It is said that every person has a great book in them, and in these modern times feel free to substitute the word book for film. The wee small hours are when stories come floating by, foreshadowing our hopes and dreams, fears and nightmares. But having the idea for a movie is one thing, putting it into practice is an art unto itself.
"In this latter part of the dawning of the 21st century the common law dictates that all (financed) movies shall be remakes, prequels, sequels or superhero adventure legacy titles, licensed from the respective universes of one of two major comic book production houses."
-The Modern Hollywood Producer
Okay, so the above quote is more rhetoric than fact, but any film maker will attest to the common knowledge that today there seems to be no space for independent or cult films, certainly in the minds of investors who hold those precious purse strings so tightly. But films are still made that do not fit into these categories, they still happen despite the projections and financial analyses to the contrary. So how does this happen? If major, and even moderate-minor studios have turned away from sleeper hits and potential cult classics, then how do they see the light of a projector (or more likely light of a Bluray laser)?
Here are our top five routes to screen for underground, independent or auteur film.
- Private Equity- The words seem daunting, and to the singular-minded, artistic film-maker perhaps out of their ballpark, but in essence private equity can be as simple as creating a viable film package for investment and dividing the film project into fractions for easy distribution and licensing. Typically, Private Equity can be an incredibly complex structure, but it can be simplified. In essence your film will be split into chunks that are "sold" to investors. Said investor will look for returns, but if your film is priced accordingly to reduce risk (a solid story, low-moderate budget etc), and properly designed to maximize returns then the right investor(s) could be closer than you think.
- Story- Young people who endeavor to get into the film production industry as an eventual creator today have the distinct disadvantage of being brought up on films with budgets that would give the accountants at ENRON a nosebleed. The awe-inspiring scale and effects of Lord of the Rings, for example, or impact and gravity of a film like, well, Gravity, can result in the first time film maker creating a world that is simply impossible to create alone and for no money. A smart story for a first time film maker should be intimate, crafted around the idea of the story instead of the elaboration. See films like Primer, the high-concept, low-budget story about time-travel that takes place in a garage and features just two main characters.
- Adaptation- Getting a film into production is less of a task if there is a proven audience behind it already, here lies the adapted screenplay. Obtaining the rights to a book that has sold well in markets, however, is not so easy or inexpensive, but it is a route that will attract more investors than a so-called unproven idea.
- Donation- Do not limit your crowdsourcing tactics to Indiegogo or Kickstarter, your film contains a number of elements that can be sourced using goodwill alone. The word itself is not a brand name. Source your assets from the crowd. Costume, props, locations, food, even camera equipment and crew can be donated if the story has legs and you have built the foundation of the film with solid script, planning and scheduling. Large companies even have budget set aside for this type of altruistic engagement. Also, get to know your local tax laws, some allow for donations up to a certain amount to be written off against a companies year-end tax bill, opening the door to potential investment.
- Talent- This is a big one. Since movies first asserted their dominance over popular entertainment bigger talent means better sales. That is not to say that the film maker should crowbar actors in just because they are available, but bear in mind that investors and consumers (your audience) are more likely to stop and watch your film if there is a recognizable face attached. Getting talent attached is certainly not easy, but as a rule of thumb make a shortlist of 8-12 stars you would cast and start making inroads. You may be surprised at the results, since many actors are tied to large studio pictures and are known to relish the opportunity to work on a solid, original, independent production that provides them and you with a different aspect for audiences.
Having said all of this, there is no substitute for the proactive auteur. Pick up a camera, grab some friends, make a plan and get out there and shoot. Once your name is on a film you will have a foundation to build upon, however shaky it may seem.
That covers our top five off-road tips for film fundraising. Did we miss anything? Do you disagree? There is an almost endless list of ways to finance your film, leave your comments below and let us know your thoughts, and don't forget to like and share this article!