Step-By-Step Beginners Guide for Starting a Film Production Company
Are you passionate about filmmaking and considering launching your own production company?
I’ve been involved in independent filmmaking for a while, and after assisting in the creation of five independent short films alongside colleagues, I decided it was time to venture out and start my own production company.
The issue I had when I first started my production company was that I didn’t have a clear path to success. After sifting through hundreds of publications written by industry experts, I discovered that the only way to achieve success was to make mistakes along the way.
The measures I took to ultimately create my own film production company will be discussed in this essay. I’ll start with where to start and go through each stage to help you reach your goal of running your own production firm.
So, if you’re serious about taking your passion for filmmaking to the next level, here are a few pointers to help you get started on the correct track.
Step-By-Step Beginners Guide for Starting a Film Production Company
How to Start a Production Company
Before you can get your film production company started, it’s essential to have a clear business plan.
While starting your own film production company can be a challenging experience, but if you follow the proper steps, you can set your company up for success.
While I am not a business professional, I hope this guide on how to start a film production company gives you a good glimpse of what’s to come in your long and exciting journey ahead.
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Choose a production company name
Establishing your brand with a memorable name that signifies something to you is the first step in starting a film production company. Because I used my last name, coming up with a firm name was rather simple. Because there aren’t many “Peek’s” in the entertainment industry, I figured it was the greatest option.
However, keep in mind that while choosing a name for your film production firm, you must ensure that it is not already in use by another organization. To find out, use Google and IMDB to search the internet, and if it’s not already taken, apply to get it incorporated and trademarked.
Make sure you get legal guidance and hire an accountant for tax purposes during the incorporation and trademarking process. You’ll also need to establish the company as a legal entity by creating a bank account in the company’s name, obtaining a business location, and establishing a website for branding purposes.
In addition, building a social media profile for your film firm is critical for putting your brand out into the globe. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and possibly Pinterest and YouTube are all excellent places to begin.
Oh, and make a company logo for your film firm so that people can recognize it more easily. You can hire someone to do it for you, or you can do it yourself using Canva.com. (This is exactly what I did.)
Create a business plan & company vision
To have a successful film production company, you need to build a solid business plan to ensure that it will function properly, and be financially stable for years to come.
This step was the hardest part for me when I started to create my film production company. Why? Because it involves business skills that I had to learn on the fly fast.
What I suggest is to start small and have a five-year goal plan. Come up with a mission statement that summarizes your goals for the company and particularly how are you going to profit from your company.
Uncover a balance between ambitious and obtainable.
I am not going to sugarcoat this step, as it requires a huge amount of paperwork and possibly seeking out some expert advice to make sure you have everything covered to eliminate any financial setbacks down the road.
When setting your business plan, use S.M.A.R.T goals, as they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based.
- Specific: A specific goal clearly states what is to be achieved, by whom, where, and when it is to be achieved, and sometimes why.
- Measurement: Measuring the goal applies both to the end results and the milestones along the way. The measurement helps to assess if you are on the right track to achieving your goal. It answers the questions, how much, how often, how many?
- Attainable: When setting your goals, ensure that they are achievable. If you believe in yourself that you can reach the goal, it is more likely you will be to get there. It is a mistake to put out unreachable goals because you are setting yourself up for failure from the very beginning. Don’t let others set your goals.
- Relevant: When setting goals they fall into the long and short term. Understanding how these fit into your organizational or personal vision, mission and purpose are important.
- Time: This ensures that you put a time-frame to your goals. This can be a great motivator and shouldn’t be seen as a detractor.
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Seek funding for film production
Now that you have your business plan ready, it’s time to raise funds to get production going on a project and help your business grow.
Unless you just won the lottery and have a brink’s truck loaded with cash in your driveway, you are going to have to use your business plan that you created to start raising capital.
You can either go to your bank to secure a small business loan(including a line of credit) or reach out to angel investors (either via crowdfunding or personal connections). Make sure your risk isn’t so great that you risk financial ruin if things don’t work out.
Here are some strategies that I have seen thriving film companies use to secure funding:
- Showing your business plan to large production companies or studios.
- Find a business partner or another producer and apply for government funding.
- Find brand sponsors to front you money in exchange for product placement throughout your film.
- Start a crowdfunding campaign. (I use Seed & Spark because they specialize in crowdfunding for a film.)
- Reach out to angel investors.
Now keep in mind while you are trying to find the money, always follow your budget plan, and stick to it.
Plus, while you are fundraising, the connections that you make that don’t invest right away, will be great resources down the road. Never burn your bridges!
Build your filmmaking team
Once you have the first few steps of establishing your film production company name, generating a business plan that you will stick with for years to come, and raising funds to begin production, now you have to build your all-star team!
When you begin the process of building your film production team, you want to look for experience, not just a group of friends that want to start a business. A business can’t survive without all the cylinders firing at the same time.
You have to make sure that your whole team shares the same vision as you based on your executive summary.
To build your team, you need to understand what key roles in the company need to be filled to generate success.
Most independent film production company’s start with four key positions, and then eventually hire more personal as the workload increases.
These are the following four positions you need to fill for your executive team:
- Head of development – This role is responsible for finding and developing great screenplays that have the potential to be successful films.
- Head of the production – The role of this position is to make sure that the productions stay on schedule and on budget.
- Head of the post-production – The role of this position is to oversee the editing process, and make sure that the deadlines are being met.
- Head of distribution – The role of this position is overseeing the marketing and distribution of the films.
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Hire a production accountant
This is a simple step in the process of building a film production company, but it’s an extremely important step, and that is to hire a production account.
After producing a few short films as of late and dealing with several film industry unions at the same time during production, I found that entertainment payroll is a difficult job.
To find your company a certified public accountant trained in entertainment financing to take care of your company’s accounting.
Production accountants are prepared to manage the constantly rotating crew, along with the various rules and regulations associated with the different entertainment unions.
Purchase production insurance
I can not stress this enough, get film production insurance! Why? Because S*it happens.
There are so many moving parts in making a film, you have crews from different departments all running around to make a fantastic product, that accidents can happen.
We all hope for a smooth shoot, and 99% of the time everything runs smoothly, but there is always that 1% that can happen. And if it happens, and you don’t have film insurance, it can ruin your company.
Start producing films
To be seen, you need to put yourself out there for the world to know you are there. You will want to start producing short or long features depending on the budgets you have at the start to show off the capabilities of your team.
If you have a great development team that can spot a great script and has some filmmaking gear at your disposal, you can produce films as selling tools for future investors and possibly studios.
Then leave the projects off to the distribution team to start marketing the films through avenues like film festivals, traditional and online distribution.
Also to note that when you are in the process of distribution and finding buyers, hire an entertainment lawyer to make sure you retain all (or most) rights to your film.
I have heard horror stories of filmmaking friends losing rights to his/her films because of hidden lines in distribution contracts. So have a lawyer handy to read the contract for you!
Are you ready to start your own film production company now?
It may look challenging at first read, but if I can do it, so can you.
All you have to make sure is you find a great company name to identify your brand, build a great team behind you that shares the company vision, and making sure you always hire the right staff for the right positions, your film company will be a distribution machine!
Now go out there and start making films!
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About the author: Trent (IMDB | Youtube) has spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.