Film project

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The following is a group project for my Academic English courses at Korea University. Students work in groups, and each group is to come up with an original idea for their own low-budget independent film project. Students give semester-final group presentations about their film proposal, as if they are giving a pitch to a group of investors in order to gain funding for their film project. (Each student presents about 4-8 min. as part of a group presentation.)

This is primarily for presentation skills, but also involves writing a short, persuasive essay using MLA format or another citation format. The contents are somewhat academic, but also enjoyable for students. This is designed primarily for humanities majors (English and other language majors), and the unit worked well with my students. I also tied this unit in with my unit on definite/indefinite articles (determiners).


1 Overview

Your group will develop a proposal for an independent film, and give a presentation about it to the class. The presentation is a pitch (a sales talk) to a group of potential investors (so you will first pretend that your classmates are groups of investors who might bankroll the film).

As a group, you will decide what kind of film you would make – the topic, genre, characters, setting, and other details. Any genre is possible – sci-fi (science fiction), documentary, romantic comedy, drama, film noire, etc. You will then work out the other details, and put together a presentation for your classmates.

1.1 Contents & criteria

1. Plot or film synopsis

  • A summary description of the film – topic, plot, purpose, etc.

2. Film details

  • Producer, director
  • Script & screenplay writers
  • Characters in the movie
  • Setting, location
  • Equipment

3. Target audience & market

  • Types of people that it should appeal to
  • Where it will be distributed & marketed

4. Promotion & distribution

  • How and where it will be promoted – including film festivals, promotional screenings, advertising
  • How and where it will be distributed and shown, and how you will do this

5. Production schedule

  • Pre-production
  • Production
  • Post-production
  • Promotion & distribution
  • Release date

6. Budget

  • How much money you need, and for what, and why (justification for expenses)
  • How it will be spent over the course of your project

7. Income projection

  • Anticipated earnings over a three-year period, including low (pessimistic), middle (realistic), and reasonably high (optimistic) projections for intake & revenues
  • Justification for these projections

8. Reasons why the film will appeal to audiences, e.g.,

  • Storyline, plot
  • Dramatic effects
  • Character development
  • Cross-cultural appeal
  • Social impact
  • Photography / videography
  • Artistic value
  • Score (musical score – the music to be composed for it, or accompanying soundtrack)
  • Special effects

At first, your group will submit a short write-up (ten-point assignment) describing your project, before doing the presentation.

1.2 Seeking funding

Here are some types of funding or investment to focus on, depending on the type of project that you undertake:

  • Private equity firms: an investment company that pools money from its investors to buy or invest in projects and companies
  • Social venture capital fund: an investment group with money from its investors to invest in projects with social or philanthropic value
  • Non-profit organizations, NGOs (non-governmental organizations)
  • Company product placement financing (e.g., featuring commercial products in the film for advertising money from a company)
  • Individual private or corporate investors (more difficult to get)

Depending on the type of fund, these investors will be concerned with factors like:

  • A return on their investment, including the initial share or cut of any profits (e.g., the first €100,000 that you make) and/or a percentage of subsequent profits
  • Some degree of oversight of the project
  • Some may require entering into a partnership with the investor(s)
  • Potential profitability
  • Potential social impact


2 Written exercises

The following are graded as minor assignments, and are designed to help the groups to formulate their budgets and prepare for their individual final project papers.

1. Items for budget
Your group is going to produce your own independent movie. What items do you need to budget for? Explain the items you need and why you need them. This can include equipment for filming, for the set or location where it will be filmed, personnel, and editing equipment. You can classify things into pre-production & production, post-production, and distribution. You can include materials, equipment, and personnel.

(This also ties in with lessons on definite and indefinite articles, specifically, the lessons on object nouns, material nouns, and generic / group category plurals.)

2. Short assignment
Each group will then submit a short write-up (ten-point assignment) describing your project, before doing the presentation. This should be 1-2 paragraphs in regular paragraph format. This will help prepare you for the final paper.

In one paragraph, and in your own words, explain one or more of the following points.

  • What is your film’s greatest strength?
  • Why does it deserve to be funded?
  • Why does it have potential for critical or commercial success? (“critical” = how it is evaluated and received by film critics & experts, film competitions or festivals, etc.)


3 Group presentation

Near the end of the semester, your group will give a presentation to pitch or sell your film, as if you were giving a pitch to potential investors who might fund your film project. Your presentation will address the main points above, and should try to persuade an audience of potential investors. See the grading criteria for major presentations in the Appendix of this course packet for general grading guidelines. Your presentation should specify what type of investment (see the section above) you are seeking.


4 Follow-up assignment (optional)

If time allows, we may do this follow-up assignment[1]. After your presentation, you will negotiate with another group as if they were potential investors, over details of the investment. Groups will take turns as funding seekers and funding givers. Each group will create a checklist of their preferences and criteria, like so.

Funding applicants Investors
(film project group seeking funding)
  • Type of funding / investment sought
*(Investors will assume roles depending on the type of investment sought)
Negotiation criteria:
  • Why you think the project deserves funding from the investors
  • Amount and type of investment, and providing returns (on investment)
  • Minimum, ideal and maximum amount of funding sought (what you will ask for, how much you absolutely need, the lowest amount you can accept)
  • Amount of control and oversight
  • Time frame for project and investment
  • What do to do for the investors if the project under-performs or fails financially
Negotiation criteria:
  • Whether you are interesting in funding the project, and why
  • Amount and type of investment, and receiving returns (on investment)
  • Minimum and maximum amount of funding you are willing to offer (e.g., initial offer, and how high you are willing to go)
  • Amount of control and oversight
  • Time frame for project and investment
  • What to do if the project under-performs or fails financially


Finally, each person will hand in a final paper about their project. See the section below.


5 Final paper

You will write a short paper explaining one reason why you think your film has potential, why it deserves the support of potential investors, or why you think it will succeed. The intended audience is a group of professional investors. Each member of your group will write a separate paper, and each paper will focus on a different, specific reason for your film’s potential. Your paper can focus on a specific reason in an area like one of these:

  • Artistic value
  • Social value
  • Audience appeal or market appeal
  • Genre
  • Market niche
  • Commercial potential

This is to be written as a formal persuasive essay, with standard essay elements like an introduction, body paragraphs, conclusion, and references / works cited. You will need to cite at least three sources and use them meaningfully in your exposition. These might include:

  • Other comparable films
  • Articles in media studies, film studies, etc.; Works by film / media scholars
  • Reviews by reputable movie reviewers
  • Famous literary works
  • Literary analysis
  • Market analyses, case studies, etc.

Requirements:

  • You should use either MLA, APA, or Chicago Manual styles for citing and referencing sources
  • See the grading criteria in the Appendix.
  • Length: At least 700 words (final version)
  • Due date: Finals week


  1. Note: In my classes we never were able to do this follow-up assignment