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

Tag Archives: networking

Outsider to Insider Tip #3: Volunteer to Connect

This post is part of my ongoing series — bordering on a rant — about how to go from outsider to insider. Doing this fuels your success in fundraising, and in every aspect of marketing and distribution for your film. I’ve become obsessed with this concept. Just ask my husband. I walk around the house muttering, “Outsider to insider. Outsider to insider.” He thought I was a little loony at first, but now he recognizes the zany brilliance of what I’m doing.

Today’s outsider-to-insider tip is to volunteer. Not just any volunteering. Volunteer with people who will help your film get money, get screened, get publicity, get connections. I just had an opportunity to do exactly this, and I’ll tell you what happened. I’m making a feature-length documentary called “A Permanent Mark” that tells the story of Agent Orange and how it has affected American veterans and the people of Vietnam. If you’re not a fan of Dow and Monsanto, this film will only make you hate them more. This is a film with a strong human story and a strong environmental story. In other words, the perfect film for a green film festival.

Environmental film festivals are coming into their own, and I have long thought that my documentary should enjoy a long run in these festivals. I’ve also learned — and have posted on this blog — that paying fees to apply to festivals is for chumps. You need to get invited to submit your film, and then you won’t be paying a dime. You also increase your actual chances of screening. So there is an environmental film festival in my local area that I have long held hopes of being one for my film. I have become friends on Facebook with the founder of the festival. So a couple weeks ago, the festival posted an announcement on Facebook calling for volunteers. And to this I responded with a vociferous YES! I looked through the volunteer options and decided to target the filmmaker brunch, because I knew it would not be a hard volunteer job, that I would meet all of the filmmakers in the festival, and that I would likely meet all the staff of the festival. Sure enough, the programmer and the founder of the festival both arrived, and I introduced myself and mentioned I am also a filmmaker who focuses on environmental issues. “Oh, what are you working on now?” they asked. So I launched into the pitch for the film, watching as they became more and more excited. The festival founder said, “We would like to see that film. Can you submit it to us when you’re done?” I said of course!

So just by volunteering, strategically, and putting myself face to face with the key people, I went from outsider to insider. Oh, yeah, and I won’t be paying any submission fee.

So ask yourself — how can you volunteer to get in front of a funder, a programmer, an investor, a community partner? Get in front of them. Help them so they will help you.

In my next post on this outsider to insider theme, I will talk about the power of just asking for the connection — I grew my Facebook following from 400 to 1,800 people in the past ten days. Find out why and how (hint: it’s about going from outsider to insider).

In fundraising solidarity,

Holly Million

Break Through From Outsider to Insider


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