And Now For Something Completely Expected
It was only natural that there would be some complete assholes. In the film industry there were certainly a larger percentage than in most other professions; some people developed such a strong sense of self-worth it became immense arrogance, and there was certainly no way to avoid it.
The first of these people, apart from those who said they wanted to work with us and then dissolved into thin air (a disturbingly large number, admittedly) was a man named John (I never actually knew his last name) from a company in England called Three Hills. Somehow, somewhere, Scott Ferguson connected with this person over his independent screenplay PITTSBURGH POWDERKEGS. He then spoke to Larry, and on the 12th of April, 2007, he wrote this letter to Scott. Keep in mind that he never read one of our scripts or even a treatment; his entire interaction with Scott had to do with the PP project.
I received a call from Larry. Naturally we did some Google research about all matters pertaining. Debora Hill and Lost Myths Ink came up quite a bit. We did respond to her similar message on Shooting People only to be disappointed to discover that there was nothing like the funding model indicated and not even a sufficiently developed project or script. Clearly, a fishing expedition. As genuine tv and film producers of some provenance we can be pretty certain that nothing will develop from the projects as manifested to date. Any producer who gets meaningfully onboard at this stage is either an amateur or has some special inside reason for going for it. I won’t labour the point unduly but these sorts of deals being offered on Shooting People really are too good to be true. GAP funding and equity finance from pure money lenders and banks for example is the most expensive you can get and quite frankly there’s nothing exceptional about the funding models on offer. We can get these deals too. London and Dubai are awash with loose funds. It’s not actually true therefore to say that Powderkegs has any significant attachment at all, either money or talent. It’s all about content, a cracking good script and well-developed attachments in terms of project leadership and on-screen talent. No amount of ‘ducking and diving’ will surmount these prerequisites. I’ve not seen the script (!) So I can’t comment on likely outcomes, but I wouldn’t put a bet on ever seeing Lost Myths or Powderkegs on any sort of screen, but I do with you well with it.
Nevertheless, if Larry is as able to wheel and deal amongst the great and the good as well as he says, there may be other possibilities to explore. We have a number of excellent projects at various stages of development with genuinely high-quality attachments, co-production options and finances that are nothing like as onerous as GAP or equity financing. Perhaps, if you’re into raising your sights bit higher, and if you have the business potential, we might explore other trans Atlantic collaborations?
With best regards, John
So, I was a little angry about this, as you, gentle readers, can probably imagine. I wrote to Scott the following day and sent a copy to Larry Withowski.
I have no idea who this man is, but I find his arrogance remarkable. To say that David Fairman and Tom Krejci are amateurs is more than insulting. I suggest you not respond; if I had to respond to this, there’s no way I’d be polite. As far as his claim that the film fund is a ‘common’ occurrence, frankly I’ve been told by a number of people in the industry that it is quite unusual and extremely difficult to achieve.
Also, I have no idea what he means to say he responded to my posting; I’ve never heard of this person or this company. And to say that the funding offered was nothing like what was promised is a flat-out lie; I am extremely straightforward with the deal, as you know. His last two paragraphs really say everything you need to know – he has no interest in anyone’s scripts but his own, and he only wants funding for his own. He’d better hope I never come face to face with him.
The dance concerning the workings of the film fund continued, and we were basically confused that the parameters kept changing until we didn’t understand anything that was going on. But that was proving to be an everyday occurrence with Larry. After the long rambling letter he wrote me in an attempt to explain the procedure once again, I wrote him this:
There is some confusion going on here, massively. I know there was a definite discussion as to the fact that Lost Myths Ink and you would definitely be paid our fee for ODESSA when the Lost Boys receive their funding from the first LOI and that was supposed to be this month. There is no reason why, under the circumstances, there should not be some kind of a fund for advance money here. Given everything that is going on, and how much work and effort is going into these projects, we are relying on you to work this out. You knew in February that we had to be paid by this month, and it still drags on. There is no conceivable reason why any of us should have to continue this way. We knew it would take 30-60 days for payment on our scripts, but the idea was to be paid the fees for the outside projects pretty much immediately. If this is not the case, stop now. And don’t tell me to chill out, because this is how people become homeless.
What you are talking about being 30-60 days out, meant, to our understanding, the release of funds from Martin London. Our agreement regarding ODESSA and in fact all outside projects was that broker fees would be paid from extant funds upon the release of the final LOI from Martin London.
Yes, our goal too is to get some kind of pipeline going that will generate payouts every two months. But there must be operating capital now. We agree with you that we can’t afford to have any more amateurs onboard like ScriptBroker, but we suggested you jettison them 2 months ago. The people we are working with now are obvious professionals with a track record, and all us are being much more careful as to who we send your way. We suggest you stick to the original and if ScriptBroker does not produce their part of the funding for ODESSA, cut them loose.
If we were to rewrite any outside project, it would have to be on the basis of 50% of our fee upfront regardless of the funding source.
I will be more than happy to get funds once the LOI is executed. The problem is that producers might not want to release funds from their percentage of the money they have until ML funds the entire project. As stated before, I have zero problem with getting these funds at the signing of the LOI.
On the Lost Boys I still have faith in them getting funds, the problem is some of their co-producers on the money all think that their poop does not smell, and it does. I am handling it.
So, on Terence’s project, what do you suggest? Pass? Or have them pay for a polished script before sending to ML?
We had now been working with Larry Withowski for nine months with nothing concrete to show for it. The bloom was definitely off the rose, and we were beginning to feel the need to move on. ShadowHawk taught us a lot about the negative aspects of the film industry, including how long to not remain with people who are producing nothing but angst.
On the 16th of April we got a long letter from Chad Davis at ScriptBroker.
We wanted to write to you to give you an update on our current position and concerns we have with the hold up of financing. We also wanted to ask your opinion on this subject as well. With our current situation at hand, the quickest way to obtain 100% of the budget necessary to begin production would be in the best interest of all of us because of the financial benefit. Plain and simple, we all have bills to be paid. For ODESSA, we currently have worked to acquire investors ready to put down money for 15% of the budget within 30 days of 2 weeks ago, however, their decision to move forward and place monies in escrow are dependent on the validity of the major financier, SFG. SFG, also prior to starting their acquisition of the 85% requires us to pay upfront a specific and significant amount of money. Although this is uncommon and slightly questionable, we have worked to even acquire this specific sum; however, the major outlying dilemma is finding any amount of background or credits on SFG within the movie industry or even the financial realm to sustain this investment.
We wanted to ask you if you happened to have any information on SFG or Martin London other than what was provided by their company’s amateur and uninformative website that we keep being directed to. We really want this project to start so that we all can make money and pay bills, but when our producer who had gathered this specific upfront and sometimes questionable sum, asked Martin to send over a measure of background to ensure that his money wouldn’t walk, he was met with tension and noncompliance. We were told that no background information on SFG would be sent to us and that our producer who is gathering the funds would need to fly to NY to meet with Martin’s backers. Though now a little uneasy, we still have hope that things will go through and are working on getting this producer to New York.
Now we are at a standstill because we are trying to arrange a flight for our producer to New York that fits in his already busy schedule. This schedule then needs to coincide with Martin’s. We feel that all of this could progress faster and more easily if SFG would just send over a few references as most companies are happy to do. Usually large companies enjoy showing how operational and beneficial their company is (i.e. a portfolio), especially in the financial field.
To summarize, we still believe in SFG; however, our producing partners, money holders and even actors agencies will not take this project seriously unless we have a measure of credibility with respect to funding.
April 17, 2007
Chad does not understand money. ML & SFG are not on IMDB. They choose not to be listed as producers or executive producers. Basem is the CEO and a very private person. The other day ML impressed me with regard to one of Alred’s film projects. He called someone that he is close with (Alfred was on the telephone with him) in order for that person to get a very well known producer on the telephone to discuss the project that Alfred has which we needed their help on.
In the financial field from my research, a lot of other financial people know of and have done business with ML & or Basem in the past. ML is a CPA – let them check that out. In the LOI they (the producer) signs the LOI and then has approximately 30 days to perform. This means they have to provide POF (proof of funds) so that the agreement can be executed. Then SFG (ML) has a usual 30-60 day time frame for them to POF up to 50% of the funds. There is also in all agreements a fee which is part and parcel to their 2.5% of the actual facility. In all cases 20K is put down at the acceptance of the LOI.
Just like in investment banking there is a fee that is paid, at the acceptance of a deal. With film financing there is no difference in that fee. On occasion depending on the overall strength of the producers other arrangements can be made. In this case there is no strength of who is involved in ODESSA.
April 17th was actually the death of our dealings with Larry Withowski. No one would pay such a large fee when they knew almost nothing about the company SFG or Martin London, nothing was provided and every attempt at discovery was rebuffed. However, as with many business dealings – ShadowHawk being our prime example – frequently the corpse won’t lie down even when dead.
Suddenly it was all about other people’s productions. It became ridiculous; we were reading and evaluating their scripts for Martin London, and there was no sign of any funding coming our way. On the 17th I tried to address this with Larry.
I was thinking about our telephone conversation earlier today; I know you think I’m being difficult both about the monetary issues and other projects in general but, look at it this way – Sandra and I don’t discuss with you the novels and scripts we’re working on now, nor do we discuss the reviews we recently received on THE CRYSTAL CHALICE (so far excellent!) Or the peripheral interviews and such for the novel. Also, I don’t inform you about producers who may come into the fund or are thinking of producing one of our scripts, even though there are a goodly number, because it would only confuse you at this time – you don’t need to know about them until you are going to be working with them.
I would like you to show us the same consideration. I know that what you’ve just talked about or worked on is at the front of your mind; however, at least half the time we have no idea what you’re talking about and have no reason to know.
We agreed to read outside scripts for you, and we will do so and send you the reports. But our main focus and interest at this time is with our projects, and when we talk on the telephone I would ask you to please keep your focus on these – don’t ask me about some project of Scott Ferguson’s or some producer he’s working with – I don’t know who this people are and don’t want the conversation cluttered up with other people’s business. When that happens, whatever information we’re trying to elicit or convey regarding our own productions becomes lost in a chaos of information.
All I’m really asking is that if you telephone me, please have the latest information on our projects, i.e. you’re waiting to talk to Tom K. About GO WEST or you have the date for the release of the LOI for DREAM LOVERS, etc. These are our primary concern. I know every project is equal to you, but to us, these are what we consider important.
I hope you understand; we are simply trying to get our films produced – while we are willing to help with others, we have no interest in putting them ahead of our films, and because this is where we will make the bulk of our money, we want to know they are in-progress and nothing that could be done to facilitate them has fallen by the wayside.
I hope you understand.
Naturally, he took offense at this.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Yes, I do understand. Except that I thought you had something to do with Scott’s projects. That is why I have discussed them with you. Enough said, I will not anymore.
In regard to some of the funding sources, I also felt that if you were informed it would show you that I am being diligent in my getting multiple funding sources for your projects as well as others (which I now know you do not care about).
In reply to the following: the actual money is not provided by LMI but by the actual funder and it’s Syndicate and or banks. On fees to LW if the film is under 7.5 million then the fee is 2% of the facility. 1.5% over 7.5 million these fees DO NOT COVER anyone else involved in the facility. LMI does not own the production. The funder will own up to 50%. As far as content, I clarified about Horror. It is ok with SFG. As long as it is not over the top glorified Sex, Drugs, Full-frontal, Excessive cursing, etc. I feel that money can be released to LMI upon transfer of money from Producer to Funder at this point LMI has earned their fee for their services (as also have I).
The reason I did not put a specific funder is that as you know I am working with two other major groups in negotiation, also I am beginning negotiations with four other major deep pocket sources. I will let you know as I progress.
Sure, paint me as an unfeeling bitch. Hey, it wouldn’t be the first time, and as things turned out it certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Everything seemed to be stalled, even our negotiations with Milk and Honey Productions for GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!, which had, at first, seemed so promising. Tom Krejci wanted to produce the movie when we were with ShadowHawk, and he still wanted to. At least, we thought he did.
Friday, April 18, 2007
It has been two weeks since Frank Cmero last spoke to Tom Krejci at Milk and Honey regarding GO WEST, YOU IDIOT!, and there has been no correspondence since, with any of the team.
I am becoming concerned; in Frank’s letter of the 4th he indicated that Tom K. Would be telephoning Larry on the 5th, which never happened. He also indicated that the budget and financing were in-progress, but we have never had a response from either Tom K. Or Daniela regarding the rewrite of the script, which we thought was a major priority for them.
We cannot begin work on the rewrite until Tom K. Approves the changes Frank and Sandra developed. Would the team like me to write to Tom K. And Daniela, or would someone else prefer to take the lead on this?
It seemed that an awful lot of our time and Larry’s was being spent on other people’s productions. By the end of April we were becoming disenchanted with the whole process; no one really seemed interested in our scripts beyond the idea that there would be money for them. I suppose that was natural in that world, where every film is a personal experience for everyone involved. But it was tiresome, and if we had learned anything from ShadowHawk, it was to not hang on too long. Sandra was having issues with Larry and some of the outside projects submitted for funding; she was reviewing them and to put it kindly, a lot of them were stinko. When she turned in a report on a script called TIMBER SPORTS (use your imagination) he picked up on all the wrong signals in the report.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Thank you for your report. So the masses like most young boys to men will love this?
Were you aware that according to recent studies film attendance is approximately 58% female, according to Virginia Tech? I simply don’t believe that this script, due to its’ many technical downfalls and its’ ‘blowing chunks’ humor set will appeal to the main mass of movie goers. It’s not for us.
I should have made myself clearer. I was trying to be polite. One of my character flaws (that and a tendency to giggle, ah well...).
Monday, April 23, 2007
I want you to tell me like it is. Not like you think I want to hear it. I am counting on you for this and future scripts to be honest before I look like a fool to ML or other funding sources I have.
This is becoming a repetitive problem. I really do believe that in future and for any current outstanding projects, the budget for the LMI project must be submitted first. This includes any project, destined for our fund, that is being done by Scott Ferguson.
The projects already in-hand, i.e. ODESSA, CARMEN’S KISS, COLD IN JULY and, perhaps SEDUCTION SCHOOL need to go forward as without those fees we are sunk. Let’s be clear about this. Other projects are not our focus.
How are you? Please find enclosed the budget and script of CARMEN’S KISS to send on to Marty...need to move swiftly to get this together for a mid-September shoot date...also please find below other aspects of the script...I will get the budget for SOUL MATES and plan to get it to you within the next ten days.
The script is out with offers to Viggo Mortenson and Kate Beckinsale...
Have a good day. Regards, David Fairman
About midway into the Withowski game, his friend and attorney Robert Harlow entered the picture and attempted to make some sense out of the mess. He was a retired tax and corporate attorney, nice, friendly and always trying to be helpful, but usually irritated and most confused by the way most of the producers behaved. In April, however, he was still busy trying to get contracts signed and interpreted. Most of them involved ‘outside’ projects, something we have since learned to assiduously avoid. But there were more problems on our leaky ship than the outside projects and their pushy, greedy producers. The specter of the upfront fees kept raising its’ ugly head, and no matter how many times Larry tried to explain them away, people kept bringing them to my attention. I tried to get some information from Larry on the 24th.
Does everyone who is submitting these budgets for outside projects know there is a fee involved, and that you will very likely want another fee when the funding comes through? Won’t that mean they will have to revise the budgets?
What I’m saying is...shouldn’t they all have been informed of the fee before the budgets were submitted?
Most times there is fudge factor in the budget. I am usually covered under Producer or Executive Producer. There is also 5% for producers in the budget which goes to all of the producers of records. There also is additional room in the budget for ‘others’ which covers overages. Also all budgets are not perfect; they all can change within reason.
Which actually did nothing to address my main concern, which was that we didn’t believe any of the producers would pay upfront fees. But everyone persevered, believing or hoping somehow that there would be a miracle.
April 28, 2007
Re: Carmen’s Kiss/Revised Proposed Contract
Dear Ms. Hill,
Here are my suggested revisions to the document I sent you yesterday. Specifically I made changes as follows:
1. David Fairman is added as a party, primarily to hold him to non-circumvention.
2. The second ‘Whereas’ is amended to reflect a range rather than a fixed amount for the loan. This should work even better for COLD IN JULY (Aaron Schuster’s outside script) than it does for CARMEN’S KISS, since the producer’s own money can range from nothing to infinity.
3. Paragraph ‘1' is amended to reflect consistency in verbiage and flexibility in action.
4. Following #2 above, Paragraph ‘2' now requires payment of a percentage of the final amount of the flexible, ranging Loan, thereby satisfying the Client’s obligation to pay the balance of the finder’s fee.
5. Paragraph ‘19' now sanctifies fax copies of signed documents.
6. David Fairman now has his own line on which to sign.
Please review the enclosure with a critical eye and let me have your comments, bearing in mind that I am, as you can see, hypercritical and picky even with my own work.
Very truly yours, Robert E. Harlow, P.C.
Scott usually kept out of the correspondence process, but over the next two days there were two long letters from him to Larry, both of them pretty much summing up how we all felt about the situation.
All our efforts are quickly gaining speed and now involve greater complexity. Which is great. True, our prospects look better each day thanks to your hard work but, all of us are continuing our investment in time and efforts on a shoestring or a lot less.
We may be at the point now where verbal agreements and assurances may not be enough to protect our interests let along encourage us to ‘stay on post’, money aside.
Do you think we are nearing a time for more formal business agreements to Laurie (a producer Scott was working with on his outside project, PITTSBURGH POWDERKEG) and myself as one sphere of business activities, and Debora and her people as another separate sphere of business activity.
In my view, it would make it a lot easier to go the distance is we have that. What are your thoughts on this?
p.s. Laurie, Debora – what are your own impressions on this? Am I right, wrong, or are there other factors to consider?
I does seem that the end of the month (any month, any time, any situation) brings an anxiety for closure. The end of April was perhaps more along those lines than other months, due to the tense financial situation. So there was a lot of correspondence that day, mostly having to do with clarification. Scott was the first, as he was, at the time, in the most financial distress.
My apologies again but, I have to ask this as we reach the end of April. Do you have an expected date or even a ‘best guess’ on when one of the many projects we have going for referral fee, would release some funding to us. Now, the ones Laurie and myself have are getting close to the referral stage but not quite yet to include any projected time line.
But I posed this to Debora last week and she forecasted the possibility of Mid-May on a fee release on referral efforts in her shop with two outside producer film projects.
Yes, two of LMI are getting closer. I do not count my chickens before they hatch. It does look good and hopefully we are getting closer on two of those projects. The producers say they have funds and hopefully we can see some now instead of later.
I’ve finished the outside project contracts and I’m sending them to David Fairman, Aaron Schuster and Neil Chartier tonight. You may use the same contract for Laurie and Ivan; you have to provide the information needed for their projects.
Otherwise, I’ve developed a draft contract to use for our own scripts, from one provided by The Writer’s Guild. I’ll send it to everyone for review next week. Is that what you mean, here?
Send Scott the agreement that Robert worked on with you. Send me that the contract that you are talking about here.
I’m going to send out the agreements tonight. I’m attaching the rough draft of the contract – this contract will be between LMI and the producer for each production, and involves the sale of the script. It comes from the Writers’ Guild, and cannot legally involve anything except the sale of the script rights. Do you think it would be a conflict of interest for Robert Harlow to review it for us? Since you’re not involved in this contract, we would have to make a separate agreement with him for payment.
Neil Chartier worked for a company called StoryTyme Productions, and their outside project, SEDUCTION SCHOOL, was mostly lame but had some possibilities if it was brought into the 21st century and refigured so adults could watch it without vomiting. Sandra reviewed it and it was decided we wanted nothing to do with it if it was actually produced, but if Larry wanted to finance it then we’d accept our fee (naturally, we had to read it, after all...). But he was also considered to produce THE DANGER CLUB, and turned out to be so clued-in to the youth culture he couldn’t look beyond it. He made some comments about that seemed so ridiculous, we asked our young friends for their take on his assessment that people their age wouldn’t know who Queen Victoria, Doctor Who, Tina Turner (???) Or Mata Hari were. They were insulted that people in Hollywood appear to believe they are morons.
David Fairman was also proving to be less than we had originally expected. He didn’t want us to receive any kind of a fee for allowing his outside project, CARMEN’S KISS, into the film fund. The trouble started on the last day of April. That day I sent him the revised fee agreement for his movie. He sent Larry this letter the same day.
I need to speak to you with regard to this unexpected contract below sent by Debora. We agreed a 2% commission with you, now Debora has asked for an extra 5% plus $160,000 making it over 7% in total. Can you tell me what is going on here? I thought we had a total agreement. I also need to get more details of your funders to move Debora’s films forward with my Directors.
Best Regards, David
I had no idea what he was talking about in this letter. We weren’t getting any kind of a percentage from the outside projects, just a fee, and it was nowhere near $160,000. I asked Larry if he knew what this meant.
I have no idea what he is talking about. My take on this is the following: LW/Jetta Consulting is getting a 2% fee. Now LMI comes in with a $100,000 fee, which equates to 3.3% in addition to my fee, which now becomes 5.33% of the total budget. This is why I said on a smaller budget, this math does not work. David is no fool. As he said in his email, he does not know about this fee to LMI. I thought you had told him about it. Please explain.
He did know there was a fee for outside projects – how else would we be paid? As Robert suggested, the fee for under 5 million is $60,000. Did he think we wouldn’t get anything for including his outside work in the film fund?
I do not know what he thought. I know he does not get it. Where is his LMI agreement? Please send his and the others to me, with the change on the amount of the budget.
Thus we segued into the month of May with everyday bringing fresh frustration and misunderstandings. There seemed to be reams of forms and letters to be produced, but it was becoming more and more evident that Larry Withowski was in way over his head and so were we. Our only real experience in the film industry had to do with ShadowHawk and Anthony Whelan, and that was hardly what could be considered professional. Anthony Whelan knew how to actually make short films, but he appeared to know less about the actual business than we did, and Larry Withowski was nothing more than a former mortgage broker fallen on hard times, with enormous delusions of producerdom. The combination wasn’t doing us a whole of good, particularly since it had become more than obvious that Martin London had no interest whatsoever in either funding movies or providing Larry with an income.
We soldiered on, although we were starting to feel that the end was in sight. One thing we had learned from ShadowHawk was not to hang on to a losing situation until the dead corpse was being savaged by coyotes.
We were also learning the downside of dealing with a supposed funding source that knew nothing about filmmaking. SFG had some women working in their office, women whose backgrounds were in secretarial and clerical work, who fancied themselves script readers and critics. So instead of hiring professional readers in the industry, readers who understand the workings and construction of a screenplay, Martin London used these women as readers. Their performance was predictably spotty, and not particularly understandable. Larry had us reading scripts and we produced concise reports on each script that mirrored industry needs and trends. Martin London’s readers knew nothing about these things, and rated scripts on their own likes and dislikes.
DREAM LOVERS was one of our scripts that was too satirical and subtle in inflection for the SFG readers to understand, and they gave it a fail. Martin London refused to fund the film even though Aaron Schuster was a Canadian citizen who could utilize the tax credits from his country to supplement the budget. So that work was lost. We were still working on the development of GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! With Tom Krejci and his assistant Daniela Humlova, but most of the attention appeared to be going to the so-called ‘outside projects’. In other words, we had somehow now become the secondary objects of our own projected film fund.
In May we also started a rewrite of GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! Which would unfortunately be a train wreck and have to be completely reworked. Tom Krejci, who would stick with us after Larry Withowski was long gone and eventually become the Managing Producer of the film, had some rather strange ideas at the time as to the story. He wanted it to end in the middle, when Frank and Katarina arrive in Australia with their baby, so they never return home to find their country in a shambles and never wander around Europe before finally settling back in Australia. And he couldn’t accept their escape from Prague as being realistic, in spite of the fact that the script was based on their life story. Tom Krejci himself had an easy escape route with a band of musicians; he went to Paris to play in a symphony concert and walked away one day, all the way to Switzerland. But for some reason we never were able to fathom, he thought even though it had been easy for him to do, it couldn’t have been that easy for Frank.
We caved in to his ideas, even though the script that resulted was awful. We knew we would want nothing to do with the movie that came out of that mess, but at the time we had too much to lose and wanted it to work out too much. Ironically, it would take losing everything to help us regain our self-respect and self-confidence in our work.
While GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! Was our primary focus at this time and we had lost the opportunity to make DREAM LOVERS to the tunnel vision at SFG, David Fairman was becoming serious about the production of my solo script about London and San Francisco in the 1960's, SOUL MATES. On the second of May I received this from him:
Hope this mail finds you well. I don't think we can do a budget (for his solo project, CARMEN’S KISS) in Final Draft...We have sent the script in Final Draft as a PDf and faxed the budget, so Larry has everything now and is now happy to proceed.
I will now be working on the budget for SOUL MATES...How about a total Budget of $20 Million in order to get some good names to play? Liked some of your wish list.
Very Best Wishes,
I'm glad you guys got the budgeting problem worked out!
M.L. will accept a budget of $20 million...I'd loooooooove to get some good names!
Looking forward to getting the budget for Soul mates,
Dear Larry & Debora,
Have a look on IMDB this week and my last film "Messages" has jumped from nowhere to spot ...121 in the film popularity stakes just above... Dream Girls...Batman begins...Titanic, The History Boys and Pirates of the Caribbean....Is there any mileage in this for sales of future films...I think so...also my score has jumped to 1,124 as a director... out of over a 1,000,000 Directors dead or alive in the world. Good News for us all I think?
It all looked very promising; unfortunately, no one in the U.S. ever heard of the movie MESSAGES. Our way of judging smaller, art house films were the theatres in San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma Counties. We never saw the film play at a theatre in any of those locations.
The rat in David Fairman started to emerge the first week in May. He refused to sign a fee agreement with us for his outside project, Carmen’s Kiss. What this meant was that he intended to use the film fund to finance his movie but not recompense us for allowing him into the fund, something we didn’t want to do in the first place. Robert Harlow attempted to get it straightened out, and on the fifth he sent me this message:
David Fairman said that on Monday he would send us proposed amendments (a) to cover payment to Lost Myths and Larry, simultaneously, at Closing and (b) to reduce the indefinite time for exclusivity to a short, definite period.
I couldn’t say we understood this, and over the course of the next week there were more signs that everything was combusting from the inside out. Larry Withowsky convinced Martin London to put DREAM LOVERS back into the schedule but it was beginning to look like all the outside projects would be produced before anything of ours was even started. I wasn’t even sure how we wound up in this unenviable position, except that Larry’s only interest was in getting movies funded, not in our movies, and Martin London didn’t seem to have a lot of interest in anything at all having to do with making movies.. Larry’s response to our concerns was this, on the 7th:
As I stated on phone with you yesterday. Their (all of the Producers) personal projects are further along then your "NEW" project is to them. This does not mean that any producers are not doing your projects. ML remember did not want to do Dream @ all.I convinced him to go with it. In re. to Carmen’s Kiss & Soul Mates, I sent Carmen’s Kiss in & need BUDGET on Soul Mates.
We were ready to end our contract with Larry Withowski, but we were too heavily involved to withdraw easily. On the 6th I laid it out for him one more time:
I know that, Larry. I know their personal projects are further along than ours. My problem here is that it appears ours are being held up for their personal projects. When I spoke to you on the telephone yesterday, you said you expected the fund outline for DREAM LOVERS on Monday or Tuesday of this coming week; in your comments on the flow chart, below, you indicate that you (or M.L., not sure) are waiting to see how COLD IN JULY works out. Which is it, because I discussed it with Sandra and Tom, and we didn’t sign on for this; if it looks as if our scripts are going to continually take second place then we would prefer to withdraw them now, and go elsewhere. This is not a reflection on you in any way; you've worked hard on this, but we have one goal here, you know what it is, and all I am asking is whether it is going to be fulfilled or not. I know that's not too hard a projection for you to make, because thusfar things are absolutely not working out for us.
Does that seem clear enough to you, understandable at even the most basic level? Apparently not, and it never would be. David Fairman came back to us with changes that would need to be made to his contract, changes that would prove to be a dealer breaker for SFG. Since they seemed perfectly reasonable to us, it was starting to be apparent that the programs put forth by this company would not work in the real world.
Dear Debora, Larry and Robert,
I have now had a chance to review and discuss the contract with my other partners and my lawyers. To save time I have amended the draft document to fit with our general requirements and concerns.
The three main changes are as follows:
1. Any finders fees paid by us must only be paid once the funding is in place. This is normal practical in any business. I have never heard of anyone paying a finders fees based on a letter of intent. This is the first time I have seen it in a document such as this and do know anyone who would accept it.
2. Any fees should be based on a percentage and not a flat fee. To pay 60,000 dollars finders fee when perhaps only $ 100,000 is raised would not be good business. My lawyers have strongly advised to delete any exclusivity clause.
Frankly any exclusivity clause makes no sense in the film business. Funding for a film can come from various sources and in various ways. If we were to agree to this clause then we might have to pay twice for a finders fee. This clause is not at all usual or reasonable in a film contract so we have deleted it. As a safeguard to Larry what I can suggest is that he might include a limited list of persons or organizations he is taking the project to and we can agree not to approach them directly and will pay finders fees on any finance coming from them.
With regard to all the above, I am an experienced film producer and have been in the film business for some years now and we have to agree a contract which is acceptable in this business. Larry is from the property business which I believe functions in quite a different manner. I am more than happy to pay you all your deserved finders fees on any monies raised and would look forward to developing a strong and fruitful business partnership. But at this stage without any track record of raising finance for movies we will need to amend the contract as above before we can all move forward.
Very Best Wishes to you all,
PS I am more than happy to work with Debora on the other contract for SOUL MATES.
Tom Krejci’s team in Prague finished the budget for GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! And we finished the rewrite, which we really hated. We were torn between wanting so much for the funding to come through for a couple of our films. Early in May a new British producer came into our lives and put forth that he was interested in producing my solo script, THE CHOCOLATE SPY. As it had with all the rest of them, William Nunez looked promising at the beginning, but he would turn out to be the most caustic of them all.
I will be having a telephone conference with William Nunez of North End Pictures in London, sometime this week. He is interested in starting one film now, and another in 2008 -- he has three he is interested in: THE CHOCOLATE SPY, THE INVISIBLE HEART, and A GHOST AMONG US. I will send a report once I have spoken to him, and will then pass him on to Larry for processing. I will send him the list of requirements to enter the fund; maybe we can get this one right from the beginning -- although I believe we've done quite well with GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! as far as processing goes.
The budget for GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! Was delayed several weeks for the Australian producer to get his segment finished. By the end of May we had attracted three new possible producers for our scripts, no one else had made any progress, and Larry Withowski told us about two new financing sources he had that would be useless to us and, as far as I could tell, anyone Larry might manage to work with. The restrictions and requirements were so stringent that nobody could possibly satisfy them all unless they already had their funding and a roster of a-list stars.
We did receive the budget for GO WEST, YOU IDIOT! On the 29th, one positive step forward in what seemed to be a sea of quicksand.
William Nunez met with Larry Withowski on the 2nd. They discussed the outside film he wanted to finance through the fund; he hadn’t even decided between three of my scripts at this point in time. He convinced Larry to include two of his films to be a slate with one of mine – which one of mine as yet undetermined. The week following his meeting with Larry he sent some of the budgeting information on his two films.
We started to get an idea that Larry Withowski and SFG were not only the best film fund brokers for us, they were among the worst deals in town. Aaron Schuster, who had not been in touch much since Martin London first rejected the script of DREAM LOVERS then reconsidered that decision (we never learned why). Aaron went ahead and produced a budget of 16 million, and the film was to be produced in Canada. But on the 9th of June he wrote this letter to Larry:
Still working on it. It seems the deal is not that special. I had someone explain the deal to me. Apparently, Marty borrows money which he invests. It is not considered that strong an investment as the monies have to be paid back and carry a high interest and it is not considered an equity investment. There are a lot of these types of letters floating around.
However, I am still looking for other monies.
Larry’s response to Aaron was his usual, but the same questions and concerns from other producers were forcing us to reconsider our options. Why did film investments always have to be paid back? There was a time when investors took equity in a film; now they appeared to want part of the film and their entire investment repaid with interest as well. How were the producers or we, for that matter, to make any kind of headway?
Marty & SFG do both Debt & Equity, 15% is Equity equal to your 15%. Then 20% is Bank or Syndicate investment. The reason this is done this way is that SFG & Marty DOES have the capacity to use their Credit @ Banks & with other investors to obtain their Financing. They have Large Credit Lines @ Major Banks to do this. All of the Investment Banking Companies Finance the same way, none of them use only their Funds.
As far as the Cost of those Funds it is LIBOR plus 2-3% which now is around 8.5%. That is not that expensive in today's market. Actually that is pretty good.
Remember you do not need Liquid Funds, a Stand-by Letter of Credit would suffice.
Aaron, any investor Capital has to be paid back somehow. So I do not understand in your statement that "monies have to be paid back", of course they do. Nothing is Free.
I have consulted with a number of people on this deal. Apparently, it is not as good as it appears. First of all, Marty is borrowing money to finance the film. This is something that anybody can do. There is very little being put up as equity and yet he requires fifty percent equity from someone else. Marty should not receive 50% for borrowing money. He should receive a percentage for money received through a tax credit. Also, I have heard there are problems regarding the fees and interest on that loan which are quite high. So it is money that is received at a high cost.
June brought us the first major betrayal by a film producer beyond the ShadowHawk debacle; there would be many more to come. Abbye Robinson, a budding producer/director in England, had evinced interest in producing THE CHOCOLATE SPY but did a complete turnaround and went to Larry asking if he could produce a film of her’s without doing one of ours. All of this correspondence was exchanged on the 19th.
We were in contact a few months ago regarding the Chocolate Spy and you mentioned that we could get in contact with you again if we were looking for film finance for that or another project.
I have the rights to a novel which is a thriller set in Amsterdam and I'm currently writing the screenplay. I think the film could be made for about 5 million ($6-10million) - If you were interested in the project and I supplied the information you requested would you potentially be able to offer the same kind of funding situation as with the Chocolate Spy? I'd be happy to hear from you with any further information.
Best Regards, Abbe Robinson
Hello there. I had sent an answer to you on Monday, but in checking my sent box I did not see my e-mail. So I am sorry that I did not get back to you.
To answer your question I have to ask it of Debora Hill & Sandra Brandenburg. I will send them a copy of this e-mail & get back to you promptly.
Larry forwarded your message to me. I believe you are under a misapprehension. The Lost Myths Ink film fund was set up to fund productions of our scripts; the only producers we have allowed to bring outside projects into the fund are already committed to ours.
You decided to pass on THE CHOCOLATE SPY because you were too committed elsewhere this year. This script has now been picked up by another production company to begin production this year, so it does not appear that we will be working together at this time.
Good luck with your project.
I'm sorry for the confusion. I was under the impression from Larry's emails that he was an independent company and undertook other projects as well as those for Lost Myths. I must have got the wrong end of the stick. I really just wanted some information advice regarding film finance.
I am so pleased to hear you have found a company to produce The Chocolate Spoy. We would have really have liked to make the film but we have several other projects on the go including the film I was emailing Larry about.
Best of luck with everything and I hope all your projects are going smoothly...
That would have been the end of it, although we were becoming extremely tired of producers who were determined to get around us in order to get at what appeared to be a good deal. But Larry did something next that pretty much sealed his fate, as far as we were concerned. He let her know that he did not, indeed, work for us, that he was an independent broker and could handle financing for anyone he chose. But since we brought Abbye Robinson and her partner to Larry in the first place, because she evinced interest in producing our work, we had essentially provided a free introduction for her to the financing without a production fund for us (again). This would become a familiar scenario.
Hello & Good a.m. Let me clarify something for you. Yes I am an Independent Company. As such I can undertake any projects I like. So that said, I am waiting for us to do some Films together. LMI will get a referral fee for connecting us. I can be reached @ 631-789-0545. Please call me any time after my 7 a.m. I am in NYC.
If you choose to do business with Ms. Robinson, please do not ever mention her name or anything she is doing to us again.
We have decided to see how this year's productions develop before we decide to bring more producers into the fund.
Debora Hill and Sandra Brandenburg