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

Tag Archives: fundraising

Break Through From Outsider to Insider

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You probably already know this, but I need to say it. It is one of the most important things you can hear about the film fundraising process you will engage in. The rich get richer, and the poor stay poor. Ouch!

You’re probably saying, “Oh, come on, Holly, you’re always so blunt and over the top.” Well, there is a reason for that. I’ve been alive for what seems like a very long time, and I’ve gotten a good look at how things work. Knowing how things work is the secret password, the “Shazam!,” the “Abracadabra!,” the “Ala Kazam!,” the “Open, Says Me” in the world of film fundraising. Also known as the world.

I am still astonished by how trusting, how like little lambs newbie fundraisers can be. They assume things will be fair and that everybody gets equal consideration. Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Because the funding world is a whole lot like the rest of the planet. There are some people with advantages and some people with disadvantages. There are insiders, and there are outsiders. There are people who will be worshipped and kowtowed to and catered to because of who they are. And there are people who will be ignored because they are “not important.” This state of things pisses me off to no end. Because I believe that every person is important. That every filmmaker has something worthy to say. That the busboys and waitresses and bartenders at a gala dinner are just as important as the keynote speaker. And that just because you’re a celebrity does not mean you are contributing one extra iota of anything useful or positive to the Planet Earth.

So I’m about to stir the pot. I’m about to rouse the rabble. Here is my best advice for the key ways of being in this world that will help you improve your chances of fundraising success now and into the future. Come with me while I tell you how to break the code on this horribly mixed-up system so you can break through from outsider to insider.

I’ll be publishing a series of tips over the course of the next few days.So today, I’ll start with this one:

Don’t be shy ever again That’s right. Time to strap some on. You will never, ever, ever again say, “Oh, but I can’t approach Bill Gates at this event we both happen to be at. That would be so rude. I don’t know him.” That’s right, and you need to know him right now! Put that shrimp cocktail down and go right up to him. He’s probably shoveling some shrimp into his mouth right now. So what! Go right up to him and put out your hand. Tell him your name. Tell him what you do. Ask him about his own interests. Treat him like a human being, not a celebrity. Remember that Bill has biological functions just like every other human creature. He does not excrete 100-carat diamonds. He’s real. And so are you. There is nothing on this Earth that prevents you from connecting with him whenever and wherever there may be an opportunity. Okay, maybe you won’t run into Bill Gates, but you will run into somebody “important.” Go introduce yourself.

Doing  this helps you go from outsider to insider status. Being an insider helps you raise money for your film. It helps you get jobs. It helps you get loans, investments, advice, whatever you need. So never be shy again. Next time on FFFFlog!, I’ll post the next tip in this series: “Collect data like a crazed squirrel.”

In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million  

Pitch Perfect — Look for Opportunities to Pitch Your Film to Funders and Distributors

If you’re going to fund your film, distribute your film, or — “Please, Film Gods, hear my prayer!” — SELL your film, you need to be able to pitch. I used to teach a class at Film Arts Foundation and later at the San Francisco Film Society on how to pitch. I guided the participants through an intensive process in which they learned how to answer ten key questions about their film in a concise, compelling fashion. Continue reading

News Blast for A Helluva Camp!

NEWS RELEASE Contact: Maureen Futtner
For Release: December 1, 2009 (415) 637-3280

MINI-CONFERENCES BOLSTER CREATIVE AND SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS
“A Helluva Camp” provides training for nonprofit rebels and indie filmmakers

San Francisco, CA – As the economy faces a ‘jobless recovery,’ creative entrepreneurs are emerging in all sectors and industries. While gumption counts for a lot, entrepreneurs still require hard skills and information to successfully launch an enterprise. Fundraising expert and author Holly Million helps big thinkers translate their vision into practical plans with A Helluva Camp, day-long mini-conferences presented by Million’s Golden Poppy Productions. The series of workshops is designed to provide filmmakers, nonprofit idealists and other social-change agents with a solid knowledgebase and up-to-the minute information. A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers takes place on Jan. 23, 2010; A Helluva Camp for Nonprofit Rebels is on Jan. 30, 2010; and A Helluva Camp on Film Production from Idea to Internet is offered on April 24, 2010. All workshops are at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 Ninth Street, San Francisco. Registration ranges from $125 to $250 with discounts for early registration. Registration includes breakfast, lunch and Peet’s coffee and teas. For more information visit www.goldenpoppy.com or call 415-902-0558.

Million developed A Helluva Camp to equip today’s change-agents with the tools necessary to transform the broken-down systems in today’s world. The series also aims to foster the “can-do” spirit emerging amid the economic shake-up. “The rewards go to the person willing to make her own opportunities, not wait for opportunity to pull up in a limo,” says Million. “If you’re a motivated, creative individual, you’ll seize this moment to start your own venture, launch your own creative project and make your own job.”

With topics such as “Caviar PR on a Baked-Bean Budget” and “How to Ask People For Money,” A Helluva Camp provides thorough and compelling content with a fired-up attitude. Million is committed to presenting relevant information in a fun and accessible format. The mini-conferences feature instructors who are not only working professionals, but also entrepreneurs in their own right.

Tom Lin, a veteran of the online advertising world for such corporations as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, participated in Million’s recent workshop on Web 2.0 tools for film fundraising. “I’m very familiar with Web 2.0 and, as a filmmaker, I’ve attended classes that speak to these tools, but none of them successfully brought it all together until I participated in Holly’s workshop,” notes Lin. “Hers was the best I’ve ever attended. Thanks, Holly!”

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ABOUT A HELLUVA CAMP (TM)
A Helluva CampTM is sponsored by Golden Poppy Productions, LLC, Ninth Street Media Center, A Million Images, GuruTube.net, Women’s Film Institute, New Documentary Editing

— A Helluva Camp (TM) for Indie Filmmakers— January 23, 2010
This camp is designed for new filmmakers and people switching to the film field and presents info on fundraising, marketing, the latest technology, distribution, and much more.

— A Helluva Camp (TM) for Nonprofit Rebels — January 30, 2010
This camp is designed for people who are starting new nonprofits or who want to change the ways of existing nonprofits and presents info on fundraising, PR, the latest technology, board development, and much more.

— A Helluva CampTM on Film Production from Idea to Internet — April 24, 2010
This camp is geared to somewhat more experienced filmmakers who want information on shooting, capturing, editing, and uploading footage to the Internet to take advantage of new, affordable ways to get their media into the world.

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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 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)

Film Fundraising Client Feature — New Media International

I’ve just agreed to consult with Sean Ramsay of New Media International, the producer of Victory Day. Victory Day is a feature narrative that tells the story of photojournalist Sam Cassels, who finds himself involved embroiled in a tangled web in Russia that involves sex-traffickers, criminals, and oligarchs. Shot in Russia, the Czech Republic, and Australia, Victory Day won the “Best Political Film” award at the 2009 Action on Film Festival.

I’ll be working with Sean to write a fundraising plan to raise up to $100,000 for a 5-city theatrical premiere for the film.

Drawing from his experience as a Reuters photojournalist and war correspondent with over a decade based in the former Soviet Union, Sean wrote the story for Victory Day. It is an expression of the emotional truth of a journalist who wants to change the world. In finding that his proffession is incapable of doing of it, the character is driven to do it by direct war. Sean plays the lead role as firebrand journalist Sam Cassels.

As part of its 5-city premiere, Victory Day will be screening in San Francisco in the late fall of 2009.

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 Talkshoe.com 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!

Don’t Fear the Funder: Film Funding Panel

The San Francisco Film Society’s Film Arts Forum is a bimonthly information-sharing, discussion, networking, professional development jamboree. It’s an opportunity for local filmmakers and cineastes to meet one another and talk about their craft. SFFS gets the conversation started with dynamic presentations, topical panels, works-in-progress screenings and trade secrets. Past events have of offered a behind-the-scenes look at the Sundance Film Festival, a debate about online distribution and excerpts from two local documentaries. It’s an entire conference in the span of a few hours.

On Monday, June 15, I’m moderating a panel called “Think Like a Funder” which features film funders who will share what they are looking for in the projects that come cover the transom. The fifth SFFS Film Arts Forum will take you into the decision room of Bay Area–based independent film funders Independent Lens, ITVS International, Global Film Initiative and KQED. This is your chance to ask your questions, press the flesh, and generally overcome any fear of funders. They are real, flesh-and-blood humans, just like you and me!

The event takes place at the Mezzanine, 444 Jessie Street in San Francisco.

I will profile each of the featured funders on this blog for those not in the San Francisco Bay Area. I want you to have a shot at the money too!

In fundraising solidarity,
Holly Million

(Cartoon by Fritz Ahlefeldt — LINK)