Raindance MA in Filmaking: Part 5 - NM3 "The Funding"
NM3 Reflective Report
How can I implement unconventional funding sources in combination with standard film financing to raise my production budget?
Student nr: P2618742
Word Count: 8986
MA in Filmmaking with Raindance, De Montfort University
Table of Contents
Table of Contents 1
Learning Outcomes 5
Learning Outcome 1……………..………..…………………….5
Research and Methodology………..…………………………..5
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application.....……………….5
Learning and Reflection……………..………………...............15
Learning Outcome 2……………………………....…..……..…16
Research and Methodology………..…………………………..16
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application…..……………....16
Learning and Reflection……………..………………...............27
1) Skills Audit……………………………………………...……..31
2) SWOT Analysis………………………………………...……..31
3) Film Funding Table……………...…………………………....32
4) Swedish Budget (Dream Budget).......................................33
5) UK Budget (Actual Budget).................................................34
6) Shooting Schedule…………………………………………….35
7) Interview with Steve Reverand……………..........................36
8) Interview with Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith……………….…..81
9) Script Feedback from TheFestivalDoctor…………………...100
10) The Gig - Script Draft 10…………………………………….101
11) Interview(s) with Grace O’Keefe, Greenlit………………….117
12) The Gig - Crowdfunding Campaign………………………...137
I began my career within the entertainment industry as a musician. Writing songs, coming up with music video concepts and performing for audiences around the world. I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset and, when my music career began to take off, I was the one who took control over the direction I wanted to take my band, Our Untold Story. It was through the journey of self-producing our records, negotiating our deals, starting my record label to be able to release our music, and then starting my production company to create our music videos, that I found my way into acting and filmmaking.
After co-producing my first feature-film, Sargad, in 2016, I went on to direct my own short-film. I decided to apply the same techniques I had when I produced the first demo with my band a few years earlier. That demo became our debut EP, which I then managed to package in such a way that it has since sold and streamed over one million times across the world. My idea was to create a micro-budget film that looked good and contained a great soundtrack, and then market it to the best of my abilities. This is exactly what I did and Rotten Love went on to receive 22 nominations and 17 awards throughout its 2-year festival run. (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6791446/)
My projects have primarily been self-funded, however, I have also managed several small, successful crowdfunding campaigns which have raised between three to five thousand pounds. I have also used a private loan of thirty thousand pounds to finance the recording of my full-length album titled My Dreams, My Rules. In the long term, it is unsustainable for me to continue to self-fund or work on personal credit with my projects, as I wish to achieve bigger, more elaborate, and more professional results. In my skills audit (Appendix 1) I have identified my lack of knowledge around how to raise larger sums of money for my projects, having never previously applied for grants or run a wider, more successful crowdfunding campaign. Although I have a basic understanding of crowdfunding and sourcing soft money from places like the BFI and film competitions, I have never applied for these types of grants and have always worked in an unstructured way with very basic, or even no proper budget or schedule plans.
A primary ambition for my future career is to work as an actor, playing roles that feed my creativity and allow me to explore new depths of vulnerability and experiences. To do that “[...]many actors turn to producing in order to have more control over their careers, as well as the projects in which they’re involved.” (NYFA 2017). It is this advice that led me to create a pitch deck in my previous module for my next film project, The Gig. This project will be a fictional dramatisation drawing on my early years with Our Untold Story and will have the logline: Backstage before the showcase gig that could change their lives, Xander, Clara and Johnny are each contemplating their individual goals with the band.
While creating my pitch package with the team I am assembling, I began to realise that to work towards achieving my overall MA goal;
Building on my current experience as an actor and a filmmaker, how can I deliver a strong acting performance, while mitigating the challenges of also being the producer and director of what I aim to be an A-list festival qualifying short film? I will need to have a larger budget than I have previously worked with. This will be needed to hire a higher calibre cast and crew that can support me in achieving a higher quality film than those I have previously made.
Similar sized film projects in scale to mine have had budgets ranging from £10k-£30 and have primarily raised that money through crowdfunding or self-funding, such as Louise Salter’s How to Be Human (£12,080, crowdfunding), Tam Paul-Warika’s Silverback (£13,347 crowdfunding), George Somner’s The Mourning Bird (£15,056, crowdfunding) and Daniel Shehata’s Nautilus Mutiny (£30k, self-funded) which gives me an idea of the scale I need to be aiming for.
Therefore, during this module, my area of focus will be on the inquiry:
How can I implement unconventional funding sources in combination with standard film financing, to raise my production budget creatively?
My deliverables for this module will be:
Dream Budget/Minimum Budget
Author of Producer to Producer, Maureen Ryan states that “Financing your project is one of the hardest (maybe the hardest) aspects of making it.” (Ryan 2017:108) and academy award winning film director, Martin Scorcese strengthens this notion when he stated that “[...] there’s only one or two films where I’ve had the financial support I needed. All the rest, I wish I’d had the money to shoot another 10 days”. One of the key areas identified as a weakness in my skills audit (Appendix 1), that I need to focus on, is identifying unconventional funding strategies and applying them in practice - in combination with more traditional methods - to achieve the financial scale necessary to produce the level of quality in film production that I am aiming for as an actor producing my own work.
In his book, The Insider’s Guide To Film Finance, Philip Alberstat explains that “For producers, the strategies and structures of financing arrangements are as numerous as the films that are made. [...] A great deal of creativity is required in putting together the necessary elements to attract finance to any particular production[...] Gone are the days when two or three sources of finance will green-light production for a film.]” (Alberstat 2004:xix & xx).
In figure 24.1 of his book Lo-to-No Budget Filmmaking, Elliot Grove lists several sources used for independent film financing. Grouping them with the stages of production they are customarily used for. Additionally, Dov S Simens writes that “Every film funding process that you can imagine eventually boils down to a combination of the following seven routes.[…]
Gap financing and pre-sell route
He continues by pointing out that “[...] 99.9 percent of first-time filmmakers take the independent route (#7),[...]” (Simens 2003:99)
Another key approach that I have identified in my skills audit (Appendix 1) is creating a strong and creative crowdfunding campaign, and then marketing that campaign in such a way that it raises awareness and the required funds for the project. Many independent filmmakers choose to use crowdfunding to raise the money needed for their films because “Crowdfunding is an exciting and effective way to raise money for your film” (Dean 2012:99) and “The money you raise via crowdfunding is the best form of film financing possible [because] you don’t have to pay it back, you don’t have any interest to pay, no one controls your film, you keep 100% of the profits, you’ll start to build a loyal following way before the film has even been made [and] it’s open to everyone” (Follows 2018:9). Therefore, in the same way that I have maintained control of the rights to my music and am now able to both profit from, and exploit it as I wish, I should also be able to do the same with my film projects in order to promote myself as a strong and employable actor. Plus I have the added benefit of further building my personal brand as I raise awareness and anticipation for the film before it is even made.
Learning Outcome 1 - Funding Options
What alternatives are available to finance my film? And how can I find creative solutions to bring my vision to life?
Research and Methodology
Research alternative/unconventional funding avenues (Sponsorships/In-Kind)
Create a production budget based on my script. What would be my dream budget? What is the bare minimum budget for which I can complete my film? (Appendix 4,5)
Look into the various possibilities of filming in London, Prague, Berlin or Stockholm? What are the benefits, obstacles/ Pros and cons with each?
Interview Swedish filmmaker's; Jeanette Espedal (Pizza Boy) and Linnea Pihl (Siphonophore)
Interview Czech producer Steve Reverand (The Lab)
Read Core Texts (Bibliography)
Regular tutorials with my academic advisor, Stéphanie Joalland and my industry mentor, Louise Salter
What can I learn from the BFI application to aid and evolve my crowdfunding campaign?
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application
In my SWOT analysis (Appendix 2) I highlight one of our main threats as the risk that we are unable to raise enough money to achieve the desired results, or potentially even finish the project as planned. I pinpoint the project’s main weakness as being my previous experience in raising funds for projects being limited to a much smaller scale. To mitigate these risks and my weakness in experience, I must find ways to lower my overall budget, raise enough money, and gain understanding and experience in large project funding - which is my primary goal for this module.
My initial step at the start of this module was to learn about the various options of funding available. Using my core texts and information gathered from articles on the subject, I was able to put together the following table diagram showing the eleven sources of income that I identified as most commonly used by independent filmmakers outside of the studio system. Although The Gig is a short film, I plan on using it as a proof of concept to pitch the idea of developing it as a feature in the future and have therefore chosen to focus on funding available for feature films in my research as well.
Appendix 3 - Independent Film Funding Table (Turian 2021)
I put the table together by first identifying the types of funding that would be considered “The independent route” following Dov S-S Simens and Elliot Grove’s definitions and then divided them up based on whether the funding sources are available for feature films or short films, if they are production company friendly and if they can be used for student projects.
Private funding is money that is loaned, donated or invested by an individual or company who believes in you and your project. Grove defines it as loans or equity investments from sources other than bank loans and money from distributors who acquire rights to your movie[...]. (2013:359). I have also determined that this could include money that I choose to put up myself in the form of earned income or personal savings.
An equity investment gives a return to the investor only if a profit is earned. (E. Grove 2013:360) Equity financing is another form of Private Funding where the investor becomes a part owner in the project through the sale of shares of a limited company that is created for this sole purpose. This is more common with feature films as short films tend to be used more to provide an outlet for creative expression, an opportunity for learning and the chance to be discovered (Morgenstern 2017) rather than a financial return on investment.
Crowdfunding is also a form of private funding, however, instead of investing in the project and owning a slice of the rights to the film, those who are providing the funds are contributing in the form of donations either as a goodwill gesture or in return for some form of reward. Carol Lee Dean writes in her book The Art of Film Funding; that crowdfunding is many people supporting one big idea with funds.[...] Instead of being limited by maxing out credit cards, waiting for bank loans, or filling out grant applications, crowdfunding is a fast and engaging way to raise money. (2012:99)
According to several sources, including masterclass.com There are a wide array of filmmaking grants and fellowships available to filmmakers, from government grants to grants offered by nonprofit organizations, film festivals, and film institutes. Many film festivals offer Labs or talent-based programs, there are script competitions that award prizes to assist in the production of the film in the form of equipment or funds. The most common form of film grant is national government-backed schemes which are often funded by the national lottery of that country. For the UK it is the BFI (British Film Institute) which provides grants for the development, production and post-production stages of feature films and also offers a short-film fund with two application dates per year.
This can be bank loans with or without security, credit cards or other forms of debt. According to an article in The Guardian maxed-out credit cards fund most films [in the US] (Morgenstern, 2017) and although Elliot grove states shooting on plastic as one of his 10 routes to finance your film, and even now famous filmmaker's such as Kevin Smith have stories of charging their debut films to credit cards, I feel that this is not a route I wish to take as I have already been down that route when I funded my band’s album with a private bank loan that I am still paying off today.
This is where you convince a distributor in another country or territory to purchase your film before it is made. (E. Grove 2013:361), as with equity investments, this route is more common for feature films, and although it has been done for some short films, they have usually been by big-name directors or in combination with a larger scale project such as the promo shorts created in connection with Blade Runner 2049.
Some governments offer tax credits or rebates when you shoot some or all of your film in their country. You can also deduct VAT in some cases on purchases made in connection with the project if you have a company that is VAT registered. There are forms of investments that can be made to utilise these tax incentives called SEIS and EIS, but are currently being made less accessible in the UK - for filmmaker's A single company related to film will probably not qualify if the EIS investment is largely for the production of a film (i.e. a project basis) or a slate of films. The company may potentially qualify if the investment is used not on film projects, but for the hiring of permanent staff (such as accountants, admin assistants etc) and for the growth of the company in its own right, unrelated to specific films and overheads (e.g., office rent and other admin fees) (V.Carson 2021) - and are therefore not something I have chosen to research much further.
Deferrals / In-Kind / Sponsorships
I have chosen to group these three headings as they are similar in nature. According to Elliot Grove and Maureen Ryan, deferrals are when a cast or crew member opts to get paid at a later date, usually after the film makes a profit, which could potentially be never. In-Kind is when a person or company donates their time, equipment, product or location to the project and Sponsorships are when you receive either money or product from a company in return for having their brand or logo in promotional materials, in the film through product placement, and/or in the end credits.
Based on my research into each funding method and the nature of my project being a short student film, I have chosen to focus on:
Deferrals, In-Kind & Sponsorships
Because I have never applied for funds through any government-backed scheme before, I spent a lot of my time researching what options were available and what the criteria were. One of the first places I was advised to look was of course the BFI and their Short Film Fund, as well as the London Arts Council.
The LAC told me that they do not fund film projects but that I could apply with the art project that I am creating in conjunction with the film - a comic version of the film rather than a typical storyboard, that can also be used as a reward in the crowdfunding campaign (LO2).
The BFI Short Film Fund allows a filmmaker resident in the United Kingdom, to apply for funding of a film up to 15 minutes in length. The materials required within the application, as stated in the BFI Short Film Fund Guidelines are:
Equality Monitoring Form
Your story idea
A statement from your director
The practical elements of producing the film
CV summaries for your writer, producer and director
How your project responds to the BFI Diversity Standards, e.g. how it addresses industry under-representation in relation to disability, gender, race, age, sexual orientation and/or socioeconomic status.
Financial plan stating the amount of funding you are seeking from the BFI, alongside the total cost of producing it.
I started this module at the beginning of May and quickly discovered that the deadline for the BFI Short Film Fund application was on June 7th. This gave me just under four weeks to gather the information and materials I needed to complete my application for The Gig.
I began working on putting together the materials required on the BFI online application portal which was straightforward and self-explanatory. Each step had clear guidelines on what to include and how they wanted it formatted and they even allowed you to upload videos instead of written statements which we filmed with me as Producer/Director, Rhys as Screenwriter, as well as my Assistant Director, Production Designer, DOP and Junior Producer. However, I soon realised that the depth of information provided by previously successful funded films was far more considered than I was able to provide at that time and within the deadline. Although I had a clear vision for the film and the story I want to tell, we were (and still are) in the process of polishing the script and getting feedback on how we can improve the clarity of that vision.
Prior to thinking about funding, I had taken the project to Dr. Rebekah Louisa Smith, aka The Film Festival Doctor, with regards to a distribution and festival strategy (Appendix 8). She offered to read the script and provided incredible feedback (Appendix 9). She was able to highlight the main crisis of the film and the lack of backstory to justify some of the character choices - which we have since implemented (Appendix 10) - but we did not have time to implement these recommendations before the BFI deadline.
Another issue I faced was with the budget and the amount of detail the BFI wanted to be included. They do state that you can use estimates if necessary, but to estimate some things you still need a certain level of understanding of the scope and scale of the project, crew and schedule (another deliverable that we later found out was required, and not stated within the main BFI guideline page).
With the deadline fast approaching, and my team having internal issues and changes, I felt that a rushed job with little preparation and thought would ultimately hurt our chances of being awarded any funding, so I decided to postpone the application until their next application period which is the 30th August - 1st October 2021. This is a much more realistic deadline, giving me and my team sufficient time to properly prepare and put together our application materials which I have learned require much more planning and time than I had previously anticipated.
My original plan was to film The Gig in London. However, during the time spent on our BFI application I realised I could look into the possibility of shooting The Gig in other countries. The film’s current team members have diverse backgrounds and I also have connections to cast, crew and potential equipment and funding from other local bodies similar to the BFI in several other countries.
Stockholm was an obvious starting point and the SFI (Swedish Film Institute) has very similar guidelines to the BFI. The application can even be in English meaning we wouldn’t even need to create new materials and could just make minor adjustments to our BFI application. Sweden is a very culture and arts-friendly nation and also offers local regional funding. So, because I have my production company registered in Stockholm, I am also able to apply for the Film Stockholm ‘emerging talent fund’.
My previous film projects made in Sweden were all self-funded by myself and collaborators, so I would be classed as a first-time applicant to the funds. Due to my previous film and acting work in Sweden, I also have a fairly vast network of people that I reached out to discuss the project and their potential interest in coming on board as crew members. Through this outreach, I was able to secure a DOP, Gaffer and Sound-Technician that I have previously worked with and who are all highly regarded in the Swedish film and television industry. I also spoke to fellow independent filmmaker's Linnea Pihl and Jeanette Espedal about their recent short film projects. Both of their films were made for modest budgets of around £3k-£4k and utilised in-kind labour, locations and equipment.
For my most successful film, Rotten Love, we were able to get equipment sponsored by UnCut-Ung Film Produktion, a government-funded organisation that helps young filmmakers. I reached out to them but found out that they have had their funding cut and are no longer active. They did give me some other suggestions however, such as the Stockholms School of Culture and Stockholm Film School, stating that some of their previous filmmaker alumni had been able to get support from them. I have since sent emails but have yet to receive any reply from either of these institutions.
I was however able to secure my number one location choice, Klubben Fryshuset, a concert venue where my band played our first major show and also recorded our 5-year anniversary concert DVD. The venue has the perfect layout and is the one I had in mind when creating the story for the script. It will also provide high production value which is in line with my goals for this project.
Due to the number of days we would require for filming we had to work around their event schedule, but were able to get six days in succession in early January, right after the New Year. Based on these dates I began confirming availability with the crew and also reached out to my god-father who runs a corporate travel agency, Travel2 AB, to discuss putting together a price package for travel and accommodation for my UK cast and crew. With this new information I was able to put together a shooting schedule and an initial budget using the guidelines and templates provided by the BFI application (appendix 4).
Based on the cost of travel and accommodation, as well as the increased cost of equipment hire due to my old collaborators no longer being able to assist me, I decided to continue working on finding other creative solutions to minimise my costs and maximise my production value.
Prague in the Czech Republic was next on my list based on my continued collaboration with Prague Film School since my graduation from their acting for film program in 2018. I started by contacting the director of the school, Tariq Hager, with whom I have a close relationship and pitched him my film, asking if the school would be willing to help in any way. He told me that due to the pandemic, the school was now focused on maximising student outreach and practical lesson time, meaning that their resources would not be available until the Summer of 2022. He did say that should I choose to shoot in Prague at that time, that I would be able to use the schools’ Arri Alexa with Prime Lenses, their studios, other equipment plus have access to their props and any other help that they could provide. The use of this calibre equipment for free is of course of huge interest to any filmmaker, but as my goal is to deliver my final film as my MA grad project in May ‘22, the availability of the offer would be too late.
Although I would not be able to get the support of Prague Film School within the time frame I need, I still decided to reach out to producer Steve Reverand of The Lab Productions in Prague to discuss his experiences producing in the Czech Republic (Appendix 7). Steve told me about the Czech Film Fund and what their application process is, which is a totally different and far more complicated process than either the British or Swedish equivalents. According to Steve, the Czech Republic has a fixed amount of money each year that they can award to filmmakers in any amount of the choosing of the board of the film commission. This means that, if the commissioners choose to award the full amount to one filmmaker they can, or they can split it up into any size they wish. But, once the pot of money is gone, anyone further down the list gets no money, even if they qualify for funding. The application must also be in Czech, even if the film is in English, meaning that you will incur charges for translating your script and pitch if you are unable to do so yourself. Steve told me that due to corruption and the nepotism within the Czech film industry, it is very hard to get funding, especially as an outsider attempting to make a Czech co-production unless you have a big name attached to the project and the project benefits Czech culture in some way. He used a film titled Commander, about the Czech general Jan Zizka, starring Michael Cain, as an example. This project has received a large amount of funding, has gone over budget, and is yet to be completed. He also told me about the Berlinale Short Form Station talent program.
Berlin was another option I considered since my girlfriend, who is helping me produce The Gig, is German and we have friends and a flat there. This would make production a sort of working holiday and give us an opportunity to grow our network in her home country. The Berlinale Short Form Station is a talent program (similar to the one in Stockholm), where they invite ten participants to share their short-form projects with a line-up of internationally acclaimed script consultants and storytelling experts. In a tailored combination of group work and one-on-one sessions, each project is dissected, discussed and developed, culminating in a public presentation under the keen eyes of industry players. To apply, you must first be accepted to the BerlinaleTalents as a director.So, I have put in my director’s application and await the deadline in September.
Because my acting agent is based in Berlin, I reached out to her for advice and recommendations. Sadly she was unable to help me and provided no further assistance. I also have an assistant who helps me with administrative tasks. She is also based in Berlin, and due to her research and admin skills, has now come on board as my Assistant Producer. She helped me look into the German Federal Film Fund and other financing options available locally, including a regional fund that she has applied for on our behalf.
London was my first choice purely based on the fact that it is where I am currently based. The reason I decided to look into the possibility of filming somewhere else is that I moved here in 2019, just before the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns happened. My network in the UK is very small and, due to the pandemic, I was unable to attend the workshops and classes I had planned in order to grow that list of contacts.
My initial solution to this problem was to use my girlfriend’s network on her Practical Filmmaking course at MetFilm School. I started by hiring the DOP and a production designer from her short film debut, as well as a junior producer from a dance/musical which she had choreographed. These were the crew members with which I filmed the initial crowdfunding pitch videos and BFI application statements, and they were all eager and willing to learn and be part of the project. However, I discovered that they lacked the level of experience I require for the quality I am aiming for with my project, and are also very busy with multiple projects and assignments connected to their school work. This caused a conflict of interest and I found myself right back where I started
When I first started working on the script with my writer, Rhys, I began researching potential locations that I wanted to film in. Because I envisioned creating a one-shot style film, I wanted to find a theatre or music venue that had a backstage area with corridors leading to the stage so that I could capture the main parts of the story in real-time and on one set. I was able to find The Clapham Grand on a location’s website and felt that its Victorian style interior would add production value beyond that which an art director could create in a studio. I gave the details to my junior producer, Keefer, to get in contact with them. I asked him to book a scout but, after several follow-ups, he told me that he was unable to get hold of anyone at the venue. I then asked him to research other similar venues in and around London and also suggested he contact The Questors Theatre in London - a venue I know has a collaboration withMetFilm School. After several weeks of my JP telling me he was frantically emailing and calling several venues, I asked Johanna, who is my first AD, to see if she might have better luck with venues. After just a few hours she forwarded several emails with confirmations of times and dates to tour the venues on my list.
After viewing the Questors Theatre and receiving a price quote from them I decided to book that venue and shoot the film here in London. This decision solidified our shooting dates and created a solid foundation for creating our actualised budget (Appendix 5). This made the project more tangible and real in my mind, taking a rather large weight off my chest and giving me a wave of new energy.
After settling on a location, I tasked Rhys with a rewrite of the script (Appendix 10) using ideas I came up with following feedback from Rebakah (Appendix 9). These rewrites included adding expository flashbacks that solidify and justify the actions of the protagonist during the night of The Gig but also require the addition of three new locations to the schedule and budget.
The Questors Theatre, Ealing - London
For the new scenes, we required a bar, a music/record store and a music rehearsal room. Initially, I thought that we could use the rehearsal room at Pirate Studios that I use for my band when we practice. They have the equipment and look the part. However, I quickly came to realise that filming there would be more hassle as the rooms are in a building with many other rooms filled with bands playing at all hours of the day. Plus, you can only book a room for one three hour slot per day. The solution was to use one of the rooms at MetFilm School where we have our production meetings, and dress it to look like the band’s private rehearsal space.Because Johanna is doing her BA at the School, we are able to borrow the room and lighting equipment for free, saving both money and time which might otherwise be needed to transport kit . MetFilm School has also said we can continue to use their rooms for rehearsals, as well as any equipment they have available at the time as long as it isn’t being used by their in-house student productions.
For the bar, I thought to ask our contact Lizzie, at Questors. as they have a bar attached called the GrapeVine. She was kind enough to let me come and have a look at it and provided me with a quote for costs and match availability of the bar venue with our shooting dates at the main theatre venue. As luck would have it, the bar fit my vision perfectly having the one thing I needed it to - a behind the bar mirror. Additionally, the colour of the walls just happened to fit the colour scheme designed by my graphic designer, Emma.
The Grapevine Bar, Ealing - London
Lizzie also told us that members of The Questors Theatre receive a 30% discount when booking their venues. The total venue hire we were quoted was £2800 + VAT for six days in the main theatre, plus £800 + VAT for a nine hour day shoot at the bar totalling £3600 + VAT. The 30% discount would equal £1080, minus the membership fee, a total saving of £1015. We also negotiated the rights to stay in the bar after the shoot for our wrap party, and use the stage in the theatre to host a private concert. We will be promoting this concert as our primary reward in our crowdfunding campaign (LO2).
Having decided on Questors and The Grapevine as our primary shooting locations, as well as MetFilm School for the band rehearsal location, it made sense to try and find our final location somewhere in Ealing, close to the others. I delegated the task of researching potential music and record stores to Johanna as she had been so successful in procuring the other locations. She was able to suggest three stores that fit my brief and we chose the Oxfam Music & Audio store across the road from MetFilm School who agreed to let us film there on a Sunday when they are closed in return for a charitable donation to Oxfam. I also suggested that we film a promotional video and add their logos to our social media, website, pitch deck, crowdfunding campaign and at the end of the film in the credits.
Oxfam Music and Audio, Ealing - London
With dates and fixed price quotes I was able to create a shooting schedule (Appendix 6) and budget (Appendix 5) following the guidelines provided by the BFI, which I will use in both our application and to properly plan our crowdfunding campaign (LO2).
Learning and Reflection
As I researched the various forms of funding it became clear to me that there are not as many viable options for student filmmakers or creators of short form projects, as there are for feature films with a more commercial market. I discovered that the primary forms of funding available for independent short films involve 1) working with deferrals and in-kind funding from collaborators who believe in you and your project, and who see another form of return, beyond financial gain, or 2) self-financing - either through spending earned or saved income or through private loans and credit cards - which is a route I do not wish to take again having debt that I am still paying off for a previous project. While I will consider putting up some of my own money in the form of a percentage I can put aside from working if it means I am able to make my film, I would prefer not to need to risk any of my own money. Therefore, crowdfunding (as outlined in the next learning outcome) seems to be the best option for this project as it offers more control and a higher likelihood of e success, compared with time consuming grant applications, which are very competitive and therefore have a relatively low risk/reward potential.
I started this module with little to no knowledge on what forms of funding are available to short films by student filmmakers and now feel confident that I have a deeper understanding of how to raise funds for The Gig and future film projects.
I do, of course, plan on applying to the BFI Short Film Fund. However, I am not confident this will come to much. Instead, I believe that The Gig will be made through donated in-kind labour from my cast and crew, equipment and space from MetFilm School and perhaps some sponsors from music brands in the form of musical equipment which my manager Omer (a record label owner of 20 years) is currently working on for me. I am far more confident our crowdfunding campaign will become our primary source of financing based on my findings during this module. .
The act of looking into alternative filming locations, discovering what would be available to me in various countries in the form of funding, equipment, cast and crew, and seeing the actualised costs written into a budget, enabled me to compare costs and reach a decision to stay local. It became clear that this would minimise the cost of logistics. From now on, I will begin each new project by mapping out an outline of costs to determine viability and whether it is worth pursuing in the long run or not.
Learning Outcome 2 - Crowdfunding Campaign
How can I build a crowdfunding campaign that communicates my vision, builds a fanbase and attracts contributors to my project?
Research and Methodology
Research various crowdfunding platforms: Kickstarter, GoFundMe, IndieGoGo & GreenLit
Read Core Texts (Bibliography)
Regular tutorials with my academic advisor and industry mentor
Workshop: CineCircle - The Complete Crowdfunding Formula
Workshop: Raindance - Creating a Film Business Plan
Interview Justin Giddings www.thekickstarterguy.com
Interview Tom Brumpton: Polymath PR www.polymath-pr.com
Interview Dr Rebekah Louisa Smith: https://www.thefilmfestivaldoctor.com/
Interview Grace O’Keefe: https://greenlit.com/
Speak to Lizzie Worsdell about her successful campaign for The Carer
Speak to Tam Paul-Worika about his successful campaign for Silverback
Create social media pages for The Gig: Facebook Page, Instagram, Twitter (Other?)
Create IMDb Page for The Gig
Create and set up a crowdfunding campaign on the chosen platform (Appendix 12)
Plan and Shoot pitch videos for the campaign
Prepare pre-campaign and reach out to friends, family and industry blogs to create a buzz around the launch of the campaign
Analysis, Problem Solving and Application
When researching crowdfunding platforms I started with the ones I knew myself from either my own previous campaigns, or those of friends. These platforms were; Kickstarter which, according to Stephen Follows is the most commonly used crowdfunding site [and] it is the one people often use as shorthand: in the same way that to ‘Google’ something means to search for it, to ‘run a kickstarter’ is synonymous with running a crowdfunding campaign (2018:27) and, is the platform I used to fund my feature film ‘ Sargad’ in 2016, GoFundMe which according to their website is the best place to fundraise, whether you are an individual, group, or organization and can be used to raise funds for Medical, Emergency, Memorial, Education, Nonprofit and Coronavirus fundraising, and IndieGoGo which was founded in 2008, a year prior to Kickstarter and was the first big crowdfunding site stating film as one of their major categories (Follows 2018:30). These three platforms were also referenced in all of my core texts as major players in the crowdfunding arena.
My first step was to go on to each of the platforms' websites to see what type of projects they hosted and what resources and tools they have available to campaign creators.
Kickstarter has a dedicated Creator Resources page where they offer information and advice for creators interested in running a Kickstarter project. They begin by stating why you should choose their platform and how they help creators to achieve their goals. As you scroll through the page you are met with links to various resources and articles to help with the set-up and running of your campaign. One such resource is the Creator Handbook, which according to the site is a guide [that] will walk you through everything from planning your shipping to communicating with backers containing the following subheadings: Getting Started, Funding, Fulfillment, Telling Your Story, promotion, Further Reading, Building Rewards and Communicating With backers.
On their Why Kickstarter? page they state that they are a platform proud to be solely for creative projects that uses a 100% all-or-nothing model that won’t leave you with too little money to complete your project. They also provide the statistics that More than 17 million people have pledged more than $4 billion to bring Kickstarter projects to life since 2009 and boast that they measure [their] success as a company by how well [they] achieve [their] mission to bring creative projects to life—not by the size of [their] profits.
I had planned to speak with Justin Giddings, aka thekickstarterguy for this paper, as I had attended one of his workshops and spoken with him before. However, he was unable to find a suitable time due to his schedule and the time difference. I was however able to watch a recording of a webinar he had hosted on his facebook page.
GoFundMe also has a Why GoFundMe page where they claim that GoFundMe is the #1 and most trusted leader in online fundraising. In comparison to Kickstarter, GoFundMe is more focused on portraying an image of trustworthiness rather than the type of projects that use their platform. They discuss What sets GoFundMe apart by highlighting their Trust & Safety team and stating that they offer the industry’s first and only donor protection guarantee. Their site also offers tools for creators, including a mobile app and team fundraising and their Help Center offers links to articles with information on how to navigate their system and the tools they provide.
IndieGoGo has a dedicated link for Evaluating Indiegogo vs. Kickstarter where they discuss the issue of choosing the right crowdfunding for you and your project. On this page they claim to be the leading crowdfunding platform for tech products, as well as the only full-lifecycle platform for art projects, social impact campaigns, and environmental innovation projects. And offer the following three reasons to choose Indiegogo: expert support and exclusive partnerships to boost your campaign, pre- and post- campaign tools and the freedom to raise funding for anything and from anywhere.
In her book The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing Concepts Carole Lee Dean mentions that her company FromTheHeart Productions (FTH) have a partnership with IndieGoGo (IGG) meaning that if you use FTH as your fiscal sponsor on your project, donors of your IGG campaign can write off their contribution as a charitable donation on their tax return which provides an additional incentive and level of security to potential contributors.
GreenLit is a newer, UK based platform that joined the crowdfunding game in 2019. I found out about them following a recommendation from my industry mentor, Louise Salter, who told me to speak with fellow Raindance students Tam Paul-Worika and Lizzie Worsdell. Both had successful campaigns that they ran using the site. When GreenLit first came to the market they focused only on film projects, but have since begun to expand to offer other performance-based campaigns such as music and theatre focused projects.
The About Us page on the site focuses on their mission and core values as a company. They state clearly that they are not a tech-company and not “just” a crowdfunding platform, but rather a community of creatives dedicated to supporting others achieve their goals and to tell their stories. They sell themselves on putting creativity at the forefront of their work and push the fact that they have personal help throughout the entire process, guiding you from idea, to pitch to final result and even after the completed campaign. On the Why Greenlit? Page they echo their focus on being dedicated to creative projects and boast a 100% funding-to-target rate, and end by stating that the part of their business that they are most proud of is the level of talent within their stable of successful collaborators.
GreenLit offers a non-binding consultation which I chose to take advantage of. Speaking with Grace O’Keefe (Appendix 11), I was able to ask more detailed questions about what sets them apart from the other more established platforms. Grace told me that although they are much smaller and primarily based in the UK, their success rate is much higher than their competitors. She believes that this is due to the personal approach that GreenLit has where they work closely together with the campaign creators, are able to create a more bespoke campaign, and make personal adjustments to suit each project's needs.
Based on my consultation with Grace and the recommendations from Tam and Lizzie I decided that GreenLit would become home to our campaign for The Gig.
From the books and articles I read about the art of crowdfunding, as well as attending an online workshop by CineCircle I began to put together a list of the materials needed for the campaign.
It is first necessary to determine your campaign goal, ‘how much money are you looking to raise?’ Stephen Follows says in his book How to Crowdfund a Film that one of the most important things when planning your campaign is the budget. Just as the budget is vital when applying for grants and other sources of financing, having a clear budget is vital to ensure you raise enough money with your crowdfunding campaign and can justify to your potential backers why and how you will allocate the money you raise. Based on our latest budget (Appendix 6), we will need about £15kto get the film in-the-can. Accounting for the fees that GreenLit will take, we would need to raise at least £16,042.78. So, we set a goal of £17.5k as a nice round number, guaranteeing that we will have enough money to cover our production costs as well as the costs required to deliver any physical rewards if we meet our target
The Gig - Budget Allocation Chart
The next step was to determine when our campaign would start running and how long for. My initial plan was to set it up during July, get feedback, and then run the campaign in August. However I quickly noticed that to create the quality of materials I wanted in order to tell my story and sell my vision was taking far longer than I initially anticipated. That, along with not having my cast and crew finalised, still looking for locations, and putting together the budget, meant I was unable to hit my first deadline. Following a second consultation with Grace, I found out that GreenLit offers a soft launch period where you can test run your campaign using an unlisted link that you can send to friends and family and use to get feedback and make adjustments in order to polish and improve your campaign offering. Based on this new information I decided to focus on building my audience around the project first, while putting together the materials needed for the BFI application. Then I could use those materials as a base on which I could build my campaign.
To build my audience, I decided to create pages for The Gig on all the major social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a YouTube Channel, a LinkedIn business page and an IMDb page, as well as a homepage on my production company website where my team and I can keep everything collected and post updates on (https://www.cupriteproductions.com/the-gig-film). Following the advice given to me by my concept artist Kseniia, we also created a TikTok and Tumblr for The Gig as they are apparently great for artistic and visual content. I made sure to use the same name @TheGigFilm for all of the profiles and my graphic designer Emma created a logo and header/profile images for each platform's format to make everything align thematically across the board.
Graphics created by Emma Vukman 2021
Once the various sites were created, my team and I began inviting our friends and family to follow and support the project and I began planning regular updates that could be posted together with my art department. Kseniia has continued to create concept artwork that I am able to use to tell the story in a visual way.
The Gig Concept Art by Kseniia Osetrova 2021
Emma created more graphics for me that I can use to introduce the team and Stephanie created two graphics which we have used as ads to try and find a cinematographer and editors to help us create promo videos for our crowdfunding campaign and social media.
Graphics designed by Emma Vukman
Graphics designed by Stephanie Russ
As we continued to build our audience through social media and word of mouth, I started to design the campaign on Greenlit (Appendix 12) by referencing two successful campaigns who had both managed to raise similar amounts to our goal; The Mourning Bird who managed to raise £15,056 of their £14,000 goal (https://greenlit.com/project/mourning-bird) and Silverback who raised £13,342 of their £12,000 goal (https://greenlit.com/project/silverback).
I began by creating a header page containing our film's title, short description and image.
Header for The Gig crowdfunding campaign - https://greenlit.com/project/thegigfilm
I added the headings from my pitch deck that were in line with the information used by the successful campaigns I was referencing. I then created my first rewards, which I decided to offer as digital downloads following advice given by Julia Verdin. This approach keeps delivery simple and cheap. I also created rewards inviting contributors to our wrap party, where I plan to host a Q&A and where my band, Our Untold Story, will perform a live concert on the stage where we will be filming.
Learning and Reflection
The main point that I take away from working on this crowdfunding campaign is that it takes a lot more time, energy and planning than I had originally anticipated and planned for. Also looking at more successful campaigns and drawing inspiration from them is a useful way to understand the elements needed to build your own campaign. However, I have learned through building the campaign and supporting social media materials that I am able to use the campaign as “pre-marketing” which will hopefully reduce my overall marketing costs once the film is done due to the audience we are building already now.
What I would like to add are individual videos highlighting each team member and showing just how much work and manpower it actually takes to make even a 15-minute short film. I plan to shoot these vignettes next month using B-roll of each person working within their role on the film, intercut with interviews of them discussing their previous experience, current role, future goals and how this project will help them to achieve them.
As I was unable to launch my campaign during the timeframe of this module, I will instead use the coming weeks to gather and implement any feedback that I get based on this report. This should help improve the campaign as much as possible. I can then launch it, in parallel to the first part of my Masters Module, when I plan to work on casting and rehearsals. I believe that this may, in fact, be beneficial to the project. As Lizzie, Tam and Grace have all mentioned, having more people on board, able and willing to reach out to more people with the campaign, will always help in the long run. I also plan on filming the rehearsals and can perhaps use that material within the campaign and social media posts to update our audience and bring them along on the journey of pre-production for the film. This may make more people inclined to contribute to the project.
Because we are filming between the 16-24th January 2022, we must have the budget in place by December 2021 at the latest. To meet this deadline, the campaign must go live by November 1st at the very latest. My current plan is to have our soft launch in September, with the intention to launch fully in October. This gives us a one-month contingency buffer should any more unexpected issues arise. To pay for the locations and feed my cast and crew for the seven days of shooting required, we must raise a minimum of £10k.
There are many ways to finance a film, but there seems to be a reason why crowdfunding is so very popular. It is very easy to set up and manage yourself, or within a small team and can be customised to suit your individual project’s needs. It does however take a lot of time, which I believe is worth the investment in the long term due to the potential buzz you can create while building an audience who not only should be interested in your current project but who may support you in future projects as well.
If you are able to get funding from grants then this is a fantastic option for independent filmmakers. Additionally, grants can deliver a large chunk of funding and support at the same time. However, this type of funding is not as easy to get and the application process is very time consuming as well as time-sensitive.
I discovered that there are many film labs and talent programs organised by festivals and film schools around the world. This is something that I aim to explore further and plan on applying to more of them over the next few years.
I had planned on looking deeper into sponsorships from companies that provide film equipment (Arri and Zeiss), rental houses, and music companies (Fender, Gibson and Marshall), but found my time quickly running out. I needed to focus on fewer solutions in more detail l rather than get caught up in a broad set of potential and end up with no results. Once I have a new version of my pitch deck, and the crowdfunding campaign is up and running, with interest and funds rolling in, I believe I will be able to leverage the potential buzz created at that stage to more efficiently and effectively reach out and entice potential sponsors.
I am excited to see if I am able to raise the funds that I need. I am also happy to have been able to find ways of decreasing my initial budget proposal to an amount that, if necessary, I would potentially be able to cover with savings from my earned income.
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