Looking at a proposed project and the team attached to the project, producer, director, production company, etc.
Film finance companies are instrumental in helping producers navigate the vast array of options for financing their film. If you have a passion for films and a proclivity for finance it's the perfect mix for any graduate.
Whilst you are studying look for work experience opportunities, internships and make every effort to understand how a film is financed and the roles available.
Look at MFJF for opportunities, research the companies in the UK that specialise in film finance, tailor your CV especially to each company, research their slate and their ethos.
You can work at junior level for two years before considered for promotion, there's a lot to learn,but the right assistant will progress very quickly in film finance.
The majority of independent films in the UK rely on a mixture of finance to get a film made. No two scenarios for financing will ever be the same, and there is no definitive way of getting a film funded. In short, it’s complicated. The struggle to find funding in today's financial marketplace is ever more competitive, and the odds of reaching the required sum to move into production can be slim. The process requires cool, logical people with good business acumen to help producers navigate a startling array of options; this is where a film finance company can help.
Film finance companies work with producers, investors and financial institutions (such as banks) to pull together the right sum and correct structure of money to move the film out of development and into pre-production. The mixture or breakdown of money with which a film is financed is often referred to as the films finance plan.
Some film finance companies have access to their own capital and can lend or invest directly into a project, while others may approach a bank with a package in hand in the hope of accessing that particular institution's funds. However, regardless of where the capital is sourced, finance companies will often demand to be the first, or one of the first, to recoup money from the films success.
There are various sources and types of capital available when piecing together a films finance plan. Some such options are:
Pre-sales with foreign and domestic distributors
Tax credits from both home and abroad
Minimum Guarantees for distribution deals (theatrical and home entertainment)
Equity from private investors (or private institutions)
National TV broadcast deals
Crowdfunding (less the financiers more the filmmakers)
Producers need to make sure they have the best script, director and talent in place before they enter the funding marketplace. They create a pitch package which is fundamental as it collates key information for investors. The better the ‘pitch’ and preparation, the more likely a project is to attract interest; especially if you have unique above the line selling points. The process can be lengthy, with many projects unable to find funding. Putting together the package is the responsibility of the producer and production company and should include:
The films proposed finance plan.
An investment proposal, clearly laying out the terms and conditions of the investment or financing required.
A treatment of the script, which can be anywhere between a page to a more detailed ten-page document.
A copy of the rights to the story, all options and acquisitions agreements.
An investment proposal, clearly laying out the terms and conditions of the investment.
Comparable box office returns on films of a similar genre or tone.
Market research on current trends, with emphasis on work that has just gone into production.
Talent attached to the project. The director and cast are the primary selling points, as would be the screenwriter if they are well known in the industry. A letter of interest from all parties is a good indicator to investors that securing the talent is possible. Any crew agreements that are set.
Any examples of press coverage the company have managed to generate, which would include any marketing materials they have commissioned such as posters.
Most finance companies are relatively small as they are so specialised, so competition for internships and work experience opportunities are fierce. Some find it advantageous to seek out alternative placements within a traditional business or financial institutions to demonstrate their aptitude to this field of the industry. Work experience is an unpaid position designed to give you a learning experience within this area of the business; they should be no more than four weeks or 160 hours over three months in duration, you will get reasonable expenses reimbursed to you. Interns should be paid NMW, and given tasks to get their teeth into, so acquaint yourself with the Skillset Guidelines and know the difference between the two.
Some offices will take on junior staff at particularly busy times, such as the film markets or festivals, you may be called upon to pick up the phone and forward messages, generally keeping the ship afloat.
The most common entry-level positions within a film finance company are:
Film finance assistant
Every finance company operates differently. In some offices there may be three people who run the central operation, outsourcing legal, tax and marketing to external companies. In other instance, there may be a sizeable team working in the business. There are very rarely departments; it will most often mean one person taking responsibility for an area of the business. Here are some of the most significant roles you may find:
Finance director / head of finance
Director of sales and acquisitions
Business and legal affairs
Sales and distribution
Working as a finance assistant can see you involved in a variety of tasks. If you have a first degree in economics some responsibilities may feel menial such as going on the coffee run, filing or sending out emails, but this is the starting point of your career, and everyone has to start somewhere. Be astute, ask questions and show how keen you are. Use these tasks as an opportunity to meet people in the office, let others know your ambitions and get yourself known. Interns and assistants can be assigned individual projects to work on, use this time to show them what you are made of.
Looking at a proposed project and the team attached to the project, producer, director, production company, etc.
Whether research for upcoming film markets, potential business partners, new tax incentives or possible market opportunities, research will be a key aspect of the junior team members role.
Large and smaller companies produce lots of paperwork that needs to be summited, either hard copies or digitally. Unless you are working for a company with a strict ‘paperless’ policy, you can expect filing and organising to be part of your day-to-day.
Sometimes scripts will be sent to script readers, in other instance, it can be a junior member of the team who reads and presents their findings. You will be asked to write up a brief report and assign them a score out of 10.
If you are assigned to a senior member of the team or work in sales, they can be on the phone for a large percentage of the day. You may be asked to queue up calls, or take messages.
International and domestic box office data, ROI on past deals and trend analysis. Knowing how to write an analytical report and interpret data is a large part of the job, which is why finance companies will be on the lookout for graduates who have an aptitude for numeric data and analytical skills.
All junior levels will be asked to run errands, either collecting or delivering items that cannot be emailed.
Making travel arrangements, hotel bookings, arranging meeting room space you name it, if you’re working as an assistant this will fall to you. Numerous markets and festivals take place throughout the year, not just the top 4 (see Resources for a list of markets and festivals). During the markets and festivals, you will need to pre-booking lunch meeting well in advance at popular restaurants.
You may be asked to assist in the due diligence process of a deal. This often involves analysing company accounts, or a film's budget or double the lawyer’s documentation.
Marketing material to be taken to the markets including business cards, lots and lots of business cards.
Understanding the complex process of funding a film will leave you open to a variety of career paths, and let’s not forget your time spent at film festivals and events can also expand your network of business relations, giving you the resources to progress your career in the industry into production or film sales. If you harbour the intention of crossing over into production, however, film finance may not be the best place to start, the transition is often more of an organic process. Sales and finance professionals have found their way into producing later in their careers as their background and connections make them ideal candidates for the job.
Within film finance itself your strengths will dictate which areas you are destined for. If you have an accountancy degree you may gravitate towards tax advice, law degree to legal, business or sales to acquisitions. In business many of the skills and aptitudes you have can be translated into any sector of the film business, it’s best to have a plan of where you want to go, but if you haven’t all is not lost. Use your time in a junior capacity within the industry to assess where your future lies.
If you are looking to pursue a career in finance, you will most likely have a degree or a strong background in sales, business, law, economics, finance, a love of films and a genuine interest in how the business side of the film industry works. If you’re coming into the film industry as a career change then you need to know internships can be NMW if you are studying you can take work placements which can be expenses only, so your own financial planning my have to be thought about. If you already have a strong business or financial background and wish to move your skills into entertainment, placements may not be necessary; but you will need to do your research on the film industry.
How do you find work experience? Good question. Alongside MFJF opportunities, you’re going to need to do some serious work getting your CV out there and talking to people. Get on the phone to finance companies listed in The Knowledge and find out who decides to offer work experience places, call them and find out how their process works. Do they advertise? Probably not, so you’re going to need to put a voice and personality into that CV you’re about to send in cold. If the company do offer work experience, see how often and give them a call every few months or so. Make sure you do not leave this until the first day of the holidays, be proactive and fill your holiday time up months beforehand. Display as much dedication in obtaining this experience as you would in a full-time role. You never know, some work placements and internships can turn into full-time jobs in the future. A good intern is usually remembered, and their name can be passed on to other companies when they are looking to fill junior positions, remember the film industry is very compact.
When working on your CV check it through (or ask someone else to) to see it reads well and is correctly formatted. You can use the CV advice to create a CV and covering letter, and you can check your CV against our example CVs to make sure it includes all the relevant information. You are going to want to keep your CV short and to the point, as many employers will be ‘scanning’ rather than reading, cut out the chaff and try to keep it down to one page. Always find out who to send your CV to and address them directly, this can be as simple as picking up the phone to ask who is in charge of recruitment or HR.
If you are applying for advertised positions, follow up a week after to check to see if they received your CV. If you sent it without there being a job or placement advertised you will most likely be told they will keep your CV for future reference, however, you could get lucky and they might be recruiting that week, or you can make a good impression on the phone. Use your common sense, and if they sound busy they probably are, but if you get chatting ask for some advice, or see if they can meet with you for a coffee.
Social media is a great way to find out what companies are up to and when they’re recruiting for positions. Keep an eye on Twitter and follow the film finance companies, this can include monitoring the progress of the films they have on their slate. While you are researching companies look at the other areas of the industry where finance is a factor, such as distribution, film sales and film production companies.
If your cash flow allows you to, you may wish to go to a film market as a spectator to understand how sales operate in the feature film business. There are plenty of panel discussions and seminars that take place, so although unlikely to be offered a job (financiers will have their schedule and not much time for anything else) you will be offered an educational visit. This can be a costly enterprise, however, so again, do your research!
Applying for positions and sending out CVs can be a full-time job in itself. Some people will get lucky, finding work almost instantaneously after graduation. Some may have put in the hours (work experience/internships) while they are studying, some people might just be in the right place at the right time. Whatever situation you find yourself in, the resounding advice from professionals working in the film industry is to be persistent; persistent and relentless in the pursuit of your chosen career. Keep applying for positions, sending emails, dropping off CVs at company reception desks, and calling in to see if they have any vacancies. Stay motivated and keep trying.
A Knowledge of how the film industry works is going to be essential when working in finance and one of the first things you are going to need to be familiar with are the magazines and online resources the industry use for information such as:
Checking these websites will become part of your weekly routine, and if you're asked for an interview, you need to be able to demonstrate your eagerness to learn on top of your interest in the industry. Alongside researching and knowing back to front the Film Value Chain, you may also wish to continue your reading to further your knowledge of film production:
The Complete Film Production Handbook. Eve Light Hornthaner
The Insiders Guide to Film Finance. Philip Albersta
You could also dip into the classic biographies and film industry essential reading such as:
High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood culture of excess. Charles Fleming
You’ll never eat lunch in this town again. Julia Philips
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls. Peter Biskind
The kid stays in the picture: A Hollywood life. Robert Evans
Taking time to research your chosen occupation is going to inform what you put on your CV and how you present yourself in your interview. When you’re asked for an interview make sure you have done your research on the company and how they work, you will also need to know you can answer the fundamental questions such as:
What does a film finance company do?
How is a film financed?
What is the process when taking a film from script to screen?
Who are the major funders in the UK?
When are the film markets on, who goes and which one is best to sell a particular genre of film?
How is a film budget created?
While all of the above is taking place you're going to need to provide a roof over your head and food for the table. A wage is going to be essential while you are looking for employment, especially if you already live in a big city. If you find yourself waiting tables, working behind a bar, or pouring coffee, then chances are there will be a flexible rota for you to take time off for job interviews, or internship placements to add more depth to your CV. Equally, if you find yourself temping in an admin role, use the time to develop your IT skills, look at the administrative process they use and become a master at Excel and data analysis.
At points it can feel frustrating when you’re not getting the roles you want, keep in mind the advice on being relentless and go back to your CV; think about what you can do to make it better, what experience could you gain in another capacity to start ticking boxes for potential employers. There will be a reason your CV is not being chosen for roles; it could be a lack of experience, the way your CV is presented or if you’re sending in generic CVs and covering letters, you should give yourself the best possible chance by tailoring each one to each job role.
Although the industry is incredibly flexible when it comes to changing career, if you’re applying for positions in another area of the industry you will need to be clear why you want to make the change, and give examples of what you have been doing to facilitate the move.
Looking for some advice or have a question on careers in this area? Then please get in touch, we are here to help!
A sought after and busy film finance company is never a quiet place to work. With film markets and festivals held every few months all over the world and development teams looking for funds, the junior member of the team will always be busy on some level.
At junior level, you will mix with most members of the team, and as a junior, you can be used as a resource by any of the departments/people, so be prepared to be fought over. Try and manage your time the best you can, and never to say you can’t do something or are too busy. It’s much better to be diplomatic and let them know you can do it, but not until you have finished the task you have been set by another member of the team.
Most film finance companies are small by nature, so the personality of the team will shape the environment of the office. That said, most people working in film finance are doing so because they love film. The pay certainly doesn’t compete with other “drier” finance jobs, so it tends to be a much more laid back atmosphere than banks or other financial institutions.
As a junior member, you’ll have to walk a fine line between being professional and jovial. Interpersonal relationships are important in all small teams, and most film financiers are small by nature, so expect to be a part of out-of-office activities, social engagements and possibly client marketing.
Film finance companies offering placements would ideally like junior level staff with a BA or higher. A degree in business, finance, law or management would be advantageous. Although this career option functions heavily within the business side of the industry, a degree is often used as an indicator that you have the required analytical and cognitive skills, so if your CV can demonstrate the relevant skills needed at A-level you may get through to an interview. If you have a degree in film all is not lost, but you will need to make sure you have some good A-levels to backup your claims of astute financial savvy. Experience is always prized most in the industry, so if you find you are not getting very far with your CV find those all important intern positions to help weight your CV.
To work as a finance assistant or office assistant exceptional administrative skills would be advantageous, as would the ability to speak another language. Most film financing companies will have a strong presence abroad, with funding opportunities in place from all over the world. An intern or office assistant who can make travel, accommodation and booking arrangements in another country has a useful skill set that potential employers will be keen to utilise. Ultimately filmmaking and funding generate significant amounts of paperwork, so a secret love of a good filing system can see you go far.
If you would like to gain more experience of the process of film funding have a look at these short courses:
Companies will be looking for candidates with strong office administration and IT skills. Being a confident user of Microsoft Office (Excel, Word, PowerPoint and Access) is expected. If you decide to elaborate on your CV be warned, your IT skills are crucial to the job, and it will become apparent that you don’t have the ‘exemplary’ Office skills outlined in your CV on day one. The best way around this is to learn the software, take the free tutorials, and practice when you can.
Excel is especially vital for funding plans and in performing the job of a junior film financier. Ability to build financial models in Excel is especially handy and a much sought-element in your CV. Film budgets are often prepared on specialist software such as Movie Magic and sent out as pdf files. Understanding how a film budget is put together, what each factor on the list is, and having a grasp on the technical terms used in filmmaking is also important.
Most scripts come into the office as Word or pdf files, even if they are written on a specialised script software package such as Final Draft.
Begin able to understand how film finance interacts with the rest of the industry is a great starting point. Depending on the companies both can be on the lookout to form relationships with investors.
Commercial awareness is a skill you can develop over time, but you want to be able to demonstrate that you have a grip on the market, or more importantly can identify what the market is.
It sounds simple but can be harder to master than you may think, especially when you are introduced to people on your first day. Everyone finds their way of remembering, try to find yours.
If you're working in finance, you're going to need to delve a little deeper when viewing a film. Ask yourself questions such as how much did the film make, why was it received poorly by critics - but still made money? What was the marketing campaign, was that successful, why?… The list could go on. Analyse films, not only concerning why you liked it or not, look through all aspects of why it was successful or why it bombed.
If you are a natural networker and socialiser, then this can be one of your greatest attributes when working in finance. If you find social events challenging, watch how your senior colleagues navigate this process and emulate them. It may feel a little like acting initially, but you're going to need to cast your inner wallflower to the wind and shake some hands.
Make your peace with this aspect of the job and use it to your advantage. The coffee run is an excellent way to introduce yourself to people and strike up a conversation. It's better to be known as the individual who gets the coffee than the person no one knows.
While trying to predict the market can be a fun game to play at the beginning of your career, it's a vital skill when you are working at a senior level.
Most offices are inundated with scripts to read for potential acquisitions, being able to read thoroughly and quickly can take some skill, so get into practice now.
They are much-needed skills in film finance.
This piece of advice should never be forgotten, remember you are the junior member of the team, you are not going to know everything from day one, even a year in and you probably won’t know it all. Take your time working as a junior to truly grasp what is required to work in this sector of the film industry; you won’t regret it down the line.
Gap funding is a loan sold against the productions unsold territory and rights.
Above the line - below the line. All those working above the line are the actors, director, writers and producers. Below the line refers to the crew, the sets, the costumes, transport, post production, anything that is needed to shoot and finish the film.
Negative cost is when the film has been funded by lacks a distribution deal. The “negative pickup” is where distributors attending film festivals and markets can pick up a film’s distribution rights and agree on a handover date.
Completion bond. This bond is issued by a completion guarantor and covers any over budget expenses, ensuring the film will not go unfinished due to lack of funding.
Minimum guarantee. The amount paid by the distributor as an initial (non-refundable) advance against a future share of revenues for the rights to the film.
BFI film fund: Currently the largest backer of films in the UK. To see how films are financed in the UK go to the BFI website, it has information on projects it’s involved with and information on how to apply for funding if you're a filmmaker.
Equity from private investors: This is a transaction between individuals and groups who will invest in your film, and will expect to see a return.
Co-productions and tax relief: The UK currently has official co-production treaties, which can see the co-producers bringing 20-40% of the budget from an assortment of tax credits.
Pre-sales with foreign distributors: This involves the selling of the rights to distribute a film in one or more foreign territories before the production process, or the films completion. Usually handled by the sales companies, they will take the ‘package’ (script, talent, budget) to market, and raise money through the pre-sales contract. Many suggest that in the years to come we will see VOD (Video on Demand) sales feature predominantly in the pre-sales market. A distribution deal is often a gateway to additional funding.
Slate. When a company refers to their slate, it's about the films they represent or are involved with.
The salary of a junior member of the team will vary depending on which part of the country you are in. An assistant can earn anywhere between £15,000 and £25,000 depending on the company. Some companies may ask you to complete a 3 to 6 month trial period. Make sure you are earning enough to cover all your costs for your first six months, especially if you are moving to London for the job. Please make sure you know what the minimum wage is.
Hours will tend to be 9-5 or 10-6 but expect to pull longer hours when need be. Like everywhere else in the industry, film finance companies expect people to get the job done – rather than strictly stick to the official working hours.
If you are asked to go to an industry event or film festival you say yes! If you don’t have a passport get it fast tracked, and then pack a bag. Your position as an intern with one company has a maximum life expectancy, so the opportunity of making more contacts within the film industries business world is not to be overlooked. When you are on the pay role as a junior member of the team festivals are a very good time to showcase your organisation talents as it will be extremely busy.
Interns and assistants will be office based, as the finance company has very little to do with the production process and the physical aspect of filmmaking. You may, however, be working for a company that wants to offer their interns a full picture of what the film business is all about, and that may include a trip to set.
Film festivals and markets are often a hectic two weeks of meetings, handshaking and deal making. It’s going to be noisy, packed to the rafters and if it’s your first time at one of the big three you are going to need a map. If you're working for a company who are regular attendants you will have been involved in pre-booking everything; meetings, restaurants, evening drinks, films, events and panel discussions. If you do attend a festival or film market, it will most likely be the EFM or Marché du Film.
The EFM, held in Berlin, is going to be chilly - not just chilly close to freezing. Take a good winter coat and make sure everything is waterproof, turning up to the next meeting drenched is not a great start. If you get a chance to watch some films while you are there you’re going to be glad of that coat, as the queues can be long when waiting to enter the cinema. The EFM spreads itself out over the city so take comfortable shoes as you will be doing a fair bit of walking, but what a city to walk around and spend some time in!
On the flip side, Cannes will be extremely warm, extremely busy and held in an extremely small area. The little town with a population of 75,000 will hold anywhere from 250,000 to 300,000 extra people during peak times of the festival/market. Take everything you would associate with summer, sunscreen, hats and once again equip yourself with a map and a good pair of shoes; if you are feeling very organised a light raincoat. If you get a chance take a step back from the festival to appreciate the beauty of Cannes, it’s a slice of the French Riviera that is steeped in history and a glamour of its own that can’t be replicated.
The primary film markets are:
A background in finance generally would put you in a strong position when entering film finance at a junior level. This is an area of the industry where your ability to understand numbers quickly will be of great benefit, but understanding all the other factors of the filmmaking process is equally important. You will also need to come to terms with the fact that film finance doesn’t pay as well as other jobs in the financial sector – so make sure you know what you are getting into.
My First Job in Film would like to thank Daniel Negret and Paul Brett for sharing their experience and giving up time to offer advice for this career guide.
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