Marc Almon, a 34-year-old film producer, caught the entrepreneurial bug early on.

“I started a landscaping business in Halifax when I was 15,” he says, adding, “I taught myself about saving and money management. I read a lot.”

At 22, he left his landscaping days behind after using the earnings to pay to attend the University of King’s College in Halifax. While there, he took a film minor.

That’s because filmmaking is his passion. He’s made movies since high school and counts One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as an influence.

“I want to highlight Canada in my films, particularly the East Coast, but I also want to attract global audiences,” he says.

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We speak with Almon’s advisor, Edwin Pavey, to get tips for helping young clients.

And watch the trailer for Blackbird!

Although Almon joined a few movie crews after post-secondary graduation and worked with other producers, he knew that wasn’t enough.

So in 2006, he completed the producers’ lab at the Canadian Film Centre in Toronto and founded Story Engine Pictures, a production company that’s currently worth $200,000. “The value of film companies is based primarily on the media and the projects developed—equipment and savings account for only a small portion,” says Almon.

He founded Story Engine with the help of a self-employment benefits program and, in the early years, focused on funding projects.

He notes the nature of his business means cash and work-flow are inconsistent—beginning filmmakers’ salaries can jump from $30,000 one year to $150,000 the next. That’s exacerbated by the fact that significant production grants are reserved for established filmmakers.

“New producers [aren’t] trusted with large budgets,” says Almon. “This is why I directed most of my money toward creating short films and series to build up my reputation.” His first full-length feature, Blackbird, is about a troubled teen who is falsely accused of planning a school shooting.

It premiered at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival alongside Brandon Cronenberg’s much-anticipated Anti-Viral.

Despite the tough competition, his $1.25-million movie co-won the $15,000 TIFF award for best Canadian debut feature.

It also scooped up several regional awards shortly after, and has been screened in Rome and distributed across North America. It will be released in France this month.

Almon’s now working on his second feature, Good Girl, with a $2.5-million budget. He says his business grew 1,000% last year due to Blackbird’s release.

On growing his business

I made Blackbird with the help of public funds. A $1-million budget is considered small, but the film was an ambitious project for a first feature due to the number of actors and locations we used.

In the end, it went over budget and I had to spend corporate overhead and give up some producer’s fees to complete it. So I put my personal growth and investment plans on hold. It was a good decision because I made sure my first feature was good, but it also taught me to budget more effectively.

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