by Nelson Bou • 2020-01-15
Do you have a great idea for a television series? Maybe you've written the script for a feature film and started pre-production. But how do you acquire the funds to bring your project to life? Read on to discover how to make your dream a reality.
The film industry is a business first and foremost. To attract funding, you need to think of your project as a product. The way to sell a product is via marketing. Marketing is the act of promoting a product or service. Usually, this is done by highlighting the benefits of a product or service and creating trust for potential buyers. For an unproduced screen project, this is achieved via two methods.
You've got to spend money to make money. This popular proverb holds true in the business of filmmaking, just as it does in most areas of life. While this doesn't mean you have to finance the whole project by yourself, you do need to invest some money into producing an example of your vision (a trailer, sample scene, BTS footage, etc.). That way, you have something to show people when asking them for money. It's akin to the concept of try before you buy but goes further than that. Imagine a salesperson at a trade show trying to sell you a pen just by talking about it. You can't experience the design of the packaging, the smell of the materials used, feel how well it is built, and so on. You can only rely on the rhetoric of the salesperson and their promise that it will be the best pen you'll ever own. Now, what if you decided to go ahead and part with your hard-earned money for this elusive piece of writing equipment only to discover there is no pen, and the salesperson ran off with your money? You must convince potential investors that your project is real and that you have a plan in place to account for the money.
Another way to add credibility to your project is to have at least one big name attached to it. Think about the salesperson analogy above: if that same salesperson told you Coppola wrote The Godfather with this pen, would this not instantly add validity to his claims? So, too, can the name of a popular lead actor who committed to star in your production.
Having a proof-of-concept (and potential star power behind your project) exponentially increases your chances of securing external funding. You are now ready to start soliciting investments. With that, you have a few options depending on whether you want to keep all rights to your project or not. The smaller the budget, the better your chances of retaining ownership of your content. Below are the most common ways to acquire screen production funds.
Got grandparents who are loaded? Has your sister received a massive tax return this year? Great! Ask them to loan you some cash.
Do you already have a large following on [insert social media platform of your choice]? Utilize your fans to help fund your production. Too easy, mate!
Crowdfunding oftentimes involves setting up goals with perks to offer people who pledge money (you give them stuff in return for them giving you money), which requires a little bit more effort than simply asking for donations. Once you've posted your project, it needs to be funded by a certain deadline. If you already have an audience on social media as mentioned above, choosing crowdfunding over donations means your fans will get something tangible out of helping you. This may result in pledging larger sums of money than one-sided donations (true to the maxim You get out what you put in).
Depending on where your production takes place and what it is about, your project could be eligible for certain grants. It's like people paying you to be creative, Nice!
Some countries are looking to attract various screen productions and offer generous tax incentives. Depending on the size and location of your project, this can be a big financial aid. Ka-ching!
The traditional way to get money for something. Go to the bank and ask for a credit card or loan, then pay back the money over time. With interest. The benefit to this option is that you do not need to know people with money, have an audience you can leverage, or even have a proof-of-concept. If you believe in yourself and your project and have the means to pay back the money (e.g. a day job), then this could potentially be the right choice to get your production off the ground. Just be mindful of the implications of owing money to financial institutions. Also, this does not constitute financial advice.
The next time you meet a millionaire playboy (or girl, money does not discriminate) at a dinner party, ask them if they'd be interested in becoming a producer for your project. Why not use those 50 g's of pocket money to invest in your film instead of wasting them at the casino? That way, they get an IMDB credit to make their friends jealous and you get to produce a movie without having to worry about paying the bills. Everybody wins!
A production company is another alternative to finance your project. These are people who do nothing but make visual content all day long, meaning if they like your idea, they can help you realize the full potential of your vision. One of the potential downsides is that you may not be able to keep all your rights to the project, depending on the deal you negotiate. However, they may have relationships with large payers in the industry and can get your work on Netflix or even Hollywood.
Hopefully the information in this article has given you some ideas on how to come up with the dough to make your passion project a reality. Communicating the potential of your production is the key to attracting investments. If you can produce a tangible example supported by well-known industry contacts, you are well on your way to realizing your creative vision.