By Rebecca Green
The most commonly asked question a producer receives from an emerging filmmaker is ‘where do you find the money?’ For independent films, specifically those with budgets under one million dollars, there is no direct answer to this question. For example, on my film I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, we had a budget of around half a million dollars, which was made up of 11 investors including seasoned financiers, first-time film investors, friends and family, and 60k in Kickstarter funds. We found the money anywhere we could. And my story isn’t unusual, check out the IndieWire article SXSW 2016: How This Year’s Films Found Their Financing and you’ll see that there is no set formula for financing a low budget films.
Back in May, The Hollywood Reporter published the article Meet the 25 Players Who Can Actually Get an Independent Movie Made, “a guide to the top 25 players in the indie finance scene of 2018, people who have the money to back movies they believe in.” However, while the companies The Hollywood Reporter spotlighted, from FilmNation to Annapurna to 30West, do have the ability to back independent films, they aren’t backing sub-million dollar films, which make up a large portion of independent film. The films these particular companies get behind have multi-million dollar budgets and are lead by A-list talent (director and/or cast, usually both) in order to ensure international pre-sales and a domestic distribution deal prior to completion of the film in order to lower their equity stake. While these companies are taking risks in storytelling, these players aren’t staying at the Red Roof Inn during production and they certainly aren’t deferring 100% of their fee to get their movie made.
So who are the companies financing the truly independent low budget films? Who do you turn to if you have a first-time feature director and no A-list cast? I can’t direct you to the hundreds of random individuals who decide (usually only once) to invest in an indie film, but I can provide a list of companies who are truly taking risks by backing the films that can’t be financed through international pre-sales, bank loans, or early domestic distribution deals.
While this information is not top secret and can be found by going down an IMDB rabbit hole, I decided to reach out to a group of seasoned producers who are constantly piecing together the puzzle that is indie financing to create a list of of companies that have the ability to invest equity into low budget films. The list represents companies that consider films ranging anywhere from no budget up to five million dollar budgets. Some only back development while others finance production and/or post-production. Independent films are rarely financed by one entity.
Disclaimer: While some companies on this list do fund documentaries, the list mainly represents companies investing in fiction films. This list does not include granting organizations which play a key role in getting an independent film made. Go to No Film School and read A Massive List of Summer 2018 Grants All Filmmakers Should Know About to dive into those opportunities.
If you’re new to raising money, I suggest reading one of our first interviews with producer Andrew Corkin The Rinse and Repeat of Raising Money and Setting Expectations and our interview earlier this month with Jessie Creel The Producer/Financier Relationship From Both Perspectives. Also check out the Film Independent piece Shop Talk Recap: Film Financing from the Indie Producer’s Perspective.
Keep in mind that the financing game is constantly changing as the festival circuit and distribution platforms evolve. Before approaching a company, do your homework! As discussed in the Dear Producer piece The Five Tenets of Courting a Producer, find the companies that are making films at the same budget level as your film. Watch previous work from the company you are approaching and find commonalities between your film and their filmography. Be specific, don’t blindly send your project out to anyone and everyone. In the same way you only get one shot at an actor reading your script, the same is true for financiers.
So without further ado, here is the list…
Argent Pictures (AMATUER, CHASING CHORAL)
Beachside Films (THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST, THE INCREDIBLE JESSICA JAMES)
Big Beach Films (PUZZLE, KINGS OF SUMMER, LOVING)
Burn Later Productions (HEART BEATS LOUD, A KID LIKE JAKE, LEMON)
Cinereach (MONSTERS AND MEN, WE THE ANIMALS, SORRY TO BOTHER YOU)
Cold Iron Pictures (DON’T THINK TWICE, DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, SWISS ARMY MAN)
Duplass Brothers Productions (DUCK BUTTER, OUTSIDE IN, UNLOVABLE)
Gamechanger Films (THE TALE, THE LONG DUMB ROAD, NANCY)
Great Point Media (LAST SUMMER, THE LONG HOME, DAMSEL)
Gunpowder & Sky (CAM, SUMMER OF 84)
Forager Films (MADELINE’S MADELINE, GOLDEN EXITS, WIN IT ALL)
Lunacy (RUST CREEK, AND THEN I GO)
Mandalay Pictures (AMATEUR, BURING SANDS, BIRTH OF A NATION)
Maven Pictures (THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER, NOVITIATE)
Northern Lights Films (THE HERO, KICKS, IT FOLLOWS)
Old Mill Ventures (SOUFRA, OH LUCY!, 44 PAGES)
PaperChase Films (THE KINDERGARTEN TEACHER)
QC ENTERTAINMENT (GET OUT, BLACKkKLANSMAN, THE OATH, BAND AID)
Red Crown Productions (THE FAMILY FANG, HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS)
RT Features (SKATE KITCHEN, THE CIAMBRA, CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)
Salem Street Entertainment (UNDER THE SILVER LAKE, KEEP THE CHANGE, ALWAYS SHINE)
Superlative Films (NIGHT COMES ON, LUCKY, COLUMBUS)
Stay Gold Features (UNDER THE SILVER LAKE, THE STRANGE ONES, PATTI CAKE$)
Treehouse Pictures (SET IT UP, MEDITERRANEA)
Tango Entertainment (LITTLE WOODS, SELF/LESS)
UnLtd Productions (UNDER THE SILVER LAKE, DESOLATION, TO DUST)
Whitewater Films (THE FIRST GIRL I LOVES, DESTINED, KING JACK)
Water’s End Productions (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, THE HOUSE OF TOMORROW)
*** Fellow producers, if there is a company I failed to mention on this list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca Green is the Editor-in-Chief of Dear Producer. She produced two of the top-grossing and critically acclaimed independent films of 2015, IT FOLLOWS and I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS, which generated a combined domestic box office total of $22 million. Named one of Variety’s “10 Producers to Watch” and nominated for the Piaget Producer’s Award at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards, Green was also a 2017 Women at Sundance Fellow, Creative Advisor for the 2017 Film Independent Producing Lab, and the Fall 2016 Allesee Endowed Chair in Media Professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. Green holds a B.F.A. from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.