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What I Learned from Tom Malloy’s Bankroll

I’ve been a follower of Tom Malloy’s innovative film financing ideas for a little while now. From his instructive writing to his online courses, I feel like Tom’s advice has become increasingly relevant to my own thinking of how my films could be financed and made outside of the studio system, all while keeping a genuinely independent spirit.

After I recently completed his Thinkific Bankroll program, I was hooked. I then promptly powered through the second edition of Bankroll, Tom’s influential text outlining some of his key ideas on financing independent feature film. The ideas contained in both of these resources were pretty thought provoking for how I can approach my artmaking and guarantee that it gets realized out in the world.

As it’s proven to be inspirational for me lately, I want to transmit some of the most important takeaways that I gathered from Tom’s rich material.

1. The Law of Attraction

As Tom states it in Bankroll, the Law of Attraction is already a fairly well-known theme in the realm of self-help, especially after it was made into one of the core principles behind the blockbuster book The Secret. It’s a pretty basic notion, but one that I genuinely think can be an effective tool for transforming your project from a mere idea into a funded and made film.

The Law of Attraction boils down to this: your thoughts can create your reality. Our inner desires are powerful, much more than we often realize, and you can will things to happen in the world if you concentrate enough of your energy onto a goal. If you want to make a film, think about it happening everyday—not in a wishy-washy way, but really think through the practical steps behind getting it made—and imagine the process in detail, you’ll reach your goals.

The flipside is that The Law of Attraction can also work in the negative. In other words, if you spend your time dwelling on how something won’t happen, it probably truly won’t happen.

Think in the positive! It can make a big difference when you’re trying to meet your goals.

2. Putting It On Paper

Though it might seem a touch too obvious, putting these goals down on paper can be crucial. Think of it as a contract to yourself. A goal can be pretty abstract when it’s just floating around in your head, but if you see it written down on paper, you’re more likely to take it seriously.

The example Tom uses goes like this. If your business plan is to raise $2 million, you should write, in big letters on a blank piece of paper:


And he knows that many people knock around the phrase “one day” when they make these kinds of agreements with themselves. So, instead of saying to yourself that you’ll raise $2 million down the road, at some unknown date, you should make it concrete by adding a date:


Voila! Just like that, you’ve taken a solid step from daydreaming about your well-funded film to making a contract with yourself that will be hard to ignore. Try it out! Here is a worksheet for you to download.

3. The “Go Until No” Technique

Everyone in a creative industry knows that persistence is one of the great keys to success. You can’t give up. You have to persevere. You have to follow through. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. We all know these sayings and yet we rarely follow through with them, even if we want to.

The “Go Until No” technique is a practical way to realize these otherwise vague aspirations. Tom says that it was given to him by “a master salesman in New Jersey” and it’s easy to see why it would work so well in the realm of marketing.

The technique? It’s pretty simple: don’t give up on a pitch to an investor until you hear a definitive “no” from them. Even if they give you different roundabout ways of gently letting you down, keep following through until they say the magic word. (Tom also points out that you should wait a week between pitches, so as not to seem like a a stalker...) Keep following up and following up again.

Even if you do get turned down by an investor, though, Tom notes that you should ask if you can contact them once more people are attached to the project. That way you can turn a negative into a potential positive again.

4. The Five Categories of Prepping a Project

Filmmaking is a long and messy process. Tom has split his approach to securing the financial backing for your film into two steps: Prepping the Project and Funding the Project. In other words, there is a lot you need to do before you even try to get funding!

The prepping process was pretty eye-opening for me. He breaks it down into five parts:

— The Pitch (Your quick written or verbal description of your project and what makes it unique)

— The Killer Script (You shouldn’t settle for a decent or mediocre script. Make it killer!)

— The Budget (Your concrete yet realistic figure for getting your film made.)

— The Insanity vs. Liability (Any hint of insanity or any little tinge of liability that could stop your film in its tracks? Eliminate them!)

— The Business Plan (The clean and polished document that you can show to potential investors, letting them know exactly how you’d be using their money.)

All of these, Tom states, are totally reliant upon one another. If your script is indeed killer but your budget is way off, your project is doomed. If your pitch is totally solid but you have some minor liabilities that might pop up, your project is doomed. Yet if all of these are set in place, as strong as you can get them, then you’re on the right track to being prepared to hunt for outside funding.

I’ve absorbed all of these tips from Bankroll and know that they’ll prove useful when I go out to get my next projects funded. Try them out and let me know how it all works for you!

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