Q and A Session with Jayne Belliveau, Beautiful Calf Productions
Q: How did you choose your business name?
JB: Beautiful Calf is a play on my last name in English. It’s meant to be humorous and works like a charm as an icebreaker once people get the play on words.
Q: How would you describe your business?
JB: I’ve been getting scholarships since my undergrad for putting ideas together that don’t seem like they should go together. In a crowded social media market, you need to stand out in a lineup by having something fresh to say that also has enough gravitas to resonate with your target audience. Of course, like anything, the marketing dollars need to be there to get the eyeballs on your product, but a marketing campaign for a film, TV show or even a business really needs to be unique and effectively focused to drive sales. There is a lot of research, technique, world-class training and elbow grease involved. There is no divine inspiration.
Few people want to, have the interest or put in the time to really gain the skill set to build an effective design team. It’s easier to create white noise and call it a day. Unfortunately, in entertainment you can’t survive without solid content – it’s too competitive and there is too much money involved. There is little room for error. Having made some of those mistakes, I’ve spent the last years figuring out how to streamline the design process and lead a design team and become the best at it. I don’t look at what I do as being creative as much as solving design problems to drive sales. My skill set is rare and unique.
Today, Beautiful Calf Productions’ specialty is developing content for local and global markets. More specifically:
- We take an idea from scratch and develop into a TV Show or Film, then put together a team to get it made;
- We ghostwrite for bigger authors or companies. One of my clients is a top selling Amazon author who has been featured on CNN;
- We help local and global clients (through online business) with marketing/branding, TV and film projects.
Q: What are your current markets?
JB: For film and TV (writing and producing): I was trained as a producer at a fund in Berlin, Germany that managed over 100 million dollars a year and also went to film school and worked in the U.S. I strategically sought out a bird's-eye view of the global market at a young age. As a result, I am focused on projects for the global market with an emphasis on partners in the U.S., Canada, Latin America and various countries in the EU.
Marketing/Brand Strategy: Local as well as global clients online. I’ve worked with Denny’s Restaurants as well as numerous other international start-ups.
Q: What markets would you like to penetrate in the short-term?
JB: Right now, my goal is to get both a Canadian and U.S. agent for Beautiful Calf to bring in more film and writing contracts.
In terms of marketing and branding, I love the challenge of connecting with an audience to drive sales. My ideal marketing client needs to gain or regain an identifiable part of market share. I like to apply the same techniques to marketing that I do to building films. A few films I have helped design have gone on to sell out globally.
Q: What are your greatest achievements and successes?
- Having a film, I championed as an executive at the fund in Berlin screen at the Sundance, Berlin and Locarno (winner) film Festivals be nominated for a German producing Oscar. Adrien Brody was attached to Love the Hard Way.
- Co-writing a script that was a finalist at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. There were over 2,000 applicants, we were number 13 – they took 12.
- Having been involved in films that received seven-figure offers that involved Kari Skogland (Handmaid’s Tale) and Bruce McDonald (Canadian Screen Awards winner).
- Helping redesign films for up-and-coming filmmakers that sold out globally. One of whom, Felipe Mucci (was short-listed for the student Oscar) just had a film that we doctored go into production. He received a global buyout offer. Kung Fu Elliott won the Slamdance Film Festival, sold to Netflix internationally, to top theatrical distributor The Orchard as well as Amazon in the U.S. and was released by Mongrel (Atom Egoyan’s company) in Canada.
- Pivoting into writing and, as a result, being awarded contracts by beating out other top writers some of whom, have written for A-list stars. Being hired by Dominique Seguin, producer of RACE, Dallas Buyer’s Club and her partner Stefano Dammicco, founder of largest distribution company in Italy (released Tomb Raider, Memoirs of a Geisha). The project is funded by Telefilm, Canada.
- Getting the support of a top Canadian/Global distribution company to help develop films.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you encountered as a woman entrepreneur?
JB: We know how competitive the entertainment business is. The obvious solution is to create an undeniable product.
I’ve chosen to surround myself with teams I know are loyal, have integrity and know how to produce to deadlines and with the highest professionalism. The last thing I need is someone smart with no integrity. We all know how that ends.
Over the next two to six months, I’ll be rolling out my next slate of films.
The first of my new projects to go out will be a female-driven science fiction project. The world sales agent recently sold out an indie sci-fi film globally. They are in production on a sequel. They are in a position to make a few phone calls to know who will buy mine globally.
Getting this done includes putting together compelling packages (stars, directors, etc.). I have access to and am working with some of the top up-and-coming filmmakers in the world who have either been nominated for Oscars or had their films screen in competition at the following film festivals: Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Sundance, Telluride or Toronto. Marcelo Mitnik is interested in directing a documentary series I am developing. Marcelo was nominated for the short film Oscar. He is working with the producer of Breaking Bad on another project. My former UCLA classmate Josh Mandel and I are working on a few projects together. Josh’s last film Thirst Street screened at the Venice Film Festival. Buyers are hungry to build relationships with the next generation of filmmakers. I am also working with one of Canada’s strongest film and TV directors.
To derisk working with up-and-coming filmmakers, I am leveraging my strongest and most reliable international relationships to tap into global subsidies in various countries. The ideal scenario is that we get the projects into the black before production using subsidies and by doing direct presales so we can hang on to as much equity as possible. The Canadian government is putting a lot of emphasis on international trade missions to push global sales at the moment.
In terms of marketing, my focus will remain on brand strategy as it requires almost an identical skill set to developing film and TV story and positioning strategies for the global market.
Q: What are some tips for a woman starting a business?
- Find male and female mentors/allies. Seeing my former UCLA Film and TV mentor Meg LeFauve (Inside Out) go on to be nominated for an Oscar was a pivotal moment for me. It demystified the writing process. I was also mentored by Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, producer of global number-one box office hit Maze Runner. When I met her, she had a very small company. Today, she's a global power hitter. It doesn’t seem as surreal when you see how their journeys unfolded.
- Test people’s loyalty before you bring anyone into your inner circle. Even if these people have your back today, they may not tomorrow. Duplicity is human nature.
- Find the competitive edge that makes you stand out, then market it. It’s in the buying not the selling.
- Create a win-win situation once you find the right allies.