Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Money Side of Film Fundraising

So you think you want to make a film?  But you don’t have a budget or any money.   What is your next step?  Building your brand and your following…STOP…what do you mean you don’t have a website or a fan page or a group or anything related to your film?  You don’t even have business cards or a flyer or a story you can talk about related to your film.  First and foremost does anyone know who you are?  If not, then that is where you would begin.  In the world of business, there is an order to doing business, running a company, growing your company and building revenue.  The same can be said for making a film or actually wanting to build anything.  If you truly want to be successful and you want to obtain the resources to create what you want, you have to know what you need, how much it will take to create your idea, a timeline around it and then the potential audience or support to help make it happen.  This essentially can be translated into a plan.

I sat down recently with an organization that specializes in using other people’s money to help establish business activities.  The first words out of his mouth were, “do you have a website and what’s your marketing plan look like.”  This particular resource deals with foreign money and investors entirely, however is building businesses in the US.  The lowest level of revenue generating companies he deals with is $55 million with a range up to $500 million.  As someone in marketing who has often preached about marketing in general, those words were music to my ears.  Only because in the most basic of all business training and schools and entrepreneurial training, the number one thing you will spend money on to make money is the marketing at the beginning of any business started.  When you are first launching a business the rule of thumb is that 75% of what you spend on your business should be marketing.

What does marketing entail, it is a long list of things (not all inclusive or exclusive to these items listed only) – 1) Market Research, 2) Target Market, 3) Product – what is it?, 4) Competition – who are they?, 5) Mission Statement, 6) Market Strategies, 7) Pricing, Positioning and Branding, 8) Budget, 9) Marketing Goals, and 10) Performance Analysis – how are you doing?  Okay, you think your film is not a business so why would this apply?  Think again, every film can be and should be treated as a business.  The moment you bring a second body/person into your film dream, you have now enlisted someone else’s time, energy, and/or effort and there is a value exchange for that.  Don’t be mistaken to think that because others may do things out of the generosity of their hearts, volunteer, give away for nothing, or donate, that there is not some kind of value exchange expected.  This is business; henceforth, why understanding the marketing aspects can only help you with your endeavors to actually even dream of making anything with the film you want to produce.

I know you so want to get to the fundraising and forget the marketing.  The fundraising cannot happen without the marketing.  As creative types are usually at the forefront of film making, it makes sense that you should have someone included in your film making group that understands the business side.  No matter how much guerrilla filmmaking you’ve done if you want to be taken seriously by others, you have to have a plan and a formula for what you are doing, again, why the marketing plan for your film makes perfect sense.  It forces you to the reality of what you know about your film, what you don’t know about your film, and it identifies the gaps of what you need to find out and then what you need to essentially determine in order for you to believe you can actually make money.  The ROI – Return on Investment – often times will become evident as you look at your marketing.  Demographics (part of the market research and the target market portion) are absolutely critical to understand in order to know who your potential market audience is.  This extends beyond your inner circle, your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your co-workers, and anyone else who may know you.  Your target market and audience should be defined based on the genre of film, based on the locations related to mass appeal, the interest in the topic, and the monetary ability of that market to spend money on entertainment, because that is the business you are in…entertaining.

You are now screaming at the top of your lungs that you just want to make films because you love it.  We all get it.  As an artist, we live and die by our passion that is how we are made up.  Not everyone can survive by that alone however unless you have a hidden treasure chest or a “Daddy Warbucks” or whatever other “trust-fund” you might have inherited…most individuals don’t operate by those rules.   To be fair, at the beginning of your endeavor whatever it may be, you must decide if you intend to make money on the effort or not.  It will save yourself and everyone heartache to admit that upfront.  Once you have determined however you are taking the plunge to make a movie with the potential to have a profitable return, the work begins.  The basic business plan for a film that is expected to go into fundraising, look for investors, or even financing, requires the following components:

1) Project Overview
2) Executive Summary
3) Film/Movie Write Up – including expected budget
4) Marketing Plan – including projected revenues, and one or all of the next three sections
5) Investor Plan
6) Financing Plan, and/or
7) Fundraising Plan.

Now that the basics have been outlined, you must answer yourself, do you have the wherewithal to continue and pursue your dream to make a film that makes money.  This is where you must assess the risk involved based on your own personal time, effort, and monetary investment and determine if it’s worth it.  Regarding fundraising, and more specifically crowd fundraising or a mixture of investor/financing/crowd, there are so many websites that exist and have been launched, you must review and find what you are comfortable with managing as you will be managing this like it’s a real live baby, because it is something that you actually develop from your seed of an idea and bring to life and birth.  So this effort is not to be taken lightly.  This listing of crowd funding platforms is a short list as many are being launched continuously:  1) Indiegogo, 2) Kickstarter, 3) Peerbackers, 4) GoGetFunding, 5) Seed&Spark, 6) Junction, 7) Slated.  Repeatedly you will find Indiegogo, bubbles to the top even over Kickstarter as it relates to film as the team has the option to get a portion of what is raised even if the goal is not met.  The international money manager and start up entrepreneur I talked with earlier even stated Indiegogo as their number one recommended crowd funding go to for their clients.

Once you’ve decided what route you are going down, there are some specific tips and realities you must keep in mind when pursuing your campaign run at fund-raising.  These are highly recommended tips you should follow and should not be pursued without all of the other information shared being considered if you want to increase your odds of making a dent to find that money you need.  These will not have detailed explanations provided as if you really want to pursue the fundraising, I recommend bringing on board someone who has done it before, find training available (which is literally everyone online or even with your local film organizations), hire a consultant that is proven their ability to direct and execute, or take the time to educate and train your team on what it takes.

1) Prepare and plan your strategy (take at minimum 3 to 6 months to plan and build your base following, if you launch a campaign and have no followers, no website, no social media, and no one knows who you are, do you really think you will be able to get crowd funding when you don’t have a crowd??? Be for real…).

2) Develop a strategic social media blitz and maintenance campaign.

3) Produce a great video (but not just one, several for continued updates along the way).

4) Have an information website or central location everyone can gather all basic information – Media Page.

5) Educate/Inform/Publicize the project, the purpose and vision of the project (Don’t ask for MONEY first – everyone needs money – and no one likes hearing “give me what you have or I’ll take anything…even $1”…sad but true).

6) Continue to grow interest and following throughout the entire campaign.

7) Over-communicate – it will barely be enough – but don’t SPAM.

8) Be real and personal – share the journey with the fans and followers.

9) Have directed attention to your current fans.

10) Make sure you thank everyone for supporting, participating, for allowing you to share, and for whatever else you can think of and use their names when thanking them.  The number one word that most people love to hear is their name in writing.

Participants in fundraising can choose to do one of these items or all of them and what makes the biggest difference in the long run is the commitment by the filmmaker and the team involved.  If you are not committed to do the work which includes all the marketing your success will not be likely.  If you 100% in and your team is 100% too, you are way more likely to make headway not only on fundraising but making your film a reality.  The behind the scenes and the administrative side of the business are not fun and always mean lots of what most would consider boring stuff, but this is the foundation that will make the dream come true.

For consulting services, contract services, and or project service support for your filmmaking, contact to set up an appointment to discuss your project or fund-raising needs.  Let's make films.