A Few Thoughts On Slated.com

I joined Slated in 2014 after attending a producer breakout session at the American Film Market in early November. The speaker was the co-founder and CEO of slated.com, Steph Paternot.

He was compelling, confident, and it felt like I was hearing the answer to my prayers! They had created a site who’s sole intention was to connect independent producers and filmmakers with financing and distribution.

As we’ve used the site over the last year and a half, I wanted to write about our experience, why our expectations haven’t yet been met, and what I think both the users of the site and those running it could do to make it more valuable.

If you’d like to see why we have chosen to use Slated in the process of validating our current project, you can check out my last post here.

Slated By the Numbers

What I really feel like I can offer in this post is a deep dive into the actual numbers, since I am a member of the site (it’s free to join…) and we have recently paid for the script and financial analysis, so I can really go in and see where a project like ours looks like to Slated’s algorithm.

Why this is important is that we represent the typical first-time independent filmmakers. We don’t have a track record, therefore, our personal scores are low or non-existent. We don’t have all the money for the film raised (that’s why we went to Slated in the first place), we don’t have big name actors or producers attached, and we don’t have (all of) our distribution covered.

Sound familiar?

Good, then hopefully this post is for you.

The other reason to talk about “the numbers” is that Slated operates based on its own algorithms and the scores that algorithm places on its members, the projects listed on the site, and those projects “Package” scores, which are determined by applying an algorithm to the project’s “Team”, “Script”, and “Financial” scores.

This is incredible for us young/first time filmmakers. Nowhere else can you go out and get such an objective value placed on your project, at least for as little as Slated charges.

A photographer friend, when I posted my last blog post, wrote me and said:

Man, that Slated post makes me wish there were something like that for photography.
…And we’re also talking about qualifying art that is supposed to be compelling AND make a return…

The value Slated is claiming they provide is undeniable. But the biggest question is “does it work”?

First, a few more stats:

Currently, Slated states on their home page that there are over 57,000 members of the site, broken down thusly:

I can vouch for the caliber of talent that has joined the site since its inception. The biggest production companies, agencies, producers, directors, etc are on the site. It’s less known for the actors that are members, as this isn’t really a site that helps actors get work.

Slated attaches a score to your profile, so it’s similar to an IMDb star meter ranking. Someone like Barrie Osborne (who is a member of the site) has a score of 89/100, while little ol’ me has a 0.6, and that’s for my work as a sound engineer, not as a writer or producer, for which I currently have no score…

Even as a nobody, though, I’ve been able to message and have convesations with some mid-level producers, investors, and production companies through the site, so there are people that are on there, looking for projects, willing to engage with unknown filmmakers.

I’m not sure what their monthly active users are, but to venture a guess I’d put it pretty low, especially for people with scores above 10. Maybe 10% of those people are active, more so for the members — like myself — that are on their seeking financial and producing partners.

Now, what about projects?

Currently, Slated has a total of over 4,400 films listed on the site, 1,825 of which haven’t yet been “completed”, (whatever that means…).

Why are these numbers important? Now we’re getting somewhere…

A Promise

Right on Slated’s home page is a quote taken from an NYT review :

“Slated…like being at a cocktail party with a bunch of investors, and, if they’re interested, they reach out to you.”

Now, I can’t fault Slated for their marketing, because their whole goal right now is to get more people on the site. That’s a quote that must be working to help them reach that goal, because it’s on the homepage…

However, it’s the beginning of a promise that the site is selling that when you really dig into the numbers, becomes less of a promise and more of the same reality that you would normally experience in Hollywood as a first-time filmmaker, just online.

For example, most higher ranking producers, investors, and directors have turned on a feature that prevents people from below a certain score from even being able to message them. I get why they do it, but it’s a little bit of a let down after reading that Slated is supposed to be like a cocktail party that you’re invited to.

So, it’s more like you’re in the same hotel as the investors, but their cocktail party is a completely separate one from the party you’re attending, with more expensive alcohol, nicer labels on their suits and dresses, and a bunch of meaty bodyguards preventing you from even taking a look inside.

The best you can do is wait outside for one of them to come outside, take a brief glance at you, make a snap judgment, then “if they’re interested”, engage in a conversation.

The next promise that they made is when they announced back in October their new Syndicate Financing service. When it was announced, project scores above 60 automatically qualified.

“Sweet!” I thought. We were just given a clear path to financing our film! Get a project score above 60 and they’ll take over the financing and go raise the money for us!

Except…then they changed their threshold when they announced their Executive Producer services:

“But, hey,” I thought, “now we just need a script and financial score above 70. It’ll be hard, but not impossible…”

We did a round of analysis on the script and financials which I detailed in my last post, the script score came back a 64 and the financials were a 91 if we verified our lead.

It put our team score up to a 26 and our “Package” score up to a 56.3, which put us in the 99th percentile on Slated.

At this point, however, I started to feel a little nervous. Was I putting too many eggs into this one financing basket? I reached out to Greg Gertmenian, the head of Story at Slated and the one who is basically the keeper of the scores. He would be the one determining whether or not a film was granted entrance “other cocktail party”.

I asked him flat out if things were going to change again, and his response was “yes, in 1–2 weeks…” it would be changing to require a full package score above 70.

Meaning that we’re trying to hit a moving target. That’s no way to finance a film.

Going back to the numbers, though, out of 1,825 films, the top 1% is made up of 18 films. Apparently, that’s not enough, though. The financial partners that Slated has “have made it clear they are interested in projects with strong, filled-out teams, and a start date, which is why the 70 Package threshold is in place.”

Ugh.

Currently, there are only 4 films on Slated that have cleared the 70 threshold. So top 99% isn’t good enough, and 99.9% might also not be enough if the film doesn’t meet whatever other qualifications they want to come up with in the next two weeks.

Double ugh.

I had hoped that Slated had managed to partner with investors that were willing to take chances, to accept a little higher risk for a bigger potential reward. It seems that’s not the case. The way I’m interpreting the writing on the wall is that these investors are just as afraid and lack the confidence neccessary to be playing in this field.

Slated is literally telling them how much money a project is projected to make, and it still isn’t enough. So they’re not really taking chances, and they’re not really connecting filmmakers with financing.

Now, this is both a criticism and an opportunity for myself and other filmmakers to broaden our perspective on this industry we’ve chosen to work in.

Conclusion

Making movies is hard. To think that we can put in a certain level of effort, even if that effort puts us in the top 1% of films, and get everything we expect, well that’s just not the way the world works.

What it should do is inspire us and get us fired up to work harder to become that top .01%. The cream of the crop. The undeniably good projects that ANY investor would fear missing out on. This is what Slated does really well, it gives you much needed perspective that you can use to move forward, increasing the value you’re creating for investors and for those involved in the film.

While I think Slated could and should work out the kinks before taking large chunks of a filmmaker’s or production’s budget if the “pot at the end of the rainbow” could just be moved to the end of a different rainbow on a whim.

Once they figure out their business model, though, I do feel that Slated is in an incredible position to connect projects with investors, but that they should also work harder at lowering the investors’ expectations and their threshold for what projects should qualify for consideration.

Imagine if Slated actually invested in 18+ films per year, rather than 1 or 2 that cross their thresholds. Only then will they really be living up to their tagline, “Where great movies get made”.

In the meantime, Slated is great if you manage your expectations and use their valuable feedback to get your project into the top .01% of films. Work hard, keep grinding, and I’ll see you in theaters someday soon.


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