Financing Your Independent Film in 3 Easy Steps

So this is it: My first Lovers in Their Right Mind “Friday Process Post.”

Our movie is a about an African-American woman who falls in love with a Persian man, and has to decide whether to be with him at the risk of losing the support of her family and community.

The woman—whose name is Taylor—is in her mid-to-late thirties, so it’s what Janice calls a “film for grown-ups.” Grown-up films are “difficult” in Hollywood. Taylor is a black, middle-class woman. Black films are “difficult”—especially if they don’t portray certain tropes. And of course, films about women in general are “difficult.”

All of which is one way of saying, “You’re probably on your own finding money to make this puppy.”

So how does one “find” between one and five million dollars to make a film? That’s something we’ve set about learning for the past year.

Here’s an overview of the steps, going in reverse, LAST to FIRST. *

END GOAL:
1-5 million dollars to make your movie in an escrow account.

Let’s say your movie is going to cost three million dollars** to make. Three million dollars is not an amount you can get from your Aunt Lulu (if it is—you can stop reading—this article is not for you). It’s not even an amount you raise on Kickstarter with all your aunts and uncles and friends. Three million dollars needs to be raised, if not from companies, then from “high-net worth individuals” who are willing to INVEST in your film project. You sell them “shares” in the film, and after the film gets made and distributed, they get their money back, plus a profit called “return on investment.” There’s some legal stuff associated with selling shares. There’s tax forms and reporting that you have to do. It’s complicated, so you’ll lawyers and accountants and stuff—but set that aside for the moment, because first, you have line up those investors.

STEP 3: RAISE 1-5 million dollars to make your movie.

People with lots of money (so we’re told) are offered plenty of opportunities to spend it. If you want them to invest in your project, you need to convince them you’ve got your shit together. You need to show them who you are, what your story is, who is the audience for your story. You need to know the budget of your film and where the money is going. You need to pony up some market research and financial information about comparable films. All of this stuff is what you put into a packet called your BUSINESS PLAN. Also, because people with money are used to a certain quality, this business plan should LOOK GOOD. It should have photos and graphs and no typos and be printed in color. You should also have a version that’s electronically downloadable from a password-protected link on your WEBSITE.

Are you keeping track of all this? On top of the lawyer and the accountant, you also need a graphic designer and a website designer and a professional to “break down” your film script and assemble a realistic production budget. Assuming you don’t need to hire content writers or researchers, because you’re going to be doing all that yourself, you’re looking a stack of cash—let’s say $25,000—just to get to the place when you can legally ask someone else for a bigger stack of cash.

STEP 2: CROWDFUND your development money…

What? You don’t have an extra 25-grand sitting in your bank account? You’re going to have to CROWDFUND it, through a crowd-funding platform like Kickstarter, Indiegogo or Seed&Spark. Now is a time that Aunt Lulu—and all your aunts and uncles, your friends and casual acquaintances, and hopefully even a few benevolent strangers, can help out. The idea is if all these people kick in the cost of meal at their favorite restaurant, you’ll have enough cash to create your LLC, your Business Plan, website and lawyer stuff, etc.

But, wait! Why should any of these people – including Aunt Lulu and the benevolent strangers — give up dinner at their favorite restaurants for your project? Just like the investors further up the line, you need convince them that it’s a good idea, You have to show them who you are, what your film is about, and why it matters. You need to explain your plan so they don’t worry that once you get their money you’re going to forget all about the movie and buy a new waterbed and a trip to Hawaii instead.

But before you even do that—there’s something even more basic:

STEP 1: Build Audience and Awareness through Social Media

To do crowd-funding, you need a CROWD. You know how when you have a moving party, but you don’t invite enough people to help you move, it puts an unfair amount of pressure on the few people who do show up? If the only people who know about your campaign are Aunt Lulu and four friends, you’re going to fall short. Also, if you suddenly hit up Uncle Ed out of the blue and you’ve never even mentioned you’re a filmmaker, he might think you’re delusional…

So before anything else, you need to build an audience and build AWARENESS of your project. You should do this in many ways, like talking to people face-to-face… but also online, with SOCIAL MEDIA.

Yeah. You need to promote your project on Facebook. And Twitter. And Instagram. And Tumblr.*** As I mentioned in my intro post, there is apparently some science to about how much you should post, and when, which I can hopefully tell you about once I’ve found out.

So that’s it. How to Raise Financing for Your Film in Three-not-daunting-at-all Steps!

* I am vastly simplifying here, and omitting about 27 other steps.

**An arbitrary, though realistic number. Our film has not yet been budgeted.

***Speaking of which, you can find this post and others on our dedicated Tumblr; and follow Lovers in Their Right Mind on your choice of Facebook,  Instagram and Twitter @LoversITRM

 

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