Money Money Money
In a way, any filmmaker that embraces the independent path is a little bit (wonderfully) insane. While your main motivation as a creator of films is probably rooted in the pursuit of storytelling, art or spectacle, filmmaking means for the most part scrounging for resources and money. Scavenging is not an asset, it is an absolutely critical ability without which you will remain stagnant.
Even if you ascribe to the junkyard guerrilla school of production, sooner or later you will grow tired of the duct tape and garage lights and want to drop a little coin to up the quality of your work. Film is almost always industrial, commercial, and thus money will become an issue no matter how creative you are.
Mom and dad will unusually bear the brunt of your first couple of film ventures you dream up, then you’ll hit up good friends, divert part of you income or flat out beg strangers to back your schemes, but sooner or later you have to grow into an entrepreneur and minimize this kind of activity for the good of mankind in general.
There are a million legends and anecdotes about independents mortgaging their homes or selling all of their belongings to gamble on that all-important dream project, but the reality is that you should not ever risk your or anyone else financial stability if you can avoid it. It’s mostly romantic nonsense.
Ok that’s all great but what are the alternatives? Let’s take a brief look.
Online crowd-funding campaigns:
We have mentioned this approach before (and we will again), but further explanation is required. Crowd-funding isn’t just about opening a page on kickstarter or indiegogo and waiting fo the money to roll in; there is an art to it. You’ll find videos on those sites that illustrate the best approaches to a successful campaign, but in short you have to make sure you include some really basic things in all of your fundraising efforts.
Create teaser videos, vlogs, blogs, live content to update your supporters regularly. Design perks/rewards for the different levels of donations to incentivize the process. Explain clearly where the collected monies will be spent and what the exact impact it will have on the success of the project. Above all make good on any promises you’ve made and give credit where it is due.
Thinking of films as instant money-losing artistic indulgences is the old model. The new model is treating them like little business start-ups and even (gasp) entertain the possibility of making a profit/breaking even. Grants can play a big part in helping you float a project, or even to put a little food on the table for all that effort. The number one obstacle for most people is the paperwork that these grants often require, but the potential rewards are too good to pass up.
Grants are often designed in a specific cultural or socio-political context such as to encourage, say, young women or or a minority group. Don’t be afraid to look within your production group for individuals or elements in your project which may qualify specifically for these potential funds. You may even want to go so far as setting your film in very identifiable local areas and maybe qualify for some touristic support.
The key here is to just do it.
If you do embrace the entrepreneurial path as an independent filmmaker, this is perhaps the most challenging place to lobby for money, but potentially the most rewarding. If you want to play with the big boys then you have to prepare, dress, and even speak the language of that community.
Successful businesses and businessmen have been supporting artists for centuries, many times at a loss, as a write-off or for their personal entertainment, but if you can build a successful business opportunity/pitch around a film project, you may awaken something far more profound in such an investment source; you may find a partner for life. There is really one proven method for success in this field: preparation, presentation, implementation.