As a partner at Jirsch Sutherland, a specialist insolvency, forensic accounting and turnaround business, Bradd Morelli has been the liquidator of a large number of SPVs where the Producer Offset has been successfully claimed.
Below, he outlines the key steps to ensure smart cash flow for those in the creative industries.
Lumpy cash flow is the cycle of life for many people in the creative industries. Large invoices paid at irregular intervals can often make you feel broke one day and rich the next. But a little planning can smooth out your cash flow to create certainty in your financial life.
In your bank is a lovely big deposit. What now? Buy a car? Pay off debts? Treat yourself to a holiday?
You could do that or you could speak to your accountant or financial advisor. Their business is managing money and cash flow and their support to get you the most from your income will pay dividends. Accountants and financial advisors work with all types of people to develop and implement plans to help you succeed financially. They can also provide sound advice when you need to make decisions about investing, setting financial goals, sourcing finance and expanding your business.
So first speak with your accountant or financial advisor about how they can work with you to prepare for the cash flow peaks and troughs.
Know your financial starting point
1. Figure out your likely income over the next few months.
You have just earned a lump sum, but when is the next project and when will it pay? Will it last until the next payday or do you have an alternate income stream to get through the dry period?
2. Know what your costs are to live each month.
How much are your costs for rent, food, insurance, clothing, education, utilities etc? Work out the minimum you need, and then add some buffer as a comfort factor.
3. How many months do you need to support yourself?
Set aside money to pay yourself a regular monthly salary.
4. Set up a monthly payment plan.
Speak to someone who can help set up a payment plan to pay yourself automatically like an employee. Your accountant or financial adviser can also help you set aside money for taxes, GST or BAS if they apply. Alternatively, you could transfer your money into an online high interest savings account and pay yourself a monthly salary. Choose one with a notice period to access the funds to avoid impulsive spending.
5. Negotiate a better deal.
Lump sums make cash flow hard. Negotiate your contract to split up invoice payments with partial pre-payments, staged payments or draw-downs against milestones.
6. Pay your bills and creditors thoughtfully.
Bills have credit terms. Dont pay a 30-day account on day one. Use the credit terms to smooth out your own cash flow by paying only when you have to. Perhaps use a credit card to effectively gain another 30 days to pay.
7. Have an emergency fund.
Peaks and troughs are expected, but what about if you need to take time off or are unable to work for a period of time? Having an emergency fund of at least three months living costs in a separate account is a great way to ensure you are always prepared and will help you sleep better at night.
8. Get professional advice.
Get your accountant or financial advisor to help you action your plan.
What to do if you run out of cash?
If the job you were relying on falls through, how will you survive before crunch time? Sometimes the best laid plans can go awry making it necessary to plan in advance for all situations.
Seek professional advice on your options at the earliest opportunity if the worst does happen and you run out of cash, particularly if you need to consider voluntary administration, liquidation, bankruptcy, or a personal insolvency agreement.
(l-r) Lisa Shaunessy and Leonie Mansfield (photo credit: Nick Prokop)
Experienced producers Lisa Shaunessy ('Killing Ground') and Leonie Mansfield ('Kick-Ass 2')] recently formed a new venture, Arcadia. The company was created with the aim to produce projects with 80 per cent female writers, directors and protagonists.
They work alongside former international sales agent Alexandra Burke, who runs Arcadias distribution arm. Shaunessy and Mansfield talk to Jackie Keast about their decision to come together.
The start of Arcadia was so organic, it took us all by surprise. A casual dinner, some red wine, a desire to tell womens stories, work with great filmmakers, reach international audiences. You know, the usual.
I feel like I was looking for my tribe for such a long time and these two incredibly talented, smart, internationally experienced, similarly-thinking women just walked into my life at the right time.
We definitely want to work with more women and to create opportunity for more female-led stories and female talent. Were women ourselves and we know the challenges that other women face trying to land those leadership roles. And we like stories about women. Its pretty simple.
We really want to focus on stories that will work in the international marketplace. Working with Alex, who has been working in international sales for years [Burke previously worked for Danish outfit LevelK], brings such a great rigour to our conversations and decisions about projects.
As a collective, the influences on your slate are different than when youre a solo producer and that has been both tough and refreshing. We did very sadly have to part with projects wed loved and nurtured. Were really happy with our slate at the moment though. It feels diverse, international, fresh, exciting and like it defines Arcadia, not just ourselves as individuals.
Because mine and Leonies skills are similar, it allows us to see easily where we can support each other, run with something, or take over in each others absence from projects. And I just love how kind and honest Leonie is. I recently met an ex-colleague of Leonies in LA and I saw the remorse of not working with her anymore in his eyes, and I felt so lucky.
All three of us have a great ability to laugh in the middle of a potentially stressful situation. Our ability and desire to not take ourselves too seriously is something I really cherish.
Leonie is a great teacher of being present and in the moment. Shes always conscious of what is going on around her; peoples feelings, impending problems. Its such a great quality and Ive learnt to try and dig my head out of the information super highway and enjoy the moments in front of us.
[This year] we plan to move our projects into production, release our Sundance Film Festival co-production Killing Ground, and launch our distribution arm with our Sundance Film Festival purchase, First Girl I Loved.
Lisa and I met through a mutual friend, who kept saying we would really get on. And she was right.
We formed Arcadia in April last year. Lisa and Alex met at Rome Film Festival a few years back, and Alex and I actually went to school together. None of us had worked together before so it was a bit of a risk, but we had all admired each others careers from afar. When we started talking about the company seriously, it felt really right.
Initially, in amongst all the usual paperwork, we were combining our slates into one, defining the brand of the company and unifying our voice. We all share the same taste, but it was still a process to consolidate the overall talent on the slate plus finish the projects we all had underway before Arcadia.
We formed in the midst of Gender Matters mania. I have been working for women in the industry for a while now through the producers collective I founded called Screen Vixens, and as part of the 2016 executive for WIFT NSW. It made sense for us as a company to value and prioritise women on our slate and in our crews.
Its vitally important to have diverse voices on screen—not just for the women in the industry but for our audiences and our cultural identity.
I love working with Lisa. She knows everyone in the business and shes business savvy, smart and funny. We share the same working style in that we are both creative producers, and weve had very similar backgrounds working on big studio pictures with high profile bosses. Lisa worked at Seed for Hugh Jackman and also ran South Sydney Media for Russell Crowe, and I spent five years in the UK working with Matthew Vaughn at his company MARV.
In terms of working styles we are totally aligned. We love to debrief and talk things through, we are both super organised and treasure a calendar.
Most of our slate we are producing together which is so nice; to be part of a team. We plan to be in production for most of the second half of this year so thats when we will probably be forced to take the lead on certain projects in order to keep all the balls in the air.
Weve just completed our first shoot together — Outbreak Generation by Brooke Goldfinch — and the image of Lisa in a public park in Kurnell at 4:45am, resplendent in her head-torch, will stay with me forever.
Ive learnt so much about the local industry from Lisa, having been away in London and then returning to Sydney and being on maternity leave. Shes taught me patience and the benefits of not being too quick to judge a situation.
Speaking to IF from her home in Melbourne, Dance Academy producer Joanna Werner begins by apologizing for the squawking that might erupt at any moment.
I have a nine-week old-baby whos happy — at the moment. I found out in week one of pre-production that I was pregnant, and Ill always remember exactly how long it takes to make a movie because she was born two weeks after we finished the film.
The Dance Academy feature, in 211 cinemas around the country from April 6, revisits the characters we last saw in the series, which ran on the ABC for three seasons beginning in 2010.
The shows success on Netflix in America helped Werner and series co-creator Samantha Strauss put together the feature with the backing of Screen Australia and the shows German distributor ZDF Enterprises.
StudioCanal came onboard as the Australian and New Zealand distributor, and the film was shot last year on a budget in the $5-10 million range.
Directed by Jeffrey Walker (Alis Wedding), who helmed the shows pilot, the feature shot in Sydney for five weeks, followed by a four-day stint in New York in July.
Our first day we shot a 12-hour day in Times Square, says Werner. Our lead actor Xenia had arrived a day and a half earlier and was then shooting in 44-degree heat in the middle of Times Square.
One of the real trials was getting visas and all the logistics of getting to New York and being allowed to film over there and unions.
But we worked with a fantastic company, Jax Media, that Jeffrey Walker had worked with on a series he shot in New York, Difficult People, and they have huge experience helping out film crews in New York.
Werner describes the four days in the Big Apple as long, with frequent changes of location.
One day we started at Battery Park and then we were on the Staten Island Ferry and then at Grand Central Station and then on Broadway. We really fit a lot into that time.
Now the producer is focusing on the films Australian release with fantastic partners StudioCanal, while an international rollout is still being negotiated.
Our distributors from Germany are coming over for the Australian release, to really see how all that goes and take it from there, Werner says.
Theres big interest in Europe and the States, which is fantastic. Weve got a huge fan-base all over the world. The TV series has sold to 160+ countries. Weve done a big social media rollout. Weve got over 300,000 Facebook followers and over 50,000 Instagram followers, so were hoping that theyre motivated to go out and buy tickets.
And a lot of our fans are international, so every time we load something about the Australian release, all we get is: when is it coming to Portugal, when is it coming to Brazil? Russia, South America and Europe have huge fan-bases which hopefully will mean a big international rollout. But were letting the Australian world premiere happen first.
Werner is also in development with the ABC on a ninety-minute telemovie which she hopes to shoot in Sydney in July.
Its the first adult drama from my company. I produced the political thriller Secret City with Matchbox Pictures, but this telemovie will be the first adult drama show for Werner Film Productions.
'Dance Academy' star Xenia Goodwin shooting in New York (courtesy Werner Film Holdings).
Screenwriter Samantha Strauss makes her feature debut this month with Dance Academy, based on the show she created with producer Joanna Werner in 2010.
Earlier feature scripts went nowhere, the writer tells IF. "Id written a film before that had a young female protagonist and that was incredibly difficult to get up. We were told at the time that its not a market for Australia."
But the support of StudioCanal and the show's German partner ZDF made a Dance Academy feature possible, and Strauss is thrilled with the result.
"Everything Ive ever worked on, you just hate everything youve ever written and every moment is awful and you cant imagine what it looks like," she said.
"This is the first experience where no I shouldnt say that (laughs). But when we saw the rough cut, Joanna the producer went and cried and I was in a state of shock because Jeffrey Walker and Geoff Lamb the editor had assembled this thing that we are just so unbelievably proud of."
Strauss is also keeping busy with other projects, including "an adult dramedy" the scribe has written for See-Saw, which she describes as "very different to Dance Academy—very black."
The series would be ongoing and is awaiting the green-light from a broadcaster, Strauss says.
"And Im writing a film based on a book. Its set in 1919 about an Australian woman who ends up having an affair with the future King of England."
Strauss, who received Gender Matters: Brilliant Stories funding last year, is adapting Robert Wainwright's biography of Sheila Chisholm, the daughter of a wealthy grazier from NSW who arrived in London society in 1914.
Strauss is writing the feature for Goalpost's Rosemary Blight and Revlovers Martha Coleman under a development deal with Transmission.
Chisholm married Lord Loughborough, a hopeless gambler, and conducted affairs with screen star Rudolph Valentino as well as with Prince Albert, or 'Bertie', the future George VI.
George VI was played recently by Colin Firth in The King's Speech and by Jared Harris in Netflix's The Crown. Ben Mendelsohn will play the role in Joe Wright's upcoming Darkest Hour, with Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill.
Chisholm was married three times, and eventually opened a travel agency in London, where she died in 1969.
At last weeks Australian International Documentary Conference (AIDC), two docos were hacked by a team of national and international experts in the impact field, who suggested strategies to maximise each film's social outreach.
One of those films wasThe Kimberley Project,currently in pre-production. The feature will explore the threats to remote Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley region from industries such as mining, fracking and agriculture.
Director and producer Nicholas Wrathall (Gore Vidal: The United States of Amensia) told IF the aim of the film was to give voice to the local communities of the region and explain "how this pressure is affecting them, how theyre feeling destabilised from it, and [explore] what their future is with this new interest and development in the area.
Id just come back from New York at the time and was looking into different projects here," said Wrathall. "It just seemed like such a big story that wasnt really getting any coverage beyond the headlines. So we started investigating it together.
The producers have spent the last 18 months travelling to the region and prepping the film. The film's third producer is Steve Kinnane (The Coolbaroo Club), an academic and a Marda Marda from Mirrowong country in the East Kimberley.
Weve taken a long development, because this is a really complex story. Its not two-sided, King told IF.
With production investment from Screen Australia, Screenwest and Screen NSW, the team intend to begin the main block of shooting in May.
And while its still early days, the films impact and outreach campaign has been a priority.
Wrathall said the team has set various goals for what they want to achieve, and will need to decide how those goals are most effectively achieved— i.e.if it works best as a tool for poltiical lobbying or for education—once the film begins to take shape.
Both King and Wrathall agree the AIDCs Impact Strategy Hack session was a useful forum for them to network and strategise.
One idea that emerged in the sessions was seeding early material through micro-docs to help build an audience for the film before its release.
We had an early ambition to do that, and we were concerned about time and cost and being distracted by the main film," said King.
"But I think weve been really empowered through this conference to remember how accessible that [kind of content] is on an iPhone. There is this other filmmaking that doesnt have to be the slick polished feature film, that is accessible and does have a huge impact, sometimes a greater impact, or at least can speak to the bigger film."
Building relationships with outreach partners could be one way to reach a different audience, Wrathall said.
"Especially with remote communities or even young people that aren't watching television so much—you've got to take the films to them and you've got to reach them on the media they're using."
One of the strongest messages out of AIDCs impact sessions was the importance of partnerships and not trying to reinvent the wheel, said King.
Its about finding the right partner for the film and then being able to divide and conquer rather than trying to become an expert overnight in these issues," she said.
"We're busy making the film," said Wrathall, "[and] to become the impact producer as well as producing and directing is a big ask. So we need to bring in those people."