Feature films require a considerable financial backing, especially compared to producing music or “traditional” art in the form of paintings & sculptures. New filmmakers will most likely not be able to finance their own projects, unless they intend to rely on a ‘bare-bones’ method. So how do you go about budgeting and financing your film?
First of all, an estimate of the minimum viable budget to shoot the movie is most important. Take into account story rights, music rights (although this will most likely be decided during the editing phase), screenwriters (if needed), materials, sets, locations, travel, crew and cast. If you already have a script or basic scenario (let’s hope so), maybe it’s time to re-think some factors: Do you really need that extremely expensive camera equipment? Do you really want to cast that A-list celebrity? Could you film in another region to lower labour costs? Once this is established, you will have to add the expenses needed to participate in the film festival circuit (this is where you may have your first public screenings and the basis of domestic distribution).
Now it’s time to get some funding. Some may be connected enough in the film industry to rely on private investors and friendly film producers, but in general the methods vary:
The first funding model is the “Studio Model”; approach various studios with your script or idea, negotiate, and hope for a deal.
The second method is relying on “soft public money”, or government funding. For example, Europe’s MEDIA programme has twenty or so programmes for media and filmmakers. Apply for the funding and lobby the decision makers until you hit gold dust.
The third method is pre-sales: Pre-sales is, based on the script and cast, selling the right to distribute a film in different territories before the film is completed. Typically, upon signing a pre-sale contract, the buyer (filmmaker) will pay a 20% deposit to the film’s collection account (or bank), with the balance (80%) due upon the film’s delivery to the sales agent present in the territory where the film will be distributed.
The fourth method is product placement. Indeed, teaming-up with brand managers and getting cash for including their products on set might be the right way to go. The product exposure the brand enjoys has a far greater value than the cost of the product placement (this can be seen especially in music videos).
The fifth method is through crowdfunding. As these platforms have become increasingly popular online for stuff ranging from medical expenses to startup financing, if you are able to ‘sell’ (figuratively speaking) your project to the online community, you may be astonished by the amount of support you will receive.
The sixth and final method is Deferrals – get the crew to work and be paid later out of profits if any. Convince everyone that in order to get the film made now you can’t wait for investment. In exchange you offer up a percentage of the share of profit meaning that everyone’s salary could potentially increase depending on the success of the film. If you have a great script, you may even be able to convince great actors to play in your film for little to no-cost.
Of course, a combination of these methods may be your winning formula, but these are some starting points.
Now that we have established the various methods of financing, we should address something: Having a huge budget at your disposal does not imply making the most-appreciated or highest profiting films. To illustrate this closing remark, let us take a look at some examples. Pulp Fiction, which is considered an Indie film directed by Quentin Tarantino and distributed by Miramax Films, was made with a budget of around $8 Million and grossed $214 Million at the Box Office. On the other hand, John Carter, directed by Andrew Stanton and distributed by the massive Walt Disney Studios, was made with a budget of around $300 Million and grossed ‘only’ $284 Million at the Box Office. This is without mentioning the rare-occurrence that was Paranormal Activity, directed by Oren Peli with a budget of $15,000, grossing $193 Million at the Box Office.
WORDS BY XAVIER BERNARD