The simplest path is sometimes also the most difficult. In the olden days, studios financed pretty much every part of every part. Today, they still spend that money, but it’s a little more complicated. For one thing, it’s harder to get them in the room. Unless you have the rights to an already lucrative franchise, a project needs serious star-power to get a studio’s attention. Even then, studios might let you go out and make the damn thing yourself, only to swoop in and buy it off your hands once you’ve done all the heavy lifting. Or some junior executives will call you every week to tell you how much they love the project and how excited they are, despite the fact that you’re still making lattes at Starbucks to pay rent. But maybe if Starbucks pays you in stock options, you’ll finally raise that money!
The Toughest Money to Get
Wouldn’t it be nice if one person, place or thing could fund your entire budget? While the truly professional media financier has become a rare specimen, there still are a few out there. Generally, they tend to associate with more established entertainment properties – you know, the ones that people can "Marvel" at – but there are obvious advantages to this type of investment. The size of the check definitely matters, but a professional financier also knows exactly what to expect from the maker. That said, this often cuts the wrong direction for creative types, as this type of investor’s main interest is protecting the investment. Of course, there’s always the chance you find the independently uber-wealthy private patron who wants to leave a lasting cultural legacy. Most of the time, those people would rather run for president than finance the next great film or TV series.
Media Hedge Fund
Do the words “media hedge fund” make you think of a bunch of Bond villains? Well, that’s usually who they’re financing both on and off-screen. If studios prefer already established Hollywood franchises, media hedge funds freakin’ love them. It’s also not clear whether or not media hedge funds actually make money with this business model, as they tend not to be totally open with their financial records. But hey, maybe your Econ major friend who wanted to get a real job after college has climbed high enough up the corporate ladder to get you a meeting at one of these places?
- Here are the 5 Things to Know About Hollywood Hedge Funds.
Money through branding is a little murkier, but it could also be the wave of the future. Branding deals have become more and more common, particularly for web productions (though not limited to this area). While branding may sound a bit like selling your soul, companies who are exploring these areas actually want to create more sophisticated media as opposed to blatant advertising. Of course, money for branded content will likely be less than any of those other options, and may not be granted up front in a traditional fashion.
Passionate (crazy) Patron
Do you still believe in unicorns, the Easter Bunny and the results of “The Bachelor?” Then hold out hope for that insanely rich individual who cares more about funding your film than consolidating power or buying the Mona Lisa. However, if the budget level of your project falls within a certain range, you may be able to find a lowly millionaire, or even a couple-hundred-thousand-aire, who believes in the importance of your project. This tends to be a little easier on the documentary side, as these works tend to cost less and generally deal with issues that catch the attention of charitable individuals. However, if you do happen to stumble onto one of these blessed saints, be open, polite and honest with them. You don’t want to scare them away from future projects, yours or otherwise.