What Goes Into An Indie Film Proposal?

What goes into a Film Proposal?

Based on your hit list targets and call to action goals, your package may or may not include all of the following material (you may not even have or have a clue to some of it – but it’s a living, breathing, evolving document – part of the process is doing this research and homework so you’ve earned the answers – and own them).

You may highlight certain elements, reposition the order and deliver it in a variety of formats. Maybe you give a one-on-one pitch over coffee with a sizzle reel on your iPhone. Maybe you snail mail a full blown business plan with a PPM to your cousin on Wall Street. Maybe you put it all up on a password-protected website for friends and family to invest and/or support. Maybe you create a PowerPoint or KeyNote presentation for a group presentation is a small rented ballroom or private home dinner. Maybe you Skype a web-based conference call. It all depends on goals, access, timing, expense – relationships, value of the outcome, etc.

For an Indie (or possible Studio Co-Production),
here are the guts of what you ought to have lined up and polished to shine:


Executive Summary

The Who, What, Where, When, Why and How top notes customized for the purpose of this pitch (you may or may not have all – or any – of these elements)

Project: Great Title, Logline and/or TagLine


* Wish List

* LOIs

Distribution info

* Targeted Hit List

* Expressions of Interest or Personal Contacts

* Contracts

* Pre sale info


* Source of Funds

* Marketing and Distribution Plan


* Script

* Synopsis

* Treatment

* KeyArt

* Rip-o-Matic Sizzle Reel

* Source Material (Book Reviews, True Life Story News Article, Graphic Novel, Video Game, etc.)

Who’s involved at this point? Don’t feel the need to add a soul – sometimes “attachments” who don’t really deliver the goods can just be a daisy chain of albatrosses around the project. Be very clear who you’re legally obligated to versus who you have just circling the project. Photos can be nice if they’re uniform (or flattering!). Custom written bios (specific to the project/undertaking) are great, resumes less so, IMDB links – or personal websites and reels, all the better. In an interactive/dynamic presentation, the more full color or moving visuals, the better.

* Production Team

* Writer/Director/DP/Editor

* Dept Heads or Key Crew Members

* Line Producer, Production Designer, Composer

* If its a period piece, maybe the costume designer

* If its a horror, maybe make-up and special effects

* You get the idea – what matters to whom at this stage of the game?

Any other key attachments

* A-List Actors or Directors (or well-respected, credible in the biz, high star power ranking pros)

* Famous race car driver/builder for a race film

* Famous Greenpeace Captain for a seal saving environmental/animal activist film

* Famous musicians for soundtrack possibilities, etc.

Talent Wish List

Tread carefully here so as not to mislead but if you’re very clear these are your HIT LIST TARGETS, photos and credit highlights can be helpful illustrations for key roles – if you really think you can get them at those rates and terms or through your relationships.

The Numbers/The Plan

* Film Comps

* The Budget

Could be just the top sheet or the whole 50 page version – or just the figure – or even a ballpark range mentioned in the Executive Summary – again, depends on who’s asking (and if its any of their business):

Investors – yes

Distributors – not necessary if they are a…

* BUYER or a VENDOR – it’s none of their business what your true hard costs are or were or how you cut corners and finagled deals or what your relationships favored you)

* PARTNER (and sharing the risk – i.e.: putting up money) – yes

Who else has skin in the game?

* You?

* Other key figures?

The Waterfall Scenarios

Any MOUs or LOIs for Distribution, Talent, pre-sales, grants, tax incentive lottery placement, etc.

P&A plan and budget

If you know:

* Estimated Start Date

* Projected Release Date

* Shoot Location(s)

* Tax Credits

Two Film Proposal Sample Scenarios

Who is Reading My Film Proposal – and Why?

6 thoughts on “What Goes Into An Indie Film Proposal?

  1. Heather HaleHeather Hale Post author


    You’re welcome!

    Waterfall = A spreadsheet showing how the profits “trickle down” the pipeline, when and how they get distributed to the Producers and ultimately, when the Investors can expect their return from the various distribution platforms.

    I.E.: What theatrical box office revenue (DVD, VOD, cable or syndication distribution) are you projecting? And who gets a piece of it – and when – before we see our split? What percentage are the exhibitors, the distributors, the sales agents, etc. estimated to take? If you’re selling DVDs directly off your website, what DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Hard Costs are you assuming? Etc.

    MOU = A Memorandum of Understanding also often called a Deal Memo. A quick and simple contract to get all the deal points on the table and officially agreed to – and signed – so you can all move forward while the attorneys take months to hammer out the multipage “real” contracts (if necessary). Sometimes its nice to just have things in English versus ambiguous, multi-interpretable/litigate-able legalese.

    LOI = A Letter of Interest or often a Letter of Intent. Similar to an MOU or a Deal Memo, this might be what you’d use for an attachment (an A-list star or more likely a bankable TV actor or some other high profile attachment – or even a major sponsor for product placement or some other element you need their participation with – special effects, access to major venue, sports team, etc.).

    A weaker version of this might be called an “Expression” of interest and could be as simple as an e-mail or better: a letter on their representative’s letterhead indicating that they have read the script (or reviewed the entire package, seen the trailer – whatever) and they are INTERESTED (but not legally attached yet) in the project.

    An LOI, contrary to a firm pay or play commitment allows you to change dates, locations, etc. without losing any capital. It also enables you to change that precise element if a stronger one or different allegiances come along (not to mention vice versa for that attachment). It leaves you both free to pursue other potentially conflicting options. Its really just a loose, non-binding “yeah, we’re circling the project” verification for you to show to actually validate the claims you’re making about other interested parties without creating a daisy chain albatross weighing the project down in a legal morass eliminating any easy point of entry for a potential buyer/partner.

    Those three definitions help?

    Hope so!


  2. Heather HaleHeather Hale Post author

    W.L. – Happy to clarify but for some reason your question’s not clear 🙂
    What can I explain?
    Did you read the other linked articles? Perhaps your questions are answered therein? Or the confusion might be clarified if read in order? (It was a lot of information, so we broke it up into four chunks).

    Jodie – So glad! Good luck! 😉

    Daniel – Unfortunately, talking the talk but not walking the walk is something you will run into A LOT in Hollyweird. Be careful. There are a lot of people out there who just want to “play Hollywood.” Look for smart money. Or at least low maintenance/minimal screwage money. 😉

  3. Daniel K. Jacobs, D.C.

    Thank you for your timing and information. I have written a script and am talking to two producers. One talks big but not a lot of substance yet. Yhe other, super braxh that the first did not know what they are talking about. You have givrn me a concise outline to start with that makes sense and is easy to follow.