How To Find Movie Investors

A lot of filmmakers are looking for movie investors.

Many of these filmmakers are looking for movie investors in the wrong place.

Living here in Hollywood, I can tell you that most hopefuls hold the misguided belief that there is some secret list of movie investors who can’t wait to hand over hard earned cash to filmmakers. And the truth is, these places exist. And they aren’t so secret.


The popular movie investors are Universal, Paramount and Fox.

The problem is, everybody wants a piece of their action. And while navigating the studio system is one way to find movie investors, it’s impracticable and slow for most newbies.

Instead I would invite you to look elsewhere. While it’s true that many movie investors are here in LA, there are prospective business investors in just about every state and every country on earth. In fact, according to this article in LA Times, there are now 9.63 million millionaires in the United States.

This means you don’t have to look very far to find, introduce yourself and build business relationships with people who could conceivably invest in your movie.


How To Find Movie Investors

The challenge in finding movie investors is taking time to reach out through your network and find out who you need to telephone. And assuming you get traction, your next goal is to convince a traditional investor that joining the bandwagon of movie investors is a good idea.

There are two tools you can use to find movie investors.

  1. Your network.
  2. Your telephone.

When I tell you to leverage your network, I mean just that. You may not know this, but you know someone who knows someone who has enough money to be considered an accredited investor.

Once you locate a prospective movie investor, your next goal is to grab your phone, call their professional office and ask for a meeting. This is known as a cold call.

While this type of telephone prospecting can feel scary – Take comfort in the fact that your prospective investor gets these types of pitches every day.

In fact, what we are talking about is similar to any entrepreneur working to get a start up off the ground. Your start up just happens to be an indie film. And like any start-up entrepreneur, you are approaching prospects (prospective movie investors) who are new to filmmaking.

From their perspective, you, your movie and your movie business is a new concept. As a consequence, many of your first meetings will be spent educating and building trust. And this could mean a very long process.

It is during this time that many filmmakers give up. They pull-the-plug on prospecting too early, lose momentum and fail to get their movie funded.

I am sad to say this, but many filmmakers will quit at the first challenge.

Maybe you make a telephone call to a prospective movie investor and he fails to return the call. Or you get hung up on. Or his assistant says “he’s in a meeting.”

Maybe it’s something else…

And if you have never cold-called a prospect before, you may give up before you even start.

Crowdfunding To Prove Your Concept

One of the reasons prospective investors do not invest is because of risk. Even though you are convinced your movie will be the next Paranormal Activity, many movie investors may think differently.

Odds are good they are comparing your movie to other, less risky investments like real estate or the stock market.

To mitigate your risk, you will need to include elements that attract an audience. I talk a lot about this in my guide to distribution. But for the sake of this article, it’s important to know that having “name” talent as well as a clear marketing plan can help put prospective movie investors at ease.

The other part of your initial plan should involve crowdfunding. Crowdfunding allows you to pitch your movie ideas to crowds of people online, who are enthusiastic about sponsoring movie projects.

Many filmmakers try to raise their entire budget via crowdfunding and fail. I do not recommend this. Instead, consider limiting your crowdfunding campaign to a few thousand dollars.

Why? Because if your movie has a real budget, you are going to need real money outside of the crowds. In this context, the more important reason to utilize crowdfunding is to test your movie concept and source your initial audience.

Going into a pitch with a prospective movie investor is much stronger with a successful crowdfunding campaign under your belt.

“We just tested the concept and essentially pre-sold over one-thousand units!”

A successful crowdfunding campaign allows you to prove there is an interest for your movie in the marketplace. And because you have already garnered a few thousand dollars, you now have a much greater incentive to finish what you start – You wouldn’t want to let your sponsors down, right?

While there are no guarantees in business, especially the independent movie business – having the ability to test your concept, source an initial audience and set up shop in the many popular video on demand marketplaces might just help you move prospective movie investors to invest now, instead of later.

If you would like more information on how to find and build relationships with prospective investors, you might want to check out my get movie money guide. In the guide, you will get valuable step-by-step tips on how to build relationships with rich and successful people in your home town. Find out more here.

Three Ways How To Become A Filmmaker

If you are wondering how to become a filmmaker, you’re not alone. Living in Hollywood, I am surrounded by people constantly trying to figure out “how to become a filmmaker.”

The problem is, many would-be filmmakers do not realize there is more than one way to become a filmmaker.

How To Become A Filmmaker

3 Ways How To Become A Filmmaker

Here are 3 ways how to become a filmmaker.

1. Employee Filmmaker (indie producer works at a production company): An employee filmmaker is someone who gets a job at a production company. The employee filmmaker shows up each day, on time. The employee filmmaker usually “starts at the bottom” and then works their way up. Many spend years working on on other people’s projects (OPP) and one day, if they are really lucky, they get permission to helm a movie.

2. Freelance Filmmaker (indie producers hired on a per-project basis): As a freelancer, you get hired on a per-project basis. Then when the production wraps, you go back to your network, seeking your next job. Eventually, you find ways to move up and take on other jobs. Like an employee filmmaker, as a freelancer, you spend years working on other people’s projects (OPP). If you’re really lucky, you get your shot.

3. Entrepreneurial Filmmaker (indie producer creates his or her own projects and hires other people): In this scenario, your goal is to find a good screenplay, raise money and make your movie now! You don’t wait for anybody to give you permission. But unlike an employee or freelance filmmaker, if your project doesn’t get made, you don’t get paid!

To succeed, you will need cold calling courage and the ability to face rejection every day. Additionally, you will have to face ridicule. In finding out how to become a filmmaker, many people stuck in the employee and freelance ruts will hate you, say mean things about you – Ironically, these same people will call you for a job.

But the upside is great. Unlike the other paths, you can grab a camera and start putting together a production this year! While those other folks are still carrying cables, you’ll be making movies.

Filmmaker Action Pack

If you are a long term reader of filmmaking stuff, then chances are good that you radiate towards entrepreneurial filmmaking. Good for you. Half of Hollywood doesn’t get it yet. But as a modern moviemaker, if you’re still trying to figure out how to become a filmmaker, stop searching.

And if you are still waiting for someone to give you permission to make your movie, STOP IT.

Just grab a camera and capture something. . . Anything. . . Today!

In other words, you no longer have to ask permission to make your movie. And thanks to non-discriminatory distribution, you can now reach a global audience through VOD distribution. If you are ready to make a movie, check out these professional filmmaking tools.

Filmmaking Stuff Audio Interview With Carole Lee Dean

Carole Lee Dean is an industry legend. As an entrepreneur, producer and supporter of independent film, her influence has had a positive impact on filmmaking around the world. Most notoriously, 30 years ago, Carole took a $20 bill and created the $50 million a year short end industry. Her company was instrumental in the birth of the Hollywood independent film community because she offered film to Indies at prices they could afford. Customers like Cassavetes took chances with her raw stock and succeeded.

In 1992, she created the Roy W. Dean Grant Foundation in honor of her late father. To date, Carole’s grant and mentorship programs have provided filmmakers with millions of dollars in goods and services and have played an instrumental role in creating important documentary films. She is the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing Concepts and The Art of Manifesting: Creating your Future.

in the following podcast, Los Angeles based indie producer Jason brubaker interviews Carole Dean about non-profit filmmaking, her thoughts on the new model of modern filmmaking and in the process, learns a lesson or two about The Art of Manifesting.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Filmmaking Is Just Like Making Widgets

When we compare modern moviemaking to widget production, it oftentimes seems as though we are saying that the end product of our work carries with it so much more human, emotional weight and experience than the mere production of a widget. And while I understand that watching a feature film has so much more value to ME, and as most of us would argue, humanity – Our friends at the widget factory might disagree.

If we think about it, widgets run our moviemaking; Think about our cameras and our equipment and the computer (or mobile device) the enables us to read these words. Now think of the companies and factories that produce these widgets, and the widgets that create the cars that drive the widget production team to work. And when these widget craftsmen and craftswomen go to work, (to take the analogy further), some of them will spend the next twelve hours dreaming up the next award-winning widget, with one goal in life: They want to make your experience on earth more valuable.

Sound familiar?

Like making a movie, creating the perfect widget takes tremendous time, effort, planning, research and development, financing, prototype creation, craft, manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sales. These business components, like modern moviemaking are all essential to the success of a mere widget. And none of it would have happened without the creativity or tenacity of some entrepreneur (or movie producer) with an imagination and the desire to create and share something that might just make your life better.

As a modern moviemaker, I have no problem with this analogy. Most folks know I’m a little bit too obsessed with Video On Demand distribution and how it finally enables us to effortlessly share our finished films (our widgets) with the world. But what this means to me is, moviemakers finally have a business that no longer requires the outsourcing of marketing, distribution and sales. We can finally operate as a stand-alone business, albeit a small business! And unlike widget production, our product does not have to be delivered in physical form. This means we can NOW reach our customers (our audience) without the headaches, time consumption, fulfillment and shipping costs previously associated with our industry – which are still cumbersome elements most always associated with other industries.

If nothing else, I believe this analogy should serve to help all modern moviemakers quickly communicate OUR business to prospective investors – with a reception we have never known! Because like it or lump it, most prospective, private investors make their living dreaming up and manufacturing the perfect widget in some other industry. And because we finally have a middle-man-less, non-discriminatory sales channel (VOD), prospective investors might finally understand that OUR business, like their widget business, makes sense.


Note: This posting was initially published as my response to a posting on Ted Hope’s blog, Truly Free Film. Because I went on for quite a few paragraphs, I decided to post it here too.


Filmmaking Interview with Carole Lee Dean

As president and CEO of From the Heart Productions, Carole Lee Dean produced over 100 programs, including the popular cable program, HealthStyles, and the historical show, Filmmakers, now housed in the National Archives. As an entrepreneur she created Studio Film & Tape, and sold it to Edgewise in 2001. She created a business supporting independent filmmakers in the 70’s with raw stock and coined the name “short ends.”

In 1992, she created the Roy W. Dean Grant Foundation in honor of her late father. To date, Carole’s grant and mentorship programs have provided filmmakers with millions of dollars in goods and services and have played an instrumental role in creating important documentary films. She is the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing Concepts and The Art of Manifesting: Creating your Future.

Carole stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to share some ideas about filmmaking.

Jason Brubaker
Could you tell us a little bit about your work and how you got into the industry?

I was married to a cameraman and went to the set each Friday night and watched them unloading those little pieces of film that I termed “short ends.” I started a business of buying them from the studios and selling to independents, thus supporting the birth of the independent film market. I found that studios even sold new film because cinematographers wanted all one emulsion so I took the 10 or 15K feet of new and sold to people like Cassavetes.

Jason Brubaker
Wow! It is amazing how those “little pieces of film” changed the motion picture industry.

Carole Lee Dean
After a few years of selling “short ends” major video companies came to me to market their stocks and I expanded into tape. I started with $20.00 from the grocery money and sold it when my sales were at $9 million a year to Edgewise.

Jason Brubaker
This is an example of taking action on an idea and bringing it to fruition, much like a movie producer.

Carole Lee Dean
Yes, I believe in manifesting. It’s a process of releasing a potential that was already there. That short ends business was just waiting for me. Thank heavens I did not know how to do a corporate business plan or I would have known that I needed a lot more money. My belief that I could do it overcame the lack of money. I bought it and sold it the same day and most importantly I always saw it as a big business.

Jason Brubaker
It’s important to think big.

Carole Lee Dean
Look at a piece of coal; it’s a black rock, right? Well, if you ignite it you have heat and light, that potential was there you just had to release it. The same applies for filmmakers.

Jason Brubaker
Yeah. I think the key to dreams is internal, not external.

Carole Lee Dean
I tell them to realize their genius. How many people would give their right arm to be a scriptwriter? Most filmmakers are writers, producer’s even actors and editors. You are Pure genius and its important to know that so you have faith in yourself and your ability to make and finish your film. By seeing your film on a daily basis, knowing each shot, You are projecting into the future a vision that you can release with your faith and confidence. Fred Alan Wolf, physicist says that when we are daydreaming and visualizing clearly we are creating that future and that a handshake across time occurs and somewhere in the future it happens just as you saw and felt.

Jason Brubaker
I have experienced what you’re talking about. Sometimes things come into my life when I least expect them.

Carole Lee Dean
My father was responsible for the student discount. I spent every Sunday with him and He began this relentless weekly request for me to give a student discount. I agreed to 3%. He said it was not good enough. Then I went to 5%. Still not good enough so finally to keep peace I agreed to 15% discount.

Jason Brubaker
I’m sure the independent filmmakers were appreciative!

Carole Lee Dean
When Fuji gave me the exclusive national distribution of their 16 & 35mm stocks I set a goal for myself to sell in 9 months and Fuji said, “Oh, that’s too high you will never hit that.” I did hit it and I asked them to give me a larger discount and my priority that I told them was non negotiable was a 15% discount for students. I got this discount and after the first ad was printed, Kodak matched that 15%!!!

Jason Brubaker
And that care for supporting indie filmmakers has stayed with you. The Roy W. Dean Film and Writing Grants have become some of the most well known for independent filmmaker. Could you tell us what criteria you look for when you evaluate potential projects for a grant?

Carole Lee Dean
I want great stories with compelling characters. We fund shorts, indies and docs that are under $500K budgets. The films must be unique and make a contribution to society. Look on the site under grants for prior winners for the type of films we fund. We just started taking features and I want to see one win.

Jason Brubaker
How long does the evaluation process take?

Carole Lee Dean
We have the first cut of finalists on the site in 60 days and your name will stay on for a year, which is very good PR. Next cut is made on the site. We highlight the top 15, then top 10, then top 5 and announce the winner. All this takes about 2 to 3 more months. Filmmakers go through 3 sets of judges.

Jason Brubaker
Let’s say you’re a filmmaker and you’re not selected? Do you offer any sort of consultation or advice to those filmmakers?

Carole Lee Dean
Everyone who applies gets a free 15 minute consultation with me. We can talk about financing your specific film or how to improve your package or marketing or, anything you want. This grant is very dear to me and I like to see you improve from entering it. Our aim is to help you get funded.

Jason Brubaker
In your book The Art of Funding Your Film, you provide a very comprehensive overview of the funding process. Given all the rules and SEC regulations, what advice do you have for filmmakers who have never funded a movie – where do they get started?

Carole Lee Dean
It all starts with a great story. That’s the most important part, work on the store, give me compelling characters that I want to spend 90 minutes with. Write and keep writing and rewriting. Send your work out to really good screenwriters for review and listen to them. Read “Save the Cat,” my favorite book on writing. Take your script to the highest level possible.

Jason Brubaker
And once you have a great script?

Carole Lee Dean
Then go to work on your business plan and find good comparison films that you can easily defend. Be honest with your return on investment, always say hypothetical ROI and show one film in comparisons that did not make a profit. Put yourself in your investor’s shoes. Would you take a million from your parents to make your film? Do you seriously think you can pay it back? Keep investors interest your priority.

Jason Brubaker
You have been very passionate about helping filmmakers manifest their dreams into reality. I read your book long before I had produced my first feature. And I can remember times when everyone in my life seemed to think my movie making goals were pipe dreams. What advice do you have for filmmakers who are working to overcome self doubt?

Carole Lee Dean
If you were making movies 20 years ago it would cost you 10 times more to make a film. So ask yourself, “why was I given so much talent and born during the third most important time in the history of mankind.” Here you are with a great opportunity and all that talent. Do you really believe the universe would put you here at this time and not finance you? Of course not.

Jason Brubaker
That is a good way to think. Especially on those days where self doubt creeps in.

Carole Lee Dean
You need to believe in your talents and know that the money will come. Do all those things on your “to do list” and keep seeing your finished film. You will find doors open where there were no doors before. You are your greatest asset.

Jason Brubaker
I know you have been trying to find ways to bring filmmakers together to share ideas.

Carole Lee Dean
From the Heart is now producing events and I will give all of your members a 15% discount on any of our products and events if your people put GRANT in the coupon code.

To learn more about the Roy W. Dean Grant or some of Carole’s upcoming filmmaking events, check out the website.