I had the experience of working on a film. The cinematographer was a member of ASC, the producer was ex-20th Century Fox, the director successful. They worked for deferred compensation, cast and crew worked for the experience, in other words, for free. Most of the filming and sound crew were students. The whole project was mainly an exercise in foreign distribution rights. That’s where the money was. For the producer.

It was a lot of work. Long, long hours. I was script supervisor. I was involved in virtually every aspect of the project. I vowed I’d never do it again.

I did learn, though. Young actors will work for nothing just to get exposure and experience. In ‘Hollywood’ your work doesn’t necessarily have to succeed. The fact that you’ve worked on a film has value.

What does it take to make a movie?

Have a Story

Storytelling is key. Even with a documentary you are telling a story. The story has to be engaging, to someone. It has to excite and inspire people to want to be part of the experience, and to feel like it is something they want to see happen.

Your pitch needs to be succinct. If it takes an hour to explain your concept your target will probably have dozed off.

Have Something to Show

Have a body of work to show that you have done this before and know how to successfully complete a project. People usually don’t want to invest in your learning experience. That’s what student loans are for.

Have a Plan/Budget

People need to see that you are serious, and they want to see where their money is going. If you say, ‘Hey, I want to go to Paris!’, but you have no map and no idea how to get there, few will want to join you on the trip. Unless they are really adventurous, which most people aren’t, with their money.

Have Something to Give

What are your funders going to get out of this? Even if it’s just participation in a righteous idea, people need to feel they are coming out with more than what they had going in.

Ask for What You Want

One thing I discovered during my movie making experience was that people like to participate in movies. All I had to do was say, ‘Hey, do you want to be part of a movie?’ and I could get virtually anything I needed. For free. This helped save money on locations and props, even talent. An additional reward was their name in the credits.

Remember, you don’t necessarily have to own, you can rent equipment. And maybe they’ll loan you what you need in exchange for a credit. Also, there is always the ubiquitous product placement. This was why James Bond went from an Aston Martin to a Bimmer (thankfully, he went back to the Aston Martin).

Crowd Funding

Be smart about crowdfunding sites. Some require you raise all the funds you ask for otherwise you get nothing. Some have produced bad experiences for funders. You don’t want your project associated with these negative feelings.

In General

I would approach friends/family, sell my belongings, use credit cards, seek crowd funding, anything I could think of to raise capital. People are persuaded by your belief. Believe in your project.

Currently, I’m interested in documentaries. A good resource for funding is filmdaily.tv, which has endless lists of possible sources.

Documentaries are fairly inexpensive because you don’t need actors, who like to get paid. I can do the filming and editing myself.

You might say, hey, your time is worth something. Yes. My reward is seeing my idea come alive.