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How to Finance an Independent Film

written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 3/24/2011

Here are a few tips on how to find independent film financing for your project.

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    Independent Film Financing

    The term independent film really refers to the way that the film is financed. Traditional studio films keep the projects funded through media corporations, holding tight control over the production company, Director, and all those involved with the project. This makes the process of creating the film itself one of producing a commercial product first, not one of creating a quality piece of artwork. It is clear to see that often times those two goals can be at odds, and the independent film boom over the last twenty five years has shown both that independent film is important for quality projects and that it has democratized who can actually create them. This does not mean that it is easy to produce independent film financing, and this can be an extremely difficult process for filmmakers that want to just focus on creating a great film. Here is a look at how to finance independent film projects for those that are starting out with a low budget.

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    Film Grants

    Depending on the type of project you are looking to find money for you may want to take a turn towards foundations that look to fund them in particular. Film grants are a great source of funding, and usually come for projects that have a point of view or topic that is related to the foundation providing it or with the understanding that your work would benefit society as a whole. Film grants are going to work similar to grants for other pieces of art, where you apply by submitting a grant proposal and having it considered by a review board. This money is going to then fund your project without having to return the funding, though there may be stipulations. If you are wondering how to finance an independent film then this is going to be double edged, mainly because very commercial projects or ones with broader appeal may not be eligible. Documentary films, arthouse projects, ones that deal with specific values or social causes, and those that deal with special interests are more eligible for film grants. If you want to rely on film grants for your main source of funding you may even want to take your production company into the non-profit sector, though this may limit your overall income.

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    Though it is not going to be a large source of independent film financing, donations of different sorts can be a major help for funding short films or finding the last few dollars that you need. This does not just meant that you turn to family and friends and begin pounding the pavement, but instead that you can use funneled ways to get these donations. You can begin using social networking and possibly your own website to publicize your film project, but also create ways for people to do easy contributions. For example, you can place a way for people to donate to your project using Pay Pal right on a MySpace Film page or on your project website. For this you may want to create a Pay Pal account for the project itself, and can be a good way to get started itemizing the budget. will allow you to post your project up and have people give money based on what they can see about your project, and this is one of the first places people should go when looking at how to finance an independent film because it is effective for being so easy and hands off.

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    Independent Film Investors

    The question of how to finance and independent film becomes much more of a business at the higher level. Here you want to find commercial investors and begin selling them your project based on its ability to act as a quality investment. Independent film investors look at a film project as something to add to their investment portfolio, and since there is a lot of risk around independent film production it is a tough sell. Since most independent film investors will not see a return on that investment, you have to show them a reason why your film will be successful. A good film Producer is needed here to locate independent film investors, create a package to show them the deliverables that you already have for the film and information on why it will be successful, to have a complete budget to show them where their money is going, and have contracts written up to show them how they will get the financial returns from the project.

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    Source: Author's own experience.