10 Ways To Get Funding For Your Short Film

10 Ways To Get Funding For Your Short Film

10 Ways To Get Funding For Your Short Film

The #1 problem for filmmakers at any stage in their career is getting money. Unless a filmmaker is Christopher Nolan, the process of getting a job off the ground consists of begging and pleading with people. Depending on the object of your film, there is a big chance that the money you have borrowed isn’t going to be paid back. It’s a challenging process, but there are ways to pull it off and resources that can help. Below I’ve put together a list of 10 ways to get realistic funding in 2021.

1. Grants

Grants are a great option since usually there are no strings attached. Fantastic for short films, a medium that is often hard to recuperate investment. These grants are generally money set aside by government programs or the philanthropists, so there is more of a Laissez-faire attitude to them. The big drawback is you’ll have to base your production around grant timelines, and the application process is also notoriously hard to maneuver. A great tip would be to invest in a proven grant writer to help secure the funds. Of course, it doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s a lot better than applying as a novice and then wishing and praying for everything to go well.

2. Film fellowships

A fellowship is like a grant but with added commitment. You could look at it as a way for these programs to ensure you follow through with your proposal and project. Along with funds, they usually come with a residency, check-ins, labs, workshops and a required commitment of your time to the program. This is wonderful for a filmmaker who is looking for structure to get their production completed. The amount of funding is not as large as with a grant, but the added services are priceless. However, this probably isn’t the best option for individuals who value their freedom to create on their own terms.

3. Screenplay contests

Screenplay contests are a bit of an unorthodox way to get funding, but there are collection contests out there that offer significant prize money. An excellent resource for finding these contests is FilmFreeway, and a lot of these contents are tied to some of the big festivals we know. This is a more complex approach since it’s not directly asking for funding for your project but instead winning a competition of 100s of submissions. However, this could also double as improving your screenwriting ability with more of the contests you enter and win.

4. Private investors

Private investors are a common avenue for feature films but can be leveraged for short films if positioned correctly. There is usually a lack of return on for shorts, but if you plan ways of making some sort of revenue like licensing stock footage or prize money from festivals, you could get the ear of the right people. You can also just skip the return on investment conversation and pitch it solely as a creative endeavor. Some investors want to do something creative outside of just making money, so if you can inspire passion from your pitch, you could pull funding that way.

5. Family and friends

Family and friends are always willing and excited to help, and getting them on board for a project isn’t going to be a hard thing to do, but you should be cautious. Family and friends are people you know, and unless your whole family/social circle is endlessly wealthy, the money they’re willing to lend is finite. I would almost suggest leveraging your family and friends for your breakthrough feature film. If there is an excellent short film idea that can really help establish you, the approach is worth pursuing. Just know you can only go back to this well a handful of times.

6. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is similar to “family and friends” as a finite option. Leveraging platforms like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter are fantastic for getting funding, but there are only a few times you can leverage the same pool of people for significant financing. Crowdfunding, in my opinion, should only be used when you’ve established yourself, and it’s a project that can propel you to the point where the fight for funding isn’t as aggressive.

7. Self-funding/bootstrapping

Funding your own project, in my opinion, is the best way to go when you’re starting out. I’m conscious that not everyone has the resources to put together the money to create what their heart desires, but it is the best way to ensure the project has your creative vision. Fundraising still plays a role here and could take away from the immediacy of wanting to shoot something immediately. Still, when you get to the point that you have money to shoot, you are free to create your art on your terms. That is extremely important when you’re building your final pieces and your overall reel.

8. Branded content

Branded content is when brands create entertaining or exciting content with some connection to their business. That connection could be direct or loose, depending on the brand’s appetite. This approach dips creative ideals into a commerce territory. Still, suppose you have a creative idea that would benefit a particular brand. In that case, a good option is to pitch this content to them and negotiate some level of funding or sponsoring with limited brand interaction (maybe a reference to their financing and a logo at the credits). This can also double as an introduction to the brand and potential paid work in the future.

9. Collaboration with a musician

This s similar to branded content, where you partner with another collaborator, but in this case, it’s with a musician. I specifically call it “music-driven”, not a music video because you would want to create a short narrative (or doc) with the music inspired or driven by it instead of a video solely to promote the musician. The collaborative aspect offers many funding possibilities – partial investment from the musician, access to marketing dollars from the musician’s management, PR record label executive teams.

10. Deferrals

Deferrals are when you ask your crew, talent, and production partners for a deferred payment agreement to get a piece made and potentially make initial revenue to pay. You might land yourself in hot water if there is an inability to pay. However, it’s an excellent approach if you’re able to bring partners on board from a passion perspective because, frankly, short films have a hard hill to climb to revenue generation.