Friday, 23 February 2018

Fishing for FINANCING

A guy I met at a film seminar asked me what I thought was the most important thing about making a movie. I said, 'MONEY'. He thought that was so un-idealistic. By comparison getting a project commissioned was easy. Our editor at TEEMA, at the time, a division of the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE). Our commissioning had a limited budget. We got 15,000 euros and the series was 100'.  The  Swedish-division of YLE gave us another 15,000. That meant we had to chase down more money. We started with EU Media, the European Union media funding group. But when I checked the application, I thought, 'no way'. And went back to the EU Media Finnish rep. She said to think of it as an elephant that you bite off bit by bit. It was a nightmare that went on and on... We got the grant: 15,000 euros.

We tapped the Swedish Cultural Foundation and got 5,000 - a couple of the architects were Swedish-speaking Finns. The Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave us another 5,000. We got to use the YLE's archive film at no cost, but that meant they had 50% of the rights. I felt like a small-time Hollywood hustler. The upside was we made a lot of useful funding contacts. Almost the number one job of a producer. Especially at a small company.

A random, unrelated chart (for business credibility).

Every time we got a commission it was the same routine. When Esa-Pekka Salonen agreed to let us make a doc about him I knew we would need a bundle. We filled out the 100-page application for EU Media funding and they turned us down. But they liked the subject and suggested we try again, with an entirely new concept. I let out a loud groan. But decided to have a go. The second time we got 15,000. I know, I know this money business is boring. But even big-time stars, for instance, Orson Welles, spend a lot of time trying to nail down financing. Sometimes it takes years to get a project off the ground. Small doc makers, especially, get burnt out after a while. They know the routine. And it ain't so much fun the nth time around. But making movies, videos, etc, can be addictive. And you have a Brilliant Idea... And...well you know the rest.

  1. PORTFOLIO. .Even for the smallest project make a portfolio. It shows you've thought the project from start to finish. It should have a synopsis (one page). A treatment (one page).A budget (one page). A team list with short bios (one page). If you don't have a project commissioned, try to get 'letters of Interest' from people who have expressed a serious interest. 
  2. CONTACTS. Send hand-written 'Thank up' notes to donors you have met in person (this sounds so last century, but it makes an impression).'Thank you' emails t online contacts. Write cheerful upbeat responses to 'rejections'. You might pitch another project to them later. 
  3. ACCOUNTABILITY. Set up a separate bank account for each project. Transparency is essential and often required. 
  4. UNANTICIPATED EXPENSES. Stuff happens. Add 7% to the budget...
  5.  IT'S A WRAP. Wait till the project is completed and delivered to break out the champagne. 

Sources: Personal experience. Film seminars, commissioning editors

Next week: HYPOCHONDRIACS UNITE: WE have nothing to fear but AI and the WEB

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