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Commission, SCORE develop equity crowdfunding

So many scripts … so little money. However, thanks to President Obama’s Jobs Bill, on-line investing in films will be possible in early 2015 through equity crowdfunding. Unlike donation crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, equity crowdfunding will give investors the chance to receive a return on their investments. According to criteria currently being considered, The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would allow up to $1 million in investments over 12 months in each company.

Since August 2013, retired financial executives from the Memphis chapter of SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) ( have been working in alliance with leaders of The Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission. Their goal?  To develop an educational/mentoring program to prepare local filmmakers for this new way to raise capital for their films. A leading securities and corporate finance attorney is keeping the group apprised of all new developments in equity crowd funding regulations -- Matt Heiter of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell and Berkowitz.

SCORE’S Crowdfunding Co-Directors, Reese Austin (formerly Managing Director Institutional Equity with Morgan Keegan) and Ramkrishna Kasargod (formerly Managing Director Equity Research with Morgan Keegan), will lead an in-depth financial workshop in early 2015, specifically designed to prepare the filmmaker for the equity crowdfunding portal experience.  SCORE board member Jack Gibson will discuss film business plans. Award-winning Film Commission client and internationally acclaimed producer Mike Ryan (“June Bug,” “40 Shades of Blue”) will discuss film budgeting in the second part of the workshop. For a nominal fee, the workshop will be open to all legal residents of Shelby County.

Successful graduates of the workshop with “camera ready” scripts will then be eligible to apply for a competitive mentoring program. In it, SCORE financial executives, Mike Ryan, and several Film Commission established clients would select three filmmakers for special pre-portal nurturing.

Although SEC regulations regarding equity crowdfunding will likely not be finalized until early 2015, an informational workshop to prepare Shelby County filmmakers for the final workshop will be held in May. Location and date will be announced in April.

For more information on this new type of film investing, go to:



Martha Ellen Maxwell 1928-2014

An editorial in Tuesday’s editions of The Commercial Appeal lauded the life of Martha Ellen Maxwell who died last Thursday of ovarian cancer.

Among many other achievements, she was the first executive director of the Memphis & Shelby County Film, Tape and Music Commission, precursor to the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.

Visitation is 5-7 p.m. Thursday night, March 13, at Memorial Park. There is a memorial service Friday at 11 a.m. with reception afterwards at Idlewild Presbyterian Church.

Mrs. Maxwell also served as the first executive director of Memphis in May, as well as Arts in the Park. And she was executive director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

She was in the core group that helped save the Orpheum and the Levitt Shell, and she helped nonprofits such as the Dixon Gallery and Gardens.

The editorial said: “Because of Mrs. Maxwell’s tireless advocacy, and her fundraising and managerial skills, Memphis is indeed a better place for the visual and performing arts communities.”

Photo by Lance Murphey



Memphis Music and Film at SXSW

South by Southwest will get plenty of Memphis music. Highlights include a special presentation featuring music legends, stars of today and up-and-coming talent, an in-depth panel discussion chronicling the history of Memphis music and its long-lasting cultural effects, and a documentary that examines how the diversity of Memphis music bridged racial, gender and generational divides.

Tuesday, March 11th: "Take Me to the River" is a feature length documentary celebrating the inter-generational and inter-racial musical influence of Memphis. The film brings multiple generations of award-winning Memphis and Mississippi Delta musicians together, following them through the creative process of recording a historic new album, to re-imagine the utopia of racial, gender and generational collaboration of Memphis in its heyday.

Location: Topfer Theatre at ZACH / 4:30PM - 6:05PM.

Friday, March 14th: The Memphis Means Music session tells the Memphis story from the mouths of the people who have created it and continue its legacy. Al Bell (former Stax records owner), William Bell (Stax legend), Frayser Boy (Memphis hip-hop artist), Cody Dickinson (producer and member of North Mississippi All-Stars), Robert Gordon (noted music historian and author), Booker T Jones (songwriter and band leader of Booker T. and the MGs), Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell (producer and owner of famed Royal Studios), and Martin Shore (documentarian and creator of “Take Me to the River”) will discuss the songs and artists of yesterday and today that have inspired and influenced so much of the world's popular music.

Location: Austin Convention Center Rm 18ABC / 12:30PM

Saturday, March 15th: “Take Me to the River” Second documentary screening

Location: Paramount Theatre / 11:00AM – 12:35PM

Saturday, March 15th: Take Me to the River Music Showcase: The lineup includes William Bell, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, and Booker T. Jones. Hi Rhythm, the studio band who recorded 27 gold and platinum records in a row for Memphis greats such as Al Green and Ann Peebles, will be the house band. Also expected: Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads), the North Mississippi All-Stars, blues veterans Charlie Musslewhite and Bobby Rush, Ben Cauley and the Royal Horns of Memphis, soul singer Big Baby and rappers Snoop Dogg, P-Nut, Al Kapone and Frayser Boy.

Location: Outdoor Stage at Butler Park  2:45PM - 4:45PM

The SXSW Outdoor Stage at Butler Park is open to the public with free Guest Pass wristbands, available in advance or on-site at the event. See SXSW Guest Pass site for more information.



Auditions for BET’s Gospel ‘Sunday Best’

Season 7 auditions for Black Entertainment Television’s Gospel singing competition “Sunday Best” are Saturday, March 8.

The reality TV series is on a multi-city tour, auditioning America's undiscovered gospel talent looking for the best. The winner, or "Sunday Best," will receive a recording contract and an automobile.

The Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission and The Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau are assisting the production.

In Memphis, auditions will be at Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church at 70 North Bellevue. Registration begins Saturday at 7 a.m. and closes at 11 a.m. Anyone not in line by 11 a.m. will not be seen by the judges.

Everyone auditioning must be 18 years of age or older and have a valid government ID in order to audition.

For more information on the auditions, including the audition song list from which you must select one song, go to



Commission client “Free In Deed” wrapping filming

For some three weeks, the independent film project “Free In Deed” has been shooting in Memphis. Starring British actor David Harewood (“Homeland”) and Los Angeles-based Edwina Findley (“The Wire,” “Treme”), the film is a client project of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission.

Most of the jobs in the film’s production went to local people. There are about 20 in the crew and 51 speaking roles.

Mike S. Ryan, the New York-based co-producer, convinced writer/director Jake Mahaffy to film the project in Memphis rather than the original choice of Detroit.

In a story in Sunday’s edition of The Commercial Appeal, Ryan told John Beifuss, “Memphis is a film community that I know bends over backward to help you any way they can.” Ryan said the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission “right out of the gate helped us with each hurdle that arose. It’s one of the reasons why I keep returning to Memphis.”

Read Beifuss’ story here (subscription).

Ryan has been involved in made-in-Memphis films “Forty Shades of Blue” (a project by director Ira Sachs that won the Grand Jury Prize in drama at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival) and 2011’s “Losers Take All.”

The other co-producers are Boston’s Mike Bowes and Seattle’s Brent Stiefel. Beifuss reports that “Bowes scouted some 30 churches here in December before Memphis-based associate producer Nicki Newburger found the Cathedral of God; other locations include Overton High School, the Bank of Bartlett and the University of Tennessee, Memphis.”

Memphis Film Commissioner Linn Sitler is quoted in Beifuss’ story as saying, “Some movies are about economic impact — the good wages of the people hired, the million-dollar spend at hotels. Some movies are about tourism — the beautiful shots of city landmarks which might cause the tourists to flock here. This movie’s an art film, a buzz word at future festivals — ‘ “Free In Deed,” shot in Memphis.’ ”

Pictured: Mike S. Ryan


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