Raising Money for a Movie
December 17, 2004 11:21 AM   Subscribe

What is the best way to raise money for the production of an independent movie?
posted by spaghetti to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This isn't actually very helpful, but some friends of mine produced a movie on a very small budget, and it came out surprisingly well. Here's their page about "how to make a movie."
posted by mragreeable at 12:10 PM on December 17, 2004

Is this in the US? You could go the obvious route, and apply to get a Sundance grant. I'm sure there are other grants you can search for.
posted by stovenator at 12:17 PM on December 17, 2004

My brain is melting, so here are some fragmented answers:

Design a prospectus, and get all of your friends and family to please each give some relatively small amount, say $100 to $500. This is how Pi was financed, and if you are a convincing, nice person with a lot of connections and a solid prospectus, you can earn a tidy sum in this fashion.

And if you're in the US, see if there's some way you can't be umbrella'd underneath a non-profit...people can write off their support for you on their taxes, which is always fun.

If the film you are working on would have some special interest for people, you should consider having a public manner in which people can support you. The fine folks making the Wrens documentary did this, which worked well to get some starting scratch.

Obviously, this tactic works even better if you have some sort of social concern your movie works toward or is about. Try looking into grants, prizes, or simply nonprofits who would stand to gain from your film. For example, the movie Primer got most of its funding from the Sloan-Kettering Foundation, because it was a positive portrayal of science. This might not necessarily apply to you, but if it does, not only is there money there, but also support and active interest from other people, which is just terrific to have.

Save up from your own work. This could be a good way to think about your project in the meantime as you slowly build it up. Some people have also gotten ahead with credit card debt, but I would say that this is reckless and stupid. Not only for the obvious reasons of CC debt, but also in that you really should be working with Other People's Money, for accountability's sake - if you're working with everyone's $500, that could be more pressure to just get it done and do it right than if it's just your own damn sinkhole.

That's just my take, though. I may stop back later with more cogent advice.

Good luck!
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:19 PM on December 17, 2004

Robert Townsend made Hollywood Shuffle by getting a bunch of credit cards and maxing them all out.
posted by briank at 12:26 PM on December 17, 2004

The only independent filmmaker I know calls this stage "finding producers." She raised $3 mil for a project by putting together a trailer and some very professional looking materials including plot synopsis, her resume, etc. She then went around to small medium and large film studios looking for producers with budgets who would have an interest in supporting her kind of film. Mostly it was networking, networking, networking. She would take money from anyone - a community member who liked the idea for the film, or a professional producer who hoped to see a ROI eventually.

A publishing house doesn't write all the books themselves, as a parallel. They send editors out into the world to find writers and books to take on. They have a certain amount of money given to them to spend seeking new stuff. As I understand it, film studios can work much the same way. You just need to find those producers and convince them.
posted by scarabic at 12:30 PM on December 17, 2004

More fragments:

What's the budget going to be on this film? $10,000? $100,000? $1,000,000? More? If you don't mind my asking, what sort of film is this going to be? An indie drama? An indie comedy? A B-movie? A Z-movie? A documentary? Look into who'd be interested in distributing/financing your sort of movie.

What can you get for free? BEG, BORROW, AND STEAL. Can you convince any resume-hungry film students to work with you? They will be your life blood. As you're filling your coffers, think up any way you can to not spend that money if you can avoid it. That said, get good catering - you can get extremely talented people to work hard if you believe in the project and they're well-fed on something other than pizza, baked ziti, and bagels.

What are you going to do about insurance? If you're going to shoot a feature without insurance I am so going to slap you.

Assume that you're going to lose money on this project. While I know that there are many successful indies made on maxed credit cards, for every one of those movies you see there are probably 10-20 others that may not have even ever been finished. Consider not finishing your movie something like death - how are you going to safeguard against it?

As always - and again - good luck!
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:45 PM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: Scarabic - We're putting all of our effort into a trailer right now in hopes of this kind of thing.

None of us really has any experience worth speaking of, which means that grants and other traditional sources are most likely not going to work for us.

Mragreeable - Your friends made the movie for $9000, with borrowed equipment. That's about what I've been figuring for a feature length. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone with that kind of equipment, which probably would have at least doubled the cost (and probably more with that DVCam.)

At this point, we've been hitting up friends & family and I've put a Paypal donation link on my web page. The problem is, no one we know can afford much and the highest donation so far has been $100. We're just kind of nickel & diming it.
posted by spaghetti at 12:46 PM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: The budget is $10-20,000, depending on what can be raised. I'm planning on sinking in about $6,000 of my own money and credit cards are not an option at all.

Everyone working on this is working for free, we wouldn't even consider paying anyone since there is so much other stuff to spend money on. The biggest in terms of cost is really the equipment we need. We've looked at rental prices and we can basically buy stuff for the same price as renting for a month.

In terms of insurance...you'd better start smacking me. Well, not entirely. My girlfriend and I both have renter's insurance which covers our computers and my camera equipment. I assume I will be adding riders with all the other stuff I'll be buying. Also, all of the shooting is happening here in our apartment, so the property is covered.

In terms of what kind of movie it is...it's kind of hard to define. It's sort of a dark comedy and sort of a drama. Technically, it's a combination of live action video and claymation. We're shooting the whole thing with actors, but then anywhere skin shows on the actors we are replacing with animated clay in post production. There's some images on my website which show what I'm talking about better than I can describe it.
posted by spaghetti at 12:58 PM on December 17, 2004

Shooting the entire thing on your own property automatically disengages my slapping-you hand. Still, be careful!

You're probably right when it comes to rental versus purchase. Have you called up the film/tv/photo departments of any local colleges, be they 2 or 4 year? Especially for a project as cool-sounding as yours, they may be eager to help out. Or if not, would it be a problem to enroll in a class in order to access the equipment? Buying your own camera makes sense to me, but if you can bum lights - and sound equipment, if you have production sound - that would no doubt be a huge boost to your production.
posted by Sticherbeast at 1:51 PM on December 17, 2004

Kevin Smith gets this question in An Evening With Kevin Smith. His answers:
1) Credit cards. Lots of credit cards. Max them out.
2) Head.
posted by baphomet at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: Well, I am enrolled in a video class at UMass Boston, but they have very little equipment. For all of their video students there is only 1(!) 3-chip camera and it's a vx-2000. Nice camera, but you can't change lenses, which is a problem in tight shooting spaces, if it's even available. If we could raise enough, we would rent a studio and build a set, but at that level we wouldn't be too worried about having to work with cameras that weren't versatile.

In terms of lights, there are only 2 light kits there, for a total of 5 heads (3500 watts total). Those would do me well, but again, access isn't easy. The $6000 that I'm putting in myself is going to go for a used XL2, a 3x wide lens and some Lowell heads, softboxes, umbrellas, etc. My video teacher has also loaned me a field monitor for the year (for an independent study), so that's a great help.

In terms of sound, my downstairs neighbor is a sound engineer and he's providing the mics & misc. sound equipment as well as doing the recording & mixing during production, the voice over studio work afterword & the final audio mixing. Also, a photographer I used to work for is providing a direct digital recorder, so the sound aspect is pretty well taken care of.
posted by spaghetti at 2:22 PM on December 17, 2004

Trust me on this, find a well funded public access station and find out what it takes to join. Many will have have several 3 chip cameras, and good lighting and editing equipment, and most of it will be heavily underutilized.

Hell, I work for an educational access channel and while we're very poorly funded, we have a nice lighting set up, several Canon Gl2s and a few good audio boards (for god knows what reason, we usually use the crappy board 8*2*2 when we have a 16*4*4 in a nice SKB case that no one seems to know about- except me).
posted by drezdn at 2:48 PM on December 17, 2004

Response by poster: drezdn - Don't you have to be a resident of whatever city your community access channel is in to join? It seems to work that way here (Boston) and where I've been a member. Also, where I was a member you could only check out equipment for 6 sessions for each half hour of footage submitted for airing.

While it would get me some of the stuff I need, it seems like it wouldn't work out too well in terms of shooting a full movie. Though I suppose I could air my rough footage several times a month and maybe the folks at the station would bend the rules a bit if the equipment wasn't otherwise being used.
posted by spaghetti at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2004

Best answer: I would just like to second all the advice that does NOT involve maxing out credit cards. The vast majority of truly independent films never receive any distribution whatsoever, and the odds are VERY small that you will ever make any money on the film.

The worst thing that could happen to you would be to make this film,learn a huge amount about filmmaking, be inspired to make a second film--and be unable to do so because you now must devote yourself to a soul-crushing job in order to claw your way out of debt. You want this film to bring you closer to realizing your dreams, not to take you further away.

I gather you know that already, from the way you've asked the question, but I thought I'd mention it.
posted by yankeefog at 2:53 AM on December 20, 2004

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