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Filmmakers: What You Need to Raise Financing for Your Indie Film

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No doubt about it, raising finance for your film is one of the most daunting and challenging parts of the filmmaking journey. It’s easy to feel like the only thing that stands between you and filmmaking glory is the cash.  If only you could get your hands on the cash, everything would be awesome!

Something I strongly believe is that the money is out there and that it’s easy to get – but only if you do the proper groundwork.  One of the biggest mistakes I see filmmakers make is approaching financiers when they’re just not ready. Whether you’re seeking $100k or $10million, it’s really worth taking the time to get your whole package together before going out to anyone.

So, what do I mean by whole package?

  1. It starts with the script, and the script needs to be good. Well-written, compelling, engaging, difficult to put down. They say people will only read a script once and it’s completely true – you can’t rewrite it and go back to someone who has said no and hope they’ll read it again. They won’t. You have one shot, so make sure it’s your best one. If you’re not sure if your script is ready to go out, it probably isn’t. Take the time to get it right.
  2. Make sure you have a solid schedule and budget.  Have a very clear plan of how you will spend every dollar of the money you are seeking and be able to show with your schedule how you will successfully make an awesome movie with that amount.
  3. Create a viable business plan. Each film you make (as well as being a work of art) is an entrepreneurial endeavor. Don’t just show how you plan to spend the money you are asking for, but show you have a plan for how to return it to the investors – with a profit. Base this on solid, realistic research, not pipe dreams (so please don’t compare your movie to knock out successes; winning the lottery would be awesome but it’s not a good business plan).  Show your investors that you are smart, realistic, and have a viable, real world strategy.
  4. Have a start date.  I know: this seems weird. Surely you set a start date after you get the money? Right?  But I think the more real something seems, the more likely someone is to invest in it.  If you make it seem like the train is leaving the station, with or without the involvement of someone, they are more likely to jump on board.   So make sure that when you approach someone for money you can tell them exactly when you intend to start shooting, and make the project feels like it’s happening regardless of their decision to invest or not.
  5.  A well-made concept trailer for your film can be the deal sealer.   That has certainly been the case for me with two of my features.  Lots of potential investors aren’t used to reading scripts or looking at film budgets, but everyone can look at a trailer and say if it’s a movie they want to see.  In the trailer, aim to share the mood, tone and look of your film, as well as the central dramatic conflict. Your concept trailer will also be a powerful tool for successful crowdfunding.

In addition to these, there’s one other thing that I think is essential for successfully raising finance.  You have to have an unshakeable confidence in your project.  If you believe with all your heart that you are making an absolute gem of a movie, that this movie is getting made no matter what and that it is going to be amazing, nothing can stop you.  That’s why having your package together is so important – it gives you that confidence edge.  You’ve thought of everything and you can answer any question a potential investor throws at you. 

The question isn’t why would someone invest, but why wouldn’t they?!  You are offering them the chance of a lifetime to be involved in the creation of something unique and special.  You can get money from many sources, but they only have one shot to be part of your movie.

One more piece of advice: once you have everything in order, make sure you start the LLC for your film and open the bank account before you approach anyone. If you are so lucky as to get someone who wants to commit, you want to be ready to make a deal memo up immediately and receive money without delay.

Obviously, actually getting all these things together takes time and, in some cases, money. If you don’t have money to spend yourself (and I recommend never going into debt to make your film), consider starting your financing process by raising money on a crowdfunding platform (I raised $35k for one of my films with Seed&Spark and highly recommend them).  Raising money by crowdfunding not only will cover your development costs, but can also be a way of showing your prospective investors that you have started to build an audience for your film already, that there are people out there who want to see it.

Every movie is different – and every movie will be funded in different ways. The important thing as you go through the process is to keep faith. If you truly have a great package with all the elements in place, you will find the finance you seek. It’s just a matter of finding the right people, and that is just a matter of time.

 

Diane Bell

About Diane Bell

Diane Bell is a screenwriter and director. Her first feature, OBSELIDIA, premiered in Dramatic Competition at Sundance, where it won two awards, and went on to be nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards. Her second film, BLEEDING HEART, a drama starring Jessica Biel and Zosia Mamet, premiered at Tribeca and was widely distributed. Her third feature, OF DUST AND BONES, is currently on the festival circuit. In addition to writing and directing films, Diane teaches workshops on screenwriting and filmmaking, both in person and online. Her guide to successful indie filmmaking, SHOOT FROM THE HEART, is out now, providing a step-by-step actionable plan for making a standout movie as well as the inspiration to do it.