8 ways to fund your films
Funding for films especially indie films is always a big question for filmmakers. In this article, we extract some great points from Raindance‘s suggestion on funding sources that all filmmakers can consider. Feel free to add yours and share your opinions that can help other filmmakers better facilitate their productions.
1. The Studio Model
The strategy: Get 3 – 5 films together of a similar genre, and approach investors with a slate of similar films.
The theory: What you are trying to do is show that you have more than one egg in your basket, and all you need to do is get one of your ugly ducklings out there for an unqualified success.
Reality check: Do you really think you can get more than one project together? You might want to collaborate with some like-minded filmmakers with similar projects.
2. Government funding
Many nations now have attractive tax and investment incentives for filmmakers.
The strategy: Europe’s MEDIA programme has twenty-odd programmes for media and filmmakers. Apply for the funding and lobby the decision makers until you hit gold dust.
The theory: Many euro filmmakers design a business plan around the rules and regulations surrounding the MEDIA money. Ditto for money from other countries as well.
Reality check: Soft public money funds are always heavily over-subscribed. In addition, these funds will impose restrictions that could easily compromise your creative integrity.
3. Pre-sales and Co-productions
Really two topics in one.
The strategy: Sell your movie cheap up front (presales), and hook up with producers in other countries to mop up the soft public money (number 2 and 3 above).
The theory: By co-producing, you can take advantage of soft money not normally accessible to your production.
Reality check: This can work but is arduous to set up. Additionally, you will now have financial partners all over the world who will want to exercise creative control. Not right for every project, but a viable option nonetheless.
4. Product placement
Heineken reportedly stumped up a third of Skyfall’s $150,000,000 budget to turn Daniel Craig’s James Bond into a lager drinker.
The strategy: Team up with brand managers and get cash for including their products on set.
The theory: The product exposure the brand enjoys has a far greater value than the cost of the product placement and is generally seen to be cheaper than comparative advertising on TV or print.
Reality check: Few indies have the pulling power of James Bond. Brands will always want to know what the marketing strategy of your film is before they invest in, or even allow their products to be used.
Since music and film are closely associated, use the power and reach of music to enhance the audience for your film.
The strategy: Get well-known musicians to create an original musical score for your movie and allow you to use their name in promoting the movie.
The theory: Not only do musicians have their own following but often their record deals do not include music soundtrack scores meaning they can earn additional revenue from your movie.
Reality check: This route is entirely project driven and isn’t for everyone. With the right research, the right musicians and of course, the right script, this route could mean that the producers could cash in once the film is made and out there. Speaking of once, check out the 2007 Raindance success story Once which is now a Broadway hit and earning the music rights holders an estimated $100,000 per week.
If you had asked me in early 2011 what I thought of crowd funding, I would have told you to stop wasting your time. However, Raindance endorsed the popular Underwater Realm crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter which raised over $100,000. I then became a convert.
The strategy: Get some rewards together and offer them to your mates and friends hoping to entice them into making a donation to your project.
The theory: People might not want to put thousands into your movie, but if the project sounds interesting they might be willing to put in a tenner.
Reality check: Even the studio biggies are using crowdfunding. Charlie Kaufman raised over $400,000 for his new project Anomalisa. This is crowding the pitch and making it even tougher to get enough noise directed your way. All this means is that you need a really good plan in order to successfully approach crowdfunding.
Get everybody to work and be paid later out of profits if any.
The strategy: Convince everyone that in order to get the film made now you can’t wait for investment. In exchange, you offer up a percentage of the share of profit meaning that everyone’s salary could potentially increase depending on the success of the film.
The theory: If everyone is part of a communal effort, in theory, everyone will work harder and smarter because it is in everyone’s mutual interest.
Reality check: Deferrals can work but are reliant on the trust the producer has with his team. Often deferrees are unpaid even though the film goes on to commercial success. There is also the temptation to overstate the value of the deferment which can lead to bitter arguments if the box office returns do not meet expectations.
8. Self-financed: Shooting on plastic
The hell with all of the different routes above. My bank has just given me a new credit card with a decent limit. I’m going to shoot this sucker now, and worst case scenario is that I’m on the hook to Visa for the next 60 months at 50 bucks a pop.
The strategy: Self-financed movies mean you don’t have to deal with investors. It does mean that you have to be careful with the money. It is yours!
The theory: Getting your film done immediately with your own resources is an enticing prospect and very achievable in today’s digital world.
Reality check: We see hundreds of movies made this way every year at Raindance. Most fail because the script isn’t good enough. By going the self-financed indie route, the filmmakers have sidestepped the development cycle and no one has told them that their script sucks. Other times we are amazed at the results.