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How do I get funding?


Adam Orton
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Small 1M-2M indies, very very tough.

It's a dead market here in the states. Not enough money for A list cast, too much money for an ultra-low.

 

Ya either make a sub $500k movie, or a $20M+ movie.. everything in between doesn't seem to exist.

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Assuming that hasn't changed since five or six years ago, it is mainly set up to encourage big productions to come out of London and is not in any sense intended to foster any sort of ground-up work generation.

 

The difficult part involves getting first money and a suitable name actor without having any funding in place, but they're needed to get the funding..

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The difficult part involves getting first money and a suitable name actor without having any funding in place, but they're needed to get the funding..

 

Hiring bankable actors is a whole different course. You haven't lived until you've dealt with the Hollywood agents!

 

R,

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Assuming that hasn't changed since five or six years ago, it is mainly set up to encourage big productions to come out of London and is not in any sense intended to foster any sort of ground-up work generation.

 

Hey.....you don't have time for this forum, is that article published????????? :)

 

R,

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It's a dead market here in the states. Not enough money for A list cast, too much money for an ultra-low.

 

Ya either make a sub $500k movie, or a $20M+ movie.. everything in between doesn't seem to exist.

 

That's where Canada has an advantage, if one has 500K in equity, topping that up with bankable tax credits to 1M, would be quite easy.

 

In fact, on one project I took a 600K distribution advance and brought it up to a budget of 1.6M. The extra 1M all public funds.

 

R,

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Most of the credits available here in the United States are tax-rebate based. For example, if you shoot a film with a budget at least $300,000.00 - you get a refundable 35% tax credit from the State of Ohio, which is where my production company is based. Effectively, this means you get 35% of everything you spend IN THE STATE back, which can effectively be like getting 35% of your budget covered by the state, but then you have to spend it all in the state. This 35% tax rebate is why a lot of productions have been shooting in Ohio recently. Taking advantage of this is hard though unless you have the money to throw around up front, and as such, I think this was mainly implemented to draw big-budget productions into the state, with no regard given for smaller productions. In fact, the production I'm developing right now is budgeted to take advantage of this tax credit.

 

I'm not aware of any government programs that provide upfront funding for feature films or other such projects. Almost makes me want to move 4 hours north...

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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That's where Canada has an advantage, if one has 500K in equity, topping that up with bankable tax credits to 1M, would be quite easy.

 

In fact, on one project I took a 600K distribution advance and brought it up to a budget of 1.6M. The extra 1M all public funds.

Yep, exactly. America doesn't need a program like that, we don't care about the arts, or national parks for that matter. :P

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It's a dead market here in the states. Not enough money for A list cast, too much money for an ultra-low.

 

Ya either make a sub $500k movie, or a $20M+ movie.. everything in between doesn't seem to exist.

 

 

I find this very encouraging as I'm solidly in that "sub $500k" group!!!

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Care to shed details on that?

 

Would be quite a long post indeed. It's why when I read on this forum about first time, inexperienced, filmmakers bringing name talent to their projects I kinda laugh. They have no idea what they're in for. If they can even get the agent on the phone or get him to respond to an email, that would be an achievement.

 

R,

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Most of the credits available here in the United States are tax-rebate based. For example, if you shoot a film with a budget at least $300,000.00 - you get a refundable 35% tax credit from the State of Ohio,

 

Now does Ohio use a cash refund system that a bank will cash flow? Or does it use one of those zany systems where you have to sell your tax credit, at a discount, to a corp that owes taxes so that corp can lower their taxes.

 

That has to be the nuttiest system I have ever heard of. Georgia uses that system, and there are brokers who do nothing but sell film tax credits, crazy.

 

In Canada it's a cash rebate, that a bank will cash flow. South Africa also has an excellent and very stable film rebate program that is also a cash refund. Ideal for a small project if they are an international treaty co-production. Problem for Americans....the USA is not a co pro nation with any country. Meanwhile Canada has signed about 50 co-pro treaties.

 

R,

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I'm not aware of any government programs that provide upfront funding for feature films or other such projects. Almost makes me want to move 4 hours north...

 

Problem is that 100% of the grant/equity programs in Canada are for Canadian citizens only. Anyone can access the tax credit system though.

 

R,

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It's a dead market here in the states. Not enough money for A list cast, too much money for an ultra-low.

 

Ya either make a sub $500k movie, or a $20M+ movie.. everything in between doesn't seem to exist.

The Hero is a good recent example of a small indie arthouse with a great cast that actually got into multiplexes. It happens. Just extremely rare these days. Bretts first film though "I'll See You in My Dreams" was definitely in that ultra low budget category. But it did pretty well, clearing close to 8 million. Which helped his credibility but still didn't really guarantee funding for The Hero. He had to hustle and they shot it in 18 days.

Edited by Michael LaVoie
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Now does Ohio use a cash refund system that a bank will cash flow? Or does it use one of those zany systems where you have to sell your tax credit, at a discount, to a corp that owes taxes so that corp can lower their taxes.

 

That has to be the nuttiest system I have ever heard of. Georgia uses that system, and there are brokers who do nothing but sell film tax credits, crazy.

 

In Canada it's a cash rebate, that a bank will cash flow. South Africa also has an excellent and very stable film rebate program that is also a cash refund. Ideal for a small project if they are an international treaty co-production. Problem for Americans....the USA is not a co pro nation with any country. Meanwhile Canada has signed about 50 co-pro treaties.

 

R,

 

The Ohio system is one of the better ones available here in the States, and has one of the highest rebates. It's fully refundable or transferable. It also covers pretty much all expenses as long as they are spent inside the state. I'm certainly no tax expert, but my understanding is that its issued as a tax rebate at the end of the year. While there is an application process, it's easier to qualify for than, say, the California tax rebate, which requires you enter into a lottery. The Georgia rebate systems seems rather lackluster to me, and I'm shocked at times why their industry has flourished so much. I think having Tyler Perry (and his studio) based there has been a major push.

 

I'm actually shocked more productions don't shoot in Ohio, to take advantage of the fairly generous credit system and overall cheaper production costs. I mean, for a big budget film, 30% refundable could be fairly sizable - though there is a $40 million cap. We're getting better though, just a couple weeks ago I got to actually hang around the set of reprisal (thanks to a local industry friend who was working on the film), which was neat to see a big budget flick in action. A few months ago or so I got to meet James Franco while he was here shooting The Long Home, which was neat. I guess that proof that the Ohio industry is still fairly strong. Myself and several others who are fairly vocal in the community have been pushing Butler county to take the film industry more seriously, and to advocate for better studio facilities here, which would certainly increase production. I think if we had a real, fully-fledged studio here, that would be the best thing for the areas film industry.

 

I'm not aware if any banks will provide cash upfront in a loan type fashion for these credits. For the current project I'm working on, I was able to find a gentleman through a mutual friend who is willing to make us a 30% loan of our budget for 3.5% interest, but only if we can raise the other 60% up front to meet the minimum $300k spend. So I suppose that is similar to the bank option you mention, just without the bank. It's tough to get banks to do anything film-related here, at least from my understanding.

 

I have been trying to get my current project off the ground for 2 years. Keep truckin' on as they say.

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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I have been trying to get my current project off the ground for 2 years. Keep truckin' on as they say.

 

Or....ditch it, write a 180 million dollar movie, and move to LA. :)

 

R,

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A lot of prospective directors usually manage to get noticed by producers through film festivals. Short films are usually the way to go, there have been some filmmakers who make a short film version of their feature, and if it garners acclaim in festival circuits there will usually be some producer who will want to make the feature if the filmmaker shows promise. If you try to make a film without any credentials, then no one will take you seriously, because where's the talent? where's the commitment to the craft? Filmmaking is far too expensive, and even when a talented filmmaker is involved it still isn't enough to garner interest on a feature that will cost a million to make, and about 4 million dollars to market. So, your chances of making a feature on your own is pretty slim, unless you have a rich family like Lena Dunham. You just need some kind of legitimacy to begin with before you can flirt with the idea of making of feature.

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You just need some kind of legitimacy to begin with before you can flirt with the idea of making of feature.

 

Or..just go ahead and do it.

 

R,

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You just need some kind of legitimacy to begin with before you can flirt with the idea of making of feature.

 

Many filmmakers in history would argue against that point. Some of today's most predominate filmmakers are the ones who bit the bullet and produced their own feature films. Yes, having legitimacy will help you, but in today's brutal filmmaking society, I don't think a short film is going to get you there, at least not like it use to.

 

The reality of the situation is this: I think we are seeing a split in the film industry. Not too many years ago, the only real ways of success consisted of two paths: Get your film into theaters, or get your film/series on television. Okay, a direct-to-dvd deal could be a neat thing as well. Anything less wasn't successful. With the rise of the internet, and mobile-enabled environment, we are seeing new methods take off and launch success stories. No longer are the gates of distribution controlled by a few Hollywood executives. It's now possible for filmmakers to get their films onto many successful platforms without any need for the Hollywood system.

 

So ultimately, I'd stop worrying so much about impressing others with fancy short films, and worry more about getting a really good project going that has potential to launch your career. Trying to impress other people with a roster of short films simply isn't going to cut it any longer.

 

PS) I'm not decrying the short film format. It's a fine format for learning to art of filmmaking... I just don't see it as a calling card any longer.

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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Or..just go ahead and do it.

I do wish you'd stop saying things like that. It encourages people to follow the advice, people who lack your contacts and experience and frankly luck, who stand to lose a lot of money. I wouldn't mind so much except that the people who're most likely to get suckered into this utopian dream and lose everything are precisely those who can least afford it. Making movies, even very cheap, very bad movies with almost literally zero chance of ever seeing the light of day, is more than expensive enough to materially affect someone's life.

 

In any case, people do this all the time. You've never heard of them and neither have I, because they're sitting on someone's shelf, where they will indefinitely remain.

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Success is also in the eye of the beholder.... If you make a movie for $3,000 and it makes $5,000 - that is a success as well. The less expensive the movie, the less it needs to make to be a success. I think too many filmmakers are too focused on spending money, rather than making a good movie. Believe it or not, you don't need to rent a RED Epic and have Johnny Depp in your movie. Most 'filmmakers' spend WAY to much money on something that, more than likely, will remain a hobby. Hell, Hollywood could learn a thing or two from this advice...

 

Although, I will say this: A lot of filmmakers who get success actually TRIED for it. This is where Richard is right. Some people berates him for his 'luck', but that is how everyone is successful. If there was no luck, we could all follow Richard's advice word-for-word, and enjoy his same success. Luck, though, more times than not, is the result of blood, sweat, and tears. Yes, a great many movies are doomed to fail, but more than likely this is not because they are unlucky, it's because they are bad movies and/or have unmotivated and/or un-knowledgeable filmmakers behind them. Too many filmmakers approach filmmaking with no idea of the business end of filmmaking. They are artists first and foremost, and don't possess the skills needed to sell a movie. Is it any wonder these filmmakers fall the wayside with their little films sitting on the shelf of their bedroom?

 

Personally, I think we can all learn something from Richard here. Here is a guy who has successfully produced several multi-million dollar movies. Frankly, I respect him for that. Yes, I'm sure luck played a role, but then again it plays a role in everything we do in life. For that matter, why go to college for a career? You'll need luck to land that good job....

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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I do wish you'd stop saying things like that. It encourages people to follow the advice, people who lack your contacts and experience and frankly luck, who stand to lose a lot of money.

 

Even if you have all the contacts you can still lose a lot of money, the history of film is littered with people with all the top contacts and have still lost a lot of money and some have even gone bankrupt.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Saltzman

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The Hero is a good recent example of a small indie arthouse with a great cast that actually got into multiplexes. It happens. Just extremely rare these days. Bretts first film though "I'll See You in My Dreams" was definitely in that ultra low budget category. But it did pretty well, clearing close to 8 million. Which helped his credibility but still didn't really guarantee funding for The Hero. He had to hustle and they shot it in 18 days.

$500k, theatrically bound feature is TOTALLY DOABLE, but you've gotta be best friends with some top actors, have a phenomenal producer and get a distribution deal done before you even contemplate telling anyone it exists.

 

I mean production will be hell, people will be get paid poop, but a simple script and some great acting can turn it into a hit.

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Selling a $500,000 feature is totally doable, yes. Do not, however, expect it will receive any kind of theatrical distribution, let alone wide release. I can count on one hand how many times in the past 10 years a movie made for $500k or less got a wide theatrical release outside of a few selected markets. Hell, most direct to dvd films have budgets in the range of $1,000,000 or even more, and are often healmed by production veterans; even they don't get wide release in cinemas.

 

Yes, every once and a while someone will be in the right place, at the right time, with the right feature, and the correct know-how, to land such a deal. It's not common at all, though. So no, I wouldn't assume that a $500k movie, even with name talent attached, will get a wide theatrical release. The numbers prove that beyond a doubt.

 

Getting your $500k movie into a few select markets is certainly doable. However, I don't consider your film a theatrical success story if I have to drive 6 hours to Chicago, or 9 hours to NY to see it. While a limited theatrical release in a few markets is neat, it's not what I consider a real theatrical release as we tend to think of them.

 

The fact remains, that for a $1,000,000 or less feature, possibly even $2,000,000 or less, it's much more cost effective to go to streaming and DVD than try for a theatrical release across the nation. It can costs 10x the production cost to release a film into wide release. For many studios and distributors, $2,000,000 or less is fairly easy to recoup from DVD, streaming, and overseas sales deals - and without the added cost and risk of a cinema release. Yes, they might be willing to get it into a large market and pump some marketing dollars into one or two cities, just to get some clout for the film, but for most filmmakers that is as far as that is going.

Edited by Landon D. Parks
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