How to Write a Film Proposal that will Get Film Funding for Your Project

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How to Write a Film Proposal that will Get Film Funding for Your Project

It doesn’t matter if you’re a student that is just about to graduate from the local film academy or you’re a talented screenwriter that’s been in the industry for more than a decade, the steps that you take from the time you have that great idea for a film until it is fully-funded and prepared for production will be incredibly important and potentially challenging. You’re going to spend a lot of time focusing on one thing – funding! Learning how to write a film proposal represents the first major step you’ll take in getting your film to progress from idea to development. 

With the right proposal, you can entice investors into providing the funding that you need, but all film proposals are NOT created equally.

Everything from the type of film you’re producing to the investors you’re approaching to the geographic location. In which you’ll be submitting your film proposal will play a role in shaping the outcome of the document.

Thus, learning how to write a film proposal that’s going to get you the funding that you need is about knowing your audience, understanding your industry, and delivering the details of your project in the most powerful manner possible. And you’ve got to do it all in just a few pages.

Consider This

Like writing an epic Tweet that goes viral with just 140 (or 280) characters or less, writing an epic film proposal in just a few short pages has the power to launch your film project into the next level.

Pitching your project literally has the power to drive funding for your film and learning how to write a film proposal that will do just that is all about planning!

Planning the Proposal

The first step is to plan the proposal. You’re going to need to be VERY familiar with your project. You should know your script by heart. You should know your characters by heart. Really, all of it should be in your heart – it’s your passion, isn’t it?

The financiers or investors that are making the decisions whether to fund a project or invest into a project or not generally have a deadline upon which they must have made their decision.

Stand Out, in a Good Way!

This means they’re probably going to be reading through hundreds (or more) of film proposals or watching hundreds of pitch videos in a very short time. Your job is to knock their socks off without taking up too much of their time.

Oh, and you also need to stand out against the rest. So think of something unique that you can add into the mix!

Each section of your proposal should be carefully planned. Some investors or financiers will have a format that they prefer to see in the film proposals that pass through their hands. If there’s a format – follow it!

If not, consider including all of the following:

  • Proposal length. EVERY section should be valuable to your audience. Don’t waste words. Just like in your script, every word should count. No Fluff, No filler. 
  • Focus on your synopsis. Make sure it stands out. What makes your film better than the competition? Why are people going to love it?
  • Triple check your proposal for grammatical errors. One error could be enough to have your grant denied.
  • Attach strong names to your cast and crew list. Include bios that will help investors feel comfortable with the people that they’re investing in.
  • Include the budget breakdown. If you don’t have the budget figured out yet, estimate it. 
  • Don’t be afraid to include visuals with your film proposal. This is a visual industry and it’s highly likely the person considering your proposal is visual too.

The First Paragraphs

Focus the majority of your time on getting this right! If you don’t get the first two paragraphs 100% right, they’re never going to read beyond that. Grantors are looking for a story that they’re going to remember.

Something that sticks. They want something compelling. How is your film going to change the world? 

In the first two paragraphs you need to deliver. If you’re including a cover letter with your proposal, this is your chance to grab the interest of the investor and it’s really the only chance you’ll have.

Think of the cover letter as the introductory conversation, or your elevator pitch. You’ve got two paragraphs to get it right. 

Preview of the Plan

You should summarize what they will see in the full proposal. But you must do so in a way that will stand out from the hundreds of other proposals that are being reviewed at the same time.

Do not waste time on a personal biography, history of your career, or any other elements that are not directly relative to the film you’re proposing. This should be short, engaging and to the point. Don’t repeat yourself – you don’t want to waste the reviewer’s time!

If you can show how your film directly relates to the underlying goals that have been set forth by the grantor, you will be on the right track.

Demonstrating the unique message of your film, and it’s relevance to the film grant that you’re proposing is important. Now is also a great time to bring up any successes that you have already enjoyed with the film if there are any.

Sections to Include

As you’re learning how to write a film proposal, consider the following sections:

  • Synopsis.
  • Outline of your film.
  • Logline and title.
  • Producer’s name and bio (keep it short, 1 paragraph is perfect)
  • Director’s name and bio (same as above, short and to the point)
  • Additional key crew details.
  • Special equipment information.
  • Project timeline.
  • Project budget.
  • Character Arcs
  • Audience Data
  • Fundraising Plan
  • Specifics on how funds gained from the proposal will be used.

Targeting the Investor

Sometimes, when it comes to figuring out how to write a film proposal there will be a need to include certain sections and not others. This is especially true when writing a proposal for a specific grant or investor.

Targeting the investor, and pitching the project in a way that they will most value is key. Don’t include anything that isn’t necessary. If there is an outline to follow from the investor or the financier, do it!

You want to make the process as easy and convenient as possible for the other party. So it is important to follow their guidelines or rules and to show that you respect their wishes.

In Summary

NEVER submit a film proposal that was prepared without any consideration for the reviewer. If you know who you are submitting to, you should always do your homework and target the proposal to the reviewer.

As you learn how to write a film proposal over time you’re going to learn more about what it takes to get proposals past the gate-keeper and to actually get the financing that you need.

If your proposal gets turned down, it doesn’t hurt to ask, “Why?” Doing so allows you to learn more about writing film proposals that will be successful, particularly if you apply what you learn to future proposal writing.

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