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Friday, December 12, 2008

IndieVest: Pay Us Thousands for the Privilege of Investing in Indie Films

Got a press e-mail today from IndieVest, yet another company trying to reinvent the way the indie films are financed.

They were profiled in Fast Company recently. From that piece:

    IndieVest's plan has three tiers, beginning with a $20 "guest membership" that lets potential investors review only the current project. The premier portfolio membership -- $2,950 up front and $1,950 annually -- lets investors consider the company's future films, and includes invites to special film screenings. The all-access studio plan -- $4,950 up front and $2,950 annually -- adds opportunities to attend exclusive film festivals and the Independent Spirit Awards.

    Members can enjoy these goodies even without investing in individual films, although most choose to buy shares (starting at $50,000) in at least one of the dozen projects Bradley and his production chief Mark Burton have lined up. To help investors decide whether to help fund a movie, they get a "prospectus": It contains a plot synopsis; info on the writer, director, and any attached actors; and an eight-page script sample.

According to VentureBeat, the company raised $2.5 million last year, and said that it planned to produce and distribute six films by the end of 2008.

So far, they haven't released any films. But their first film, 'Saint John of Las Vegas,' is characterized as in pre-production on IMDB. Monsters and Critics says that filming started in August. IndieVest says it is in post. The first-time director, Hue Rhodes, is best known as a co-founder of, Kmart's e-commerce subsidiary.

Both the Fast Company piece and an October story from the Las Vegas Sun say that 'Saint John,' which stars Steve Buscemi, is "expected to be screened at the Sundance Film Festival."

That's sort of a weird promise for anyone to make... the kind of thing that only novice film investors would believe.

Well, unless Sundance is planning a last-minute announcement that 'Saint John' will be included in the 2009 festival, that ain't happening.

I'm all for new experiments in financing films... but something seems amiss here.

This is my favorite quote from the Fast Company piece, from IndieVest founder Wade Bradley:

    Bradley reports that calls from curious advisers and independent investors are up fivefold in recent months. "People understand that entertainment is going to outcapitalize the rest of the market during a recession," he says. "They're looking at us as a safe haven."

Dude, a safe haven is a place where your money is guaranteed not to vanish, and perhaps even to increase. No film-related investment in history has ever been a safe haven.

Update: Wade Bradley called me today (12.17.08) to tell me more about his company's "managed risk" approach to movie-making. He said that the media had misunderstood his promise to screen at the Sundance Film Festival. What he meant was that they'd try to get in, or else screen it in a rented hotel ballroom. Turns out, though, that 'Saint John' didn't get submitted to the fest, and it isn't ready to screen. But they will show a trailer in a ballroom at the Hotel Park City. Film should be finished by February or March, he said. Bradley said there will also be a dinner and after-party for IndieVest members in Park City.

Also, he said their plan is currently to make two or three more films in 2009 or by early 2010. Those films are not yet in production, though.

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