have already chosen for your full business plan.
#4 Anything you say here has to appear in more detail somewhere else in the proposal.
#5 Meaningless generalizations in the summary will lead investors to believe they will find them in the rest of the plan.  Don't do it.


Sarah Christine Bolton said...

Great overview, Eric! Sorry I missed your talk... I was at the event in the morning, but couldn't stay for the afternoon.

I do have a quick question about #7... should you list the total amount you are seeking? Or the amount you are seeking from that particular, individual investor?

Thanks again for this helpful info!

Eric Mathews said...

On 7 you should list the total to be raised and the preferred increment of raising it. So for instance you could say: "We are raising $100,000 in increments of $10,000." Or you could say: "We are looking for 10 investors to provide $10,000 each to reach our fundraising goal of $100,000 for this film."

Anonymous said...


I have a question for the webmaster/admin here at ericmathews.blogspot.com.

Can I use some of the information from this post right above if I provide a backlink back to your website?


Eric Mathews said...

Yes. Go for it!

Anonymous said...

I think so. I think your article will give those people a good reminding. And they will express thanks to you later