Six Fundraising Essentials For Filmmakers
Armed with a great script, a talented core team and a vision, the often impossible-seeming hurdle remains: Fundraising. If you find this daunting, fear not, you aren’t alone! Everyone that has ever made a movie has lept into this arena. Funding a film is like getting a startup off the ground: Get ready to pick up the phone, put yourself way out of your comfort zone, and ask for the money. Remember, there is a world of investment looking for the next great indie film, and they want to find you as much as you want to find them.
Funding a film is like getting a startup off the ground: Get ready to pick up the phone.
Think of your first investors as key players in your vision. Share with them. Generating a return for them is of paramount importance. Transparency, honesty and rigor are the qualities that will ensure these relationships stay healthy. We can’t guarantee success, and some factors will be outside of your control, but managed right this will be a long journey together where everyone wins. The long view is the recommendation here. Read on to discover how to get funding for an independent film.
Here are six resources to aide in your film fundraising strategy:
1. Film Fundraising Reading List
Before you pitch anyone, consume enough literature on this phase to feel confident about your plan. Your material should be dialed. Your strategy defined. Start with this great reading list:
- The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition
- Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way To A Successful Film Campaign
- The Crowdfunding Bible
- The Independent Filmmaker’s Law and Business Guide
- Shaking The Money Tree
- Film + Video Budgets
- The Pocket Lawyer for Filmmakers
- Independent Film Producer’s Survival Guide
- Dealmaking In The Film and Television Industry
2. Your Attorney as an Essential Resource
As soon as possible, find a great attorney. Your entertainment lawyer will guide you through the structuring of your company (which will affect how you raise money), the contracts, shareholders agreements and all other business documents. If your movie is an indie darling, gets a great review at Sundance or early critical praise, congratulations! You will be negotiating the distribution rights to your film. The devil is in the details here, and this event is critical in helping your investors recoup. If you’ve ever been to the hospital with a life threatening injury and thought, “My neighbor is great with a needle and thread, I think I can save some cash…” please, read no further. For everyone else, get the best attorney you can.
Often overlooked and beyond the letter of the law, your representation can be a valuable asset in your fundraising effort. Remember, your lawyer has done countless agreements, has a vast network, and can advise you on a number of the hard challenges you are likely to encounter.
Here are a couple resources to start with:
- Cardozo School of Law Film Clinic
- Chapman University Entertainment Law Clinic
- SAG Indie Law Resources
3. Friends and Family Network
The first place to turn when fundraising is to the people that have already invested in you, your friends and family. They believe in you and they want to see you win. The most important thing to remember with this delicate subject is, your relationship comes first. You can alert your community to what you are working on, but be careful with the pressure. It’s a fine line between unbridled enthusiasm and hard selling. Not every social function will be a fundraising opportunity, but some will. Learn to read each situation individually and if it feels appropriate, drop your current project into the conversation. If you are delicate in your approach, this layer can be a key first step in the fundraising stage.
They believe in you and they want to see you win.
Starting with friends and family gives you an easy crowd to refine your pitch. Once you’ve pitched your project a few times, a narrative will begin to take shape and become totally natural. With this cohort, terms can be favorable and creative.
Crowdfunding is a step away from straight friends and family, but there will be overlap. Your friends may want to hop on the campaign in this way. Choosing the right platform will depend on a few things.
Do you want the visibility of being a part of the largest crowdfunding platform? Kickstarter could be for you. Investors are incentivized with unique offers rather than equity, but there is a risk: If you don’t meet your fundraising target, you have to leave the money on the table.
Check out this article on Zak Braff’s “Wish I Was Here” – he discusses opting for Kickstarter over investors to retain creative control. Admittedly, it’s no Garden State.
Like Kickstarter, Indiegogo is a multi-industry crowd funding option. You won’t get the media power of Kickstarter with this DIY leaning community, but you do get to keep everything raised over 9% regardless of whether your goal is met.
For a more film-centric approach check out Slated. It’s free to join, and users can purchase script and funding analyses, be ranked on their credits and perceived strengths, and interact with a legitimate community of producers and investors. For a detailed experience from a first time filmmaker, check out this great article.
5. Grants & Government Funding
Believe it or not, not all of the government’s money is funding Russian smoking studies or research into why the government itself stresses us out. (Does the latter constitute therapy for Uncle Sam? I’m going to say it does, and call it a great thing.) There are also initiative’s for the arts, including filmmaking! Check out these links to chase down as much of that sweet free money as possible. The grant application process can be burdensome, but it’s a necessary skill in navigating your first film fundraising, especially for a documentary fundraising strategy.
6. Accredited Investors
Once you’ve exhausted your immediate network, you may decide to cast the net out into the sea of accredited investors. To be accredited in the United States an individual has to meet the $200k/year income threshold for two consecutive years, or $300k/year combined income. What does this mean? Your investors are high net worth individuals and will want to know exactly how you expect to show them a return. A great business plan is essential with this community. Relying on the hope of a distributor buying the movie may not be compelling enough. Come prepared to demonstrate how raising money for your short film or feature will return regardless of the hope shot, and you will be more likely to hold the interest of this group, and hopefully get a few cheques.
Working on your own project right now? We’d love to help you find the right song to make your next scene truly unforgettable. Check out some tracks below from our cinematic playlist, available for instant licensing from our library.