As filmmakers, there are many – many – different challenges we have to navigate when taking an idea in our heads all the way to a real, finished film that’s watched by an audience online and/or in theaters. But before you start even thinking about the logistics of shoot days and all the intricacies of pre-production, there’s one thing you have to secure first: film funding.
Without a budget, your film simply isn’t getting made. As you all well know, filmmaking is not a cheap endeavor, and this is often the most tricky part of the process for many productions, especially in the earlier stages of your career. While it can be a daunting process and, at times, seemingly impossible, we’re here to tell you it’s completely doable. In fact, there is an abundance of money out there – you just need to know where to look. Want to know how to fund your film? Here are 6 ways you should explore.
One of the relatively newer ways to secure film funding is through crowdfunding. Increasingly, we’re seeing more and more independent projects being funded this way, and we think it’s fantastic. Using a popular site like Kickstarter, filmmakers can effectively pitch the idea of the film to their existing audience and anyone else out there who may be watching.
If the audience likes the idea enough and wants to support the filmmaker and the project, they can contribute however much they want. In return, they may well be rewarded through perks and gifts, such as exclusive access to behind-the-scenes, film merch, tickets to the premiere, etc.
To get more of an idea about how this works, you can check out live projects right now, such as photographer Chris Burkard’s “I Am Here” Kickstarter. There’s also new and emerging technology within the NFT and blockchain space which the guys from the YouTube channel Yes Theory recently dove into to fund their “Project Iceman” documentary. It’ll be interesting to see how this space progresses over the next decade.
We’ve already become very used to this throughout YouTube content and even the biggest of Hollywood blockbusters. Whether it’s a watch in the latest James Bond film or a new piece of camera gear on your favorite YouTuber’s latest video, brands and companies are eager to get their products in front of your audience. By agreeing to do this, you can get paid and help fund your film.
A word of warning, though. The product placement and partnership with the brand should feel like a natural fit. While it can be tempting to accept a large sum of money that could really help out with your film’s budget, your audience won’t react well if it seems too forced or out of place! So bear this in mind whenever you look to go down this route.
Grants, fellowships and competitions
When I mentioned there’s an abundance of money out there, I was mainly referring to the overwhelming amount of grants, fellowships and competitions that can help you achieve your goals. There are several different types, so you’ll need to research what’s available to you where you are.
On the one hand, there are government grants, which may be quite broad, funded by the lottery and require few criteria. On the other hand, you’ll find NGO film institutes and fellowships, film festivals and more, all offering plenty of help. These range from development and production to post-production and distribution. They may well be looking for very specific things, too, directly helping first-time filmmakers, women, new-media storytellers, documentary filmmakers and so on. If you do your research and approach the application process diligently, there’s every chance that these opportunities can fund your film!
We at Artlist have recently ventured into the grant world, launching the Women Creator Fund to help women creators find their voice. Check out the 3 grant winners, who will get sponsorship, gear and mentorship from 3 leading content creators.
If you think about it, trying to fund your film is a lot like being a startup. First, you must pitch your idea and find people and organizations willing to invest and back you. While private investors may not be the most common route when it comes to how to fund your film, it’s still an avenue worth pursuing.
If you can find someone who genuinely likes your film, they may well be willing to put some serious money behind it to help you get things rolling. Sometimes, they’ll be looking to do this with the idea of getting a return on investment, but other times, it may just be some good old philanthropy. Of course, you should always look to clarify this and ensure you’re both on the same page. And, of course, you need to approach the right people who are more likely to be interested in what you have to say. Approaching a complete stranger just because you know they’re wealthy probably won’t work out.
Broadcasters and studios
This is perhaps the dream for all filmmakers – the holy grail. If you can pitch your film to a broadcaster such as online streaming sites like Netflix and YouTube, TV conglomerates like the BBC or CNN, or perhaps find a studio such as Paramount or Warner Bros, they may well give you the funding for the film if they like your idea enough. This is seen as the traditional way of doing things. For decades, long before the internet and concepts such as crowdfunding, this was realistically the only way to get your film made.
Let’s make no mistake here – having a broadcaster or studio agree to this is incredibly difficult. A tiny fraction of filmmakers can achieve this each year, and a tremendous amount of work goes into a successful pitch. But if you do it right, your film can get the green light.
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Did you know that in many countries worldwide, governments are trying to make it far cheaper and easier for you to come and film in their country? So you can help fund your film through tax incentives, deductions and rebates. The country (let’s say the US, for example) does this to promote tourism within a certain area or boost activity during an “off-season”.
One thing worth bearing in mind here is that the incentives won’t be available until after a film production is finished and you’ve filed taxes for the production.
Film funding wrap up
So, that’s our guide to how to fund your film. As you can see, there are several different ways to go about it. As is the case for many productions, you may well want to combine several of these strategies.
While it can be a daunting process at first, film funding is completely achievable – more so now than ever before. Now that you have the tools and ideas, it’s time to start chasing the cash!