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How to raise money to fund an independent film

Acquiring film production funding is always a competitive endeavor for any filmmaker.

Whether for student and amateur filmmakers or even professional and renowned filmmakers, raising money for an independent film production entails hard work and the right connections. Those who are just starting and have no film reels to show or have no samples of professional work to back up their credentials yet may have difficulties looking for the best opportunities. Some end up using their personal money to produce their films. Yet, even those with established names and impressive track records find it quite challenging to get financing for their independent films.

Unlike commercial or mainstream movies catering to a big audience, the demand for independent films is considerably conservative. Even movie studios with subsidiaries producing independent and art films are much less in number compared to talented filmmakers who have great stories to tell. Bottom line is, given the very competitive nature of raising money for an independent film, it is important for any filmmaker to invest on his credentials, his networks, and his strategies in looking for funding.

Funding Sources

Some find success in raising money through alternative means such as doing garage sales, selling food, clothes, and accessories, hosting house parties, soliciting from family, friends, political figures, advocacy groups, and doing many other fund-raising activities. With diligence and determination, these undertakings can actually work for any type of project needing financing. While such things can help, dependence on the amount coming from these funding sources can typically fund only really small budget film projects. A more realistic funding can only come from major funding sources.

Other than looking for movie studios to produce the film, there are other options a filmmaker can consider such as applying for grants, seeking sponsorships and exchange deals, loans, and personal funding. Unless the filmmaker can really afford it, it is not recommendable to use up one’s savings for a film, most especially for non-profit filmmaking endeavors where the risk of not getting back any financial reward is very high. Even getting big loans isn’t a good idea. Grants, while being competitive, are the best options since the amount awarded to the production doesn’t have to be paid off. Grants can usually fund a significant part of the film’s finances. Securing multiple grants (usually for pre-production and script development expenses, for principal photography expenses, and for post-production expenses) can really help in completing a film project.

The best way to go about raising money is to exhaust all possible resources: apply for many grants; pitch the project to many potential producers; and present the project to as much companies for sponsorship opportunities that can be mutually beneficial to both parties. All these entail much time and effort, especially to amateur filmmakers who haven’t made a name for themselves yet and those who have no much connections yet.

How to Raise Money to Fund an Independent Film:

1. Finalize the screenplay. Whether collaborating with another person or you are writing the screenplay yourself, a promising screenplay ready for pitching is the ultimate key to securing film funding. Know your material by heart. You should be able to effectively communicate what the film is all about in the fewest words possible. You should sound confident and credible in every presentation. You should be able to let other people understand what your vision is. Having a good screenplay is the first step in the long and challenging process.

2. Consider elements in the screenplay that might interest potential producers, sponsors, and funding organizations. While there are many options for companies to get in touch with or grant-giving bodies open for proposal submissions, trim down your options according to what your material can really offer.

A product placement that may fit a particular commercial brand may be a good prospect for sponsorship. While sponsorships and advertisements in films generally won’t be enough to produce the entire film, check the possibilities of getting enough sponsors; yet, balance it with the creative requirements of the film (of course, your ultimate goal is to tell a great story and not just to present an overlong commercial advertising corporate brands). Some sponsorships may not be directly related to what the film is all about, but they may be open to any kind of sponsorship, solicitation, or exchange deals.

If you’re shooting a documentary related to global warming, prioritize submission of proposals to advocacy groups with focus on environmental protection. If your film is about intercultural relationships, prioritize submission to cultural organizations.

Carefully look for the best fit for possible independent film studios who might have interest in your material. You can base this from your networks and connections. You can also base this from the types of films a particular studio supports.

3. Prepare all the documents you need for your proposals. Make a general format, then make each proposal tailor-made to your target funding agencies, companies, and movie studios. Other than the script, make a one-page pitching document, a sequence treatment (a material similar to a script but without the dialogues; some producers and grant-giving bodies prefer this instead of reading an entire script), project proposal, curriculum vitae, filmography, show reel, director’s treatment, budget breakdown, marketing materials, storyboard, pegs (photos, videos, spec trailers, drawings, sound, or music that can help support your presentations and defend your vision), and other production materials that may be required by producers, grant-giving agencies, and companies.

4. Apply for grants, call movie studios, and potential company sponsors. Set appointments for pitching sessions and presentations.

Rianne Hill Soriano
Rianne is a director, writer, educator, and consultant in film and commercial productions. From mainstream essentials to independent flair, she knows the drill in making entertaining and well-meaning productions. She can lead a pack passionate about extreme action and technological edge; she can breathe an endearing and sentimental style for a team with a sweet disposition.

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