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  • Writer's pictureNicholas Buggs

Filmmakers Don't Need Investors

The vast majority of independent films cannot be monetized in a meaningful way by the filmmakers who bring these projects to life. It's an unfortunate truth, but the truth nonetheless. The business of independent film is built on leveraging small profits from large portfolios of content and exploiting the unexpected profitability of a few industry anomalies.

This model benefits distributors and sales agents who manage these portfolios and aggregate their profits while providing very little tangible benefit to the individual filmmakers whose IP they exploit. So where does that leave the filmmaker who promised a 20% return to a group of investors? It leaves them in the red, needing every itemized penny on their quarterly earnings reports to pay back their investors. It also leaves them with a group of investors who will think twice about "investing" in their next film.

So why continue down this path? Why should independent filmmakers continue to seek investment dollars for projects they'll never afford to recoup? Well, your guess is as good as ours. This is why we're suggesting something different.

Filmmakers don't need investors; they need financiers. They need people to give them money with no expectation of a direct financial return. They need to start out in the black, stay in the black, and eliminate the stress of financial recoupment.

A dreamland, you say? Not at all. Films of all kinds are financed every day by people, organizations, and companies seeking to promote themselves or a cause that's near and dear to their hearts. Just take a look at the work of Gear Seven. This company leverages their own unique creativity and design skills to develop film content to build brand awareness for their clients. Seed&Spark has an ever-growing library of films that, to-date, have achieved over $26M in crowdfunding contributions. The Oscar-winning Hair Love was crowdfunded on Kickstarter, achieving the largest contribution to a short-film in Kickstarter history. The money is out there and people, organizations, and companies are willing to part with it so long as you are willing to help them tell their stories.

Is that so bad? Does it make you any less of a filmmaker to help tell someone else's story? We don't think so. In fact, if you want it to be your story too, then all you have to do is align yourself with financiers who share something in common with you. It could be your love of a popular brand. It could be your concern for a population of people who are underrepresented in media today. It could be your passion for health, food, fitness, fashion, or travel. It could be anything. The key here is to align your creative talents with a community that needs them. Doing so, will get your projects funded and your career as a filmmaker moving in the right direction.

And this brings us to distribution. When your film project is funded and you don't carry the burden of needing to recoup investment funds, distribution is simple. If you own the rights to the film, you'll have a plethora of self-distribution options (both free and paid). If you don't own the rights to the film (as is the case for music videos, commercials, and promotional pieces) then distribution is built into the engagement and is handled by the people paying the bills. Either way, distribution becomes less about contract negotiation and handing over your IP and more about watching your film make it out into the world on its own.

If you're still not convinced, here are a handful of reasons why people would give you money to make a film:

  • You are educating a community about a topic of particular interest to them

  • You are educating the world about a community that needs a voice