So, ready to make your first indie feature? One thing they don’t tell you in film school is that you’ll spend twice as much time raising money for a film than you will actually making the movie itself. So, got $30,000 to blow? Or are you considering committing financial suicide by using those handy charge cards?
The real scoop: Charge $30,000 on credit cards, pay only the minimum each month, and you will end up paying over $100,000 over a ten year period. You’d be better off borrowing $100,000 from a bank.
I personally find it irresponsible for movie magazines and the entertainment media at large to promote financing a film on credit cards as a “good idea.” Sure, you read about the success stories like Kevin Smith, however, in my travels I’ve heard more than a few horror stories involving bankruptcy, people losing their homes or everything they own in the wake of “risking it all” with credit cards. It’s tragic. Sometimes the judge in bankruptcy court will consider your film an “asset,” and your creditors will own a piece of any future profits. Funding a film via credit cards is a bad idea, so don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk.
Well then, what’s the alternative. How does a lowly indie filmmaker wanna-be raise a chunk like $30 grand or more?! You could go to “investors” looking for funding in $10,000 increments, but people willing to blow $10 grand generally don’t hand it over easily.
It’s a general rule that everyone knows about 200 people: go to any wedding or funeral and the count of guests will be approximately 200. So here’s a better solution: Get $150 from 200 people and you’ll end up with a total of $30,000.
This investment strategy can be calculated in any number of ways: ^ $250 investment X 200 people = $50,000 ^ $200 investment X 200 people = $40,000 ^ $150 investment X 200 people = $30,000 ^ $100 investment X 200 people = $20,000 ^ $ 50 investment X 200 people = $10,000
Heck, someone making minimum wage could afford to invest at those rates. This idea is a lot better than begging some rich investor to throw in $30,000. Think big with smaller amounts from a larger group of people. Stop thinking in thousands and large sums, and then consider asking everyone you know to put in a small amount. This is a much more realistic and achievable goal.
Offer incentives for your small investors to put in cash. Make them feel like bigshot movie investors. Put together an “Investment Package” which includes:
- A certificate guaranteeing them a credit at the end of the film. ^ – A t-shirt with the movie logo on it. ^ – A small part as an extra. ^ – A newsletter documenting the progress of the film.
The items listed above will cost you less than $10 bucks and will go a long way toward instilling confidence in the small investor. Make sure to generate some legal documentation and divide the shares: give yourself (the filmmaker) at least 50% and divide the remaining 50% among your investors. “Buy” some of your own shares and let them know how much money that YOU are putting in. Investors feel much more at ease when they know that you’re willing to make financial sacrifices as well.
And what better time to ask for a measely $200 bucks than the holidays?
“Hey mom and dad, forget some crappy sweater and socks this year, invest in my indie film!!!”
In fact, I’ll get the ball rolling myself: e-mail a one page synopsis of your film to my attention at FilmThreat@aol.com, and I will invest $200 bucks in the first five films that strike me as having potential. Go ahead and brag that “Film Threat is an investor in our movie.” Hopefully that will help toward raising the rest of the cash.
Let me know if this strategy works for you. I would rather be reading about the success stories than hearing another tale of a filmmaker in bankruptcy court because he or she went the credit card route.
Posted on December 22, 1997 in Features by Chris Gore
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