Film Financing lessons from famous producers such as Steven Spielberg, Lee Daniels, Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater and more. One of the biggest take-aways here is that film financing is a never-ending process...no matter how famous these producers and directors are, successful filmmakers see film financing as an innate part of film production throughout their careers.
I fully expected halfway through to be abandoned and have to seek other financing. I never had to, though. It's a minor miracle." - Richard Linklater, on Boyhood
Many of the world's most famous film makers did not use traditional film financing methods or film investors, nor did they make their most famous films at the beginning of their careers. Here are some famous film maker interviews and stories to inspire you and let you know even the most famous film makers have and continue to face film financing challenges.
Lee Daniels Film Financing Lessons
Think you have it rough? Lee Daniels is known for producing incredibly controversial films, such as The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon as a convicted sex offender, and Monster’s Ball, a melodrama about bigotry and interracial love in the South. When figuring out the film financing for Precious, Daniels had to face that Shadowboxer hadn’t done so well. Read all about Lee Daniels' Film Financing Lessons and how he overcame these setbacks.
Richard Linklater Film Financing Lessons
Time Magazine asked, "Was it hard making the business case for financing the film [Boyhood]?"
"I talked to some producers and they're like, ‘Huh? What? We're gonna pay and not …' It just made no sense. But then IFC came aboard. I had done two films with them, Tape and Waking Life. They took the long term view. And it wasn't that much money, about $200,000 a year. We're shooting on film. It was very low budget. And they just took the leap. I fully expected halfway through to be abandoned and have to seek other financing. I never had to, though. It's a minor miracle."
Source: Everything You Need to Know About the Making of Boyhood Over 12 Years
Producer Celine Rattray (The Kids Are All Right)
The 2010 lesbian family drama, made for less than $5 million, grossed seven times its budget and more than doubled its investors' money. Producer Celine Rattray explains how she did it — and offers other tips on how to raise cash to fund movies. She discusses new financing sources, like Netflix and Amazon, how she's raised funds for over 40 movies, the importance of tax incentives, timing of investor ROI, and how to be "investor-friendly," as there's nothing more satisfying than repeat business from investors.
Read more: How to Find "Savvy" Money for Your Movie.
Kevin Smith Film Financing Lessons
At the Independent Feature Film Market in 1994, an audience member asked Kevin Smith how he raised the money for Clerks? - The short answer, Credit Cards.
"Over the previous few years a friend of mine, Brian, and myself had this running competition to get as many credit cards as possible; it's one of those things you do when you are bored... I figured we can make this movie for $25,000 and I have enough room on my credit cards to do that. So let's just shoot and start cutting it, and when we hit $25,000, we start worrying. Clerks initial film financing was $27,000, before the soundtrack was added."
Source: Independent Feature Film Production by Gregory Goodell
George Lucas made five, mostly unheard of, short films, before he made a 15 minute science fiction short, Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB. He won a prize, along with a scholarship to work with Francis Ford Coppola at Warner Brothers, when they formed their own company and made the feature length version of THX 1138. This helped him get film financing for American Graffiti. The success of American Graffiti helped finance Star Wars. Today, George Lucas is the most financially successful independent filmmaker in the world.
Steven Spielberg produced 3 films (I Wanna Hold Your Hand, Used Cars, Continental Divide) before he produced E.T. The Extra Terrestrial. He also directed over 10 movies, along with many television shows, before he directed Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
More Film Financing Lessons
Check out our Film Financing Tips from other Filmmakers, where you will learn more film financing lessons from those those who have successfully financed their films. Tips include creative use of props and locations, rechargeable batteries, tax deductible donations, grants, Kickstarter campaigns, private investments and much more!
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For additional First Film Financing stories, including The Coen Brothers, Blood Simple, Richard Linklater, Slacker and Quentin Tarantino (My Best Friend's Birthday, prior to Reservoir Dogs), please see our Independent Film Financing Manual.