How To Raise Money For Your First Movie
As of this summer, I’ll be coming up on my 10th year working as a Director and Producer in the film business. Most folks around Hollywood know me as the guy who won the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest and shadowed Michael Bay on the most recent TRANSFORMERS movie, which yes, have been two of the more interesting pieces of my career to date, but at the end of the day the one thing I get asked about most whenever I speak at engagements or talk to other aspiring filmmakers is not what it was like to work so closely with Michael Bay or what it was like to have my commercial air during the Super Bowl… but instead, I get asked time and time again how I raised money for my indie films.
.“You have to begin at the end and break down who you’re making your movie for, what your potential market is, how to connect and develop relationships with distributors that can access that market for you, how to develop and craft the best screenplay that will fit your distributor’s needs, how to create the perfect business plan to support that script, and how to assemble the best team of people to help you execute your vision the right way.” Mark Freiburger
In my first 7 years after graduating from film school at UNCSA, I produced 5 indie features with budget ranges of $100k to over $1 Million. In all of these, I was involved in some aspect of raising the funds, and on my first film, which had a budget of about $500k; I ended up having to raise all the funds. Over the past few years, folks have come to me in droves asking them for help to raise money for their own films or advise them through the process, but the problem is, that in order to sit down and really teach someone all the methods I used, all the mistakes I overcame, and all the lessons I learned requires so much more time than I have to give. However, this is a business that is hard to navigate and we all need as much help as we can. I’ve had help and advice by many folks throughout the years, and thus I always try to help other filmmakers and students as well. But the amount of need that kept coming to me from those who wanted to learn how to raise money for their own films far outweighed the amount of time I had to give. So in an effort to help everyone at the same time, I decided to sit down and write a step-by-step process on indie film financing simply titled “How To Raise Money For Your First Movie.”
It’s very hard work to go out and raise money for a movie, but anybody can do it as long as you have the right knowledge and the right set of tools. I was 21 years old when I started raising money for my first movie. Looking back, I realize I had no idea what I was really doing, but through a lot of trial and error I managed to bring together 19 different investors to make my film and turn my dream into a reality. And after successfully getting that film made and selling it to domestic and foreign distributors, it afforded me the opportunity to work with other producers and keep making more films. It’s not rocket science, but it takes some smart decision-making and a lot of hard work. And if you’re willing to put in the time, you can absolutely make this happen for yourself too.
The thing that most aspiring and first time filmmakers don’t realize is that raising money for movies is not about just finding and approaching investors. There’s an immense amount of work that goes in to preparing yourself and your film well before you get to the process of trying to find investors. Recognizing, locating and pitching investors isn’t something I begin to lay out until the sixth chapter in my book. Before you reach that part of the process there are very specific steps you need to take in order to ensure the best possible outcome and the highest probability that an investor will say “Yes” to putting some of their hard-earned money into your film.
I always teach aspiring filmmakers to reverse engineer the filmmaking process when it comes to getting your film financed. You have to begin at the end and break down who you’re making your movie for, what your potential market is, how to connect and develop relationships with distributors that can access that market for you, how to develop and craft the best screenplay that will fit your distributor’s needs, how to create the perfect business plan to support that script, and how to assemble the best team of people to help you execute your vision the right way. Once you take the necessary steps through reverse engineering the process, then finding and approaching investors for your film becomes dare I say, the easy part.
There wasn’t a book or manual that existed like this 10 years ago when I first started raising money for movies. If there was, I would have had an easier time raising money and I would have avoided a lot of the mistakes I made along the way. It took me approaching over 200 individuals before enough people finally came to the table to finance my first movie as I continued to learn and adapt my methods. When I talk to a lot of aspiring filmmakers today, I see that so many of them are just swinging in the dark without any real knowledge or any real base of a step-by-step process on how to raise money. Nobody should have to approach this process feeling like they are in the dark, so hopefully this book will shed a light on how to get through this finance process and help you take the steps toward getting your first movie made, just as my friends and I have now done time and time again.
I hope you enjoy the book and find it just as beneficial toward helping you achieve your goals as many of the book’s early readers have found as well.
Mark Freiburger is an award-winning Filmmaker who in 2013 won the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl contest with his :30 Doritos commercial titled ‘Fashionista Daddy’. That commercial went on to be named ‘The Greatest Super Bowl Commercial of All Time’ by CBS. Freiburger directed the indie features DOG DAYS OF SUMMER, and JIMMY. He shadowed Michael Bay on the set of TRANSFORMERS: AGE OF EXTINCTION and is currently writing an action/thriller that he will direct for Original Film, the producers behind the multi-billion dollar FAST & FURIOUS franchise. He is repped by the Gotham Group and United Talent Agency.
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