Types of Funding for Independent Films
Funding for independent films will vary greatly based on your individual needs and the steps that you take towards seeking financial support for your production. Financing your independent film is one of the most important aspects of your project because without funds, production won’t happen and the film never actually does make it to the screen. Thus, many independent filmmakers begin thinking about funding options early on in the pre-production process. Or even during development. So that they can engage as much financial support as possible in hopes of seeing their project through to the big screen.
Fortunately, there are many types of funding for independent films.
Options include tax credits, grants, private investment programs, and various other financing sources depending on the independent filmmaker’s needs and the project.
Tax Credits & Other Incentives
Independent filmmakers are sometimes surprised to learn about the number of tax incentives that are available to them when they begin production.
Unfortunately, many tax credits and incentives are rebate-style programs which essentially means that you’re going to have to fund the project initially.
And then can get credit back for expenses when you file your tax return or the business tax return for the film.
Keep in mind that tax incentives are often location-based. Thus you might have state based incentives as well as overall credits that may apply to your production.
If filming in Canada, the tax credits and incentives are going to be a little different, but there are still options available for independent filmmakers in Canada.
Apply for grants as early as possible and apply as frequently as possible to get the best chance of securing funding for your film.
Funding for independent films through various grants will range in potential. Documentary films tend to have the most opportunity in terms of grants.
But there are a variety of grants for minorities, those for female filmmakers, grants for the LGBTQ community, and grants that are based on the merit, meaning, or mission of the film.
Search around based on your project scope and you’re sure to find a variety of grants that could be potentially suitable for your needs.
Another means of funding for independent films is through private investors. Often times there are private funding options through independent individuals that are seeking to add film funding to their investment portfolios.
You may even find someone that’s quite wealthy and who loves film that would consider helping you out to fund a project.
Angel investors are another opportunity that independent filmmakers sometimes find helpful for funding their projects.
Again, searching for these types of investors, or networking with investors, will help you find the funding you need.
Not only are there crowdfunding campaigns for independent filmmakers. But there are private options for you to crowdfund individual elements relative to the film.
Crowdfunding will require that you have your pitch trailer prepared and that you have invested some time into building the appropriate audience so that you can reach targets with your pitch.
It’s not uncommon for independent films to find extensive financing through crowdfunding campaigns online.
Especially if they have skills in marketing and their mission connects with a particular group.
If you’ve executed some of the options already listed and you’re finding that you’re nearing production. But you still need some funding for your independent film, consider a pre-sale deal.
Pre-sales represent a means of essentially selling distribution rights to your project ahead of production. So that you can use the funds for the purpose of production.
Pre-sales will likely require that you’ve managed to secure some other financing and investments first. Because in order to secure a true distribution deal, you’ve got to prove that others are interested.
Pre-sales are likely to target independent films that have specific cast members, follow a particular genre, or focus on a topic that is relative to the distributor.
Several types of financing can work as funding for independent films. But gap financing represents a sort of “final” option in which you’ll fill the gap in funding.
So that you can secure production and get the project off the ground. Gap financing basically provides funding against the film’s unsold rights and provides high-risk, high-interest loan funding for the project.
You definitely want to hold off until you have executed all other options. Before you turn to gap financing because this can be very expensive in the long run.
But it does provide the necessary funds for your project should you need to fill the final stretch of funding in order to succeed.
Similar to grants, fiscal sponsorship provides funding for independent films through various nonprofit programs that are contracted to provide financial support.
Most of the time, fiscal sponsorship opportunities represent particular non-profit missions.
And will require that your film somehow relate to the mission of the non-profit. Or have a topic that is relative in that capacity in order to qualify.
However, because fiscal sponsorship is tax-exempt there is room for opportunity to get funding through a variety of other programs including grants and tax-deductions.
Negative Pickup Deals
Finally, if you’re still looking for other funding for independent films and you’ve executed some of the other options listed? Consider whether a negative pickup deal might work out for you.
Negative pickup deals represent debt-financing and will require that you have some interest in your film before you’ll be able to secure funds.
But the deal can provide support in which the banks will lend against the value of your deal. So basically, the negative pickup deal doesn’t provide you funds!
But it provides an agreement that once you’ve got the negatives to the film they will be purchased.
You can take this agreement to a bank to seek financing. Because you now have proof that there is interest in distributing your film.