Report – Financing Live-Action – The New Frontier
Introduced by: Sarah Muller, VP Children’s and Youth Programming, Sony Pictures Television
- Live-action financing requires a mosaic of diffident funding sources.
- Managing the various parties and their deal terms takes time and diplomacy and lots of good advice from professional advisors.
- With a great project and partners who share your passion, you will find a way to raise the funding.
Financing live-action – specifically for older audiences – is a long and complicated road, but the panellists in this session included seasoned producers and distributors who between them have managed to navigate these tricky waters. Katharina Pietzsch summed up the key message of the event by stating that ‘if everyone wants the content then they will find a way’ even if it takes a little while – with a current project having taken 7 years to finance and including broadcasters from around Europe as well as ZDFE’s distribution funding.
Live-action funding can include a wide range of sources, with Jeremy Salsby describing how he went out and met ‘everyone’ in order to find the right partners and broadcasters who shared his vision for the project and who could all work together – including accessing funding from broadcasters, distributors, regional funds and in his example, a music publishing company. Josh Scherba responded on the question of ancillary exploitation for live-action – something that is a key feature of animation projects – and confirmed that even for successful brands like The Next Step these were never part of the original business plan. A live-action series needs to rely on first window sales in order to break even, as live-action tends to date more quickly and so have a more limited shelf life than animation. The Next Step did go on to create significant revenues from live shows and events but this tends to be the exception and while it is good to explore these opportunities while a show is being developed, they shouldn’t be a key factor in the financing plan.
All the speakers agreed that the complexity and time required to close financing is not to be underestimated, and that getting the right advisors is key – although it can be very expensive! Josh Scherba noted that including proper fees in your budget for those expensive lawyers and accountants is essential as without them the complexity of all the varying funders and requirements would make the deal fall apart. However, the positive message was that great ideas with partners who share your passion for the project will find a way to get financed.
Written by: Andrew Baker, Cantilever Group
Sony Pictures Television
VP Children’s and Youth Programming (Western Europe International Networks)
Director of Production
ZDF Enterprises GmbH
King Bert Productions
Head of Children's
Senior Commissioning Editor, 6 to 16s, Independents