Monday Prescriptions – Where Is The Money For Your Project?

Hi Film Folk!

As Film Doctor mentioned before, part of the team are cooking up a feature film project. So, for those of you who’ve been scratching your heads about film funding, let us talk to you about money. Where does one get the funds to make a film? And, more importantly, what does one need to have in place before even making the first inquiry?


Despite the structural changes that took place in the UK film industry since the closure of UK Film Council in 2011, there are still primarily two ways of raising your project’s budget – go public or go private. Whatever the route you choose, you must have a presentable package of a project – a completed screenplay to start with. Other things, that would be attractive to a potential investor and increase your chances of getting funding, include having either:

    • A low/moderate budget – and a breakdown of predicted expenditure, to show the investors how much you’d expect the project to cost
    • Genre-friendly script (horrors, comedies and action movies do well, because they’re easily recognizable and packaged)
    • Sample artwork to help visualize the project – e.g. preliminary storyboards of key scenes, sample posters – anything that would help investors picture the end product
    • At least one recognizable name in the cast – or, if no cast attached yet, ideas or ‘wish list’ of names
    • At least one of: The Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Editor, are experienced and/or well known.
    • Sales estimates – do a bit of extra homework and compile some figures that would show your potential investors how much profit they can expect in return. You can either look around for sales and box office stats for films similar (in budget or genre) to yours, or call up a few sales agents and distribution companies and invite the relevant person for a coffee chat.

Once armed with at least half of the above, you can start your funding quest.
FD - Private + Public

Public Funding

Recession times might’ve hit the UK arts sector hard, but there are still some key bodies offering filmmaking grants.  If you are willing to handle a lengthy process with extensive amounts of paperwork, then try your luck with the following:

1. MEDIA Desk UK

– What? – the European Union’s support programme for the film, television and new media industries is represented in the UK by three offices: MEDIA Desk UK (London), MEDIA Antenna Scotland (Glasgow) and MEDIA Antenna Wales (Cardiff). Offers different funding schemes, targeting different areas – production, exhibition and festival markets, distribution, etc.
List of schemes currently open to submission can be found here.
Eligibility Criteria – applications must be made on behalf of a registered company not individual; applicants should ideally have previous production record (e.g. at least one project released/distributed for the Single Project Development fund application). Not for recent graduates or first-time filmmakers (unless in partnership with an established Producer or under a production company’s umbrella)
– Recent Projects – Polisse, A Dangerous Method, Rust And Bone, Palm d’Or 2012 winner Amour
– What? – the official distributor of Lottery Funding for the film industry (from production to exhibition), since the abolition of UK Film Council in April 2011. Host of the MEDIA Desk UK, which helps prepare applications for MEDIA funding schemes (see above). When applying for The Feature Film Fund, creative and strategic proposals need to be submitted before a potential meeting/discussion can take place, where the actual screenplay, proposed budget and team’s previous credits are reviewed (before any funding offers are made).
– Eligibility Criteria – applications from producer, writer, director teams and usually an active producer will lead the application. If the project is at an early stage, would consider applications for development funding from producer-writer teams without a director attached. Likewise, if there is an established writer or director attached, would accept development applications without a producer (the director or writer will need to demonstrate their ability to produce/drive the project in the strategic film proposal). Favourable to have a production company attached.
– Recent Projects – Fast Girls (production), Spike Island (development & production), This Must Be The Place (exhibition)

– What? –  micro-budget (up to £120,000) feature film-making scheme, aimed at new, London-based talent and projects. It offers ‘training-through-production’ support, with up to £60,000 investment as cash and mentoring – support commences with Microschool, an intensive four-day programme of seminars, workshops, screenings and script surgeries covering everything from development through to sales and distribution. Following Microschool, shortlisted teams will undertake a four-month period of project and professional development before the final selection of projects are greenlit; selected teams are then provided with unique professional mentoring from leading industry figures.
– Eligibility Criteria – applications from registered companies only (no individuals), that must be based/managed/controlled within the 33 London Boroughs (Film London will not fund production companies based outside London even if the project takes place in the capital); core team members must be based in London; majority of production and post-production work must take place in London; project must qualify as British Film and should be eligible for Tax Relief; must have a completed screenplay, no treatments.
– Recent Projects – iLL Mannors, Fast Girls, Strawberry Fields
– What? – the new agency, set up to support independent creative businesses and talent in the English regions, outside London, following the abolition of the Regional Development Agencies (e.g. South West Screen, Screen East, etc.)
– Eligibility Criteria – the only film fund open to individual applicants (as opposed to registered prod co) is The Development Fund – open to individual screenwriters, writer/directors and/or producers based in the English regions for the development of all types of feature films, including animation and documentary; funding is offered for either script development or pre-production support (e.g. casting, producing teaser trailers) for projects ready to be produced/presented to financiers. Production investment is offered through the iFeatures initiative. A separate production fund is set up for West Midlands projects.
– Recent Projects – Flying Blind
– What? – Offers 5 investment routes for the Film & Broadcastings sector: multi-project development (for a company or consortium), single project development, content production & exploitation (for near-ready projects), market & festival attendance (for producers/directors to attend international festivals for promotion of their projects), training/skills development programmes (by invitation only, more details here)
– Eligibility Criteria – Story and/or talent based in Scotland; An applicant’s track record is important; Projects are expected to have experienced creative producer attached and/or be co-developed by a recognised industry partner (e.g. BBC, Film 4, Channel 4, BFI).

Note: When seeking public funding, it helps to be an officially registered company – even if it’s just a 2-people team. Film Doctor have previously discussed the need for Plc creation in ‘Monday Prescription No.15’.


Private Investment

Now, this includes both individual investors, e.g. professional Angel Investors or companies that offer production finance. Private investment also includes sourcing out money from associates, friends and relatives.

Whether your private investor happens to be a City banker or professional media financier, they will all want to see a well-prepared batch of presentation documents, outlining your project’s financial viability and profitability  – so figures, figures, figures. You’d need to show that you know what sells and how to sell it.

As companies go, key names to learn are:

Ingenious Media – can help match suitable projects (£4m + budgets with 75% of investment already in place) with interested investors (Ingenious Media acts on behalf of their investor clients). Contact directly to discuss any potential opportunities for your films. Past Projects Include: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Water for Elephants, The Descendants.


Goldcrest – currently only considering British-qualifying projects with preferably a minimum 80% spend in the UK. Feature films should have budgets between £1.5-10 million, of which 80% of the finance is already in place, and with key elements attached. Past Projects Include: The Iron Lady, Wuthering Heights, Revolutionary Road, The Uninvited.


Scion Films – part of the Scion Investment Group, has been involved in the finance, production and distribution of some of the highest profile film projects in the UK and internationally since its formation in 2002. Contact directly to discuss any potential investment opportunities. Past Projects Include: Atonement, The Constant Gardener, The Bourne Ultimatum, Pride & Prejudice, In Bruges, Senna.

 FD - Crowdfunding


Off The Beaten Track

Recently, a lot of first-time filmmakers have undertaken a slightly different approach to production finances for their projects – the crowd-funding route. There are number of platforms through which this could be achieved, e.g., Sponsume or Artspire, Although you shouldn’t expect huge budget contributions from crowd-funding, this option could be very complimentary and an excellent publicity vehicle, if done right. It is also great for individual writer/directors and projects without production companies attached – as long as you know how to build an audience.


And lastly…

One thing that you must bear in mind when looking for film funds is that you can’t ask for the whole production budget investment from one source – i.e. if you know you’ll need £1 mil for your project, don’t approach investors/funding bodies with request for £1 mil. Make several applications, to different sources, asking for various portions of the overall production budget – e.g. £100k here, £20k there. This way you don’t ‘put all your eggs in one basket’, increasing the chance of actually getting any funding. Anyone who’d invest in a film is essentially taking risk (that’s just the way our industry, and business, is) and no one likes to be the sole ‘risk taker’ or gambler – it is always more reassuring when you know that other people have come forward as well. So if your prospective investor sees that you’ve already approached other financing parties, and maybe even have some funds in place (even if it’s just 1/16 of what you need), it would put him/her at ease and install more trust in your project.


‘Monday Prescription’ No.19 – There’s always money available for films, you just need to look in the right place. Mix and match your investment sources – don’t rely on just one funding option.

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Any questions/thoughts/experiences of your own??? Leave a comment below!
Have a great week!
The Film Doctor Team
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