Invest in Artists, Not Art; in Individuals, Not Projects

MCN tipped me to this article in Barrons on Creative Capital's practice of investing in the artist, and not the project.

BRENT GREEN WAS 25 AND ABOUT to relinquish his dream of becoming a filmmaker when he discovered Creative Capital.

Green had been looking high and low for a $14,000 grant to finish an animated film. Creative Capital, a nonprofit based in New York, sized him up and offered something entirely different: $43,000 to help support his career over the next three years. It would go toward everything from equipment to transportation to the cost of a publicist. In return, Green would give Creative Capital a small cut of any profits.

In the five years since then, Green's work has been shown at the Sundance Festival and a number of museums and film festivals in North America and Europe. He has even found himself turning down galleries eager to represent his work.

Borrowing ideas from the venture capital industry, Creative Capital is encouraging their grant recipients to become Artrepreneurs, and it is literally paying off.  Out in in the general world of every-day entrepreneurs, several folks have joined together to create Thrust Fund, an online marketplace precisely for such personal investments.

There's only so much creative work any of can do without funding.  Sure, I can cut my overhead and take jobs for hire, but I know that my best work comes when I am collaborating creatively at the earliest stages.  The difficulty with this approach is I DON'T GET PAID FOR IT.  I can not keep doing development because I can't afford to do it.

Producers these days are forced to look for ready to go projects that they can earn a quick production fee on.  Sometimes you can get lucky and find those projects that are aligned with your sensibilities, but that is nothing more than good fortune.  This approach used to work under the idea of "one for them, one for me", but as an agent recently said to me in an effort to explain why I should be happy to receive less than half of my regular fee for similarly budgeted projects "precedent is not even a word we know anymore".  When rates are dropping, what's one to do?  Take more jobs.  When one is forced to work on project after project that they did not development, what happens to the quality of the work?  It gets worse, a great deal worse.

VentureBeat has a good profile on the Thrust Fund including their involvement with at least one filmmaker.  The film biz should take notice of these new investment strategies pioneered by both Creative Capital and the Thrust Fund.  Filmmakers should move off of the one project at a time approach and start looking for investment in the ongoing conversation.

Suffice it say, I am open for offers...  although I do think this sort of thing can move us even closer to a world of indentured servitude.  For better or worse, I have always avoided any debt beyond my mortgage and single picture finance, but hey, there still is such things as good deals.