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How do Producers secure financing and funding now and in the future?

I'm not a Producer but I'd like to know how Producers currently secure funding and financing? Is it still a mixture of TV Networks, BFI and Private Investment? And how will they secure funding and financing in the future? Is crowdfunding like Kickstarter really viable, for six or seven figure amounts in the UK? What's your main concern?

  • Dang, this site just ate a long, involved answer I was writing! Aaaaarrrghhh!

    In short, look at the top 50 or so crowd funded projects, three are feature films, all had niche interests and fan bases (comic convention, sequel, Zach Braff back when he was on TV) and all took absolutely ages to come to fruition from a time when crowd funding was more of a novelty and able to generate mainstream press. At the moment, I don't believe it to be possible for a random punter to finance a feature through crowd funding without investing serious money and effort and best part of a decade into their campaign. The numbers are just too big. They get big really quickly. Even a modest film budget could buy several houses once you factor in all the many costs (including hidden ones that stack up fast).

    The other crowd funding problem is that people asking for money often have no track record of spending the kind of money they're asking for. They think 'we'll get a million bucks then budget after that' instead of budgeting first and keeping open books for backers. When I see a campaign that looks interesting, I want to know the producer knows what they're doing before backing, and if (for instance) they aren't allowing for insurance, or legals, or location costs, or aren't VAT registered, or expect to shoot for 3+ weeks without payroll and NI/fringe line items, or whatever it is, I worry that the project will hit the rocks when they go back to the market begging for more cash, and everything so far wasted by delays and mistakes. I've also seen cases of wanton greed - a first time producer spending huge money on a private jet charter to Cannes, FFS. And a huge amount of Cocaine too, I can only assume, with such an ego. He asked me years later to introduce him to some backers, I did a bit more due diligence and he'd folded previous companies with huge debts. On a crowd funding campaign there's little to back up who you're dealing with, and be assured there are plenty of crooks out there.

    A final pitfall if not problem is platform costs and rewards - if I need $1M, I have to raise $1.5M via crowd funding once we factor in 10% or so for the platform and card fees, and then fulfilling all the 'rewards' I had to promise backers. That's usually becoming a manufacturer and retailer of branded tat, out other Rome consuming things. Nobody is dumb enough to pay $5k for 'dinner with the director (ex travel or hotel)', they need something of value in return. Things of value cost time or money.

    There's a final method - crowd equity funding (pretty much doing what slate funders do on a small scale online) and that might have some legs - it needs a big hit to break through. Institutional investors hate it though, so you have to commit to one or other, and with big numbers involved, you need someone to cashflow your VAT and tax credits at the very least...

    The rest of film finance is a murky world of private backers, legit tax credits, presales, bank loans, advance TV, deferred artist deals, money laundering and questionable tax avoidance/evasion schemes, and selling personal services. I'm only half-joking, alas. I know one producer who entered illegal bare knuckle prize fights to finance his first feature, others who got embroiled with Marseilles gangsters, and others who tried to left-foot the tax man with exotic schemes for footballers to invest risk-free (didn't work out!). I keep well away from the financing side having seen how dirty it can be - it's where there's money to be made, but also plenty of frauds, egotists, bullshitters and sharks to navigate! Eek!

    5 years ago
  • Paddy, this was absolutely mind-blowing! You must have more stories about UK Producers :) But, seriously, where are the forums, books and open seminars that new filmmakers can access to reach experienced producers to understand the current and future status of the UK industry? The New Producers Alliance was shut down over 10 years ago! Where can we find UK Producers honestly or anonymously giving the truth about our industry?

    5 years ago
    • Now this is where I should start talking about evolutionary biology, and how expensive signals are honest ones, but, to simplify :-

      The producers you are looking for do not make it easy to be found because that way only those who really put the effort in get the meeting. It is more important for a producer to avoid wasting their time than it is to risk missing the next Spielberg. Most real possible new Spielburgs WILL put in the effort.

      Networking - attend meetings. If you get in early that "yes, I drive 400 mile round trips for these, but it's important", the person instantly thinks you're committed. You have their attention, just for a moment. You cannot do too much face to face networking· Getting known is important. The guy you meet at one session then points you out to his mate at the next because he thinks you should meet. He can't do that if you're not there.

      Learn how to hunt people down and shoot them. Sorry, look at the credits to see who the producer is, then learn how to use google, companies house etc to get their contact info. This is basic sales research.

      You are so lucky in this biz. In most industries finding the name of the person you need to meet is a complete nightmare, and a year later it's someone else, in another city. And networking events are fewer. And in some, esp public sector, you point blank can't talk to a decision maker at all.

      ALWAYS offer to buy lunch. If their time isn't worth the price of a decent meal, why are you bothering them?

      I sat down with one of my friends who wanted to raise money for a script I'd written. I told him there and then that IMO it was going to cost 10-20K in networking overhead (mainly petrol and tube, we're 100 miles from London) to land enough serious meetings to know that he had properly met those who could finance. (Not that this said anything about whether they'd bite). He tried to do it on the cheap (fair enough, family, two small children, mortgage) and ended up wasting time in the shark tank.

      Fair? Life's not fair.

      AND FINALLY, make sure you can do deal maths in your head, on the fly, in a meeting.

      A possible early stage investor offers you the following deal in a meeting. You have a desired budget of 7-10M. Is it a good one? What have they just told you about their ability to help you get fully funded?

      "You can have 150K dev funding. We back end load a fee of 50K and require a 100% return (both to paid out of main funding) AND we want 5% equity in full project."


      They just told you that they expect to get around 1 in 3 of their films fully funded.

      I've been in that meeting and I watched the filmmakers NOT understand what they had just been told. Film makers whose odds of success were way lower than 1 in 3. Film makers who never did get any money for their movie.

      Maths is a language that you need to understand.


      SI invests 150K
      SI attaches 50K fee - for the SI company.
      FilmCo in the hole for 200K.

      You spend the 150k developing the film - (widest sense. You are securing IP, doing design, legals etc, shit loads travel and meets, basic work for what is aimed to be a several M budget movie).

      You succeed - you repay 400K (which you can because the packaged investors understood that of their 10M, 400K, and 5% of equity, was going to the SI).

      You fail, they lose 150 cash money, plus whatever proportion of corporate running costs etc.

      Basically from their POV they need a hit rate of close to 1 in 3 to break even.

      150 in film one, lost. Loss to date 150.
      150 in film two, lost. Lost to date 300.
      150 in film three, lost. Lost to date 450.
      150 in film four, success. Loss to date 50, plus all overheads, so more like 100K

      If they have a 1 in three success rate they make a notional 100K profit, but even that ignores their office costs, so less.

      The 5% of the movies that get made and then go on to make money is their only possible source of windfall profits, (unless they can get their strike rate up over 1 in 2 in which case they are geniuses).

      Having written all, that in rush so E&O are possible :-)

      5 years ago
  • That wasn't enough?! ;-)

    You could look at the Production Guild or PACT, they're both at the professional end and cost real money. You could always join BAFTA and go to some of their events, or try chatting up producers at Groucho's (the most overrated club in London - for £7 I expect my fish finger sandwich to at least be nice!)? The best event I ever went to was a BAFTA one, through Raindance - it was a candid talk by Simon Channing-Williams, who sadly passed away some months later.

    What you won't find easily is anyone telling you where to find the money trees, there are none. You may meet someone who agrees to partially back your project (most finance is partial, nobody wants to be the first money in, everybody wants to be first out, nobody trusts anybody else, and this is down to the huge shark count), find several and you've got a movie. Needless to say, everything needs to be risky professional, with investment vehicles and tax plans and wining and dining - it's fishing. Nobody will give you £1M for a film if you haven't already made a profit for them at £350k. Nobody will give you £350k for a film if you haven't already made them a profit at £100k. Nobody will give you £100k for a film if you haven't already made them a profit on £50k, and so it goes.

    You could ask specific questions here, I know several producers who lurk here. You could go to some networking events, Shooters in the Pub, or one of the Raindance ones. You'll meet a lot of people with stars in their eyes, many who've made a short, fewer who have made two or more, fewer again who have actually made a feature, fewer again who've made more than one, and occasionally someone who has made several distributed features.

    The most experienced producers aren't spending much time at networking events to get hit upon for money though. Despite there being an industry in aspiration, there aren't that many rags to riches stories about thrusting (yet another) script into a producer's hands in passing. You need to go where they are (eg Groucho's), learn to identify and start talking with them. Build relationships, build rapport.

    What you will find is that many producers, even biggish names, will happily chat with you for 30 minutes if you get them a nice coffee. Fools chase directors and cast for 'glamour', but production is the very heart of the film. Producers are a knowledgeable bunch, and generally have decent social skills. Learn who's who, don't waste their time with questions you could look up, who knows maybe you'll impress someone.

    If you want candour, you don't get it in a public place, or in a durable medium (email, forums). We all have many stories that could get us sued, so they come with trust, and trust comes from connection, most quickly in person. What, specifically, are you looking for?

    5 years ago
  • What Paddy and Marlom said. Are you really asking how producers get funding, or are you asking "how do I fund my thing?" A top producer with the right names and the right script for those names can go to Cannes and walk out with funding from really rich dudes.

    In the end, it's all about connections and being ready for those connections. Back in the time before digital filmmaking, crowdfunding, piracy, and digital distribution, I had a couple of scripts optioned. I worked as an editor and somebody who "fixed" films. What that gave me was connections. If a producer was willing to hire me, he/she was also willing to read a script of mine. And frankly, that's what it's about. Somebody that trusts that you know what you're doing. And in those days, my producers went to studios to secure funding. Studios no longer fund mid-range films, so that's out. More often than not, a producer with a good track record will go to investors that have formed an investment group that spread their risk over several films (what Marlom talked about), but those films need a solid package.

    And I know I sound like a broken record, but it's true: investors are scared shitless of piracy. That single thing has changed filmmaking more than any other. The perception, whether true or not, that a film will be stolen is a strong one, and not easy to overcome. The other is theater chains that can easily block a film, even a good one, if they feel they've been screwed over by a distributor at some point. Or they feel that they can't fill seats with a small indie. Here in the U.S., they can and do kill indie theaters by saying to the distributor: "if you give that indie theater this film, we won't show the other films on your roster." It's called circuit dealing. It's illegal, but it still goes on. So there are fewer and fewer venues for non-mainstream films, and investors know that. It's hard to make your money back if you don't get a theatrical. All of this is bad for the industry and for finding producers for niche films. Hell, Ted Hope stopped producing. If he threw up his hands...

    If I were young and had the energy to do a low/no budget film, I would concentrate on writing the best scripts I could. I would concentrate on making the best shorts I could, so when that connection comes around you'll have a good script to hand them and proof you could direct it. If you keep working in a professional capacity and do really good work, you'll meet those people. If you stay on the outside of the industry, it seems to me, it will be much harder.

    Crowdfunding is for established people with a following, for the most part. I don't think many real producers go that way. I also think that pre-selling territories is over, but I could be wrong. TV Networks are dead, unless you're talking about 300k dollars from Lifetime to do a shitty film about a wife that kills her abusing husband.

    Keep your head down, do good work, and you'll get there. But make sure your first excellent script is something you can do for nothing. "Room" cost 6 million, but there's no real reason it couldn't have been done for 100k.

    5 years ago
  • Oh Paddy - I just had the same experience - lost the whole thing with an innocuous swipe... well here goes again...

    Matthew - There's some excellent advice here as always. There's no substitute for experience, as they say.

    I'd like to share with you what I'm doing RIGHT NOW to fund my first feature film. I've become a producer whether I like to or not because, one thing I've learned is that no-one really gives a monkey's about my career or my project as much as me, so it's up to me to make it happen... but then you start building it and they do start to come - you have to be in it for the long game... and it can be a very long GAME.

    I've written, produced and directed some short films. One was crowdfunded on Indiegogo, another was for a social enterprise so I was able to apply to the Ben Cohen Foundation for £10k. There's lots of places to look for money, but you have to look everywhere and spend the time applying and waiting for a thumbs up or down... this was very good practise on a small scale...

    So - now it's time for my first feature. A very wise Oscar/Palm D'or winning exec told me to 'get with the programme' and make something small(er) as my debut - I was trying to raise finance for an epic WW1 boxing film I've written. He said 'Make something high concept/low budget, 5 characters and set it all in one location."
    He was so right and I'm so grateful to him for his kind and sage advice!

    I wrote WIDOW'S WALK, which is a supernatural thriller that falls into the 'horror genre'. It shoots later this year in Suffolk. Oh, did I mention that conversation with the exec took place three years ago in Cannes? That's how long it's taken to get the script to a place we are all happy with. During that time, I raised a little bit of development money to pay for those lunches and other expenses - no private jets yet, alas. This came from a couple who'd given me £100 for the short film I crowdfunded - We've used the money to shoot a 2 minute trailer in the hero house to show investors what we are trying to achieve.

    We have now 30% of the £250k production budget. I'm applying to Creative England for £50k because we are shooting outside the M25 - although not holding my breath on them... and £50k will return to us from the UK SEIS tax break.

    On May 24th (at BAFTA) I'm hosting an investor event, 'premiering' the teaser/trailer and inviting individuals to buy a stake in the film for as little as £10k. I don't know people (yet) with £100k+ to 'lose' ( you must be transparent about everything - they have to be prepared to lose it) However, in the 5 years since I began my career change, I have gathered around me people, friends, family and amazingly talented crew, who get what I'm trying to do and want to get involved.

    Sometimes it feels like running up a gravel hill, but I've come too far and engaged too many people to go back now...

    In the summer, we will crowdfund a dramatic underwater sequence at the end of the film that needs to be shot in a tank. My team and I have run successful campaigns before (because we kept the goals and the perks low and simple). We are confident we can raise £15-20k within our network that's been built from those previous campaigns. This will serve two purposes a) raise soft money for a set piece that will elevate the production value of a low budget film and b) raise further awareness for the feature itself.

    More info can be found on our website(s) All links on my profile page. Feel free to sign up to our newsletter (another way to engage people to come along for your journey) and follow along as we go into production...
    That's all for now - hoping it's useful...Good luck to you Matthew,
    Alexandra xxx

    5 years ago
    • Good on you, Alexandra! Making a first film on no budget is a great way to go. Keeping that amazing bigger budget script in your back pocket until after you've proved your chops will open so many doors. Best of luck with everything!

      5 years ago
    • @Dan Selakovich Thank you Dan - that short I crowdfunded is a teaser for the boxing film - so we will be a ways along by the time we've delivered the ghost story and 'they' ask me 'What you got next?'

      5 years ago
  • I have two films I'm producer on at Cannes this year and it all started many years ago with a ton of shit shorts and music videos - and years of slog, persistence and blood, becoming a better filmmaker (Whatever that may mean to you).

    Go make films - any films - even no budget. There is no excuse in this day and age not to make films if that's what you want to do. Forget the money. Beg and borrow. That's what everyone else does. There's a ridiculous amount of scripts available in the market place that you could pick up for next to nothing. (Not that I'm suggesting that they are worthless - just that everyone has to start somewhere).

    I know I've been quiet over the past few months after being quite a vocal voice on SP - But I've been shooting the shit out of stuff and getting it finished. I push myself to meet new people, continuing building relationships further with people I already know. And forging new partnerships after being introduced to new contacts. You can't work in this industry without meeting or talking to people - day in and day out. So just go for it. Get yourself a script, find a director, crew up (even if its just a camera and sound guy) and then cast it. Shoot it. Post it. And Bob's your uncle. You're a producer with a track record...

    Here's looking forward to seeing what you can produce over the next few months.


    5 years ago
  • Yes, It all takes ages and massive, massive persistence. No-one really wants to give away their funding sources either, because they may need them for their next film, after all there is only so much money available off any one person. BUT there are key producers and investors out there. I think as other shooters have said it's all about networking. I go to endless meetings and newtworking events. I try to engage with as many people as possible. Then go to Cannes. Last year every day I went to the Am Pav, asked to sit on someone's table and started to chat, I went to the Producers Network, every party I could. It has taken me 5 years and I have now got a most amazing producer for my first feature and with that comes his years of experience and funding sources, sales and distribution contacts plus advice on every angle of making the film.

    What I also think is key is a good "presenter", 8 pages of beautiful art work showing your producer, yourself as director, your DOP, cast, synopsis,poster etc and then this also incorporated into a 24 page plus investment pack that shows really serious investors your budget, business plan, schedules, likely return on their investment, sales if possible attached. Then make a teaser, a small one and half minute intro to your film. Show this to people and they can see what they might get for their money if the film is successful (and you make a plan that shows it will be)

    Of course on your Director's page you can also list other films, short or whatever that you have made and any awards you have. Awards and experience also help from short films etc. I have successfully funded 7 shorts

    Oh and by the way, all money offered is not acceptable, you need to check people quietly out, because there is money from abroad offered by private investors that can be laundered through film. SEIS and EIS need proof and a signed document, name and address of investor etc. BECAUSE if you accept dodgy money YOU will have to ultimately pay that back and answer to the HMRC. Ignorance of the law does not make you an innocent party. I was offered quite a sum from someone like this and over excited I nearly took it, but I have a very grounded accountant husband so did not.

    I also learnt at Cannes last year in the Producers Workshop that the average film around the £2 million mark has at least 7 funding sources, private investors, funding bodies, grants etc etc.

    5 years ago
    • Ah yes, JANE - forgot to mention we've also created the lookbook - 'presenter' as you call it - a detailed visual tool with images, my director's statement, an exec summary, timeline, hypothetical ROI's and biz plan attached - you will see it when we meet xx

      5 years ago
  • How much are you prepared to sacrifice for your dream? I have made seven feature length films and am presently working on my eight. I have competed at the highest levels at prestigious international film festivals, had my films distributed all over the world, screened on C4 with rave reviews (both in the tabloids and the broadsheets), made my first feature film "Boy Meets Girl" with minuscule budget of 13K (shot on 16mm), tried many genres and been there seen it done it. With the exception of my second feature film, I have self funded my own films, putting my money where my mouth was so to speak. I built a successful production company pulling in friends and putting them on the payroll as full time staff only to over reach on a couple of ambitious film projects, stumble and lost the lot, which included my four floor house in Shoreditch. When my business folded I decided not to go bankrupt, choosing to pay off company debts left me completely broke, the strain/stress of this cost me my marriage. I spent so much time and money looking for money over the years, every application to national bodies (many now long deceased) were rejected as either too commercial or not commercial enough, a no is a no no matter how your rejection is sugar coated, re-written scripts hundreds of times after suggestions were made, but never managed to write the version of my script that they had in their head. I have organised and attended hundreds of self funded meetings over my career (numerous being international), the majority of them proved to be pointless time wasters that were simply playing at being film financiers, but if you don't go to find this out I could have missed out and had regrets, so no regrets there. I spent over 50K (plus a year of my life and my teams time) developing a 3 mill feature that at one time had Sony on board, a 3K a week casting agent and subsequently household name talent attached by letters of intent only to see it crash and full to pieces. I followed that up by spending the next four years planning and making a feature about a large scale terrorist attack on London, starring Rik Mayall & Saeed Jaffery (both great and now sadly departed,) brought it to market screen it at the London Screenings a few weeks after nine eleven, only to be lambasted by American buyers furious that I could have dared to release a film with such insensitivity, but when you have all your money and the fortunes of your whole team wrapped up in a four year plan, enduring economic famine, you do not have the option as suggested by them to simply can the film for a year until things blew over. I had already booked very expensive market screenings at Leicester square and paid thousands more for advertising in the trade press to be able to entice possible buyers to my screenings, all this many weeks before nine eleven was to burn its way into the worlds consciousness. The film consequently was considered to hot to handle, didn't sell and lost almost it's entire budget, even though it was a good film, ridiculously ambitious in scale for its budget and we were one and all very proud of it. Now if you have had a couple of successive failures, you go cold very quickly, no one returns your calls or replies to your emails. Picking my self up I started from the very bottom again by making micro budget projects, collaborations with shoe string budgets and have been trying to claw my way back since. To surmise, I always thought (for twenty five years and still believing), that one day I would meet a truly great producer, partner up and the rest would be golden. It never happened, so I always self funded. Which is great when things are going well, but with a run of bad luck things can go wrong quickly and disastrously. Perseverance and luck, be in it for the love of it and you can take the loss of money and time on the chin. Be fully prepared when your opportunities come so that you do not miss them is vitally important, I wasn't and that is my only regret, since opportunity sometimes doesn't come around twice. Oh and the perseverance point, expect to make mistakes, make notes and learn from them. I have not amassed a fortune from film making but I have amassed vast experience, met most of the players and have learnt to spot the sharks, honed my film making skills, continued to raise my production values, learnt modesty along with insight.

    5 years ago
  • This strand has produced a brilliant stream of knowledge and experience. One very consistent theme is hard work and dedication more often than not consequential to a great deal of time learning through doing. My own modest career over three decades reflects those above quite a bit. However, to use one of favourite phrases, we ought not take our own case for a generality.

    Provided that one does actually poccess the naus (that undefinable ability to quickly learn what needs to be learned and the ability find those others who have the abilities you don't ); then having a compelling idea in the first place and raising a budget is what separates success from merely another exercise. Frustrating though it may be for those of us who've paths have required lengthy time based linear processes, there's some happy souls who've been able to jump through lateral worm holes and achieve success without lengthy apprenticeships. What usually defines those fortunate are an amalgam of good timing, lucky breaks and excellent if not magical social skills; what's always essential in those cases though seems to be what I can only describe as 'spiritual intelligence ', an attribute not restricted to film making.

    5 years ago