by Michael Neel & Greg Ansin
First off, don’t spend what you don’t have. A film is not worth going into debt for thousands of dollars. The financial return on your film will take years, and creditors want their money sooner.
Time to chop up the budget.
So to figure out what you need, write a plan. Figure out what each day of shooting will cost. For most projects, this is your BIG expense (other costs depend on your specific project). Be honest – don’t leave things out just to keep the budget low. If it is needed put it in (you can always amend it later). We suggest using some type of spreadsheet program, it is very easy to change your numbers this way (crew, number of days, etc.). Spreadsheets do not make mistakes in addition, either.
A spread sheet program helps break down cost.
So you will have a general ballpark number for your film. Places like SAG will want this for their paperwork.
There are ways to find money out there. Like it or not, you will have to be a salesman for your project. If you are not passionate about the film no one will be. There are lots of web sites, film festivals, distributors and the general public who you can pitch to/ask for money to make your film. Making a business plan for the project will help (showing what other films like yours have made, how your investors are going to make their money back, etc). Make it look sharp, with research on who your target market is and why. Having clear goals (and passion) is what an investor looks for and of course you’ll put their name in the credits!
Don’t be afraid to do a test shoot or two.
Another useful tool for convincing potential investors is a trailer or a sample scene from the film. Talk is one thing, but a trailer is a great way to show someone what the film will be like – how cool the monster is, how great the acting is, how exciting the action scenes are. Make sure the trailer is concise and polished, and keep it to less than 1 minute 30 seconds.
We don’t want to lie to you – financing is the toughest part of making an indie film. Searching for sources of financing will force to you accept certain decisions about making your film. Maybe you see that you can make your film with a little money and a ton of time. Or you may realize that shooting a super 16 feature is just out of your budget and you have to figure out an alternative to get the look you want. You might have to change some of your original ideas – be flexible and we bet you can still make a good film.
This is hardest part. Period. But don’t despair: people do find money. Films do get made.
So keep at it!