Wanna make movies? Then get debt free. Having debt kills your filmmaking dreams dead. And while you may not think about it, learning how to manage money is one of the most important traits of a successful, independent filmmaker.
A lot of filmmakers get into debt because they are focused on a BIG Hollywood payday. They buy cameras and all the latest and greatest gear. But instead of making a movie, these would-be filmmakers end up living paycheck to paycheck, shackled by high debt and dumb day job.
If you’re that person right now, you’re not alone. When I got started in my career, I had no savings, student loans and thousands of dollars in credit card debt. I had no idea how to turn myself around.
Luckily, I met some very successful people who set me straight. They told me about “FU money.”
FU Money Is Your New Best Friend
In Hollywood, when you get a bunch of money in the bank, it’s called FU money. You know you have FU money when you can enter into negotiations and walk out of the deal without the fear of starvation. And the most valuable success strategy for acquiring FU money is: “Pay yourself first.”
When I first heard this concept, I had no idea what the heck people were talking about. But after meeting with some power players, I realized the idea is simple. Whenever you get a paycheck, before you pay any bills or fill up your gas tank, set a little money aside and never touch it.
That’s all you gotta do.
I know. I know. Most independent filmmakers want to save money but feel too strapped to take action. This is because each month is filled with bills and other unexpected expenses. For this reason, most people put off saving until the end of the month. The problem is, by that time, there is nothing left to save.
And please let me remind you, as a general disclaimer, I’m a filmmaker and not a qualified legal, tax or financial professional. So even if the following strategy provided me with a bunch of FU money, this stuff may not be right for you. So, please talk to a qualified professional first.
One day, I decided to follow a successful friend’s advice. And while it took me a long time, I eventually dug myself out of debt and lifted that financial weight off my back. Here is what I did:
- I wrote down all monthly income, including paycheck, extra jobs, etc.
- I wrote down all monthly expenses, including bills, groceries, gas, etc.
- I subtracted the expenses from the income.
- I had some money left, so I figured out how much to save.
- I opened a high-interest online savings account.
- I set up automatic withdraws each payday and pretended it was a bill.
- No matter what, for one year I didn’t touch the money!
- After one year, I paid off my credit card debt.
- After another year, I spoke to a financial adviser and started investing.
- After another year, I built up an emergency fund.
After saving, I not only had enough money to get out of debt, I had also developed the valuable life-long habit of always paying myself first. FU!
Learning how to manage your own money will give you confidence when you begin managing your movie projects. Thankfully, there are many financial software programs and online services to help you stay on top of your finances.
For those of you who have both a business and a life, you might want to consider keeping your business transactions separate from your personal transactions.
To manage your personal money, I recommend researching Mint.com – It’s a great free service that gives you a birds-eye-view of your day-to-day spending and investing. I have been utilizing Mint for years and it’s really awesome.
To manage your business transactions, I use Outright.com – Even though Outright was acquired by Godaddy a few years ago, it still works awesomely for managing my business accounting. You can find out more about Outright (affiliate, owned by Godaddy) here.
All of these programs will give you a daily snapshot of your net worth, your spending habits, your bank accounts and your credit card accounts. Most will also chart your investment activity. Some of the more advanced programs allow you to work out a budget and offer debt elimination tools.
The reason why becoming a good money manger is essential to filmmaking is because most prospective investors will sense how you feel about money.
If you like this sort of stuff, you’ll love my filmmaking tools.