As a filmmaker, independent film financing is a major mystery. When I was starting out, I met with quite a few producers who refused to share their money secrets with me… I don’t know why they were so secretive. But it really annoyed me.
Then there were other “experts” who talked about asking my dentist for money. Ugh.
Even though many filmmakers think getting money is somehow limited to the arena of filmmaking, it’s not. The truth is, all budding business professionals need to shake the money tree from time to time. So luckily for filmmakers, the world of business provides us with rules and resources for getting money.
The traditional ways people raise money in the United States, aside from going to a bank, is by meeting with an attorney, putting together some complex paperwork in-line with SEC regulations (Securities and Exchange Commission), meeting with prospective investors, building relationships and then asking for money – and hopefully getting a signed check!
If you have an idea for a screenplay you want to produce, or you have the rights to a screenplay, I hope you’ve taken some time to figure out how much money you’ll need to make your movie. Will you need over a million dollars, or can you make your project for much less?
This factor alone will determine your strategy.
If you don’t have a clue, then I suggest you contact someone to help you take your screenplay and perform an initial breakdown and schedule. From this information, you’ll be able to know (roughly) how much money you’ll need to complete your project.
Just keep in mind – If you’ve worked really hard to get your hands on a great script and you performed your initial breakdown, schedule and budget, your next step is to find ways to cut costs.
Why? Because with good business, any money you spend should be considered an investment that potentially brings in a good return. Think about it – if your movie is projected to return a mere 1.5% of investment dollars, then why invest in a movie? Why not just get a great savings account?
You must figure out ways to save money without sacrificing production value and story, and you’ll be closer to profitability. I emphasize cost cutting early in the process, because if you’re creative, then it’s possible to make a fancy looking movie for far less than the initial budget. How much less? That depends.
Remember, in many situations, you can replace cash limitations with creativity.
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