How Technology is Creating the Next Wave of Filmmakers



This year, the Napa Valley Film Festival (NVFF) celebrated its five-year anniversary recently, but the real celebration was amongst the wave of new entrepreneurs – filmmakers.

This year, 300 aspiring creators submitted their ideas to the NVFF Pitch Panel Contest. Twenty semi-finalists were selected to participate in a boot camp with producer & pitch writer, Scott Manville, and industry veteran Peter Belsito. Ten finalists were invited to present their concepts to a panel of film executives – David Glasser, David Greenbaum, Robert Budreau, and Ennis Hensley.

“There has never been a better time for entrepreneurship in the development of new ideas for TV, film and the web. Napa Valley Film Festival has amassed a community of industry experts who are eager to help aspiring writers and filmmakers develop their ideas. We look forward to more creative energy with our Pitch Competition and the entire film festival program at the sixth annual Napa Valley Film Festival, November 9 – 13, 2016.” Mark Lhormer, Founder, Executive and Artistic Director of NVFF.

What Does it Take to Create a Winning Film?

The process can be described in five parts – research, differentiate, set tone, develop script, and distribute.

Research – It’s important to research your topic. Has it been down before? Great. That means the idea resonated with an audience at one time. That brings us to the second part of the process.

Differentiate – When pitching your film, make sure you can differentiate your film from the rest. Money Ball was great, but copying the exact idea would fall flat. However, Money Ball for a different industry could gain interest.

Establish Tone – When pitching a film, it is critical to establish the tone. Viewers are captivated by the way you make them feel. How will your film make viewers feel? Will they laugh? Will they rethink common beliefs? Or will they cry?

Script – Your ideas mean nothing if you can’t get a script on paper. There are plenty of free resources to help you with this process. You wouldn’t start a business without sketching out critical concepts on a business model canvas, so why would you develop a film with no formal roadmap?

Distribution – Last, but definitely not least, is distribution. Today, filmmakers have a plethora of platforms. But you must think about this ahead of time. Where do you believe your content will do best? Is your film best suited for theatrical release? Could this be Nextflix’s next big hit? Or is your film best suited as a TV series on a cable channel?

Funding Your Film

Now that you’ve created something that is worthy of production, you’ll need capital. A decade ago, you would have needed to convince an established studio to back your film. This may have required millions of dollars in initial production. Today, you can shoot a trailer for next to nothing and run a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo or Kickstarter.

Your first step is creating a realistic budget based on what you need to get your film to the next stage. Films by seasoned entertainers –Veronica Mars ($5.7 million) and Wish I Was Here ($3.1 million) – can raise millions with the help of a strong fan base. If you are a novice, you’ll need to work on building your community before you launch your campaign. The good news is that you can begin now by creating social media accounts to establish dialogue around the idea.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t have a large fan base. Oscar nominated King’s Point ($10,165) and Inocente ($55,522) prove that you don’t have to crowdfund millions to get noticed by the Academy. All you need is a winning film.




Reprinted by permission

Image credit: CC by Jose Francisco Del Valle Mojica


About the author: Lili Balfour

Lili Balfour is the founder and CEO of the SoMa-based financial advisory firm, Atelier Advisors, creator and host of Finance for Entrepreneurs, author of Master the Finance Game, and host of the Finance for Entrepreneurs broadcast on Spreecast.

After spending fifteen years in investment management and investment banking, she decided to develop a firm to cater to the specific needs of early-stage companies. At Atelier Advisors, Lili advises leading brands across industries: from tech to consumer goods. In the past, she has advised over 100 brands, including:

Bag, Borrow, or Steal, Visual IQ, Alpha Theory, Derivix, Practice Fusion, Peeled Snacks, Sustainable Minds, Firescope, Chix 6, Duchess Marden, Erin Fetherston, Eckart Tolle, and Stuart Skorman (founder of Reel.com, Elephant Pharmacy, Hungry Minds, and Clerk Dogs (sold to Netflix)).

While advising companies at Atelier Advisors, she observed a common theme – -brilliant founders avoided finance. She began writing about entrepreneurial finance to solve this problem.

As a native of Silicon Valley and a first generation Mexican American, Lili understands the importance of imparting wisdom learned in Silicon Valley to the rest of the world. Her goal is to teach the entire planet about entrepreneurial finance.

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