written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/20/2011
Here are a few of the tips and methods that could be used to raise money for short films.
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Raise That Money
Short films, often taking the form of more avant-garde or student films, are one of the main forms of film production, but do not have the financial backing in the same way that television and feature film forms do. The infrastructure for distribution is not in place for short films as it is for those other forms, so it is a lot more difficult to make money for them. This will change the way that you raise money for short films entirely in that the amount of actual return on investment will be much less, which means that you will need to focus on donations, grants, awards, and other forms of financing. This being said, investors should still be considered important and must be appealed to specifically. Here are a few tips on how to raise money for short films that may help you with your project.
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Prepare Your Film
The first thing you need to do when you are looking at how to raise money for short films is to get all the information about the film put together as you can. If it is a narrative film then you are going to need to have a full screenplay available, cast and crew biographies and headshots, production skills, and everything you will need for a press kit or website. This is what you are going to have to disseminate to possible financial backers and, though investors are much more difficult for short films, investors who are going to need this information more than any other.
The second part of this is to prepare a trailer for the film. If you have finished part of the film then you should try to put together a trailer with what you have, or you could try to prepare a trailer ahead of time reflecting what the content is intending to be.
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As part of the preparation of the film, you are going to need to have a fairly iron clad budget put together. First, you work on constructing the budget as it seems fit for your project. You will then try to reduce your project as much as possible, and here it would be best to have an experienced producer or line producer to accurately reflect a more minimalist budget. This budget is going to be important for your short film in general, but when looking at how to raise money for short films it is absolutely essential. It is going to be the cornerstone of your contract when investors are looking over it, and it will illustrate the amount of money they have to put up in relation to the perceived amount of return.
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Pitching to Investors
You need to start creating a list of possible investors for your film by who is going to benefit by its production. If you are preparing a project close to home you may be able to find local corporate sponsors who will put up financing for possible returns on the investment, product placement of their brand, or both. This is going to amount to local advertising and is not going to be substantial, but may get you started.
For raising money on a short film from an unproven director it may be best to look at professionals who are willing to put up a small amount of money. Doctors, lawyers, and other groups who work in professional circles that are very close to one another are known for pooling their money in investments, and this can be a great place to look.
The reality is that you need to know where you can get into, so try to put together your possible contacts. See who you will be able to get into a room with by seeing who you know, who they know, and starting from there. Here you will then want to create production binders with the information and budget you prepared for the film, your plans for film festivals and possible sale and distribution, and what their returns would be based on percentage in the case of sale. This should be written up in the form of a contract, but does not have to be notarized by a lawyer unless you have that resource easily available.
If you want investment from a group that will intend to broadcast or distribute it, such as a film studio or television company, you have a much more restrictive road ahead of you. First, it will be difficult to get into a pitching session for these outlets and they are not usually built for distribution of short films. Second, they will take a large amount of control over your project and you will be limited creatively.
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Film grants are going to be some of the best places to look when considering how to raise money for short films. These are endowments that are specifically designed for this type of project and are usually awarded to people based on the merit of their project. Here you are going to have to research a large number of different film grants to find the ones that are appropriate for your short film and you are going to need to try to create the largest list of these film grants that you can. There are more film grants available for documentary films in many cases because of the social function that documentary is believed to serve, but you can really find a sizable number of film grants for all genres.
To do this effectively you will have to either learn how to write grants or find a grant writer. You can often either pay them a portion out of your budget or propose to pay them a certain amount from the received grant, but this shouldn't be correlated to the size of the grant contractually because this could be restricted.
These film grants should be applied for in pre-production well before physical production begins. You will need all of the previously mentioned information about the film down for this as well, so make sure that you are preparing this information in advance.
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One of the best and easiest ways to try to raise money for short films is through online requests. This can take a lot of different forms, but trying to diversify is going to be the best. KickStarter.com is a website that is perfect for raising money for short films as it allows you to post information about your project so that people can donate money as they see fit. Here, you will put up the information about your short film the same way as you did with investors and they will then be able to give you money as they see fit. There are a number of different website popping up with this kind of service, so it is important to keep up on this.
Since you are going to want to be promoting your film as much as you possibly can anyway, you should also start by creating websites and a social networking presence. Once you create comprehensive pages on all of these that reflect the press information you prepared, you can provide pleas for funding and links that allow for money to be delivered to your project via PayPal.