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

Tag Archives: film

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!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

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

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

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:

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 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:

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)

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

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: His website is:

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

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

Next on The Money Couch: Social-Media Tools for Film Fundraising

Next on my Internet radio show, The Money Couch, I am featuring an interview with filmmaker and marketing and PR expert Maureen Futtner who will talk about How Social Media Can Support Your Film Fundraising. The interview takes place Monday, August 3, at 7 PM PDT. Find us on or click the widget on the top right of this blog.

We’ll talk about what social-media sites and tools are must-haves and what social-media changes about film fundraising and what it does not.

With 20 years of experience in media and communications, Maureen Futtner is hard-wired to promote good causes and good people.

Maureen has successfully pitched stories to the San Francisco Chronicle, KALW radio, the Examiner, San Francisco Magazine and the Business Times, among other publications. Her work has been reviewed by the Village Voice, New York Newsday and the Boston Phoenix. Maureen has appeared on NBC-Bay Area and ABC7News, and her documentary films have been screened at festivals throughout the country.

Maureen founded the nonprofit theatre company Sleeveless Theatre and was its co-artistic director for 10 years. After receiving her Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from San Francisco State University, Maureen worked as DVD author and project manager at Video Arts, a professional digital film studio. She has served on the boards of the Central Market Community Benefit District and the Jon Sims Center for the Arts. While development and communications director at Urban Solutions, Maureen produced the organization’s signature event, the San Francisco Neighborhood Business Awards.

Maureen is a member of Media Alliance, Bay Area Women in Film and Media, the San Francisco Film Society, SPUR, City CarShare, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. When not seeking out the world’s fine stories, Maureen loves to run up the hills of San Francisco, play the guitar and banjo, and spy on California’s beautiful birds.

Please join Maureen and me on The Money Couch for an enlightening conversation about social media and film fundraising.

Film Fundraising Client Feature — Gravitas Docufilms

From time to time in this blog, I will shine a spotlight on my indie filmmaker clients.

Because I am producing three documentaries and one feature narrative, my bandwidth for directly raising money for films is pretty much used up. However, I am increasing my direct consulting with indie filmmakers in ways that will equip them with professional tools to use in fundraising and teach them how to present their case to potential funders.

My services include writing a business plan or fundraising plan, writing a proposal or treatment, and teaching filmmakers how to pitch.

I really enjoyed my recent work with Paul Mariano, Kurt Norton, and Barbara Grandvoinet of Gravitas Docufilms. Gravitas is producing a documentary called Lost Forever. Lost Forever asks you to imagine that your favorite movie no longer existed, that it was lost and gone forever. Imagine you could never watch it again,never relive those fond memories. Imagine that future generations would never even know it existed. Lost Forever shows how the National Film Registry is working to protect some of our greatest films and shares some amazing first-hand accounts of how film has touched people or even changed their lives.

I helped Gravitas write a fundraising plan that included a seed-money campaign, write a proposal to use with foundation and individual funders, and trained them how to pitch the film to potential funders.

We not only got a lot of work done together, we had a good time, too!

Thanks, guys!

Funder Feature: Sundance Documentary Fund

Hey, documentarians! One advantage you have is an ability to present your film as a “mission-driven, social-benefit project.” In other words, your film’s gonna change the WORLD! Narrative filmmakers have a harder case to make in that realm (although not impossible, as I’ve done it before), so most grants go to docs. Here’s a marquee grant that all social-message docs should take a look at: The Sundance Documentary Fund.

Back in the day, the Sundance Documentary Fund used to be the Soros Documentary Fund. This is a very competitive grant. You really need to have all of your ducks in a row before you attempt this one. Even better, there are two funds, one for Development, and the other for Work-in-Progress. So if you can snag the Development grant, you know that increases your chances of grabbing the Work-in-Progress grant. Work-in-Progress covers films in production or post-production. Almost nobody funds production anymore, it seems. Which is why they say, “For everything else, there’s VISA.” But here is a rare exception.

The Development Fund gives grants up to $15,000, and the Work-in-Progress gives grants up to $75,000, although most grants fall in the $20,000 to $50,000 range. There is a checklist of application materials available online. As with most competitive grants, for which hundreds if not thousands of filmmakers are applying, you need to have outstanding ideas that are clearly and compellingly communicated, a solid team, a solid plan, and for the work-in-progress grant, a kick-ass trailer that blows their socks into the next county.

I recommend forming your own “review panel” to read your application and critique it before you send it off. If you want to enlist more public commentary, you can do what filmmaker Brad Lichtenstein did and post your Sundance Documentary Fund application online, on your blog, soliciting input from random strangers. You know what they say about the kindness of strangers.

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

(Photo by Andrea Schafthuizen)

The Doctor Is In! One-on-One Consulting

I often get asked if I am available to produce independent films. Right now, my hands are full directly producing three documentaries and one feature narrative. But that doesn’t mean I can’t help you. I’ve been consulting one-on-one with independent filmmakers for many years, and I’ve found a way to support projects that is cost effective and really useful for filmmakers, too.

Currently, I provide four main services: 1) writing a fundraising plan for your film that outlines where the money is coming from and how you will raise it; 2) writing a treatment, proposal, or business plan that can be used to secure grants or present to individual donors or investors; 3) teaching you how to pitch your film in a face-to-face meeting with investors or donors; and 4) providing ongoing coaching and support throughout the making of the film at an affordable cost.

If you think these services would help you launch your film fundraising effort today, send me an email at You can visit my fundraising consulting website at

Hope to see you soon!

Upcoming Film Funding Deadlines

Finding foundations that fund film is about as hard as finding a dinosaur egg. Actually, given the economy, it’s getting harder to find ANY foundations that are funding anything. Seriously. Thank God there are 70,000 foundations around the country. Somebody must have some money for your film! Okay, here are two dedicated film-loving foundations that you should take a look at.

Pacific Pioneer Fund
August 15 is the next deadline for emerging documentary filmmakers to apply for grants between $1K and $10K. Visit their website for more information. What do they mean by “emerging?’ Somebody who has made at least one feature documentary before but who has not been a working filmmaker for more than 10 years. However, there are always exceptions, and this foundation is no exception.

The San Francisco Foundation
The Fund for Artists Matching Commissions has a new deadline of June 19, 2009. Visit their website for more information. The San Francisco Foundation is a relative newcomer to funding films, but their arts program officer is a working filmmaker who deeply appreciates all the struggle that raising money for a film represents, and he has been a true-blue champion of creating funding opportunities for filmmakers. Bravo!