Let’s say you’re an independent filmmaker. Whether your film is still an idea, a high-concept premise, or a finished script, at some point in the process you are bound to ask yourself a crucial question:
“Just how am I going to pay for all of this?”
Somewhat ironically, the first place many indie filmmakers think to look for funding is at a large movie studio. While it is certainly a good idea to make your pitch to one or more major studios, you should understand that these companies invest in only a handful of the thousands of movies pitched to them. Furthermore, many producers (justifiably) fear that interference by the company funding production will make it difficult to keep their artistic vision intact.
If you fail to get a studio interested or want to maintain more creative control, you should look to smaller investors for money.
Unfortunately, such investors are few and far between for the simple reason that indie films are a rather dismal investment. The motives for financing independent films are seldom purely, or even mainly, financial. As Marc H. Simon, an entertainment attorney and indie film producer puts it: “[f]or the small independent films, the financiers should be investing in the film for reasons other than profit.” However, as investors seek out ways to diversify their portfolios or simply look for more interesting places to invest their money, indie films have become more attractive investments.
Companies such as IndieVest or non-profits like the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) can help connect you with angel investors.
Loans are often easier to come by than investment capital. The downside is that they carry risk. Regardless of the project’s success or failure, you are still on the hook for the budget. Loans can be an attractive option, however, for those wishing to retain absolute creative control of their work.
The advent of sites like Kickstarter has given indie producers a new source of funding they cannot afford to overlook: crowdsourcing.
Since its inception, Kickstarter has received over $100 million in pledges from about 900,000 people, successfully funding over 8,000 independent film projects. Kickstarter would appear to provide the best of all possible worlds since the money is apparently available and completely free of risk. On average, however, most of these campaigns receive little over $10,000. So for most projects it is all but impossible to rely on crowdsourcing as your primary source of funds. Nonetheless, for some very low-budget projects, crowdsourcing has tremendous potential as a tool to supplement capital from other sources or as a final aid to get your film from a finished product to a limited cinematic release.
Ultimately, the savvy filmmaker will look to all these sources — investors, banks, and innovative tools like Kickstarter — in order to get funding for their film. Whatever route you choose to take, a seasoned entertainment attorney is an excellent resource when navigating the film financing world.