How to finance your (short) film part II

This is the second of two posts about how to finance your shortfilm. Although the following information is specific to Finland you will find similar possibilities all around the EU and elsewhere in the world. After completing part I you know how much money you need. Now let’s get to finding it.

1.) The triangle model
For quite a while shortfilms in Finland have been funded by the “triangle model”, composed of grants by the Finnish Film Fund (FFF) and AVEK (the centre for audiovisual arts) and a presale from YLE, our public broadcaster.

The FFF gets their money from the state lottery (Veikkaus) and AVEK from the copyright payments from blank dvd’s, cd-r’s and external hard drives. They both emphasize that they fund only a) professional projects and b) films that have secured some kind of distribution. This makes sense, as they have limited funds and don’t want to spend those on films that aren’t shown anywhere.

YLE’s “Uusi Kino” is the third corner of the triangle, paying a modest amount for a pre-sale. Until autumn 2010 YLE practically had a veto in all shorfilm financing processes in Finland, as the FFF demanded TV or theatre distribution from all films it supports. Shortfilms don’t get screened in cinemas, so YLE’s “Uusi Kino” was the only channel and slot that bought and screened shorts.

But now the FFF is finally acknowledging a change in times and they will also accept projects with for example internet distribution. Your distribution plan has to be fairly convincing, but it is good to know that things are progressing.

One important limitation to be aware of is that you need to have a production company involved to be able to apply at the FFF. If you don’t have an own company you can try to shop around the screenplay and rough budget that you prepared in part I, and look for an interested producer.

2.) Coproduction
Coproductions with other countries can be quite complicated affairs and require quite some time to set up. Usually they don’t make sense for shortfilms, but it doesn’t hurt to find out if your film is an exception. The idea here is that your foreign coproducer tries to raise his part of the funding in his country, going to his FFF/AVEK/Broadcaster equivalents and usually then takes over a proportionate part of the work.

3.) Sponsorship and product placement
If you don’t have an exceptional angle and a surefire way of getting the short in front of a lot of people, forget trying to raise much cash this way, at least in Finland. The problem from the sponsor’s point of view is that your shortfilm will not reach a very large audience.

Bartering however is usually possible, so you get lent some supplies or work stations in exchange for putting a few logos in the credits. Be careful here if you work with YLE, as they have quite strict policies regarding sponsoring and product placement. Talk to them beforehand so that there will be no problems when you deliver your film.

4.) Crowdfunding
I’ve written about this before. Used on it’s own or maybe in combination with this can add a bit to your budget. Depending on who you are, the size of your tribe and the nature of your idea this might be peanuts, or up to 900.000 euros.

5.) Bank loans
These are impossible to obtain without securities. Banks are not in the business of investing and are very risk sensitive. They will not consider the sales forecasts of your short as having any value, and your only option here is to secure the loan with something concrete, like your house.

6.) Own investment
Very widely used in all kinds of film financing packages, this is you as a filmmaker putting your own money on the table. Whether it’s savings, a salary from another job or money raised from a yard sale this often rounds out a shorfilm’s budget.

7.) Deferrals
Related to the above are “deferred” wages for you or your crew. The idea here is that you and/or your crew members make a deal with the production, allowing it to defer the payment of part or all wages until future sales of the film bring in more money. At that point the deferrals would be paid out, ideally. In practice this rarely happens with shortfilms, at least not to 100%.

8.) Volunteers
Again, related to the above two is the use of a volunteer workforce. Convince people to work on your film for free or a fraction of their normal wage and you’ve raised a part of your film’s financing. This works best with people trying to get into the business, who need a calling card and are convinced that your film could be a break for them.

9.) Private loans or investors
With shorfilm projects this usually amounts to “FFF”, namely Friends, Family and Fools. Please make sure that the people investing are aware that a shortfilm usually never makes any money and that their input is more like a gift than a real investment. You’ll be lucky if you can pay them back even their 100%, let alone any interest.

10.) The EU’s MEDIA programme & Eurimages
There are a few support schemes on the EU level, but none are suitable for shortfilms, except for very rare cases. Contact the Mediadesk and browse their website to learn more about the eligibility criteria.

11.) Tax schemes
No tax shelters or tax schemes exist in Finland at the moment, which is why some Finnish productions are being shot abroad. There has been a concerted effort by FAVEX for lobbying on this front, so things might well change in the near future. Let’s hope for the best.

This concludes my tips on financing your shortfilm. If you have questions, criticism or comments, please post them here or on Twitter!

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