5 Tips On Independent Film Financing

If you’re looking for independent film financing, take a number.

Every filmmaker on earth wants an easy solution for finding the money.

It’s a BIG challenge. (But you already know this!)

In the years since I started, social media and various crowdfunding platforms like Seed&Spark, Indiegogo and Kickstarter have emerged with the goal of accelerating the independent film financing process. And while these tools aim to make the process easier, you will still need to infuse your efforts with resilience, passion and a game plan.

And here’s the deal. . . Even guys like Tom Malloy (who’s raised over 25M to produce his own movies) would agree that there is no easy solution to independent film financing.

Any person who says there is a “done for you” solution that requires absolutely no work on your part is a fibber.

(Please note: With the proper strategy the independent film financing process can get a little easier. Especially when you create a game plan. But getting the money will still involve pitching and possible rejection.)

And before we start talking about independent film financing tips, let me provide a little context.

I don’t know about you – but when I was starting out, I knew nothing about independent film financing. I met with quite a few “producers” who were happy to drill me for information. They wanted to know what I knew. . .  But for some odd reason, they refused to share their film financing secrets with me.

That aspect of the process was a bit annoying.

But through the years I uncovered a fundamental truth about independent film financing. . . Ready?

Each indie film is a start up. And because start-ups usually depend upon raising money, the process of raising money is nothing new. This means most prospective investors are used to hearing business pitches.

Independent Film Financing

The traditional ways people raise money in the United States, aside from going to a bank and getting a loan (which I wouldn’t recommend as an independent film financing strategy),  usually works like this:

  1. Meet with an attorney and put together some complex paperwork (which includes a private placement memorandum) in-line with the Securities and Exchange Commission regulations.
  2. Creating relationships and meeting with prospective investors.
  3. Asking for money – and then getting the check!

While I distilled the whole independent film financing process down to the bare essentials, each step will involve considerable time and effort on your part. My suggestion here is to plan for more than a few months of heavy (and I mean HEAVY) grinding.

How much money do you need to raise? Do you need a few million to make it? Or can your project be made for much less?

This budget factor alone will highly influence your strategy. Just keep in mind – If you’ve worked really hard to eliminate costs in your budget, then it’s possible to make a fancy looking movie for much less than you think.

Risk Versus Reward

It’s not enough to have a movie project. What you need to constantly ask yourself is: “What’s in it for the investor?” In other words, given all the other investment opportunities like stocks, bonds, mutual funds and real estate – Why should your prospective investor dump their money into your project.

This comes down to risk versus reward. In the game of independent film financing, you will need to ethically convince your prospective investor that no other investment (at this time) offers the same benefits. How will you personally eliminate risks and increase the reward? (Each investor has a unique risk tolerance.)

5 Tips On Independent Film Financing

Lets take a look at some traditional action steps for independent film financing:

  1. Cultivate a legitimate friendships with rich and successful people.
  2. Get an attorney to write up something called a private placement memorandum.
  3. Figure out how you’ll spend the money (Hint, this is your movie budget!)
  4. Figure out how you’ll get the money back.
  5. Over a million and you may run into some trouble getting a return on your investment.

Independent Film FinancingNow again. Raising money is a super simple subject (just find rich people and ask for the money) – but the laws and rules and regulations mean that you’ll need to know a few things about protecting yourself and your business from liability.

If you’re looking for more independent film financing resources, you may want to check out the system I produced with Tom Malloy. Check out our film finance guide by going here.


Film Production: 3 Tips To Avoid Crying On Set

You need to Create a Plan B for your movie. You need to cover your butt!

Here is how it happens. . . 

You plan everything out for your movie months in advance.

jason-brubaker-digital-film-distributionYou get the locations, picture vehicles, actors, crew, stunt professionals — And then for some reason, two days before you begin production some crazy series of events take hold and everything falls apart.

Your picture vehicles disappear, actors quit the project, crew members take on another job that pays more and the stunt people. . . Wait, you hired stunt people? What kind of indie film are you making?

At this point in the whole mess, you probably start to cry. (I would.) Then your girlfriend stops talking to you. You take up smoking cigarettes and start drinking heavily, straight from the bottle.

You sit alone amongst the ruins of your production.

You could have been somebody. . . You could have been a contender. . . 

If only you would have created a plan B for your movie.

Planning For The Unexpected Saves Headaches

The thing is, if you can maintain a good attitude and roll with these kinds of setbacks, you’re gonna find out that each day on your movie set is just another day in paradise.

That being said, you can eliminate a lot of frustration if you prepare for these unexpected events in advance – just in case.

Film Production: 3 Tips To Avoid Crying On Set

Keep this in mind. Whatever could go wrong, will go wrong!

That’s just the nature of indie film. Heck, at times it’s the nature of the universe.

It’s your job to plan for this sort of stuff.

  1. How is your budget looking? Do you have enough money to pay for your movie and also account for the unexpected? If not, you’ll run out of money. I promise.
  2. Create backup locations… Seriously. You need to do this. Just in case.
  3. One more thing, talk with some insurance professionals about insurance for both your workers and equipment. While you’re at it, make sure you talk with a qualified attorney regarding legal protection.

You just never know!

If you’re interested in checking out some popular resources, I invite you to visit: www.MakeYourMovieNow.com

Interview with Peter D. Marshall

Peter D. Marshall is a filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada. He has worked (and survived) in the Film and Television Industry for over 35 years – as a film director, television producer, first assistant director and TV Series creative consultant. He writes and publishes the monthly filmmaking ezine, “The Director’s Chair” which is currently read by over 3400 filmmakers in 100 countries around the world.

He is also a part-time directing instructor at the Vancouver Film School and teaches his own filmmaking workshops around the world (Canada, Dubai, Singapore).

Jason Brubaker of Filmmaking Stuff caught up with Peter for a few minutes earlier this week to ask him about his new filmmaking course.

Filmmaking Stuff

Peter, I reviewed your Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling Online Course. I have to say it’s very comprehensive and covers some detailed information that only comes with experience. Before we get to the details, could you tell us a little about yourself?

Peter D. Marshall

I first started making films (on Super 8 no less) when I was 16 years old. I’d make movies of our high school parties, film my friends as they drove around in their cars and created pixelated animations with model race cars in my basement.

During my 35-year career, I have worked as a PA, dolly grip, electrician, assistant cameraman, commercial production manager, first assistant director, TV series creative consultant, television producer and director. I have had the opportunity to work on many different types of productions, from industrial films to documentaries; television commercials to music videos; Emmy Award nominated TV series to Hollywood feature films.

I have directed over 30 episodes of Television Drama and written, directed or produced over 50 hours of documentary and educational programs. (My documentaries and dramas have won, or been nominated for, 14 International film awards.) And as a First Assistant Director, I have worked on 13 Hollywood Feature Films, 15 Television Movies, 6 Television Series, 4 TV Pilots (all of which went to series!) and over 20 Commercials.

Filmmaking Stuff

How did you get started in the movie business?

Peter D. Marshall

After graduating from Grade 12, I spent three years in film school in Toronto (1970 – 1973) and then hit the streets looking for the job that would kick-start my filmmaking career.

My first paid film job was on a Carts commercial in 1974. I was the PA [Production Assistant] holding a brown paper bag just under the camera so when the director called “Cut!” the actor could spit out his candy into the bag I was holding. In 1985, I got my first professional job as an Assistant Director when I was the 2nd AD on the 13 x half-hour Television series called “The Hitchhiker.”

The first major TV series I worked on as a 1st Assistant Director was in 1986 on a Steven J. Cannel production called “Stingray.” After “Stingray” I worked on several more TV series with Cannell until I became one of the 1st AD’s on “Wiseguy.”

I also got my first big directing break on “Wiseguy” as well. This is something that happens occasionally on a TV series when some department heads get an opportunity to direct.

Filmmaking Stuff

In your program, you offer all sorts of valuable information on how to be successful in the movie business, both during production and as a career. And you have a real passion for sharing your experience with up-and-coming filmmakers. What sorts of mistakes can first time filmmakers avoid, when it comes to prepping their movie?

Peter D. Marshall

There are many things a first time filmmaker should know and understand when it comes to prepping and shooting a movie. Basically, the whole 137 page course is designed to show this information, step-by-step, to filmmakers so they know how to end up with a properly designed shooting schedule.

Here are just a 10 of the hundreds of tips contained in the course that will help filmmakers better prepare themselves during the prep of and movie or television production:

1. They have to have an understanding of the politics of film!

2. They have to have a knowledge of who the Power Players are and how to deal with them.

3. They need to know as much as they can about everyone else’s job.

4. They need to know what is expected of them when they begin pre-production and when they step on the set

5. They need to know the differences between Feature Films and Television

6. They need to know the intricacies of the director/assistant director relationship

7. They need to understand the physical breakdown of scripts, scenes and shots

8. They need to understand traditional camera techniques

9. They need to understand the 5 stages of blocking a scene

10. They need to understand film editing techniques

Now even though the title says “Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling…” this course is not just for Assistant Directors or Production Managers. When I wrote this course, I also had in mind Directors, Producers, Location Managers and any filmmaker who would like to gain in-depth industry knowledge of the entire pre-production stage of making a feature film or television series.

Filmmaking Stuff

One area you really brought to my attention is the extras budget. It’s funny, but in my experience this has been an area where filmmakers drop the ball. Can you tell us a little about the extras budget and why it is so essential?

Peter D. Marshall

The Extras budget is usually the only budget the AD department has to manage. You start by getting the Extras budget from the Production Manager which is usually listed in “man hours” for the show.

After you have a preliminary schedule, you begin your first pass on the extras count by deciding how many background performers you feel you need to have for each scene. Since you do this budget very early in prep, this number probably won’t be based on a real location, but will come from your own experience and from reading the script. (re: How many people will it take to fill a nightclub when the script says “the club is busy and jammed with patrons and dancers.”)

You should budget high for all extras because every director will want as many extras as they can for a scene. As all film budgets do, the extras budget will eventually be cut down, but at least you have a good starting point.

This meeting is very important for many departments because of the overlap that occurs with extras (Hair, Makeup, Costumes etc.) This is also the meeting where the Assistant Directors can have some creative input with the Director on the number and the look of the extras as well. Of course, your creative involvement here will always depend on your relationship with the Director at this point in prep.

Let me give you an example of the logistics involved when working with a large group of extras.

I was the First Assistant Director on the Second Unit Battle Sequence for the movie “Legends of the Fall.” I was also tasked with the job (along with the Military Advisor) to set up and train the 1000 extras who would be in the WW1 battle scenes. We had less than 2 weeks to do all this.

We spent the first week working out all of the logistics; confirming these with Director Ed Zwick and his storyboards; planning the event down to the smallest detail with the Props and Costume departments who had to dress and arm all of the extras; and had many conversations with Special Effects who had 25 special effects people who were responsible for setting off all the explosions on the battlefield as the troops charged over it – at night!

We then had the second week to set up and train the main battle group of about 200 extras who played the officers and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) of the 9 sections it would take to fill the battlefield.

On the day of the scene, (it was actually shot at night) we were only budgeted for 4 hours of rehearsal in the daylight with the entire 1000 extras! From the time the first extra got off the bus at base camp, to the last extra marching into their place in the trenches, it was 1 1/2 hours later.

When actor Adin Quinn blew his whistle and the camera pulled back on the crane to see 1000 Canadian “soldiers” climb out of the trenches and charge across a battlefield as hundreds of explosions rocked our insides and flares screamed over our heads, we knew we had helped to create a very memorable scene in this movie.

Filmmaking Stuff

Your course reads a lot like a living document. On almost every page, you’ve expanded on the content by providing a link to other, similar information. I’ve read a lot of filmmaking stuff, and I can’t remember the last time an author has been so generous.

Peter D. Marshall

I feel it is very important to “pass the baton” to the younger generation and that is why I hold nothing back when it comes to sharing my knowledge with other filmmakers. I also love teaching!

About 15 years ago, I created a 2-day workshop called “How to Design an Accurate Film Shooting Schedule.” As the film and television industry changed and grew over the years, I modified the content of that workshop to keep up to date with all the new filmmaking techniques I was learning. That 2-day workshop has now become the model for this Online course.

Filmmaking Stuff

Making a movie is tough. And it’s common for filmmakers to get overwhelmed with details. Could you tell us a little about The Reductionism Theory.

Peter D. Marshall

Reductionism, as described by Wikipedia, is “an approach to understanding the nature of complex things by reducing them to the interactions of their parts, or to simpler or more fundamental thing.”

In other words, the Reductionism Theory states that “most anything can be understood by taking its pieces apart, studying them and then putting them back together so you can see the larger picture.” For our purposes as filmmakers, we use the Reductionism Breakdown Theory as the process of “reducing a script down to its smallest elements by going from large to small, from general to specific.”

Formula: Things You Don’t Know + Research = Things You Do Know

Here is a basic filmmaking example of the Reductionism Breakdown Theory from reading the script to the first shot on set:

1. Script

2. Act

3. Sequence

4. Scene

5. Shot

6. Take

I have a very good example the Reductionism Breakdown Theory when I got the job as First Assistant Director on “Bird on a Wire.” When I first read the script, I was overwhelmed by the logistics of this production. I honestly wondered how I could possibly prepare such a huge show with two major Hollywood stars, lots of action and many locations. Well, two months of prep later, we were ready for our first day of shooting!

I was overwhelmed on my first read through of the script because I could only see the magnitude of this picture as a whole. Once I started to reduce it into more manageable elements, it became clearer on how to proceed. Time is your ally here.

The Reductionism Theory is what we use everyday to help us figure out many things – not just in the “reel world” but in the “real world” as well! (Remember the first time you drove a car, used a computer, set up your TV)

Filmmaking Stuff

This is especially true when it comes to breaking down a script. Every movie seems to have a million elements and ways filmmakers can get overwhelmed with a schedule. I was impressed to see your that your course includes step-by-step Film Scheduling Tips. Any worry that you just gave away the 1st AD secret sauce? Hahaha!

Peter D. Marshall

Quite honestly, there is so much more to cover on this subject that I have several other courses and products that I am now developing to support all the material in this 137 page course such as audios, video demonstrations, discussion forums etc.

Filmmaking Stuff

What are you working on next?

Peter D. Marshall

I have several consulting jobs that I am working on for different filmmakers around the world plus I am creating more Online courses that will help independent filmmakers better prepare themselves for a successful career in this business.

Filmmaking Stuff

Oh… And one last thing. Where can filmmakers find your Script Breakdown & Film Scheduling Online Course?

Peter D. Marshall

They can visit this website link where they can check out all the details about this 137 page online course including the content list, support materials and free bonuses. As a matter of fact. I have set up this webpage especially for your readers so they can get US$20.00 of the purchase price of this 137 page Online course.

To learn more about Peter D. Marshall’s Script Breakdown and Film Scheduling Online Course: CLICK HERE

Become friends with investors for your movie

Sagittal section of a tooth

Dentists do not always make great independent movie investors. This Image comes via Wikipedia

Often filmmakers get choked up when it comes to finding investors for their movie. Yes, we all know film is a speculative investment, and a bad one at that. Yes, we’ve all heard that a dentist is probably the most likely source of potential investment dollars. And finally, we all know that you need to sell potential investors on the glamor of filmmaking before they will buy into your project.

On top of these factors, if you haven’t noticed, the financial markets are in turmoil. But the good news is, during this financial downturn, you can still spend this time networking. This country is full of wealthy and successful people (other than dentists) who are very kind and generous when it comes to giving advice to young entrepreneurs.

Your job over the next couple months is to get at least one initial meeting with the wealthy guy in town… Every small town in America seems to have at least one wealthy individual. Go meet him or her.

How? Call them up on the telephone and ask for a meeting. Let the person know you are a entrepreneur seeking advice. (Because, lets face it, a filmmaker working to make a movie is an entrepreneur.) Then when you get the meeting, go prepared with about 10 really good questions about how to become successful (not focused on filmmaking, but just success). Take a note pad. And then make a friend. Dress nice. Give a firm handshake.

After you ask the question, LISTEN! Don’t ask for money. Your primary order of business in this initial conversation is to make a friend.

If you focus on a friend first, then someday your friend may be willing to help you reach your filmmaking goals.

Hope this gets you thinking.

– – –

If you are wondering how to get money for your movie – Almost every resource will tell you that you need a business plan. Very few resources will tell you how to actually go out, find prospective investors, qualify them, contact them, get a meeting and build a relationship.

Since getting money for movies was such a frustrating experience for me, I spent the last few months creating: The Independent Producer’s Guide To Financing Your Movie. In it, YOU will gain valuable insider experience so you can avoid my past mistakes, find investors and make your movie. CLICK HERE to learn more.

Create a Movie Poster

Pitfall!, one of the most popular third party ...
Image via Wikipedia

When I was a kid,  I had an early video game system called the Atari 2600.

The graphics were primitive and pixelated. But every time I went to the store to buy a new game, the technological shortcomings of the 2600 were soon forgotten.

This is because the fictional game reality depicted on the box cover made each game seem like the coolest thing ever.

But when I got home, I soon realized there was quite a gap between the  artwork and the actual video game. This my introduction to how artwork influences buying decisions.

When it comes to movie marketing, your poster must influence the buying decision of the potential audience member. Your poster should incorporate your logo and colors, while at the same time, specifically target your intended audience. Since you will probably use these elements in other areas of your marketing, including DVD cover, website design and your film festival postcards, don’t get skimpy.

As a first time feature filmmaker, you may want to research successful movies in the same genre. Figure out what you like about the poster and artwork. Then hire your best artist friend to create something that works!