Making the case for investment
A founder of Handyman Online, Eric Doebele, who splits his time between Seattle and Portland, has invested in numerous tech startups, including Cloudability, Paydici and SweetSpot Diabetes. But when Devon Lyon, Doebele’s old painting buddy, approached him about investing in the Angel Punk project — Lyon is writer and director — Doebele was, initially, less than enthusiastic. “Film financing is a very unique beast,” says Doebele.
Oregon has spent the past decade nurturing a software and tech ecosystem that includes angel investors willing to take a risk on high-tech startups. Today, as independent filmmakers become more entrepreneurial, industry insiders hope to grow their own pool of angel investors. It’s not an easy task. Portland may be moving up the professional ladder, but, says Todd Freeman, “a lot of PDX is still seen as a sort of art-film community” and not for serious investors “who look at it as profit.”
Finding Oregon-based investors is an even tougher job, says Angel Punk writer Kevin Curry, who is relying on leads from New York and L.A. to help raise about $2 million to jump-start the film portion of Angel Punk. “In Oregon, people aren’t used to that funding model.”
Investors aren’t the only private-sector nut to crack. To help fund a three-picture deal (Execution Point, Titanium Man and The Contract), Cheezy Flicks’ Sean Skelding approached three different Oregon banks for a loan. He was met with the equivalent of a blank stare. “In L.A. and New York, banks do this every day,” says Skelding, who secured financing for his next movie, Deal Breaker, from a Southern California institution. Oregon has great scenery and great talent, says Skelding. But pushing the industry to the next level — and keeping Oregon talent from decamping to L.A. — will require getting banks and investors onboard.
To help make that happen, OMPA is one of several entities tossing around the idea of creating a $100 million film fund, a public-private endeavor that would allow Oregon filmmakers to produce bigger, more profitable movies. Doebele has a more modest proposal: education and solid business planning. “If producers can figure out ways to structure the investment, protect equity investors from the downside risk, then explain it to them in a way that makes sense — that’s really important,” he says.
In the end, the Relium team did just that — separating out the funding stream for the film and transmedia elements and courting tech investors who might be attracted to the project’s multimedia sensibilities. Doebele, for one, was sold. So far he has invested $100,000 in the project. “It is a fantastic business model,” he says.
Eric Doebele, a founder of Handyman Online
//Photo by Sierra Breshears
|Doebele has invested in numerous tech startups, including Cloudability and Paydici. But when an old buddy approached him about investing in the Angel Punk project, Doebele was, initially, less than enthusiastic. “Film financing is a very unique beast,” he says.|