Let’s be honest about film financing. Unless you have a rich uncle or family member, you are in for one heck of a time financing your film. The fact is, film production is an expensive endeavor. No matter if it’s shorts, features, or advertisements. And you, as the filmmaker, are in for a wild ride. However, it can be very rewarding, when you succeed.
But there’s hope!
Just look at it from this perspective. There's always a light at the end of the tunnel, but it may take a while to get there. You have to be patient in order for your creativity to come to life. Let’s take a look at a few examples of film funding that may help you reach your goal.
Before the Internet
Internet wasn’t born until the mid '90s. That means that before the internet, as a filmmaker not a part of the studio system (Warner Bros, Universal, Paramount, etc.), it would have been a nightmare to get financing for your film project. These days, you have websites to help you with your budget. If you were an independent filmmaker in the '70s, or '80s, you would have to set up meetings with people who were (I put this nicely) very well off. That still happens today, but the investor might want to see a profit come back to them. If the production budget is $350,000, they might say, “I want $400,000 in return.”
Paying Back Film Investors
But, what happens if you have several investors interested in the script and film production and they all want money back? Also, what about the actors? If you choose for a known actor, his agent or any acting agency for that matter may negotiate an actor or actress fee. What about the equipment? (Cameras, lighting kit, art direction, production design, etc). It all adds up fast. A rental house might cost you a lot of money for one day and before you know it, half the budget is gone before you even started.
Raise Funds from Commercial Projects
We’re searching for answers right? I’m here to help, may I make a suggestion? I thought you'd say yes. If you are just starting out as a filmmaker, start with short films or commercial television advertisements. For example, commercial film/video production typically pays well, even if you are working freelance. You may be hired as a director to do spots for news programming or an advertising agency. Whether it be local, regional, and national, commercial production generally pays better than most other types of video or film production. Of course, the more commercial spots you work on, the more the money adds up, and you can use that income to finance your own movie by yourself.
Start with a Short Film
If you are making your first feature film, I highly recommend producing a short film first. You will need a budget for a short film, too, but it’s generally much cheaper to do then an entire feature film, depending on the setting, special effects and other potential expenses. For example, if your short film story is set in a football stadium with thousands of extras, the budget will be high and you’ll run into problems. Film extras are difficult to get in large groups without paying them, plus, there's an added expense of hiring a production coordinator to manage all those extra people. Not to mention having to feed all those mouth.
Cut You Film Budget with One Location
Here’s a suggestion, write a script that takes place in one single location with a simple story centered around that particular location. The best stories are almost always the simple. Plus, the budget won’t be as high as it would be with multiple shooting locations.
Another suggestion involves calling on your friends for your crew and actors. Have fun with it, but make sure you are starting with a strong script. You can do a lot for a little in ten minutes.
Crowdfunding Your Film
Many filmmakers and producers utilize popular crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. And why not? The Veronica Mars Movie Project (Warner Bros. 2014) raised an amazing $5,702,153 towards their campaign using Kickstarter. Now, let's think about this. That movie is based on a television show that has a huge following and includes star actors that have huge fan bases. This is one route to funding, but if you don’t make your goal amount by the set deadline, then Kickstarter returns the funds and you won’t get any of the money raised from your crowdfunding campaign. But not all crowdfunding platforms work the same. Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo's system offers payout on monies raised, even if the goal amount is not met before the deadline. So, you may get some but not all little money if the deadline expired, but it might be very little then what you need for your film.
The best advice I can give you is put your business cap on, it's show business, not show art and always be patient. It might take a year to raise the budget, maybe two. But, always have patients.