Nuts, bolts, hot tips, and road-tested information from Holly Million for indie filmmakers raising money

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Funder Feature: Cinereach

Hey, filmmakers! How often do you hear about new film-specific funding opportunities? Not often these days.

Well here is a relatively new funding opportunity you need to check out. And it comes in three flavors: Cinereach Grants & Awards, The Reach Film Fellowship, and Cinereach Productions.

Cinereach is now accepting letters of inquiry and sample work for their winter grant cycle. The deadline is December 1, 2009, and they will request full proposals from select projects in January. Each year Cinereach grants over $500,000 to well-crafted feature films that depict underrepresented perspectives, resonate across international boundaries, and spark dialogue. Grants usually range from $5,000 – $50,000 and are awarded to films at any stage.

Cinereach was created in 2006 by young filmmakers, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs to champion vital stories, artfully told. The young nonprofit facilitates the creation of films that challenge, excite, innovate, offer new perspectives and inspire action. Cinereach has awarded well over $2.5 million in grants and achievement awards to more than 40 feature films.

Recent Cinereach funding recipients include October Country, a new documentary by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, which won Best American Documentary at Silverdocs and Entre Nos a fiction film by Paola Mendoza and Gloria La Morte, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

For more information, visit the Cinereach website. And good luck! Let me know how it goes.

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

(Lightning photo by Mark Coldren)

A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers Jan. 23, 2010

Register Now for A Helluva Camp™ for Indie Filmmakers

This camp is for indie filmmakers who want new ideas and new ways to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.

We spend one full day covering topics that aren’t covered in most film schools, and our instructors are working filmmakers or real-life movers and shakers in their fields of expertise.

This is a fantastic opportunity to network with other filmmakers and experts in many fields. You don’t want to miss this one!

And compared to what other camps and conferences are charging these days, A Helluva Camp is a real bargain!

Date:
Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cost:
$125 by December 31, 2009
$145 between January 1, 2010 to January 22, 2010
$165 at the door

Location:
Ninth Street Media Center
145 Ninth Street (at Mission)
San Francisco, CA 94103

Breakfast and Lunch included! Featuring Peet’s Coffees and Teas!
Register Now!
Email confirmation will be sent to you.

For more information about the line-up or to sign up for this unique indie film camp, visit Golden Poppy Productions, LLC.

Sponsored by:
Golden Poppy Productions, LLC
Holly Million, Fundraising Consultant
A Million Images, LLC
Ninth Street Media and Arts Center
The Women’s Film Institute
GuruTube.net

Free Fundraising Webinar!

I’m presenting a free film fundraising webinar through the Women’s Film Institute, the presenters of the San Francisco Women’s Film Festival. Here is what they had to say about the presentation in their latest e-newsletter:

Free Webinar on How to Ask People for Money

This webinar is FREE and demonstrates how to develop relationships with individual donors and ask them to make a financial contribution to your film. Learn how to fundraise fearlessly and make a successful ask. We’ll discuss how to identify donor prospects and cultivate them, what tools you need to do this kind of fundraising and how to go face to face to ask for money. Webinar will be held on Dec. 3, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. Space is limited and RSVP by emailing: sfwomensfilmfestival@gmail.com

About Holly Million:

Holly is a consultant, author, and filmmaker with nearly two decades’ worth of experience in fundraising. In addition to securing funding for “A Story of Healing,” which won a 1997 Academy Award, Million has raised money for documentary and dramatic films that have aired on PBS, HBO, and other broadcast outlets. She is the author of “Fear-Free Fundraising: How to Ask People for Money,” available on Amazon.com. She is writing a new book, “A Helluva Guide to Indie Film Fundraising” to be published in 2010.

She is the founder of Golden Poppy Productions, LLC, the presenters of A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers on 1/23/2010 and for Nonprofit Rebels on 1/30/2010 in San Francisco, CA.

Fore more information on A Helluva Camp or to register visit:

http://www.goldenpoppy.com

Show Your Donors Some Love

So you’re drafting a fundraising prospect list for your indie film? Looks like it’s shaping up to be the most extensive list of individual donor prospects known to mankind. Good job!

Your list covers your personal connections (everyone from Uncle Ernie to your former Econ 101 professor), people your personal connections can introduce you to who care about the same issues your film covers, and known suspects in the community who just love film. You have really done your homework and you even know how much you plan to ask each one of these prospects for.

So what’s the problem? Well, I’ll bet you know what you want from them. But do you have any clue what they want from you?

That’s right. You know you want their money. But what do these fine people get for giving their cash to you and your film? Stumped? Here are a few tried and true ways to both entice as well as reward your individual donors, along with a few totally off-the-wall tips to demonstrate that the sky really is the limit when it comes to thanking your donors.

Tip One: Credit Where Credit Is Due
Some people would love to see their name on the big screen, even if it’s tucked somewhere far down the list past where you thank the caterer and your accountant. In exchange for people’s financial support, promise to include them in your film’s credits. Want to make things really interesting? Offer different levels of credits for different sized gifts. Somebody wants to be the executive producer? Or assistant to Mr. Waters? They’re going to have to pay.

Tip Two: Ask for Their Opinions
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want money, ask for advice, and if you want advice, ask for money.” It’s surprising, but very few filmmakers think to ask people on their lists for ideas, information, and advice. Do you need a location? Do you need a graphic designer? Do you want feedback on your screenplay? The more you ask people for ideas, the more they will feel connected to your film. And when people feel connected to something, it increases their willingness to put some skin in the game.

Tip Three: Put Them on an Advisory Board
I secured a gift of $5,000 from an individual who was an artist who was passionate about women’s issues for a short narrative film I was making that focused on these issues. Although most short narratives don’t need the support of an advisory board, I created one anyway, seeing how it would both attach known names to my project and reward the people who cared most about my film. I invited my major donor to join this advisory board, and she was surprised — and pleased — by the invitation.

Tip Four: Put Them in the Film
Oh, my God! Did I really just write that? Am I out of my mind? Quite possibly. At least where some potential donors are concerned. I don’t recommend putting just anyone in your film. And I’m not talking about putting them in a speaking role if they can’t act their way out of a paper bag. But is there some scene in your film where you need a bunch of extras? Can they blend into the background somehow? If you have a really big potential donor or investor, this may be the ticket to get them to write that check.

Tip Five: Did I Mention the Tax Write-Off/Investment Potential?
If you’re making a non-commercial film that is fiscally sponsored, then you can offer your individual donors a tax write-off for their contributions to your film. You get their money, and they get to take a tax-deduction for making that gift. If you’re making a commercial film, then be prepared to talk about the potential return on investment. How is the investor going to make back her money? What are the risks involved? What are the potential payoffs?

Tip Six: Invite Them to Your World Premiere at Festival X
There is that special category of donors who just love the concept of making a film. They are probably themselves closeted filmmakers, but they won’t or can’t make the leap into making a film of their own. However, you’re a filmmaker. By inviting this potential donor to become part of the film scene by coming with you to a festival would start them swooning. You don’t know which festival you may get into, but for some people, it won’t matter one bit.

Tip Seven: Tell Other People How Great Your Donors Are
Whenever you host an event, thank the people who have shown their support. When you put up your website, list those who helped you get where you are today. Proclaim publicly that these folks are your heroes, and they will bask in the glow of your appreciation.

Tip Eight: Show How Your Film Has Changed the World
For donors who give to your film because of its subject matter, knowing that the film went on to great things will make them feel good. Did your documentary about food safety change national policy on food safety? Did your expose of corporate malfeasance bring the bad guys to justice? Show that impact, and those donors will see your film as the greatest thing their money has ever produced.

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

(heart photo by Peter Kratochvil)

Web 2.0 Tools for Film Fundraising Class Rocked!

I taught a three-hour class called “Web 2.0 Tools for Film Fundraising” last night through the San Francisco Film Society. That’s a picture of me with most of the class attendees. Thanks to Vance Snyder for taking the picture!

This class focused on what Web 2.0 is all about, what specific tools are out there, and how to put them to work in support of your indie film fundraising. We covered everything from blogs to wikis to social networking to folksonomies and explored the inner workings of popular sites and tools such as Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Vertical Response.

I created a class document that I emailed to all the students after the class that contained hotlinks to all of the dozens and dozens of sites I shared during the class. What a deal!

I’ll be offering the class again in coming months, so either stay tuned on this blog, or sign up using the form on the right-hand side of the blog to receive email announcements.

For two hot examples of how indie films are doing exciting, bold, and brilliant things with Web 2.0, check out the website of low-budget fright phenomenon Paranormal Activity and the site of polar opposite The Yes Men Fix Everything. You will be amazed at what Web 2.0 can do for your film.

If you are interested in learning more about connecting your film to the Internet, consider signing up for A Helluva Camp on Film Production from Idea to Internet, taking place on April 24, 2010. For more information or to register, visit Golden Poppy Productions, LLC.

Put the Web to work for you!

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

A Helluva Camp Featured Presenter — Richard Levien

Editor and filmmaker Richard Levien is presenting at two different camps I am organizing in 2010. Richard will present on “A Low-Budget, Kick-Ass Trailer” at A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers which is taking place in San Francisco on Saturday, January 23, 2009. He will also be part of the four-person team of experts presenting at A Helluva Camp on Film Production from Idea to Internet on Saturday, January 30, 2009.

For more information about both camps or to register, visit Golden Poppy Productions.

Richard has a PhD in theoretical physics from Princeton University, but has found his real passion in film. As a freelance film editor, he co-edited the feature documentary D Tour, which won the Golden Gate award for Best Bay Area documentary at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival, and will appear on the PBS series Independent Lens in Fall 2009. He edited and did motion graphics for the short film On the Assassination of the Presidentwhich premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He also edited the cult Internet hit Store Wars, which was seen by 5.5 million people in the first 6 weeks of its release.

Levien’s first film as a director is Immersion (2009), a short film about a ten-year-old immigrant from Mexico who speaks no English, and struggles to fit in at his new school in the U.S. “Immersion” debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2009. It has also played or will play at the San Francisco International, Seattle International, Sarasota, Palm Springs Shortfest, Mill Valley, Chicago International Children’s, Media that Matters, New Zealand International and Brussels International Independent Film Festivals. It won the “No Violence” award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Golden Gate award for Best Bay Area short film at the San Francisco International Film Festival.

At the same festival, Levien won the $35,000 San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant, the first in a cycle of grants that will infuse $3 million dollars into narrative feature filmmaking in the Bay Area in the next five years. Levien won for screenwriting and script development of La Migra, the story of an 11-year-old girl whose mother has been taken away by U.S. immigration police. He is working with author Malin Alegria on this project.

Levien was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1968. He enjoys a good cup of tea and follows the (mostly ill) fate of the New Zealand cricket team. He is one of the few New Zealanders who played no part whatsoever in the making of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

For more information about A Helluva Camp or to register, visit www.goldenpoppy.com.

A Helluva Camp Featured Presenter — Rod Minott

I’m organizing A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers on January 23, 2010 in San Francisco. For more information on this and other camps in the series, visit Golden Poppy Productions.

One of our featured presenters at the camp is Rod Minott, who will be presenting on the subject of “Grant Proposals That Don’t Suck.” We could all benefit from a discussion on that topic!

Rod Minott is the founder of Glisan Media, a San Francisco-based media company that focuses on video-journalism story production as well as consulting services for independent producers interested in producing programs for public television. Rod began his broadcasting career in 1984 as an on-air daily news reporter for the Boise, Idaho CBS station affiliate, KBCI TV2. In 1985 he joined public television as an on-air reporter/producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland. Rod has also been a reporter/producer for public television stations KTEH in San Jose, and KCTS in Seattle. From 1994 until 1999, Rod served as the Seattle-based on-air correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. From 2005 until 2007 he worked at the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in San Francisco as Program Manager for the LINCS (Linking Independents and Co-Producing Stations) funding initiative. He also oversaw ITVS’s online digital initiative, “Electric Shadows.” Rod lives in San Francisco. He can be contacted at: phone-(415) 553-5969 email: rodminott@hotmail.com His website is: www.glisanmedia.com

Register now for A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers and gain exciting knowledge from presenters like Rod Minott!

For more information or to register, visit www.goldenpoppy.com.

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers x 2!

Hey, filmmakers!

I have launched some special camps to satisfy your jones for real information that’s useful and up to date! Plenty of opportunity to network with your peers as well as experts in many avenues of the film field.

To find out more, visit www.goldenpoppy.com. You can also register on the website.

A Helluva Camp™ provides condensed, content-rich, cutting-edge, & fun mini-camps & mini-conferences. Our goal is to give you information & training you can’t find anywhere else about subjects that are exciting, practical, & up to the minute! Our goal is to fire up the can-do person in all of us.

Register now for our upcoming camps!

A Helluva Camp™ for Indie FilmmakersJanuary 23, 2010
(Info on fundraising, marketing, the latest technology, distribution, & much more)

A Helluva Camp™ for Nonprofit RebelsJanuary 30, 2010
(Info on fundraising, PR, the latest technology, board development, & much more)

A Helluva Camp™ on Film Production from Idea to Internet April 24, 2010
(Info on shooting, capturing, editing, & uploading your footage to the Internet)

* Each camp is one full day.

* Includes breakfast, lunch, & free Peet’s coffee & teas.

* To see the line-up of presenters, find out more details, or to register for any of the three camps, visit www.goldenpoppy.com.

* Or, email holly@goldenpoppy.com for more information.

Writing a Kick-Ass Funding Proposal

You need several things to land a foundation grant for your film. One, a well-edited trailer or work sample. Two, the hutzpah of Attila the Hun. And three, a kick-ass written proposal. Okay, so you have the first two. Is it the written proposal that is baffling you? Well, be baffled no more. Here are all the basic ingredients you need to bake up a tasty grant proposal.

A good proposal begins with good ideas. You have to know what you are trying to create and what success looks like for that creation. With a film, your proposal is only as strong as the ideas, images, and people your film contains. Do you have strong characters that give the audience somebody to identify with or whose story will move them? Are existential truths revealed through your film? Are there ideas, themes, lessons, and morals to give your film shape and life? Have you thought through what the film is about, and is there a driving rationale for what it contains?

A good proposal includes a plan. Who is your film aimed at? How will they see it? How are you going to raise the money to make the film? How long will it take you to make the film? You need to be able to answer these questions with some sophistication. Don’t say your film is aimed at everybody. Nobody believes that. Are you planning to have your film screen in festivals? Put down a really well considered list of festivals with an explanation of why you picked them and what your chances are for getting in. Don’t list the top ten festivals in North America and walk away. That will just look plain lazy. Will you use some creative tactics to help your distribution plan? Then give some juicy details about how that will work and what it will look like.

A good proposal paints a picture. Can a reader envision this film? Can they see the characters and what they’re going through? Can they visualize what’s going to be on the screen? One way to help your readers do this is by using actual quotes from the film. Having the words of real people from the film on the pages of the proposal helps bring it alive. Another way can be to tie current events to what your film will be about. Put in some description of what’s happening in the world and show how your film directly connects with this. A film is visual. Make your written proposal as visual as possible.

A good proposal is convincing. One of the things program officers, board members, and panel reviewers will all do is to decide whether they believe you can accomplish what you say you want to accomplish. You can make your proposal more likely to convince them by doing the following things. One, use affirmative language, not tentative language. Don’t say, “I would like to interview Joe Schmo, expert on the subject,”€ say, “I will interview (or even better, have interviewed) Joe Schmo, and he says X.” Include information about distribution to show you not only have a plan, but you are already taking steps to make it so. Do you want to be on Discovery Channel? Then call up Discovery Channel and talk to a producer. Now you can put that in your proposal. I helped one director I was working with by setting up a meeting with a producer at HBO. She met with him, and he was polite but noncommittal about the whole deal. However, the fact that the conversation had taken place allowed me to write in the proposal, “the director met with producer ‘Mr. X’€ from HBO to discuss the project and share our trailer. HBO sees this project as being a potential fit for their CineMax outlet.”€ All of that is absolutely true.

A good proposal is well written. Well written means engaging. A good proposal has energy, verve, zing! The sentence structure is active. There’s a certain muscular quality to the writing. It is not flabby. Every word on the page must contain valuable information that presents the case for funding. There are no typos or grammatical errors. Yes, I need to say that last line, because some proposals go out in the mail in absolutely awful shape. Proofread! If you’re not good at that, have somebody else do it.

A good proposal includes partners. You are just one person. Wonderful as you are, unless you are Ken Burns, you alone will not be enough to convince the foundations you can pull off your film as proposed. Solution? Surround yourself with an experienced team who enhance your skills and abilities. Find a known filmmaker who has been around the block a few times who can serve as your executive producer. Hire an experienced director of photography and editor. In addition to the crew, how about an advisory board? Ask experts in the field to serve as advisors to your film, and include their bios on the proposal. Last, nonprofit partners are often a big boost to your credibility with foundations that are used to funding nonprofits. They can understand a nonprofit and its programs a helluva lot more than they can understand Joe Q. Filmmaker and his film. Nonprofits can bolster your resources by helping secure interviews with key people, adding advisors to the advisory board, helping to screen and distribute your film to interested audiences, and assisting with joint fundraising efforts that truly benefit both partners.

A good proposal is tailored to the funder. You cannot imagine how many people think applying to foundations is a one-size-fits-all deal. They write one boilerplate proposal and don’t change a word with each submission. That is a formula for failure. Your proposal needs to shift and evolve with each application. That’s why you’re going to all that trouble of poring over the guidelines, sifting through the records, and becoming bosom-buddies with that nerdy program officer. Why would you go through that and then use the same proposal every time? That’s right up there with recycling used underwear! Please, be more civilized.

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

(Photo by Angie Perkins)

Upcoming Film Funding Classes

Obama embraced fundraising like no political candidate before, raising over $750 million in the course of his campaign. That’s the real secret to successful fundraising — embrace it!

Want to become more intimate with the intricacies of fundraising? I’m teaching several film fundraising classes through the San Francisco Film Society throughout the rest of this year. Need to learn how to pitch? Want to find out how the Internet can enhance your film fundraising? I have the straight dope for you.

I’m teaching my long-running, popular class “How to Ask People for Money” on August 29 and September 12. The first session is sold out, but space is still available for the second class. This is an eight-hour-long, hands-on experience that has you learning what goes in to donor prospect identification, cultivation, and direct asks. By the end of the day, you are pitching your film to a live panel of real film experts who give you gentle, constructive feedback to improve your odds the next time you go out to bat!

I’m teaching a reprise of “How to Ask People for Money” on October 17 and again on December 5. I teach a simplified version of the class as a webinar on November 7.

I’m also teaching “Using Interactive Web Tools for Indie Film Fundraising” on October 21. Filmmakers are embracing blogs, tweets and social networking to help cast, market, distribute and raise money for films. Find out how Web 2.0 tools can enhance your donor cultivation and communication.

So there are plenty of class dates to choose from. Register now!

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

(Obama artwork by Petr Kratochvil)