I have designed and run countless fundraising campaigns over the past twenty-five years I have spent in fundraising. I have written the plans, the messaging, and created the fundraising teams and the communications tools, and all that good stuff. And what I have learned through all this experience is that there is one tool, and one tool only, that is absolutely crucial to the success of a fundraising campaign. And that tool is none of the items I just listed above.
You probably already know this, but I need to say it. It is one of the most important things you can hear about the film fundraising process you will engage in. The rich get richer, and the poor stay poor. Ouch!
I’ve been gone from this blog too long, but I have a good excuse. I have been in the thrall of fundraising and producing three documentary films over the last few years. It’s been intense. But now I’m back and ready to share everything I learned and everything I already knew before that.
If you’re going to fund your film, distribute your film, or — “Please, Film Gods, hear my prayer!” — SELL your film, you need to be able to pitch. I used to teach a class at Film Arts Foundation and later at the San Francisco Film Society on how to pitch. I guided the participants through an intensive process in which they learned how to answer ten key questions about their film in a concise, compelling fashion.
I’m pleased as punch to announce that I have begun work on a new fundraising book entitled A Helluva Guide to Indie Film Fundraising. In this book, I draw a detailed road map of film-fundraising Hell, noting the hazards and marking escape routes. Traditional fundraising tactics no longer cut it, especially in this hyper-competitive digital age where abundant, cheap technology has made it impossible to swing a dead cat without hitting another new filmmaker.
I recently signed up as the producer for a new indie feature called Nominated. Written and directed by Dan Pavlik, Nominated tells the story of washed-up former child star Mickey Monroe who’s been “on the outs” for one long, hard skid. Now Mickey finds himself nominated for an Oscar. It could be his shot at redemption. Or — more likely — another round of stupendous self-destruction.
If you’re a healthy, normal filmmaker, your plans surely include applying to foundations. After all, that’s what we’ve been taught. Filmmakers get grants, then they make films. Sucker. The unfortunate truth is that the number of foundations explicitly funding films is shrinking while the number of filmmakers applying for grants is expanding. Think giant mosh pit.