Getting funding for a film can be the most daunting and complicated part of any film production, yet at the same time, the most important. While it may seem overwhelming or even impossible, there’s no shortage of cash investment in film with over $220 billion USD invested in global content for film and TV in 2020 alone.
What’s more, the barrier for entry towards funding a film has never been lower, with many indie classics produced on budgets of only a few thousand dollars. Whether the money comes from a studio for a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster or is financed independently through personal funds or government grants, for years film producers have been working successfully to secure funding for projects big and small.
So what does this mean when it comes down to financing your film?
Let’s take a look at 6 proven methods for how to get funding for a film:
1. Get Funding for a Film Through Grants and Fellowships
A film grant or fellowship is funding from an institution given to a filmmaker who has been selected based on merit, meaning they’ve been vetted through an application process prior to receiving grant funding. Grants are offered and dispensed by governments, universities, festivals, nonprofits, or any organization seeking to support filmmaking. Generally, grants and fellowships require that applicants meet specific criteria; for example, first-time filmmakers, women, Indigenous peoples, and other groups underrepresented in film.
One organization, Creative Capital, offers $5 million in grants to artists who choose “sustainability” as the topic of their film. Awardees receive direct project funding in varying amounts up to $50,000 USD. Other organizations offer millions of dollars worth of grants each year to grant winners, no strings attached; giving you total creative control of your project. Additionally, fellowships and grants come with some aspect of mentorship and community involvement, giving you ample resources to pull from when it comes time for your film to go into production.
2. Take Advantage of Tax Incentives for Filmmaking
Another great way to get funding for a film is to take advantage of tax incentives. Similar to grants and fellowships, tax incentives are offered by government programs and do not have to be paid back. Many states will offer tax incentives to fund films as a way to increase tourism and boost local economies – if you’ve ever seen the “Made in Georgia” logo at the end of a film, that production received part of their film funding through a tax incentive. The only drawback is that tax incentives are backend funding as the benefit they provide, in the form of deductions or rebates, will only come after production is finished and the film’s tax information is filed.
3. Secure Private Investment to Fund Your Film
Private investing is a less common method because, as far as strictly financial investments go, films are considered extremely high-risk and rarely turn a profit. However, if someone has the cash and truly believes in your project (have any rich relatives?) private investments can greatly supplement your film’s budget. While incredibly unlikely, acquiring film funding with private investments can be great for additional funding.
4. Make a Pitch for Product Placement in Your Film
Funding a film through product placement is a method where companies looking to promote a specific brand or product to your film’s audience will provide financial backing in exchange for product screen time. Similar to tax incentives, locations looking to promote their storefront can provide valuable funding in the form of shooting locations. If a restaurant lets you use their location to film, granted you drop their name in the film thereby giving them advertising, that’s less time and money you have to spend on set design.
5. Get Crowdfunding Donations for Your Film
Crowdfunding offers a unique alternative for filmmakers to get funding for films. It works by attracting small amounts of funds from a large audience to finance the filmmaker’s project. In recent years, global crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter have become something of a phenomenon, owing in part to the accessibility of the web to connect creators with investors.
According to Kickstarter Statistics, “The average amount a film project raises on Kickstarter hovers around $12,000 [USD], with the average short film raising $5,600 [USD].” This method of funding works doubly well as it also functions as a means to generate press and cultivate an audience prior to production.
One caveat is that filmmakers who raise money through crowdfunding platforms should expect additional involvement with the community of people putting up the funds. This could amount to providing behind-the-scenes access to the film, or offering additional rewards for each tier of funding. Be sure to consider what rewards you will offer your funders and factor in time and budget during and after production to satisfy these requirements.
6. Finance Your Film Out of Pocket
Self-financing is a great option for first-time directors because it allows you to get the project up and running quickly; no back and forth with a studio or other financially invested parties looking to influence the final product. Not every film requires a massive budget and it’s cheaper than ever to produce a film: If you really need to you could shoot, edit, and produce your whole film on your phone.
If you’ve ever seen a Hollywood movie that was less of a blockbuster and more of a bust, you know that having a huge budget doesn’t mean a great movie. If you need inspiration to draw from, take a look at these micro-budget films.
So what’s the best way to get funding for your film? Pick up your pencil because you’re gonna want to write this down: there is no single answer. That is to say, there is no best way to get film funding, because the best way or combination of ways is whatever allows you to make your film the way you want to make it.
Now, get out there and make something incredible!
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