How to fund a Short Film when you are Broke

Raising funds for your short film is a challenge if you have no idea how to go about it. For a newbie, funding your first short film always looks next to impossible. But, don’t deter, It may seem complicated, but with some smart approaches, it is not very hard to crack. All you have to do is to get your processes in place and acquire enough grit to hustle it out.

So, How to Fund a Short Film? You can raise funds from short film investors, financiers, wealthy friends, and relatives, crowdfunding, film grants, competitions, sponsors, etc. Passive funding can be an option that you must not ignore even if you are broke. We will talk about it in great detail. Read on.

How much money do you need to raise?

Before asking for money, you have to know your numbers. Your numbers are crucial as it will make or break your fundraising. You can’t ask for thousands of dollars from your aunt and similarly can’t ask for a $500 loan from a bank. 

So, your numbers will give you an initial idea about your funding.  

Make a budget –

The budget depends on your script. For a newbie, it is always advisable to be smart in scripting. Which means the short should not ambitious enough to demand huge money. First steps to filmmaking need to be in the form of baby steps.

Chalk out an approximate figure –

If you are broke, it is always great to come up with a no-cost film or the one which you can do it alone. Other than that, you need money. Budgeting helps in getting you the approximate fund you need to make for your short film. 

If the figure is substantial, you can look out for multiple funding sources than one. But before approaching them, you need to have your proposal h in place.

Plan and Make a Proposal to Pitch – 

Filmmaking is like any other business. To get funding, you need to treat this project as a business. Whoever you are approaching, you need to plan a perfect proposal for your film.

Create a proposal about your movie with a stress on your intent and distribution plan. No one is interested in funding your film if you are making it for yourself.

A presentation along with your verbal pitch supports your cause as it will help you fill the spots of your pitfalls. The presentation should include –

  • Title and Logline
  • Synopsis
  • Treatment Note
  • Storyboard, Moodboard, Posters, and References
  • Production Schedule or Timeline
  • Budget
  • A Marketing and Distribution Plan

Confident pitching helps you to build trust and show your vision and potential. It is of prime importance as a beginner for you have nothing to show. The presentation is like a vision or something tangible that gives some shape or clarity to your concept. 

An excellent way is to present your storyboards, pictures, or poster which should parallel your vision. The Funder then gets a clear idea and enthusiasm behind your intent and may go for it.

Sources to Fund:

ACTIVE FUNDING

From Near and Dear Ones:

Yeah, Your first shot should be the ones who love you. They are the ones who play a significant role in building on your dreams. Who got you your first camera? Who took you to movies? They are the one. 

Parents, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, Brother in law, anyone who believes in your story can be your angel investor. Trust them and share your concern for making your movie. One of them will step out for sure.

Funding from the Crowd:

Crowdfunding is an excellent option for a newbie filmmaker who is struggling to fund his movie. The crowdfunding usually happens with a community you are a part of, Social Media Groups, Common interest forums, Your neighborhood, or any functional crowdfunding platform.

Leaving out the latter, you have to invest your time and energy to reach out to these groups or communities. 

One myth I would like to bust about crowdfunding is that often it is misconstrued as a donation. It is, in fact, an investment made by a crowd. They expect returns in money or kind to have some gratification out of their investment. Hence, it should be your endeavor as a filmmaker to give them their due credit and a return in money or kind of their investment. It shouldn’t be missed in your proposals.

There are a few reputed crowdfunding platforms for short films :

Movie Investor

Slated

Indiegogo 

Kickstarter

Investors and Financiers:

Unlike movies, finding investors or financiers for shorts is tough. Investors look for their return on investment and financiers on their interest in the money. Short films have a dismal record when it comes to business. 

However, many platforms do consider shorts in their kitty. The best ones are where it not only helps in the financing but also helps in distribution and marketing your short film. They are your best bet. You can approach the ones mentioned below:

Collabor8te

London Calling

Into Film

Shore Scripts Short Film Fund

Nonprofit Film Grants::

However, the heartening news is that few dedicated charitable organizations may fund your short. These come in the form of Film Grants. Film Grants usually support your film without any baggage in terms of its financials. If they like your script, they fund it provided it suits their funding requirements in terms of the writing, market, and budget. Many offer production, marketing, and distribution services as well.

Also, you should keep an eye on your government’s or any social foundation’s short film financing programs. They are also at nonprofit or negligible interests.

NPOs generally look at scripts which have a social message or a cause. Mostly, documentaries or Docu dramas have a better shot at it.

The only shortfall is that they don’t fund movies in quantity. If your script shows merit, your chances are better or else you have to rework on it or move on to the next option. It is also tough to break in as there are hundreds of shorts pitching in for that one slot.

CineMart

Film Daily

Harold  Greenberg Fund

Screen Craft 

Films Without Border

Competitions:

Interestingly, if you want your short filmmaking dream to be realized at any cost, take part in short film competitions. Yes, it may not be the movie you wanted to make and fund but, you will get a chance and the ammo to make one; though under some fixed stipulations and conditions.

The challenge presented here is that you will be allowed to make a short from start to finish in a stipulated period. The period may vary from 24 hours to 48 hours. Usually, the duration of these movies does not exceed 5 minutes. You need to carve out a script based on the production facilities offered to you. Also, sometimes, these are based on some specific themes.

It presents an excellent opportunity to compete with fellow filmmakers and stand out with your film that is funded and presented by the organizers. If you win, you are rewarded financially or offered to make a film for them.

There are similar screenwriting competitions too. If you win it, then you are qualified to make a movie.

48 Hour Film Project

Film Racing

India Film Project

48 Hours

ScreenCraft’s short screenplay competition

Short film Producers:

Another excellent trick to fund you short is to find the ones who have done it before. Short film producers, not only make short films but also they know the business better than others. 

The best way to find them is to search for the best short films in your genre and look for the ones who produced those movies. Search for their contact information and approach, mail or call them with your scripts. Why are the chances bright? Because you are pitching a film which they have produced earlier and they know the market than anybody else.

Sponsors / Charitable Institutions

Finding sponsors of charitable institutions can be another option. The process is a little cumbersome, but if you can convince the sponsoring body about how your script serves their mission or market, you stand a chance to get funding.

So you should smartly design your script around such motives and pitch for funding. Sponsors usually don’t have experiences in finding short forms but sense the scripts have the potential to serve the mission the market they may be interested.

You have to be open about product placements. Some tweak has to be included in your script. You have to smartly hide it behind the scenes that it doesn’t look evident about the sponsorship. 

Also, you may have to look for more than one sponsors as they sometimes part with nominal money which may not fund your film fully.

Networking with Influencers:

Social Media is the most powerful medium to spread any word. The influencers are equally catalytic in influencing their followers with those words. If the word is to fund your short film, then you have a great chance to find one.

Influencers are equally accessible. Share your passion, and one may have a change of heart and propagandize your cause for free. Another interesting approach can be if an influencer is an aspiring actress, half of your battle is won. Cast her in your movie, and it should take off in a blink.

PASSIVE FUNDING:

For a newbie, the main objective is to make your short. So, if you fail to raise funds for your production, passive funding is an exciting option. Passive, funding means a transaction for your movie that is made without involving money. These transactions can be in the form of services, equipment, or time. You can use it partially or entirely, depending on your negotiating abilities. So, let’s look at the options available below:

Collaborate:

Collaboration is vital for any filmmaker and excellent learning ground for a newbie to start. But even before shooting the movie if you can collaborate with people with equipment and location or get actors on board at no cost, you seem to understand the game of passive funding better.

Collaborating with like-minded technicians and artists, in fact, may make your film viable for investors too. If you churn out the whole movie with collaboration, nothing like it, so, in return, you can offer them profit sharing or production credits and work as a team for the specific project.

Barter:

Barter is still prevalent in this world of digital currencies. You can quickly request a no-cost service, equipment, or time from the professionals in exchange for your services like directing, writing, or acting. Here, you don’t charge any money as you have already been paid in kind. 

You can also offer to render your services before your making the short as it builds trust and the other party feels obliged to exchange pleasantries.

Self-funding

It is the last resort if the fire in your belly is not letting you sleep. There are ways to self fund your movie.

Save Money – If you are working, then save a chunk for your short to be made in the future.

Earn to Fund – If you are a student or not earning, do contractual tasks depending on your skills to collect and accumulate money for short. There are websites like upwork and fiverr to get you going.

Always be in the Lookout – Update yourself if anyone is disposing a camera or equipment for cheap on craigslist, eBay or any Garage sale. Remember if you buy it cheap, the cost can be divided into many of your shorts and will bring your funding cost down.

Clean up your Garage – You can raise money by disposing stuff from your garage. Sometimes we don’t know how much money can be made from your garage sale. It is the other way around from the previous point.

Make the movie for Free – If you can manage to convince your folks and friends to act in and support your filmmaking, you can make it for free. In this day and age where cell phones have replaced the expensive film cameras and editing suites, you can easily make your short film with a cellphone, using your neighborhood as location and friends as actors.

One Man Army – When everything fails, you can still stand tall despite setbacks. We have a couple of helpful articles on how to make a film by yourself or without actors. Take a leaf out of it and crank a script around it.

One hint of precaution here is never to use your credit card to make a film. You will end up in a financial mess in no time.

.

Some Hard Facts you should know: 

Business Viability:

Short Films differ from Feature Films when seen from a business perspective. Usually, short films are made by beginners, and they aren’t produced well. Unless it has a terrific story, the audience won’t pay to watch your movie. It means they aren’t commercially viable. Raising money for such short films becomes difficult. Hence make it business sustainable by being cost-effective.

Nobody puts money on a Lame Horse:

If you have no demo reel or published work to showcase your talent, a stranger dishing out cash is too much to ask. Ideally, if it is your first shot at filmmaking, you have to make it with no money or get it from your friends and family.

Who is going to watch it?

Short films are personal films and hence may not interest a more substantial chunk of an audience. If you are not making a short film for a hungry audience, your funding is going to be challenging.

How much Money is Enough?

How much should you ask? As a novice, it is tough to take that call. Budgeting a film for a newbie is crucial. For a funder, the return on his investment is essential. Unless it is for charity or a long term vision, your film fundraising will face rough weather if you don’t have a feasible budget in place.

What’s the Distribution and Marketing Plan?

For a film, the more eyeballs, the better it is. How are you going to reach a certain amount of audience? Does your movie have the potential to win a festival award? Can you get a sponsor for your story? Unless you have convincing answers, fundraising will be a challenge.

Should you Ask for more from few or few from more?

It is a catch 22 situation. But you can easily crack it if you have a set budget. If the money to be funded is less, you can ask for bigger chunks of funds from a few people. But, if it is substantial, then you may have to opt for the latter. However, you can only conclude after you toss some questions on to them. 

Do you have a Deadline?

Set a deadline for your fundraising efforts as you can’t keep going forever. Moreover, if few have given you funds, they may lose their patience as well. Setting a deadline keeps your focus on the job, you prioritize your work better, and your hustle becomes meaningful. Daydreaming about your funds will realize one day is too far fetched. Moreover, with time, the costs will go up. 

Tough to Stay Motivated:

It is a tough task to be motivated every time. So, read some success stories every day, or watch some inspiring stories on youtube to keep you going. Create a morning routine, calm your mind with meditation and visualize every day that funds are available for you, and you are making the film.

Final Words:

The journey of a filmmaker is never comfortable. The law of averages states that very few make it to Hollywood. But if you keep working towards it every day, and be positive about it, you will eventually make your short film.

Leave a Comment