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It’s somewhat taboo, but big dreams often come with a large price tag. While there is frequently an abundance of creativity, a great work ethic, and a love of art, as a surprise to no one, the biggest challenge of filmmaking is getting access to funds. Financing movies, while being something hard-won can be done when you set your mind to it and leverage the right resources.
- Find your way: There are several ways of financing movies. However, it’s important that you find the way that works best for you. As easy as it would be for the process to be a one-size-fits-all, that is not the case for film funding. Everyone is going to have an approach that suits them best—for some it’s crowdfunding, others may be brilliant at grants, etc.
- Check your mindset: Being a tortured artist can be a great approach for marketing your artist persona, but you’ll need to bring resilience, resourcefulness, and nearly delusional optimism to the foreground to get your film made.
- Put in the time: Nobody is going to swoop in with $5 million dollars to save the day out of the blue. You’ll have to put in the time to make connections with movie investors, create a compelling crowdfunding campaign, or study other ways of funding that suit your project.
How do I Know My Project is Ready for Film Financing?
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a full screenplay finished before you start looking for producers and funds for your film. You can start pitching your project or looking for funds once you have the following:
- Logline: A one-sentence overview of a TV show, movie, or short film of the story as well as an emotional “hook” to provide the reader with an idea of the narrative’s style.
- Pitch deck: A brief presentation document for your movie that introduces the plot, setting, lists attached creatives, budget and explains what makes it unique.
- Beat sheet: It outlines the crucial scenes in a television show or feature film, as well as the events in each act of the plot.
- Look book (optional): A selection of stills, photos, or other images assembled to show the director's vision for a movie. A lookbook serves as a guide for how a movie will look and feel, taking into account numerous cinematic factors including casting, production design, and cinematography. However, these visual references can be included in the pitch deck to make it more compelling.
What Types of Movie Financing Opportunities Are There?
Even on an independent budget, you'll need tens of thousands of dollars to make your passion project, as filmmaking can be quite expensive. Here are a few ways you can get movie financing.
- Crowdfunding: The process of supporting a project by collecting small donations from a large number of individuals, usually online. Filmmakers often offer different tiers of support with a range of prices in exchange for different types of merch from the film or an experience related to the project.
- Grants: Film grants are often unrestricted sums of money, services, or resources that can be applied to a project's development, production, and distribution. They're not required to be paid back. The awarding body frequently requests status updates or a credit in the movie.
- Self-financing: Creators spend their own money, sell or raise money through loans and other approaches as a way to finance their independent movie.
- Movie investors/Private equity film financing: People who want to see their money invested thoughtfully in a project they believe in. This generally involves either a single private investor or a group of private investors who are ready to invest their money up front on the film and get a return on their investment once the film has been distributed.
- Product placement: Branded goods and services are featured as a subtle form of advertising in film and TV series. The brand pays a fee (typically between $40k and $300k yearly, depending on the required scope) to be featured in a project. A clear example is the recent use of Aston Martin automobiles. Die Another Day got 140 million dollars to include their car in the film, displacing BMW from its prior affiliation with the Bond franchise. If the product placement is important or even moves the plot ahead, you may be able to negotiate a good amount of funds for your film, even if you aren't a part of a potential blockbuster.
Steps to Create a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
Crowdfunding as we know it today has gained a reputation that involves bugging your loved ones. Advising folks to forego their morning coffee in favor of a t-shirt or tote bag with your film’s title on it, or embarrassingly pleading for help as your reputation in both your personal and professional life suffers. Even though traditional methods of crowdsourcing are awkward, when done well, professional-level crowdfunding might be the BEST way to finance your next project, expand your network, and develop your career. Here are x steps to create a successful crowdfunding campaign:
- Build your audience: Your efforts should be concentrated on getting everything ready before the start of your campaign, especially by building your audience online beforehand, letting them know that you are developing something brand-new and exciting just for them. How then can you build an online audience before your launch? When it comes to crowdfunding, it's important to have either a strong email list or a committed following on social media to share your project with through newsletters or social media posts. On launch day, all of your subscribers and followers will receive notification about your project and have a link to click that will take them directly to your campaign website, so they may donate.
- Do your research: What do successful crowdfunding campaigns have in common? Study campaigns that achieved more than their original financial goal, and make sure to incorporate elements of these campaigns into yours. Look at their pitch video, their investor updates, and more to brainstorm how you can create something similar but with your own special sauce.
- Create a compelling video-centric pitch: This is going to be the beating heart of your crowdfunding campaign. Ahead of time, make a brief pitch video that explains why people should give money to your project, including who you are, what you are making, why you are making it, and most importantly, how it differs from other films. In it, you should showcase your passion, the mood of the film or compelling film references that inspired your project. Keep your pitch to 3 minutes max but get the most crucial information into the first 30 seconds. This video should be a taste of what you can accomplish. You need to demonstrate to people that you can carry out your idea, whether it be through prior work, the team you put together, or any previous awards/accomplishments. To convey the significance of your campaign and how the project ties into your development as a filmmaker, try to emotionally connect with your target audience. Look professional; if you don't, backers will notice and assume that you aren't serious about your project. Your campaign page's presentation is crucial, especially because you’re connecting with donors through a screen.
- Plan your marketing campaign: A couple of months before you launch your crowdfunding campaign, make sure to create a comprehensive marketing plan that incorporates email marketing, social media, as well as press and influencer outreach. In order to get your campaign in front of people, the fact is that you should post every day. Think outside the box to provide engaging content that can drive interaction and not make people want to skip your post. Make sure you plan out and create all the content you’re going to use on social platforms and in newsletters beforehand so that you’re not scrambling at the last minute.
- Be strategic about your rewards: Create a sense of urgency. Encourage potential supporters to get your early bird deals and special discounts as soon as your campaign launches. Your rewards should come in different tiers, with the lowest price going to early supporters and a higher price point going to later backers. These could include a digital or physical copy of the movie, tickets to the premiere, a special mention in the credits, or items from the film’s set like wardrobe and props. You want to convey a perceived value discount and limited perks. If your campaign is slowing down, you can introduce fresh perks, promoting flash sales, publicizing secret benefits (Indiegogo), and using other strategies.
- Choose your platform: Pick a crowdfunding site after doing your research and considering your goals and audience. While there are plenty to pick from, every platform has its own rules, so make sure their policies align with your project’s needs.
- Set an achievable goal: Your film’s goal should take into consideration all project-related expenditures, such as those related to production, post-production, marketing, and distribution. However, most projects that are successfully financed on crowdfunding platforms have a goal of less than $10,000, reports Kickstarter. Additionally, for a crowdfunding campaign to be successful, they have to secure at least 30% of funding within a few hours. This will ensure that your campaign is trending and demonstrating success, and your crowdfunding platform’s algorithm will take over and boost your campaign's exposure among their community.
- Keep investors in the loop: You want to build trust while keeping donors engaged. Be transparent about what’s going on with your project, so you can win their trust—it's not simple to entrust someone with your money. Sharing your accomplishments and a detailed plan of action will reassure potential backers and demonstrate your commitment to the cause. Once you identify backers for your project, ask them to spread the word. You never know who will notice the campaign if you ask them to share it with their network. Additionally, if they enjoy the process, they might be interested in backing future projects.
What are the Best Crowdfunding Sites for Film?
When the hit TV show Veronica Mars successfully raised $5,702,153 via crowdfunding for the film version, producers from both indie films and big-budget movies turned to crowdfunding to create their beloved projects.
- Seed&Spark: Created by filmmakers for filmmakers, this platform is ideal for financing films since it is fully integrated into a community that is dedicated to the entertainment industry. Before your campaign can launch, the S&S crew provides you with tips and tricks on your campaign, so you can be sure you have the highest chance of success.
- Indiegogo: The community on Indiegogo tends to be in creative industries, and they even have a list of all the movies funded through their site. After paying your Indiegogo fees, you retain every penny you raised. Some believe, however, that the lack of urgency discourages individuals from contributing.
- Kickstarter: If you're starting your first crowdfunding campaign, this is an excellent place to begin because it's user-friendly, reliable, and everyone is familiar with it. The disadvantage is that you forfeit all of the funds you raised if you fall short of your financial goal.
- Slated: If this is not your first rodeo, and you already have reliable backers that keep coming back to your projects, Slated might just be right for you. Investors, authors, performers, producers, and distributors are gathered on this platform. Slated provides tools like Financial Analysis and Script Analysis, so your profile displays a reliable indicator of the potential commercial success of your project. However, this is a challenging platform to enter since you need a reputable audience to attract attention, but it may be quite profitable if —as we mentioned—already have interested movie investors.
How to Get Film Funding Through Grants
Organizations provide funding for the creation of movies through film grants. Finance is the most common kind of support given to filmmakers, and often come in the following categories: documentary grants, short film grants, and even student film grants. Here are a few tips and steps you can take to access film grants:
- Keep a calendar of your deadlines: Make a spreadsheet that takes your deadlines, specifications, and file locations into consideration.
- Artist Statement: Artist statements are pretty much the cover letter for a grant application and are usually 1-2 pages long. They serve as both an introduction to you and your project and a tool for creating an engaging story. Introduce yourself before outlining your project, the motivation behind it, and how you intend to carry it out.
- Film Pitch & Treatment: Film treatments are a crucial component of marketing your movie and act as an effective overview of your project. Your pitch should convey the tone of your movie in 1-2 pages while outlining the narrative, story beats, and major scenes.
- Production Budget: The success of these film funding opportunities will depend heavily on production expenditures. These groups want to help filmmakers, but they also want to make sure that the money is being spent thoughtfully. You should include above-the-line expenses, production expenses, and post-production expenses on your budgeting sheet. Keep in mind that these committees are more likely to trust your project planning and desire to finance you if your budget is well-defined.
- Letter of Recommendation: Your letter of recommendation should be written by a well-known person in the film industry, preferably in your profession. Your project will have greater credibility the more connected they are. Allow enough of time for your contacts to complete your recommendation letters so that you won't need to hurry them at the last minute.
- Mood Board & Proof of Concept: Mood boards are a short presentation showcasing images of what inspired your project. They don't have to be sophisticated and you can use stills from other movies, as they aid in conveying the piece's tone and assist the committee in having a better understanding of your movie. This goes into more depth with your proof of concept, which entails creating a brief clip that perfectly captures the tone of the movie. A sizzle reel is another name for proof of concepts.
How to Use Small Business Loans for Financing Movies
While some lenders frequently reject loan requests from applicants in atypical sectors, others may see it as advantageous to grant small business loans to filmmakers. Here are a few small business loans for filmmakers:
- SBA 7(a) loans: Filmmakers can benefit from low-cost SBA 7(a) loans over other small business loan options, according to the majority of small business finance experts. That's because SBA 7(a) loans feature affordable monthly payments, competitive interest rates, and lengthy terms—all of which are very beneficial to moviemakers. SBA 7(a) loans can be used for the following purposes:
- Acquire Working Capital - Your film project’s working capital may be the most telling measure of its health. In order to increase your assets while your working capital is negative, you can use an SBA 7(a) loan to finance new employee hiring or equipment acquisitions.
- Consolidate Your Debts - You may refinance all of your existing small company loans with SBA 7(a) debt consolidation loans. This includes quick-term business loans, merchant cash advances, loans with daily or weekly payments, and business loans with high interest rates.
- Bank loans: Your project’s producer may decide to or may need to obtain bank loans in order to fund your project. After receiving presale commitments from distributors, a producer can use these agreements to get bank financing.
- SBA microloans: If your project is under $50,000, you can use this loan to cover all business costs except commercial real estate purchases and debt payments.
- Business line of credit: Until the money on your company line of credit runs out, you can use it whenever you choose. You may choose business lines of credit for your movie production company for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they don't frequently have the collateral restrictions that other loans have.
- Merchant cash advance: You can probably submit an application for merchant cash advance (MCA) finance if your project’s expenses accept credit or debit card payments. Through MCAs, a card issuer lends you money, which you return by reserving a tiny percentage of each card transaction and paying it to the lender progressively. There are also conventional payment arrangements with installments. The difficulties brought on by MCAs' extraordinarily high APRs.
More often than not, you’ll need multiple funding sources for your independent film. Look into what suits your project best and do your research thoroughly. This will ensure you don’t waste time or funds unnecessarily and have a much more enjoyable experience when making your film