How I Would Finance My First Feature Film

Sep 10, 2022

Read time: 3 mins | YT Video

In today's issue, I'm going to show you how I would finance my first feature film if I were starting over again.

If you want to start building a career in the film industry the first major step is to make your debut feature film. You then understand how to actually make a feature film and can improve on your first effort. You've also overcome the most difficult aspect...financing.

Unfortunately, most filmmakers don't even take the first step. 

Your character traits are holding you back, not the money

There are 5 main reason filmmakers don't make their first feature film:

  • Fear of failure.

  • Delusions of grandeur.

  • Inertia.

  • Procrastination disguised as perfectionism.

  • Limiting belief system.

Notice that none of these relate to finance. You can make a feature film for any budget level, as long as you get out of your own way.

Here's how I would do it if I had to start over again, step by step:

Step 1: Read Rebel Without A Crew

The first step on any journey is to read a map. This would be (and was) my map.

This book still holds up after 30 years. If you've never read it, buy a copy now. If you have read it and haven't made a feature film, read it again. There have been many books written on independent filmmaking. This remains the seminal work.


Step 2: Determine a fixed amount to save each week

There is only 1 guaranteed source of finance for your film: your income.

But wait, you say. People have told me 'never invest your own money in your film'. Well, here is a (short) list of a few directors who funded their films:

  • Francis Ford Coppola

  • Christopher Nolan

  • M. Night Shyamalan

  • Michael Bay

  • George Lucas

  • Peter Jackson

  • Kevin Smith

  • Orson Welles

  • Richard Linklater

  • Garth Edwards

  • Oren Peli

The names on this list are responsible for some of the most successful films ever made.

So, if I were starting again, I would follow in their footsteps. I would look at my weekly salary and deduct my living expenses. Anything left over goes to the film.


Step 3: Multiply by 52 to get your budget

Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

Before you think I'm a profound philosopher, that line is a quote attributed to Van Gogh. He knew what was up. Here's the thing, anything combined over a long enough time horizon becomes significant.

So my next step would be to multiply the figure determined in the previous step by 52 weeks. This would become my budget.


Step 4: Set up a production account

From hopeless dreamer to movie financier.

The best way to ensure that I would stick to my plan is to set up a new bank account. Then I would create a direct debit from the account my salary goes into to the new bank account. The key here is to automate this process so I don't notice it happening.


Step 4A: Find 1-2 collaborators and 3x your budget

My next job would be to find two people in my city as eager to make their debut feature film as me.

My go-to strategy for this is to view short films at recent festivals and see which films I like. I would then check the credits, track down the filmmakers online and ask to meet for a coffee. If we click, I would move onto creative discussions. If those go well, we start working together.

I recommend this step for the simple reason that you can triple your production budget. You also receive two accountability partners and some mates to take along for the ride.


Step 5: Increase your income

My next step would be to increase my weekly income.

There are three ways to do this:

  1. Apply for a new, higher paying job.

  2. Ask for a raise.

  3. Take on another job.

I would start with 2 and based on the outcome, move to or add 1 and/or 3.


Step 6: Develop and prepare your film

The only thing left to do is write the screenplay....

I would take the total budget figure and flesh out an actual budget. I would then write within those budget parameters. Given I have 12 months to write, I'd be aiming for a knockout script.

OK, that's it for today. 

I hope you enjoyed it.

See you again next week.

Whenever you're ready, there are 2 ways I can help you:

1. Develop your filmmaking skills [FREE] here (770+ subscribers).

2. Join our Producing Accelerator program to produce your debut film (2 spots left this month).

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