(And The One Extra Thing That Can Seal The Deal)
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’s between you and filmmaking glory is the cash – if only you could get the damn cash, everything would be awesome.
Something I strongly believe is that the money is out there and that you will get it – but only if you do your 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?
- 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 so 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.
- If you have a producer involved (or you are producing yourself), and you are seeking a certain amount of money, make sure you have a solid schedule and budget Have a very clear plan of how you will spend the money that you are seeking and be able to show how you will successfully make your film with that amount.
- 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.
- 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.
- Total confidence in your project. This is a big one. I think unless you feel totally certain that this film will be something special, no one else will either. For someone to write you a check for any amount, they have to believe in you, and people can sense when you don’t believe in yourself.
In addition to these, there’s one other thing I think is essential, especially if you are raising money for your first film. I strongly believe that a well-made concept trailer for your film can be the deal sealer. The reason I believe this is it’s been the case for me. When raising money for my first film, I had a potential investor interested; he loved the script, he thought the budget and schedule were solid. But he wasn’t sure if I could deliver creatively, if the film I would make on that budget would be good enough – so I went out and shot a trailer for the film, and immediately this potential investor was in. I think if you can share something that shows the mood and tone and look of your film, it is everything. It makes the project seem real, it takes away any questions about the quality. I have many more things to say about creating a great concept trailer – but I’ll save them for another post!
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 (Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the most well-known, but I love Seed&Spark and worked with them for my recent film). Raising money this way 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.