One of my primary tasks last month was creating a "lookbook" for a film project I currently have in development. I've noticed that making a lookbook to lure investors or production companies to a film project has become more common in recent years. Up until five or so years ago, it seemed the more accepted and embraced method of courting financing was creating a short, scaled-back version of the feature film one intended to make (or a fake trailer for it).
I've seen short "prototype" films produced for ten thousand to seventy-five thousand dollars - made with the sole intention of attracting a million bucks to make the "real" film... a goal which is not achieved much of the time. I can see why creating a lookbook for free represents a more attractive, less stressful approach... at least for those of us who don't have a spare seventy-five grand burning a hole in our wallets. In recent years, it seems fewer short prototype films, and more lookbooks have been made. In fact, for directors trying to get a film off the ground, creating a lookbook has become mandatory.
For purposes of attracting feature film financing, a lookbook is typically a PDF file containing images and text that present the intentions of the director. If enough money and work have already been poured into the project, a lookbook may contain location scouting photos, key crew member bios, and artwork illustrating wardrobe, set design, visual effects, and special makeup effects options.
A more scaled-back version of a lookbook may include a variety of images from multiple sources (including other films) that reveal the tone the film will have. (This is not a document that will ever be seen by the public, so copyright is not an issue.) Elements that may be presented to potential backers along with the lookbook include financial projections, budgets, schedules, comparison films' financial performances, and letters of intent from actors. These documents are generally not incorporated into the lookbook, because the primary function of a lookbook is to get people excited about a director and the film he or she desires to make.
My lookbook was guided by my producer, and fine-tuned by a few trusted peers. It contains an introductory overview of the film project, my director's statement, a brief story synopsis, some history on the development of the project, my bio, my filmography, and the producer's contact information. All of the imagery I used to illustrate the lookbook came courtesy Google image search. There are many ways to author a PDF lookbook, but I just designed each page in Photoshop, saved the pages as separate JPEG files, then combined the JPEGs into the final PDF. The lookbook is 31 pages long. I've seen shorter and I've seen longer lookbooks. (My film is currently top secret, so I can't show you any of the PDF pages, or further divulge the contents of the lookbook. Sadface.)
Lookbooks aren't only for chasing down funding. They can be used to attract any pieces of the puzzle. Actors, cinematographers, production designers, and visual effects artists may decide to sign on after eyeballin' an impressive lookbook. A director may even create a lookbook to land a gig on a film that is already in development, but has yet to attach a director. (The rather inexperienced Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. was hired to direct The Thing (2011) thanks in part to an attractive lookbook he made.)
I will admit that I do not excel at hyping up a movie before I make it (to raise funding) and after the film is done (to generate sales). Many film folk find the hyping exciting... but as soon as I've set my mind on a film project, I'm ready to go to work... my brain becomes focused on the many layers of what I intend to do with the film. Trying to convince others to believe in the picture, or invest in the project, feels like, to a degree, an irritating distraction... like it's trying to prevent me from doing my job (when really, I know the hype is what gives me the films to make).
Similarly, promotion of a film I've just finished is irritating to me. I've just poured my guts into the movie, and been intensely zoned in on it for so long, I'm a burnt-out mess at end... and a poor spokesperson for the product. In these ways, being mono-focused on making the best possible film has its negatives. While I am getting better in these areas, I still rely on trusted associates to guide my way and do much of the heavy lifting in terms of hyping a movie both before and after we make it.
For example, I had a lot of help on the lookbook I made last month - which was the first lookbook I'd ever created. I think this method of fueling excitement for a film better suits me... probably because it is so visual. Creating the lookbook seemed less like a chore, and more like a seamless extension of my duties in writing and directing the film. I'm actually looking forward to the next lookbook I make.
Thanks for reading.
- Eric Stanze