I founded Raindance in 1992. I started with the British Independent Film Awards in 1998. I run a film school that goes up to a master’s degree. During that time I have organized hundreds of events: seminars, workshops and lectures by some of the most interesting filmmakers in the world. And I've met many, many people like you. The first question I've heard over and over is: What's the smart way to get film funding?
One of the earliest filmmakers to speak at Raindance is the legendary Dov S-S Simens. I heard him answer the question about film funding as follows:
Film funding follows the golden rule. He or she, who has the gold, makes the rules. When you get the gold for your film, you can write your own ticket. But if you don't have gold of your own, you have to get it.
– Dov S-S Simens
When I started raindance, I had no idea how to raise money for films. When I started raindance, I knew almost nothing about filmmaking. I started organizing weekend and evening workshops and seminars and learned the craft of filmmaking.
And then I had a film that I wanted to find funding for.
The beginner's path to film financing
I had a script and I had no idea where to turn. In my previous life I had made business plans and assumed (rightly) that you must have a plan. I only had one script. I went to the library and found very few books on film finance in the early 1990s. As I dug deeper, I realized that film financing was going to be more difficult and different than real estate financing. I loved my script. I knew I had to dive deep. And then I made my first mistake.
The film finance expert
I met a so-called film finance expert through mutual acquaintance. This person declined my kind offer of equity. They arranged and extracted a monthly fee to get my project into the doors of the film industry. I received weekly and bimonthly reports, usually on days when the last bill was due. Naive at the time, I didn't know the route was doomed because I hadn't prepared the package.
Although I was led to a number of wealthy people, every presentation failed because I hadn't learned the ropes. My pitching was awful. And I wasn't properly considering the financial implications.
The film industry's funding route
To do is to learn, they say. Still discouraged but a few gold bars lighter, I decided to go out on my own to raise public funds. I have carefully completed the application forms. I hired accountants and lawyers. I hired line producers to create the budgets. And I was rejected. Again and again. And then it came to me. The film industry is a people's industry. It's about the relationships. And I didn't have the connections necessary to fund my project within the film industry.
I even attended the Cannes Film Festival and film market that goes with it.
This film has not yet been shot.
Lessons from the Road to Film Funding
At the beginning of this second ban, during a break at the 28th Raindance Film Festival, I was looking at archival records in our film school office when I came across this original project. And then it hit me. The reason I failed was obvious! I was unprepared. It was when a child decided to make a film with pages written in colored pencil.
The road to film finance starts with what you control
There are so many variables in the film financing process. There are so many things that you cannot control. And then there is the wild factor that others call happiness.
Do not focus on the things that you cannot control, but on the things that you can control.
Prepare your project
Why don't you work on refining the script? Do you have an industry recognized reader review? Then there is your pitch. Are you comfortable with your pitch? Can you adjust it on the fly to favor the person you meet? I'm not talking about your budget, schedule, or other documents. I also assume that you have the legal documents in order as well.
These elements are all things that you can control. And it takes a lot of effort to get them done. The more you work on these elements, the better you get and the more affordable your project becomes. Discipline and perseverance.
Here is my sales pitch
Here is a five-part evening course to walk you through all of the steps that you can steer as you prepare a strategy to find your way to film funding.
2020.11.17 Certificate from the Producer Foundation
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I'm not saying anything about it is easy. There is no magical way to raise money for movies. In my experience, it has rarely been easy. Or the same – every film seems to be different. Many feel threatened by this. Not. Then a multitude of variables should inspire and motivate you. The more you perfect your film package, the better at making your project more desirable, the more you can win film funding.
Raindance is a professional resource for the smart, ambitious filmmaker.