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The more I learn about the business side of the entertainment business, the more I realize how much there is to know! A recent interview with Tiffany Boyle, President of Packaging and Sales for Ramo Law, was one such enlightening example.
Tiffany is a powerhouse in the packaging and sales realm of film and episodic content. Her interview revealed to me why connections (and they must be the RIGHT connections) are imperative in the journey of taking a film project from script to screen.
Her most recent projects include helping to bring on financing for Paul Schrader's "The Card Counter," executive produced by Martin Scorsese. Before that, she led the sales and packaging for "Dembanger" by John Berardo and "One of These Days" by Bastian Gunther. She served as executive producer for the Malin Akerman and Alec Baldwin comedy "Chick Fight," written by Joseph Downey and Hope Bryant, and the Liam Hemsworth and Vince Vaughn drama "Arkansas," written by Clark Duke and Andrew Boonkong, based on the novel by John Brandon.
Export a perfectly formatted traditional script.
By the end of the interview, I felt like there's simply too much to know, so you'll want to have some experts on hand to tap in when you're ready to release your screenplay into the world. But packaging and sales experts come in many forms, as I learned from Tiffany. In fact, her role as the head of packaging and sales at an entertainment-focused law firm is a less common practice; typically, you'll hear about producers and talent agencies who package up film and TV projects for sale. But as we learned from Tiffany, there's good reason to have an entertainment law firm involved.
Before we jump in, I want to paraphrase the wise words of screenwriting consultant and former development executive Danny Manus: As a writer, make sure you know a bit of everything in terms of how the entertainment business works. You'll learn a lot along the way, but you don't want to be totally surprised by where you're headed.
So, let's jump into one of the more complicated topics for which you'll need to have a basic understanding.
In its purest form, film and television packaging can be defined as the practice of bringing together a wide variety of major players that it will take to make your film, getting varying degrees of commitments from them, and tying them all up with a pretty bow to make the film that much more appealing to a potential buyer. Assuming you're starting with a finished screenplay, those players could include actors, a director, producers, and executive producers. Sometimes, the producer or production company will assemble these packages, but it's the traditional management or talent agency more often. And sometimes, you'll get lucky and get to work with a pro like Tiffany.
"I run the packaging and sales arm of the firm," Tiffany explained. "Our firm represents primarily the producers, financiers, and then a handful of writers and directors in film and episodic content."
For over a decade now, Tiffany has been using her business-oriented sales and packaging skills to see hundreds of films through to the finish line for existing clients with film projects at Ramo Law. She specializes in independent films – films that aren't being made by big studios or production companies – ranging in budgets up to $30 million.
"My background is in development and sales, so Elsa, the owner of the firm, brought me on about 12 years ago as she was building the practice to really help clients and advise them on the development of their content and packaging. I do much more business-oriented packaging, so I tend to be more focused on who are the producers, co-production, EP-type partners to bring on projects."
More recently, she's been taking on the role of executive producer on some client projects, which puts her in charge of helping to source funding for the film, ensuring the production has enough money to finish, and packaging the film in a way that makes it appealing to would-be financiers.
"We've been starting to executive produce or get a bit more involved in some projects the past couple of years, so that's been another focus that we are spending a little bit more time on," she added.
In her role as President of Packaging and Sales at Ramo Law, Tiffany's other services include helping the firms clients by reading and providing coverage for scripts with an eye on global commercial and storyline perspectives, submitting scripts or projects for packaging or selling, submitting projects for foreign and domestic representatives, preparing analyses of international market and American film market reports, preparing international sales estimates, preparing business plans, and planning, setting, and sometimes taking meetings for clients an international film markets such as Berlin, Hong Kong, Filmar, Cannes, and Toronto.
"And then I help them figure out their sales, distribution, advising that they're attaching cast that's justifiable for their budget," Tiffany said. "I would say that no day is the same for me. I'm really beholden to what my clients are doing and what's happening on certain productions that might be happening."
Who knew so much went into bringing a script to screen?! I had an inkling, but the level of detail and planning involved is still shocking. And often, Tiffany's services are steps that have to be taken before a client can even get financing for the project. Foreign distributors will want to see a cast that sells in their particular region before they front any money, so if you put together a package that only includes a cast recognizable in North America, that particular funding route may not be an option for you. There is SO much to think about! And sometimes, it's not exactly clear in which order all of these steps need to happen.
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Lucky for us, there are Tiffany's in this world,