When you are an independent film festival (and production company), it is always important to keep your eyes wide open regarding new partnerships. One can never be too sure about which people are the "real deal" who can help you move the ball down the field and the ones I call the "professional lunch munchers". It isn't as easy as you might think to spot the difference.
Now when you are a newer company or film festival you will meet many "lunch munchers" and I have met my share. In general, these are folks who (usually) are well-meaning, decent people who think they have way more resources and experiences than reality would dictate. This mind-set has some key symptoms to look for:
- Rarely (or never) calling or meeting you at the designated time they gave you. They are always late.
- They love to go out and discuss things over lunch (hence the name). This is their favorite activity since it's a old stereotype ("let's do lunch!"). The one positive aspect of this is they will usually pay for it since they have no intention of paying you anything else in the future and their guilt is assuaged slightly.
- They go out of their way to drop names of famous people and about how much money people they know are just waiting to throw at them.
- They have never actually completed anything (script, movie, etc.) on their own. Ever.
- Whenever you start to move things forward development-wise, they will come up with some excuse as to why you need to "slow down" and/or "postpone" things.
These "symptoms" have been observed by me and my partners on numerous occasions over many years' time with multiple people.
For the last month or so, Diamond in the Rough Films has been in contact with Company "X" who shall (for now) remain nameless but only because there are still some negotiations going on and contract language to finalize. When the time is right, press releases will emerge, excitement will be expressed and details shall be made clear. Let's just say that it will be a very good thing for our 2017 DITR Film Festival and its mission to help independent filmmakers.
This past Sunday, I took it upon myself to drive 400 miles in order to meet the CEO of Company X in person down in Los Angeles. I would not do that for just anyone but this CEO struck me as a "Real Deal". I trusted my gut and was very glad I did. We met and talked for about 2 hours. I drove home the next day. 800 miles, eleven total hours of driving for a 2-hour meeting. Worth it?
Absolutely and then some. He showed none of the "lunch muncher" symptoms, answered every question I had and was professional, forthcoming and articulate about his company's goals. It was energizing and I was actually grateful for all of my previous time spent with the "lunch munchers" - it allowed me to better identify a "Real Deal".
And it is here where I must stress the importance of taking the time to meet key people in person. By meeting in Los Angeles, we were able to truly relate, avoid any potential misunderstandings and set more solid groundwork for working together.
Skype is fine, E-mails are helpful, even texting can be convenient...but if you want to build the most solid business partnership possible, take the time to meet face to face in the same room. Get in your car or get on a plane if you have any ability to do so. I promise it will pay off.
Oh and trust your gut too...it knows more than you give it credit for.