Ever wonder what it would be like to see Jason Voorhees swing that machete one more time? To hear Freddy Krueger crack wise again? To see Pinhead and his band of merry misfits on the silver screen for a change? Well, you’re certainly not alone. Unfortunately, however, we may be waiting for quite some time due to the wonders of a little something called “Development Hell.”
For years, studios have struggled to bring highly anticipated blockbusters to a theater near you for a multitude of reasons. Creative differences, casting squabbles, scheduling conflicts and the like have kept some of our most beloved titans of terror from slicing and dicing their way through the box office. What are some of the most fan-coveted projects languishing in limbo at the moment, you ask?
- FRIDAY THE 13th
- A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
- DEAD SPACE
It’s not all bad news, though. Films once feared never to see the light of day, such as 2017’s smash hit IT and 2003’s cross-over knockout FREDDY VS. JASON, did in fact, reach movie theaters…eventually (after more than 8 and 10 years, respectively). So what is the single greatest problem keeping so many high potential projects in the dark? That dirty little word: financing.
According to legendary filmmaker Renny Harlin (EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, DIE HARD 2, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER), speaking about his attempt to pull together the movie WILD FORCE, “Everything fell apart…our financing completely fell apart and we were never able to make the film.”
So just how can filmmakers finance their frightening flicks? It’s like what any polished sushi chef will tell you: there’s more than one way to fillet a fish.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Why should I care about how a movie gets funded? I’m just a fan, right? Truth be told, you might not be one for very long if that next SAW installment or Blumhouse production never gets off the ground. To provide some insight as to why some films always seem to get delayed, here are the ins and outs of Hollywood bankrolling.
Three of the most prominent methods of financing are taking out bridge loans, offering up equity, and negotiating a pre-sales arrangement. What in the world does that all mean? Never fear, Sonny’s here to make it clear.
Funds obtained from creditors (such as a bank) once other financing has already been secured. This is why it is called a “bridge” loan. A little something to help get a project over the financial hump. The dangers of taking out this kind of loan, of course, is that the filmmaker is on the hook for the principal and interest and often will need to put up the film itself as collateral.
Like any other venture looking for capital, a round of seed funding by offering up partial ownership stakes in a film is called an equity offering. Investors contribute cash in exchange for interest in a percentage of the profits generated at the box office, in aftermarket home video (DVD, Blu-Ray, downloads, etc.), and other ancillary markets such as merchandise.
These are agreements wherein contracts by filmmakers or production companies (such as Twisted Pictures) are negotiated with distributors (such as Lionsgate) prior to the making of the movie. The numbers are reached based purely on the perceived strength of the film, with variables such as the attached talent, commercial viability of the script, and proposed marketing strategy as key inputs. Once this arrangement is made, the filmmaker/production company can then take this contract to a bank as collateral in order to secure the remaining capital through the aforementioned bridge loan process.
“Everything fell apart…our financing completely fell apart and we were never able to make the film.”
– Renny Harlin
Having solid financing in place is crucial to facilitate the pre-production process. Just take 2012’s horror-comedy mash-up CABIN IN THE WOODS for example. It wasn’t until Mutant Enemy Productions secured the necessary capital that Chris Hemsworth and primetime Emmy Award winner Richard Jenkins were attached to star and creative differences regarding the script were resolved. The film went on to become critically acclaimed and a moderate commercial success, grossing over $70 million in worldwide receipts. The road to hell may be paved with good intentions, but the stairway to heaven is certainly spackled in green.
For you aspiring indie filmmakers out there looking to shoot your first 35mm chiller, having these concepts in your backpack can help you survive that treacherous trek through those daunting woods. Remember, you want to bleed the body count, not the budget.
For the rest of you beloved devotees of the deranged, consider this. The next time your favorite franchise postpones its sequel for the umpteenth time, claiming creative differences despite nothing more than a cobweb in the bank, think for a moment if that excuse really makes dollars and cents.