Independent Film Financing

United States one-dollar bill

Today, I’m going to offer yet another bit of perspective on the whole question of how to raise money for movies.

As you may or may not know, independent film funding can be a little overwhelming. If you’ve ever dabbled in the business side of making a movie, you know what I mean. The first time I heard people talk about writing a business plan or offering a private placement memorandum, I suddenly felt like I was on another planet. And if you’re like most filmmakers, you would much rather focus on actually getting your movie made, instead of cold calling rich and successful people to set up random pitch meetings.

  • So, the first challenge you have in the world of film finance is: How do I find investors for my movie?
  • The second challenge is: How will my feature film provide enough ROI (return on investment) for my investor?

Assuming you’ve followed some of my previous advice on creating relationships with rich and successful people, even if you do make a favorable impression on a few rich folks, your potential film investors may still shy away from making an investment in your project. Why? Because without star talent, a known director, a film distribution outlet and an experienced crew – it’s very tough to answer the important question of ROI.

Your potential investors want to know how you plan on spending their money, how you plan on getting their money back, and when. Can you provide your investors with this information? If not, then you can understand why independent film financing, especially for your first feature, can be a pain in the butt.

However, having worked as an account executive for one of the biggest investment banks in the world, I would like to share some thoughts and end today’s article on a positive note. If you can come up with a plan that at least attempts to answer the question of ROI – then you’re in the ball park. While I can’t say it’s common, there are a few potential investors out there, for which their excess cash sometimes burns a hole in their pocket. These folks will assess the potential for gain and loss, and despite the risk (which you will always disclose and never hide!), they will still choose to do business with you.

I have a friend (who I’ll interview in a few weeks) – but anyway, he made a short film that went viral on the internet. One day he gets a call from a random multimillionaire who says he has always wanted to produce a movie. Suffice it to say, my buddy is now in pre-production on his first independent feature film.

Stranger things have happened. What’s important is that you keep pushing forward!

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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. To learn more CLICK HERE

Interview with filmmaker Casey Walker

Ever wonder how to raise money for movies, but had trouble finding people willing to participate? For feature filmmaker Casey Walker, solving this problem only took a little creativity. By selling off frames of his movie, one frame at a time, Casey Walker’s innovative approach to financing his current feature project, titled: Free For All…But You! has gotten him international attention and even caught the interest of Kevin Smith.

For 10 dollars (Canadian) anyone can become a producer in his movie. Recently Casey Walker decided to make his film totally “climate neutral” too.

Filmmaking Stuff caught up with Casey for a quick interview:

Filmmaking Stuff: Casey, there are many filmmakers reading this who are looking for funding for their movie. I guess you solved that problem. Tell us how?

Casey Walker: Well, I wouldn’t say that I’ve solved every film maker’s problem when it comes to financing, but I’ve found a way that is working for me. Instead of going to the studios or big money people, I’ve turned to the public for assistance. I created a website, mymilliondollarmovie.com to help finance my first film. For as little as $10 (Canadian) people can purchase a frame of my film and become a producer. There are a ton of benifits, and when we sell the film, you get your money back and decide which environmental charity gets your profits. It’s win win win!

Filmmaking Stuff: So if you buy a frame, you become a producer? What does a producer get in return?

Casey Walker: When you buy frames, you become a producer, get a page on our site that you can post links, photos and video to promote yourself, business or own project. You get to participate in the casting process, are entered into some cool contests, and in the end, your money is not only helping me achieve my dream, but will help keep the planet beautiful

Filmmaking Stuff: Did you have to consult a lawyer to offer this investment opportunity to the masses? Or is your financing structured as more of sponsorship?

Casey Walker: I did spend quite a bit of time with lawyers planning this out. It’s not only sponsorship based, but there is a very important charity element involved. And how many charities can you support where you’re donations get returned, and stand a chance of generating further profits for that cause. And the film is wicked funny so that ‘s a plus too!

Filmmaking Stuff: It’s a great innovation on a novel idea. How is the progress coming so far?

Casey Walker: Like anything new, it has been exciting, and there have been a lot of ups and downs. But we are picking up some great momentum and I’m having a lot of fun starting our casting process.

Filmmaking Stuff: I recently saw that Kevin Smith has become a producer and you have the video to prove it. What prompted you to get him involved? Have you heard from him since?

Casey Walker: One of the producers on the project approached Kevin Smith and things just kind of went from there. He is an insanely busy guy, and I didn’t expect to hear from him right away. But I’m sure I’ll hear from him at some point over the next few months, even if it’s just to berate me a little more. I have a lot of respect for what he has achieved and shaking his hand and getting those words of encouragement certainly have been one of the highlights of this project so far.

Filmmaking Stuff: What’s all this stuff in the press? You’re a green filmmaker?

Casey Walker: Yep, I’ve been in this business for 10 years and I’ve seen a lot of waste. I’ve always been conscious of it, but never in much of a position to do anything about it… until now. I wanted to entertain people without it causing damage to the environment, so I’ve spent quite a bit of time researching ways to ensure we don’t leave a big mark on the planet, just to make a movie.

I’ve partnered up with some really cool groups to ensure that our producers have access to certified environmental organizations. And I’m going to start doing weekly webisodes on little things an indie film maker can do to make their set/film green.

Filmmaking Stuff: Many of our readers have not yet made a feature. What advice do you have to newbie filmmakers who are chomping at the bit to get started?

Casey Walker: My advice would be to support your indie community, learn everything you can. and never give up on your dream. But don’t be stupid. Make sure you have a good project to get behind. Then be organized, keep your overhead low and remember, this is a creative business so apply some of your creativity to what ever problems are standing in the way of you making your film.

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For more information, check out Casey’s website: http://www.mymilliondollarmovie.com

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.

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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.

Still think Dentists are your best independent movie investors?

It’s one way to get money. It was made popular back in the day, by those guys who made Evil Dead so many, many, many, many, many years ago.

But tax shelter laws have changed. And while there are many dentists who are financially OK, there are many who are not.

In the next couple months I’m going to provide some information on how to find real investors.

Subscribe to the newsletter. It’s free, but not for long.

Also, thank you for your feedback thus far. It’s been educational! Keep it coming. What do you need to know to make your movie now?

I want to help!

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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.