Monday, 3 February 2014

HOW TO FUND YOUR LOW BUDGET MOVIE

READ THIS : Please bare in mind that this is just how I have approached filmmaking. These are things that have worked for me, they may or may not work for you. I'm not saying there is a right way or a wrong way to do these things I can only speak from my own experience and point of view. There is also no substitute for hard work. With that in mind Read on. 

Over the past 4 years I have made 3 Feature Length films, with prep production currently going on for our 4th and 5th (More On that later). One of the most common things I get asked about is funding. Where did the money come from to make each of these movies? Well the fact is that each one was funded in a very specific and different way from the other. 

Each film we made took a very different approach and each had its benefits and its downfalls, some more than others. Now please bear in mind every single film we've made has been no or very low budget and each was produced with its budgetary limitations in mind from the start. My approach has always been to use budgetary limitation to my advantage.

1. DO IT ON NOTHING

You don't need money to make movies. That's a fact. It helps, sometimes a bit sometimes a lot, but in all honesty, especially in this day and age, you don't need money to make movies and more importantly you don't need money to make a 'good' movie. 

People always give me an off look when I say that. Like I'm mental, which is fair, because I proabably was for attempting it in the first place, but it's true. 

In 2009 I had no money after graduating from University and a job that paid minimumm wage that had very few hours available and so I had no spare money whatsoever. I decided to go and make a film anyway. That film was Creepsville, which with a bit of luck should be available later this year.

On Set of Creepsville
To pull it off, I essentially called in favours from anyone and everyone I knew. People we knew, or our friends knew made up the cast and crew and we borrowed equipment from the university or from parents, friends and everyone in between. The sets were places we knew well and I often joke that you can see the whole movie from the back window of the university building (I've even mentioned in on this blog before), but that is absolutley true. 

The film was a pure labour of love and it had to be, because when pulling favours nothing goes to plan and our scheduled 14 day shoot soon became 5 months and a year later we were still going back for pick ups and what not. Everything in the film was begged, borrowed and stolen and of course that had its own downfalls. We had to work with what we had, but it made me appreciate all of it in the long run, because not one second of it was easy. 

Doing a film this way on the absolute barest of bones taught me more than I have ever learned in a classroom and Creepsville was certainly the best 'film school' I ever could have hoped for. Even if I lost most of my friends in the process.

2. FIND INVESTORS

For my second feature Slasher House (Available Here) I knew that it was going to cost a bit of money. There were some very specific props and costumes that needed building as well as a very integral location that would need paying for and so I set about looking for funding amongst the film boards and grants here in the UK. Every road led to nowhere and eventually I sat down and figured out we could do it on about £5000 if everything was tight and we could find a cheap location.

Adam on set Slasher House
First of we had to cut crew size down to about 5 people, with a couple also doubling up as actors and of course a huge expense came from the fact that UK health and safety laws stopped us getting access to any derelict buildings. Luckily The Isle Of Man (A small island country off the coast of the UK) were more than accommodating and offered us an adandoned prison for about a 3rd of our proposed budget.

However we still didnt have that budget, Our producer insisted that he found the money for it and we came in with a very kind 80% investment from himself/his parents. I took on the rest of the cost by buying our gear on credit and paying it off over the following year and then took on the post production and reproduction costs on a month by month basis over the next 2 years to get it to the finish line and score its eventual release. We asked anyone who could to pay their own travel and luxuries (We supplied 3 basic meals a day). On top of that we slept in the prison for 3 weeks to keep accommodation costs down. 

We also set up own kickstarter type thing (before they were popular, cause we're really cool and hipster and all that) and managed to raise a small amount of budget by offering credits, thanks and dvd's for small donations to the cause. We raised round about £350 this way.

The downside of this, is that films like this rarely make any money back, and due to reproduction and distribution costs making a profit on even a film this small proves difficult. Which means that investors may not see their money back. To me that is something that I don't feel very comfortable with, So my advice would be to find very understanding investors and try and limit their expectations, as most low budget movies never make a penny. The best you can hope for is that the film is a successful achievement for those involved.

3. CROWDFUND IT

Its all the rage now, to raise money online for making these things. After a lot of persuasion from fellow team members and a lot of interest from other people we decided that Legacy Of Thorn would be funded via crowdfunding. This approach has a lot of pros and lots of cons. I'm not sure if its something I would ever do again. 

Firstly I did a lot of preperation, making sure that we had enough content to give people a good idea of what the film would be like. Being based on a Slasher House Character and a short film I shot in 2009 that wasn't too difficult. Our biggest problem was that all the interest that had led us to do the kick starter in the first place dropped off (Not one person who emailed me to ask if we could do a crowdfunding campiagn for the film contributed toward it). Luckily a lot of other people donated and having Slasher House out in the world helped our cause tremendously. 

We made £1000 over our target, but we then lost close to that in fees from Indiegogo (The actual platform we used) and then paypal took a large cut on top of that. We had one investor who put a large amount of that money into the campaign and helped us hit our target. It was a hell of month though and it took so much energy away from concentrating on the film, worrying about whether we would hit the target or not. 

Jane Haslehurst on the set for Legacy Of Thorn
I think in the end though we were lucky that we hit our target, we used Indiegogo and that meant that whatever came into the indiegogo went straight to the company account after charges. Which means had we only had £1000 donated we would have had to have made the film on that (after fees) or paid that money back from our own pocket which would have put us in a worse position than when we started. So beware, If i'd known that going in I would have done things much differently.

However the film has its first screening February 28th and looks it like it will be hitting DVD/BluRay and VOD later this year :)

WHICH WAY IS BEST?

I guess that depends on where you are in your career. If it's your first film I strongly suggest you write and make something that costs nothing and work your way up from there. You'll learn more by making a movie than you ever will waiting for money. 

There are a billion other ways you can probably fund your film, these are the ways I have. If you're rich, you can probably invest in yourself and if you're not, you can probaly chase grants etc, but the ways I have funded these things so far have been the most viable in terms of keeping creative control, which is ultimately what you lose when taking large amounts of money from other people.

Whichever direction you go make sure that the film comes first, because in the end that's the most important thing.

Over the next month I'll go into a little bit more detail about each approach, funding is by far the most annoying part of filmmaking, But unless your well off or Bruce Wayne then it's gotta be done.

MJ

How have you funded your films? How do you raise money to make what you make? Let us know In the Comments below.