FUND YOUR MOVIE QUICKLY, EASILY!
You want to make a feature film, but you lack a bankroll. Don’t go to Uncle
MasterCard and Aunt Visa to fund your movie. Bad credit is more than a pain. Don’t
use eBay or Craigslist to auction off shares of your new film. Web-surfers who don’t
know you will think you’re a scam. Last July, I decided to make The Deed to Hell a
horror film with a message. Within five weeks, I was fully funded with a $30,000
First, before I wrote the screenplay, I figured what available resources I have.
When Robert Rodriquez made El Mariachi on a $6,000 budget, he listed his available
resources: (such as tough looking pals, a school bus, access to a jail) before he
wrote his screenplay. I had access to uber-discount travel expenses, so I knew I
could (relatively) inexpensively shoot scenes of the film in Paris, Rome, and Athens,
Greece. These locations were written into the screenplay for The Deed to Hell.
A screenplay was finished by early August. The film follows three stories: Sal,
a murderous New York embezzler heads to Europe while gangsters quickly pick
up his scent. On the plane to Rome, Sal meets Lynell, a beautiful young woman
who is anxious to see in Rome, Zad Zolock, a world-touring rock star.
Lynell seeks to assassinate Zolock in Rome, to avenge her friend who was
killed by Zolock. Lynell has a sugar-daddy in the states named Vince. Vince is in
an unhappy marriage to the very shrewish perfectionist soccer mom Anna.
With about fifteen minutes left in the film, Sal, Vince, Anna, Vince's children
and Lynell die horrible deaths. The last segment of the film takes place in a gory
and chilling vision of Hell. Okay, you’re thinking, talk about the funding! Major
films are funded by product placement. (Think of all the Sony gadgets in Casino
Royale!) I did the same thing, only on a smaller scale. I approached local businesses
if they would (a) allow me to shoot at their location or, (b) sponsor the film with a
financial contribution. I would acknowledge them in a full page advertisement in a
local paper. That $ 800 for the one page ad got me thousands of dollars in donated
funds, and many free locations (four restaurants, an airplane interior, a hospital, an
ambulance, and a cemetery.) Not to use crude analogy, but nobody likes to be the
virgin. First seek out location owners. After you got various businesses to say
“okay, you can shoot here” then you go for the cash donations, armed with a list
of other businesses that are on board with you. People will say: “Oh, you’re
shooting there. Okay: I’m in…” and the checkbook comes out. People feel more
comfortable with a crowd. Another film-maker told me they tried to secretly shoot
in a hotel. The hotel owner found out, and threatened to call the police. Their shoot
was ruined. Since we had the free-advertising deal with the hotel manager we
approached, not only did we get free hotel rooms to shoot in, we got fed too!
I cast the film mostly from people I used before in previous films, and placed
an ad on Craigslist. When you place the ad, please be up-front: This is where you
state if the job is a paying gig. How many days are involved, is nudity involved?
We pulled off shooting in five European locations by keeping things simple. All
we needed was the HDV Camera we shot with, myself, a few props, and our lead
actress. Very often, big budgeted storylines are molded by the egos of the suits
involved. I figured, give the audience what they want. Audiences aren’t concerned
over your financiers “political views” or what cool piece of camera-dolly equipment
you have, or what you can pull off with consumer level computer effects.
Audiences want a good story, peppered with great acting, locations, and movie
“Just tell a good story,” remarked indie film-maker Edward Burns (Brothers
MacMullan, Sidewalks of New York) “Don’t go over your head. A small budget car
chase, no matter how clever, can never compare with a Hollywood car chase.”
“What many film-makers forget is that the audience is only seeing what your
camera lens captures.” comments our co-producer Paul Kanter. “Once you figure
out that what is out of camera range has no importance, you think in more
economic ways.” For example, we needed a scene where a sinner in Hell is
covered with live crawling roaches. The mail-order roaches were easy to get, and
tame (Roaches love wet dog food, so the actor was covered with wet dog chow and
roaches!) But where can you film this? You just can’t go to Aunt Martha and say,
“Can we shoot in your house, oh, and by the way… we have these roaches…
and….” A small corner of a rented moving van became a dark, unfriendly corner
in Hades! No expensive studio. We were shooting the bug covered actor mostly
in medium shot! All we needed was a fifty dollar rental van, which we cleaned out
really well before we returned it!
I once read a simple quiz aimed at people looking to invest funds. One question was
“You best friend is going to shoot his own independent feature. Do you: A) write him
a check, or B) Wish him luck.” Sadly, the quiz-writers right answer was “B”. Indie
film investing gets a bad rep in the financial circles. Film investing doesn’t have the
cushion of real estate or precious metals. If you promise the investor something
that gives them a guaranteed return, such as free local advertising (and choose
advertising venues that have a lot of viewers/and readers that might consider using
this person’s business), you can get the ball rolling.
About the author: Glenn Andreiev is a film maker and film teacher based in Long
Island. His latest film, The Deed to Hell, had its first public viewings in Spring 2008
to positive reactions. Comments, as well as other film-maker's stories on how they
made their film are encouraged. He can be reached at Gandreiev@aol.com
The film has played twice at Huntington's Cinema
Arts Center and is getting great reviews.
THE DEED TO HELL has calmly made it this far,
becoming the unique film it shaped up to be.
For all those involved in the film,
I can't thank you all enough.