The Film Financing ConundrumThere is an age old question that filmmakers have been asking for at least a hundred years now. The question is “Where can I get the money to make my movie?” Unfortunately, the answer to film financing is not very straightforward, and in fact it’s a challenge for even those who have track records and big names. Why? Well, the independent movie business is one of the riskiest and least financially rewarding endeavors you can take on. For this very reason, it makes securing financing very challenging for most start up filmmakers. In addition to having a cool idea, the filmmaker must prove to a worthy investor, (or mom and dad) that they won’t just throw the money in the trash, and to be fair, it’s easy to do. Most investors who do film financing understand the market very well. They place their cash in projects that they feel have the best chances of a return on their investment. They loo for things like the filmmaker’s track record, if the genre of the film fits the class of movies they are currently making money on, etc. Plus, most film investors work through distributors or established producers, and rarely deal directly with the filmmaker.
So what do you do?In my humble opinion, there are two ways to approach this indie film funding conundrum: 1. Have rich friends and family Having wealthy people in your life helps, but even then, be sure to do the research to maximize your film’s financing potential. It’s not cool to take people’s money, even if they love your idea. In some places it’s illegal to even engage potential investors without disclosing the risk associated with making films, so even if your rich Uncle Steve wants to drop a half of a million toward your next project, be sure to let him know the risks. Have a solid business plan to help him get his money back. 2. Save for your movie yourself This is where I started from, and I know many successful filmmakers who did their early film financing the same way. If you are not as fortunate to be surrounded by wealthy people, your next best option is to save, save and save! This may sound ridiculous to some of you who say, “My film is going to cost $250,000! How can I save that up? It will take me a lifetime!” Well, first off, you’re probably NOT wrong there, but secondly, if you have a funding deficiency at this moment of your filmmaking career, you should not be making a $250,000 movie! You should be making a $50,000, $30,000 or a $10,000 movie! If your budget exceeds that, then it’s time for you to go back to the table and redesign a movie that can be managed on a smaller budget. And trust me, it can be done.
Small doesn’t always mean low returnsI know filmmakers who made a movie for $10,000 with one actor and three crew people for five days of filming and sold close to a half of million in DVD sales alone! Despite what the fancy elites in this industry will tell you, it is possible, and there is much more profitability making a sub $100,000 indie film in today’s content hungry market. It’s all about scale, scope, genre and positioning. You can do it. If you have a movie you can make for $10,000, then it is more than likely you can save up for that. If you are still struggling, then go even smaller. Maybe you shouldn’t be making a feature right now. Maybe you can make a short film and learn from the experience. Whatever the budget range, it should be something that you can afford. I hope this helps. Enjoy your week, and best of luck out there. Peace-out!