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Free Money

So about that whole free money thing we used to bait and hook you? The best things in life may be free, but in film and digital media, pretty much nothing is. Whether you’re applying for grants or turning to crowdfunding, there can be strings attached and strict limitations, not to mention all the sweat and blood to formally beg for this money.

Photo: James Cridland


Without film grants, reality television would be the only documentaries around. So yeah, grants can be pretty great, especially if your project is non-fiction. The socialist utopias overseas tend to be better about government funded subsidies for filmmakers, but in the U-S-of-A, we rely mainly on public and non-profit grants. And contrary to what you might expect, these organizations have as much bureaucratic red tape as a hospital in Canada. If possible, find someone with experience in applying for these grants, or take extra care when going the DIY route.

Further Reading:

Fiscal Sponsorship

Fiscal sponsors are similar to grants, except that they function mainly as tax-deductible donations for the organization involved. These philanthropists also have to be registered as 501(c)(3) organizations to provide this type of funding. The most notable examples here are the Sundance Institute and the Independent Filmmaker Project. Generally, there is a fee to cover the processing of the project’s application.


The single biggest revolution in financing has been crowdfunding campaigns. Whether it’s Kickstarter, Indiegogo or a virtual tip jar, there are a lot of examples of projects that raised money this way. In fact, you may even know some people who did it this way; or at least, they claim they did. While crowdfunding seems easy and straightforward, a professional quality campaign can require a lot of work. There are already fundraisers out there who specialize in this area for media projects. And yeah, the jury is still out on whether Zach Braff and Spike Lee kind of ruined these for ordinary people.

Crowdfunding Success Stories

Watch Kung Fury…because the parody of 80’s action/sci-fi/martial arts genres raised $200,000 in less than a day and is being adapted into a feature length film. Writer-director-star David Sandberg used a home studio green screen to tell the story of Kung Fury, a badass kung fu cop who travels back through time to fight Hitler. Sandberg combined his love for over-the-top 80’s culture with Internet friendly tropes like retro video games, dinosaurs, and Vikings to crowdfund a unique comedy spoof that showcased his own talents as an actor and visual effects artist. Based on a self-produced trailer, Sandberg raised almost $700,000 in donations – nearly half a million more than the initial request – from over 17,000 people, making Kung Fury one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time.

Further Reading:

  • Indiewire’s Ultimate Guide to Crowdfunding

For More on Donation Money (Soft Money):

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