Can indie filmmakers use visa promises to keep production costs down?
Established independent filmmakers are always looking for creative ways to finance their projects. Complicated funding strategies include private equity deals, aggressive pre-sales, crowdfunding, bloodsucking bank loans, and the dreaded deferred payment scheme (everyone works for free until the movie makes money).
Andy J. Semotiuk – an international law attorney focusing on immigration – recently proposed a controversial approach to independent film funding in a series of articles for Forbes Magazine. Semotiuk recommends bartering a US work visa for a production budget. Politically distasteful? Perhaps. Perfectly legal? Yes.
Here’s how it works: An established independent filmmaker finds or writes a great script. The filmmaker then locates a qualified investor in China. The investor must be a film industry executive or a stakeholder in an affiliated industry.
The US filmmaker then creates a production company in America that is fully funded by the Chinese investor’s home company. The Chinese parent company now owns 100% of the US firm.
The US company makes its first acquisition – the script – and it’s off to the races! Semotiuk suggested, “The purchase of the script is the initiating event that will enable the foreign investor to establish his or her commitment to the business enterprise.”
The filmmaker benefits from the arrangement because the production of the script is fully funded. He gets assistance producing the film and has guaranteed access to lucrative Chinese distribution channels.
The investor receives a US L-1 Visa, family included, allowing them to work and live in the US for up to seven years. Down the road, he or she can apply for a green card and their children will be charged less expensive domestic fees if they attend US colleges.
Chinese investment in the indie scene might just be the tip of the iceberg. Semotiuk sees the partnership working with almost anyone from an up-and-coming global film market. Think of Bollywood (India) and Nollywood (Nigeria) executives financing filmmakers in the good ol’ US of A and the sky’s the limit.