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Fund-Raising

October 29, 2007

Again, while perusing the articles on Microfilmmaker Magazine’s website, I discovered this article on fund-raising.  It was less creative than the other articles I’d found, being more a business aspect of filmmaking than a creative one, but I think that was a little bit the point of it.  Most people I know don’t realize the fund-raising part of filmmaking even exists.  It’s very glazed over or even just avoided completely in amateur projects especially.  I watched an interview once with Bruce Campbell where he said “You’ve gotta put on your businessman’s hat for just a few minutes and work out how your business is gonna work,” basically that the investors get a certain amount of money back, if you had investors to start with.  Essentially, the point was that money is used and hopefully made at the end of a project, and what happens with that money needs to be clear from the beginning and you, as the head of your project, need to be careful to abide by those rules you set out for yourself from the get-go.  It’s a very important part of filmmaking that I’ve barely even touched.  We did have to raise quite a bit of money for LATENT(CY), the feature I directed last year, but before that I’d not fund-raised for any project I’d worked on.  It was surprising how much effort went into just raising money and how much more work was added to the whole project when we began thinking about raising money.  Not only through donations and helpful family members and stuff bringing food or offering gas money and what have you, but screenings of our older films with non-free tickets and such.  Other things to do would be things like DVD pre-sales, or other merchandise you can easily make or acquire that’s related to your film and is legal for resale (T-shirts, coffee mugs, the memorabilia stuff that’s easy to get made in bulk or make yourself).

One thing I always wonder is why Hollywood movies cost so much money.  It’s obvious that lots of it goes toward transportation costs, as well as paying the actors ridiculous amounts of money, and the directors and producers as well.  They also have tons of people working on projects from the writer(s) all the way to the marketing department, comprised of most likely more than just a few people.  I would also think that some of it goes toward locations, lots toward costuming, props and sets, if there’s much of that in the film, depending on when the film takes place and what it’s about.

The interesting thing now to me, mostly, is that when more and more effects are involved in a movie, it seems like more and more money is called for, only us low-budget guys often prefer films with digital effects (simple ones, for the most part) that can enhance the film because they’re easy, cheap and accessible.  There are tons of people these days wanting to go into visual effects, 3D animation, graphic design, and all those fields, and often, filmmakers either double as effects artists or know enough about the technology and have friends or favors owed to them by people who work in the field that it’s often either free or super cheap to get some good effects on a low-budget film.  For example, I’m a filmmaker, much more of a storyteller and writer/director type, but I’m going to visual effects college starting in February to learn the Hollywood techniques using big-budget tolls and resources for basically learning how to work in a studio right out of the program.  All of that knowledge is mainly universal, in concept form, so it’ll be easy to go home and on my much lower budget machine figure out how to do what I’d learned that day in classes on my own stuff.  Not only will I have the capability to shoot, edit and finish a film all with my own equipment, I’ll have deep, professional-level post-production visual effects background and know-how for my projects as well.  It’s an incredibly useful “double-major,” as it were, to have in this day and age where digital is becoming so much cheaper, easier and more accessible to the average Joe.

The saddest things to me, really, is the fact not that the sets get torn down at the end of every movie, but oftentimes they just get thrown away, all the pieces and equipment and stuff that’s not going to get used by the crew anymore, since the film’s done, often just gets thrown away.  That’s like taking half the budget and flushing it down the toilet!  It’s incredible!  If I ever made a big-budget movie I’d at least sell as much as possible, if not to make back the money then to at least know that the stuff wasn’t just going to waste.  It’d be a wonderful way to make back the money that was used in the making of the film, and since ebay’s here, we can pretty much sell anything we have to anybody around the world.  If you’ve got something like a candlestick that was in a movie selling for 5 bucks, somebody would take it.  The huge wastefulness of Hollywood is just one more thing about the industry today that bugs the crap out of me.  It’s so illogical, so immoral and irrational that I don’t understand how they continue to get away with it, especially with the climate, social, economical and other crises we have in the world right now.  That money, if for some incredible reason the production company decided they didn’t want it, could be used for charities, could be used to help someone else make a movie, could be sent somewhere and put to good use.  Actors don’t need to get paid millions of dollars, that’s ridiculous.  Actors in low-budget movies are often just as good and don’t even get paid a quarter that much, and they’re probably plenty happy with their jobs.  If you could cut the salaries in a film’s production in half, use it all either for other stuff for the project just to sell the idea better (make it more believable) or even just cut the budget in half that way, there would be a lot of money to go around for other things, not to mention a ton of talk about the film cutting costs way, way down and still coming out great.  Because who ever heard of a film that’s super cheap making it into the Hollywood distribution circuit?  Oh wait… Rodriguez did it and it made his career.  Oh, right.  So why doesn’t anybody else?  I would love to see someone take a real, full budget for a big-time Hollywood movie, rework it and get it as cheap as it could go without sacrificing the quality of the project, and see what the ending difference would be.  I think it would be an incredible eye-opener into the wastefulness of Hollywood, the talent and creativity that needs to be in movies (yes, even in the business aspects of them, like fund-raising), and the fact that you can make something great from nothing and still be OK by the end.  I think it would be a wonderful realization, if somebody would actually do it.

Link: http://www.microfilmmaker.com/tipstrick/Issue17/FundRai1.html

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