Acquiring financing for an independent feature film can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. It’s a high risk investment in a product that might stall or collapse at any moment due to incompetence or misfortune. Yet it can also be very rewarding, both financially and in the personal satisfaction of contributing to a great piece of art. Here are five things to remember when seeking out investors for your film.
1. Cultivate relationships
Wealthy people have strangers asking them for money all the time. They get good at saying “no.” So don’t be a stranger, be a friend. Be polite and personable. Find common interests, so that the relationship can be a sincere one. Because an opportunist can be spotted a mile away. It’s not just about what they can give you, but ask yourself what you can do for them. By becoming a friend you can turn today’s “no” into tomorrow’s “yes.”
2. Be prepared
Before approaching investors you’ll need three things: a script, a budget, and a lawyer. Make it easy to get interested parties excited by having more than just a “cool idea.” The script doesn’t have to be final, but you’ll need one to create an accurate budget, which is hugely important. If you don’t have much experience with budgeting, it’s worthwhile to hire a line producer to help you break it down. Finally, an attorney might be your most significant investment when raising funds. They’ll help you in papering any deals you make.
3. Make a connection
How does your project specifically connect to your potential investor? If you don’t know, find out. The more connected they feel to a project, the more excited they’ll be to jump on board. Does the story have personal resonance for them? Is the setting or shooting location somewhere they know and love? Perhaps they’re a film buff and want some exposure to the nitty-gritty of a feature production, or maybe they’re more interested in the wrap parties and premiere events? Whatever it is, give them what they want. Find an angle that will appeal to them and focus on that.
4. Under-promise, over-deliver
Investing in independent films is a risky business. It’s so risky, that breaking even is often considered a success. Don’t shy away from these realities, embrace them. Focus on what you can guarantee: You have a thorough and responsible business plan; an accurate budget that will get you through post-production; and realistic distribution ambitions. You can’t promise a profit (nobody can), but you can promise your investors a completed film that they can be proud of.
5. Be honest
The filmmaking world is a small one. Your reputation will follow you throughout your career, far beyond your current project. Make sure it’s rock solid. Answer your investors honestly, set realistic expectations, and be accountable for your failures as well as your successes. The respect you earn from colleagues will continue to pay off down the road.