Crowd Funding your Film


In today’s lean economic climate, government grants and other traditional means of financing films are exceedingly difficult to come by. Luckily, however, the rise of crowd funding has allowed the production of many independent films that would otherwise go unrealised. Crowd funding is the act of raising money via donations and investments from the general public, usually in return for credits or shares of profits.

Crowd funding has its roots in charity, but has been used since the late 1990’s to finance projects within the music, film and even fashion industries. In 1997, UK rock band Marillion funded an entire tour using donations from fans and many filmmakers have followed suit. Public donor and investment opportunities have since financed production of numerous independent films including Guyum Corporation’s Demain la Veille and Riot Cinema Collective’s The Cosmonaut, which successfully raised over €300,000 through public investment.

The success of these projects show that crowd funding is a viable option when looking to finance your film. Today, the internet abounds with funding sites that make it easy share your vision with the public. Sites such as the well-known kickstarter.com or IndieGoGo are a great place to advertise your project and attract potential investors. More specialised sites exist for funding within particular industries such as myshowmustgoon.com for music theatre. Sites including cinecrowd.nl and cinemashares.com offer film enthusiasts the chance to invest in upcoming new film projects. Most crowd funding sites will take a small percentage of money raised in exchange for the exposure.

Of course, simply posting your film on a funding website is not enough to bring in the much needed cash. Successful crowd funding requires a carefully considered plan in order to make investment as inviting as possible. Calculating the percentage of profits investors will receive is a crucial step. Overpricing your shares will signal a bad deal for investors and you will struggle to raise funds. Similarly, by offering a large amount of profits for a small investment, your production company and crew will end up selling themselves short.

Most crowd funding projects offer a wide range of investment opportunities, ranging from a few dollars to thousands. In return, investors will receive anything from a website credit to a part as an extra in the film to a percentage of the film’s profits. Ensure your crowd funding project also provides the option of donating as opposed to investing. If you are lucky, you may stumble upon some of those rare individuals offering their money simply to support the project rather than to make a profit. Useful outlines for crowd funding plans can be found online at www.spannerfilms.net/how_to_crowd_fund_your_film.

After drafting your plan, ensure your documents are checked by qualified lawyers. Soliciting for financial investors requires you to comply with a number of rules and regulations. The stamp of approval from a recognised law firm may also help convince potential investors of the legitimacy of your project. If you are unable to afford a layer, consider making use of free legal services such as The Co-operative (www.co-operative.coop).

Once your plan is approved, it is time to get your project into the public eye. In addition to registering with funding sites, a website dedicated to your film is crucial. This will act as a virtual shop front for anyone interested in learning more about your project. Secondly, take advantage of the infinite networking opportunities available online, using social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter to promote your film. In addition, consider ways to target your pitch at people with direct interest in your project. Funders of Jessica Mae Stover’s sci-fi space short Artemis Eternal included NASA employees, while musicians were among the investors for Michael Stein’s The Guitar Player.

Crowd funding is called as such for a reason: the most effective way to raise large sums of money is by creating a crowd through the organisation of events. Invite would-be investors along and pitch your project to the group at large. When planning fund-raising events, consider your unique selling points. Why would it be appealing for potential investors to attend?

When raising money for The Cosmonaut, Riot Cinema held a large nightclub style party in Madrid, utilising a low-cost venue at their university. The main selling point of the evening was the very low cost of alcohol and cocktails. Through an agreement with Russian Standard Vodka, the company received heavily discounted alcohol in exchange for free promotion throughout the event. What connections and contacts do you have that could help make your event memorable?

Once guests are in the door, it is time to convince them of your project’s potential Test footage, rushes or examples of your previous work are all useful for making your film irresistible to investors.

Make it as easy as possible for the public to hand over their money. Ensure your documents are readily available on the night, collect cheques immediately and have your bank details handy so transfers can happen as soon as possible. Don’t forget it may take numerous events to get close to your target. Production company Spanner Films crowd-funded the cost of their documentary The Age of Stupid by holding weekly fundraising events.

Above all, be honest with your potential investors. As much as you may like to believe your film will make a fortune, the reality is the film industry is highly unpredictable and a risky investment. Be upfront about the risks involved, but let investors see the faith you have in your project. If you firmly believe in your film, they are more likely too as well.

When an investor signs onto your film, he or she becomes part of the team, so ensure you treat them as such. Keep all donors up-to-date with the stages of production, invite them to events and give them priority access to screenings. In return, they will become not only a financial asset, but also a vital ally when it comes to promoting the finished product.

If you are lucky enough to make a profit from your film, first of all, congratulations. Secondly, whilst exhilarating, this does mean a hefty amount of paperwork for any crowd-funded production company. Whilst your investors no doubt parted with their money because they believed in the film, they nonetheless need to be paid promptly ad professionally. Most crowd-funding schemes offer to repay investors once a year for a number of years, increasing the payments as the film collects more income. If you have a large number of investors, this administration can take weeks out of each year, so it may be worth using the services of a collection agency or specially hired administrators.

As films such as The Cosmonaut illustrate, crowd funding can help even the most ambitious of projects become reality. With a professional and optimistic approach, crowd funding may just be the solution to your film financing troubles.


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