Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No loan shark required - my guide to funding your short film

A rough cut for my short film Tiger is due this week – post-production is well and truly underway! We’re still in the process of fundraising to pay for post-production (see our trailer page here). But I thought I’d open up about funding the movie in general to give pointers to any wannabe short-filmmakers out there.

I touched on this in a post a while back, but there are five main conduits to cash when you want to make a shortie:

The first, and the most commonly mentioned, is public funding (IFB, Filmbase etc). This can work if you aim for a deadline, have a director and producer on board and are prepared to jump through some hoops (you’ll probably have to do an interview – or even several interviews - with the funding body and talk about your vision for the script). The bad news – it’s a very competitive process with a lot of other writers, directors and producers looking for a piece of the same pie. And if you’ve missed all the deadlines, like we did, it can mean a long wait until the next one.

Second – approaching a production company with the script and hoping they have the cash (or can access cash) to make it. I probably didn’t explore this option as much as I could have. This was partly because I met the director of Tiger at a film festival last November and the project started building momentum pretty fast. By the time we were seeking funds, the project had kind of developed past the point of involving a production company. However, this is still a solid option and I’d advise anyone else to go down this route initially. Not only will you get a lot of expertise on board really quickly, but the production company will take care of things like putting the film into festivals etc which saves you, the writer, a lot of hassle. On the other hand, if you’re a control freak and prefer to be steering your own car, it’s time for option three

Fundraising (or crowdsourcing) the necessary funds yourself. I’m not a fan of this option but it’s the stony road I’ve chosen, given my laziness about options one and two. So here’s what we’ve done so far to raise funds for Tiger: held a table quiz, threw a networking party for filmmakers and now the aforementioned Fundit page. The quiz and the party raised half of the production budget and the director and myself added the other half ourselves. We may get this money back if we manage to sell the film to a distributor, or we may never see it again. But hey, the script is my baby and babies must be fed. We’ve currently raised nearly a third of the post-production budget on Fundit and I have hopes that we’ll hit our target by the cut-off date.

I’m not going to lie: fundraising is time-consuming and tough. But it’s a lot less tough than…

Option four – seeking corporate sponsors. So far, we’ve had some success getting companies to sponsor quiz prizes but no luck getting them to fund the movie, or even part of it. However, the optimist in me believes that this is still possible, and I’ve no doubt that someone out there has a film “Brought to you by Coca Cola” or similar. If you have had joy with this option, let me know! Maybe I can learn something!

Option five is grim – you pay for the WHOLE THING YOURSELF. Probably on a credit card, or with a credit union loan. Don’t go to a loan shark, you’ll end up with a short movie and two broken legs. Either way, your kids will be hearing about your film because you’ll still be paying off the loan that paid for it.

An unofficial option six is sending a rough cut to a distribution sales company and seeing if they will buy your short film just on the basis of that footage. I know a couple of people who’ve done this, although I’m unclear exactly when money gets handed over (Is it once you’ve signed a deal? When the film is completed?). Regardless, you’ll have to put some money up front just to get the film to a rough cut point, and this makes it a “speculate to accumulate” kind of situation. I’ll report back once we’ve finished Tiger and approached a couple of distributors.

That’s my ten cents on funding your film – if you have any other shorts-funding ideas, post them below!

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