Finding the money to make your film is a real chore. Why make it harder on yourself?
Having gone through the process a few times (both successfully and unsuccessfully) for myself and others, I've learned the hard way to avoid these all-too-common mistakes.
NOT LOOKING THE PART
Investors, agents, and producers want to believe in you. Show them that you're responsible. Don't wear something inappropriate to a meeting. You don't necessarily have to sport a tie, but you should look like you have a good command of your appearance. This is a visual art form, after all, so if you can't handle your wardrobe, why should I write you a check for your movie? This seems painfully obvious, but I've seen it happen.
PICKING OUTLIERS AS MODELS
Every ten years, a film comes along (El Mariachi, Blair Witch, Paranormal Activity) that turns into a cash register. But it's usually a bad idea to base your script or your financial projections on these films. They're outliers, and not just because they earned insane box office. The directors had tremendous skills and favors (to make up for lack of crew and money), and tight constraints (small cast, short scripts, few locations, cheap format, etc.). Also, you'll never know how much the distributor put in later to fix them up. Can you shoot and edit a whole film yourself? Do you have a mile of dependable favors to call in? Is your script really small enough? Chances are, especially if you're starting out, the answer to all the above is no. So be *somewhat* realistic about your costs and returns.
NOT HAVING DEVELOPMENT MONEY
To get started, you'll need money for contracts, your production company, script copies, research, budgeting, web work, and travel. Some of these expenses can be recouped from the film's budget later. And sometimes you can make do with less. But you have to spend money to get money.
People flock to plenitude and flee from poverty. If you act like you need the money investors will shy away. Tell them you're giving them an opportunity. Show them an adventure, not desperation.
Financing takes time. Going out with a half-assed business plan or an unproofed script will only cost you. Patience now will be rewarded later. You don't want to scramble for money or a lead during preproduction, right?
DO HAVE A PLAN B
It's good to be committed to your film, but you have to realize that it could stall at any point, often due to circumstances beyond your control. When that happens, have another script to show off and work on. It's also good preparation: when you do make your dream project, you should have your next one lined up, so you can translate buzz into action.
I wish everyone a very happy holiday and new year, and hope for every success for your projects!