Thursday, 7 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #995: Toasted & Jammed

Artist's conception of a company board meeting.
Two Wall Street vets Neil Grossman and Howard Silverman have formed Toast & Jam Holdings as their big foray into show business.

So far Toast & Jam Holdings is holding...

Cosmic Toast Studios: An animation company.

Cinipix: A film production, acquisition, and distribution company.

Cinirents: A film production equipment rental company.

Toast & Jam are also in talks to acquire a digital distribution company, and a marketing firm.

Now the word is that these chaps have already kicked in amounts in the "seven figures" which shows a certain amount of confidence on their part. However, investing in movies is inherently risky, even at the best of times, and as the old saying goes, the quickest way to become a millionaire is to start out as a billionaire investing in Hollywood.

So how can these Wall Street mavens avoid being jammed and toasted by the vicissitudes of the entertainment business?

1. CREATE A CUSHION: Most indie companies fail because they have just enough for a couple of productions, but if just one of those productions doesn't make a big profit the whole thing falls down.

There is no way anyone can accurately predict if a film will make money, or not make money. So you need a lot of money held in reserved to keep that kind of a company afloat.

A best case scenario is getting some material on television. That's where the serious money is these days, so it's best to get as many TV series on air as you can, and have some sort of output deal for your movies with a major cable channel(s) or a local station syndication outfit.

2. MAKE FRIENDS: As an independent producer & distributor you will be doing business with other independent companies. In this case, honesty is the best policy.

Remember, you are not a major studio with a massive multi-billion global media conglomerate as your parent company who can simply bully or crush smaller players into compliance. In this situation, you are the smaller player and you're going to be doing business with other smaller players. 

If you get a reputation for treating your partners well, and honestly, you will not only continue doing business with them, you will avoid giving all your money to lawyers.

The history of indie film companies is a history of lawyers making more money than producers. Change that and you might have a chance.

3. FILL NICHES, THEN EXPAND: The temptation to just leap in with a big smash blockbuster is great. However, trying to play with the big boys entail massive risks that could sink a company faster than you can Samuel Bronston.

The best strategy involve gaps. The big studios are all cutting their output and the films they are putting out are leaning toward big budget science-fiction/ fantasy/ and superhero type projects and obvious Oscar bait, with very little in between.

That means the fields of horror, suspense/mystery, drama, some aspects of science fiction, and others are pretty much wide open. Thanks to new technology they can all be produced and distributed inexpensively as long as you don't waste money on so-called "A-List" stars. They can also have long life-spans on television and home video if they're well made and have good production values.

Smaller budgets mean smaller risks, and if they catch on, really big rewards.

Then you might have a chance of carving a nice little piece of the market for yourself.


  1. Blast Hardcheese7/3/13 12:26 pm

    My personal plea would be get into more 'thinky' SF movies. 'Thinky' means you don't have to blow the budget on lots 'o spaceships blowing the crap out of things, and there is almost *nothing* out there now in that genre. The only person I can think of working in the area is Shane Carruth.

    We need more Primers!

  2. Inception showed that complex SF stories can reach a wide audience. And you're right, you don't need a massive budget to do more "thinky" pieces.