A Gal's Guide to Making a Movie, Part 14: The Angel Investor


A Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie is a written series by Erin Bagwell the director of Dream, Girl and the founder of Feminist Wednesday. To view the whole series click here.

Part Fourteen: The Angel Investor

In April 2015 Dream, Girl had been in production full-time for eight months. During that time on our $100K budget we: payed a full time production team of five girls for three weeks (around $23K), paid for rental equipment on and off for five months ($19K), filmed all our interviews in rented spaces ($3K), filmed addition imagery of the entrepreneurs at their homes/offices/around the city ($4K), hired an editor ($3K/month), paid Komal and I a “salary” month to month ($2,200/each), paid the Mighty Oak animation team out of Brooklyn to hand craft imagery for the film ($28K), paid our executive producers to consult us on crafting the story ($12K/each).

It was safe to say I had no idea how much making a movie would cost, and by the beginning of the spring we were running out of money. To make matters more complicated, whenever we got to a point where we started to feel scarce Komal and I would often be the first to skip our “salaries” to make sure we had enough money for production. I drained my savings account and started living month to month to make the movie.

I think that hardest part about living month to month is that it’s hard to plan for the future. You get to a place of extreme overwhelm really quickly, especially since we didn’t have a business model in motion for Dream, Girl yet. To finish the film we needed money, but we weren’t bringing in any revenue to produce it. So it felt like we were at the mercy of the process.

To make matters even more interesting, I was getting married in two months and Sal, my fiance, and I were trying to figure out if we could afford to go on a honeymoon. If we did run out of money, taking a vacation doesn’t seem like the best course of action. On the other hand, people kept telling me to honor and appreciate this special moment in time- so I felt this immense burden of guilt, like my dream-job was sinking my relationship.

Komal and I decided to fundraise. We pulled out our rolodex and pitched the angel investors in our network for $50K. We laid out the details for our business plan, and how Dream, Girl would make money when we released the film. Komal planned out all the information for how distributing the film would happen after we launched, and we sent out emails to about 20 angels, advisors, and high networth people in our network.

On Easter Sunday, I heard back from the one and only Joanne Wilson aka “the Gotham Gal” New York City’s most sought-after angel investor for women’s companies. She also happened to be interviewed for Dream, Girl and was our very first Kickstarter backer.

Joanne said she was interested in meeting with Komal and I to learn more about investing in Dream, Girl. I freaked out. My heart felt like it was going to leap out of my body. WHAT DO I EVEN DO NOW? How does this pitching thing work? I called a few entrepreneur friends to get advice about what to do, and what to prepare and Komal booked her flight to come to New York for the meeting. Unfortunately, Komal was stopped at the border by some aggressive and insensitive TSA agents and didn’t make it to NYC.

I was on my own.

I remember taking the 1 train up to the West Village to Joanne’s office and feeling a kind of nervous calm. I blasted Madonna’s “Rebel Heart” in my headphones and just tried to breath. When I got to Joanne’s office (which I had been to a few times before to film her) I felt comfortable, excited, and open. I sat down and showed her the projected revenue spreadsheet Komal prepared for distribution, and talked her through our vision of selling the film.

Joanne is literally The. Gotham. Gal. She is so effortlessly New York- from brilliant art installations in her office, to her slightly avant garde outfits, to her directly blunt opinions about everything. I’m obsessed with her newsletter, which basically just arrives randomly in your inbox whenever she feels like gracing her opinion about a new restaurant, product, or business. Joanne is razor smart and really loves business. She loves watching her companies grow and especially loves watching women succeed. She experienced being underestimated in the corporate environment firsthand and the extra hoops you have to burn down to advance your career.

Joanne and I always connected on the mission of the film, and to be honest, because she had watched us for the last year put together a successful Kickstarter campaign and already made a big dent in producing the film (which she was a part of) she wanted to see it get finished and believed in me to do it.

On that warm spring day she told me she didn’t think we could finish the movie for $50K. She thought we needed $100K. She told me she would put in the $50K for 10% of the business, and would source from her angel investor friends the other $50K. I walked out of the meeting shaking and b-lined my way to the first ice cream truck I could find. I cried hysterically full of gratitude and inhaled a chocolate-vanilla twist ice cream cone with rainbow sprinkles. I called Komal and told her the good news.

It would take another two months before Joanne’s investment would come in, and for my 28th birthday in May I’d have around $56 in my bank account, but it felt like a million. Raising the money to complete the film mentally thrust me into a new phase of Dream, Girl.

I wasn’t just a filmmaker now, I was a founder. All of a sudden I wasn’t just on this journey as an observer, I was actively creating the path ahead.

Next time on a Gal’s Guide to Making a Movie. Part 15: The Wedding. Erin + Sal get married.