You’re eager to get started shooting your own short film, and FilmUp makes it easy to get a crew together, but how do you pay for it all? Getting funding for a short film can be a daunting challenge, so we’ve compiled all of our best tips for securing financing from film financing companies or independent film investors.
Choosing the right script idea
Don’t rush through the process of writing a great short film script (or securing the rights to an existing script). Look for originality and a dynamic role for an actor, since a top actor might get involved with a low-budget project if he or she sees a thrilling challenge and a potential breakout hit. Also, consider a topic that will resonate with a particular subculture or community. Exploring the stories of an underrepresented group will prevent you from getting lost in the sea of short film projects. It can also help you attract the attention of social media influencers within those communities.
Make sure that you spend enough time putting together a detailed and reasonable budget. If you plan to submit your short film to festivals such as the Sundance Film Festival, you will also need to budget for related festival costs. If you’re going to try to get funding for a short film, figure out how much money you’ll truly need. And as most filmmakers will tell you, try to cut costs in every single way you possibly can.
Take some time to research your funding options and how films similar to yours got funded. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other producers and directors for advice! Equity financing, for example, means that investors will give you money in exchange for an ownership stake in the film. If you end up profiting from the film, you will owe a portion of those profits to your investors. You can also look into government funding if your country offers these types of programs. Another avenue is brand sponsorship, meaning that a company would provide funding in exchange for the display of their products in your film.
If you reach out to film investors, you’ll need to have an effective pitch for why they should get involved. Consider making a look-book or sizzle reel, focusing on what’s exciting about the project and not what pitfalls or risks you could run into later. A good sizzle reel can help investors really get a sense of what the project will be like. A visual example is worth 1000 words. It can also show financiers that you’re serious, professional, and dedicated to your short film.
Take advantage of the many generous grants that exist for filmmakers. Grants specifically for short films include Filmmakers Without Borders, Panavision’s New Filmmaker Program, Moving Image Grant Funds LEF Foundation, Film Independent Sloan Distribution Grant, Creative Capital, The Jerome Foundation’s Film and Video Grant Program, Women In Netflix Film Finishing Fund, and The Roy Dean Grant/From the Heart Productions Grant.
Read all submission requirements carefully! You can also look into film grants specific to locations or types of films, such as the California Documentary Project. Some workshops and labs also have associated short film grants.
Sites like Seed&Spark, Kickstarter, Indiegogo make it easy for friends, family members, and people who find you online to help you figure out how to get funding for a short film. It might be unlikely that you’ll get enough to finance a short film with just donations from your Mom and Grandpa, but if you can attract the attention of some social media influencers or get on the featured projects page of a crowdfunding website, you might be surprised at how quickly things can take off. Keep in mind that Kickstarter is based on the “all or nothing” funding idea; if you don’t raise your entire goal, you won’t collect any money at all.
If you’ve got a big credit line, you could put all of your short film costs on a credit card. Of course, this can be a dangerous option if you don’t end up finishing the film or making any money. With self-funding, the risk is all on your shoulders — but it also means that you won’t have to spend time trying to convince investors to come on board. You also won’t have to share profits after you’re finished! Did you know that the hit 1999 film The Blair Witch Project was funded by $35,000 on credit cards? It went on to gross over $250 million.