I founded Raindance in 1992. I started the British Independent Film Awards in 1998. I run a film school that goes all the way up to a Masters Degree. Over this time I have organised hundreds of events: seminars, workshops and lectures by some of the most interesting filmmakers in the world. And I have met many, many people like you. The number one question I have heard over and over again is: What is the smart route to film finance?
One of the earliest filmmakers who came to speak at Raindance is the legendary Dov S-S Simens. I overheard him answer the the film finance question like this:
Film funding follows the Golden Rule. She or he who has the gold makes the rules. If you’re the one to get that gold for your film, you can write your own ticket. But if you don’t have your own gold, you have got to go and get it.
– Dov S-S Simens
When I started Raindance I had no idea how to raise money for films. In fact when I started Raindance I knew almost nothing about filmmaking. I started by organising weekend and evening workshops and seminars and learnt the craft of filmmaking.
And then I had a film I wanted to find finance for.
The Beginners Route To Film Finance
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 needed to have a plan of some sorts. All I had was a script. I went to the library and found very few books on film finance in the early 1990’s. Digging deeper I realised that film finance was going to be trickier and different from property finance. I loved my script. I knew I would have to delve deeply. And then I made my first mistake.
The film finance expert
Through a mutual acquaintance i met a so-called film finance expert. This individual declined my kind offer of equity. They arranged and extracted a monthly fee in order to get my project inside the doors of the film industry. I got weekly and bimonthly reports – usually on days that the latest invoice was due. Naively at the time I didn’t realise that route was doomed because I hadn’t prepared the package.
Even though I was led to a series of high net worth individuals, each presentation failed because I hadn’t learned the ropes. My pitching was terrible. And I hadn’t considered the financial implications properly.
The film industry finance route
Doing is learning they say. Still undiscouraged, but several gold bars lighter, I decided to go out on my own to pursue public funding. I diligently filled in the application forms. I hired accountants and lawyers. I hired line producers to make the budgets. And I got turned down. Time after time. And then it came to me. The film industry is a people industry. It’s about the relationships. And I didn’t have relationships necessary to get my project funded inside the film industry.
I even went to the Cannes Film Festival and the associated film market.
That film still hasn’t been made.
Lessons learned on the route to film finance
At the start of this second lockdown, during a lull in the 28th Raindance Film Festival, I was going some archive paperwork at our film school office when I came across that original project. And then it hit me. The reason I had failed was obvious! I was unprepared. It was as if a child had decided to make a movie with pages written in crayon.
The route to film finance starts with what you control
There are so many variables in the film finance process. There are so many things that you cannot control. And then there is the wild factor others call luck.
Rather than focusing on the things you cannot control, why not focus on the things that you can control?
Prepping your project
Why don’t you work on refining the screenplay? Have you got a reader’s report that is recognised by the industry? Then there is your pitch. Are you comfortable with your pitch? Can you adapt it on the fly to favour the person you are meeting? I’m not talking about your budget, schedule and other paperwork. I’m also assuming you have the legal paperwork in order too.
These elements are all things that you can control. And it takes a whole lot of effort to get them done. The more you work on these elements the better you will get and the more financeable your project will be. Discipline and stamina.
Here’s my sales pitch
Here is a five-part evening course that takes you through each of the steps you can control as you prepare a strategy to find the route to film finance.
I’m not saying anything about this is easy. There is no magic way to raise money for films. Rarely, in my experience, has it been easy. Or the same – each film seems to happen a different way. Many feel threatened by this. Don’t. The huge number of variables should inspire and motivate you. The more you perfect your film package, the better you can make your project more desirable, the more you will be able to attract film financing.
Raindance is a professional resource for smart, ambitious filmmakers.