Indie films are a force all their own within the larger, Hollywood-dominated market. Fans and critics admire indies for their willingness to take risks with new shooting and directing techniques, edgier acting, dialogue and point of view. The independent film industry has enabled many Hollywood outsiders—particularly women and African-Americans—look outside the usual funding mechanisms to finance their projects. Luckily, money isn’t only in Hollywood, and more than a few of its stars (many of whom got a start with indie directors) are happy to work for lower wages to support indie films. For those who haven’t yet hooked up with a Gyllenhaal or Wes Anderson yet, here are some ways to kick-start your indie film.
Learn to Talk to Investors Outside Hollywood
Some indie filmmakers have turned to Silicon Valley for funding only to get a cool reception. Attribute this to cultural differences; Silicon Valley (and other investors outside Hollywood) are used to seeing business plans and prototypes, and an idea about a cool story won’t fly with them. They need to see something more tangible. IndieWire recommends taking these steps to reassure and hopefully persuade a few to take the plunge with you:
- Show them a website with a good URL and video
- Establish a social media presence and show visitor statistics
- Show a timeline with definitive deadlines for finalizing the script, hiring a director and crew, film schedule, etc.
In other words, make it look like you are in business, even if you’re not actually earning a profit. Yet.
Put Your Own Money In
It’s assumed that you’ve invested your own funds into your project. If your own investment has been minimal, try to increase it. Pull money from old savings accounts, savings bonds, stocks and other small investments. As the structured settlement payment purchasing company J.G. Wentworth points out, future payments don’t cut it if you’re holding onto assets whose cash you need now. Keep careful records and show potential investors how much of your own money is backing your project.
Apply for Filmmaking Grants
Europe and Canada tend to fund the arts better than the U.S. does, but if you can’t travel abroad or change your citizenship, look for grant opportunities here. Grantspace.org lists funding sources for film and videomakers that come from The Sundance Film Institute (who knows, maybe you can get a invitation), WomenArts, PBS and even the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. Many grants, however, are topic-driven to match the granting organization’s interests.
Go to the Crowd
Crowdfunding is another method to find small investors and generate additional publicity for your project. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the best-known. Most crowdfunding sites collect fees based on the amount raised (usually 4 to 5 percent), so there’s little, if any, upfront cost. Coupled with a strong social media presence, crowdfunding could provide a decent boost to your fundraising.