A guide to film finance and funding – are you going to get funded or financed?

Have you made a ‘film’ or a ‘movie’? More importantly, are you seeking ‘funding’ or ‘financing’?

Some time ago I blogged about this cartoon by Alan Parker. I love it because it captures the essence of why I believe state funding for film is not always a good thing, how it fosters a sense that film making is an art and often not bound by commercial sensibilities.

Over the past weeks, David, Judy and I have been planning 2011 and one question we have been working on for our films is ‘where is the money going to come from?’ No surprise there.


And I know that whenever I speak with film makers at events, one question that always comes up is also ‘where is the money?’ Actually, it often comes up as… ‘how can I get funding?’ Interestingly, I am rarely asked ‘how can I get financed?


Isn’t that the same thing?


No. I don’t believe so anyway.


It’s a subtle difference, a bit like a ‘film’ and a ‘movie’.


The difference between funding and financing involves a huge shift in psychology for the film maker. (Interestingly, Americans often speak about ‘financing’ where Europeans often speak about ‘funding’).


For me the dangling carrot of ‘funding’ from some kind of body, be it a Quango, an institute or other ‘fund’ set aside for the arts, is really bad news for film makers.


I believe that if I want to have a career in film, I must sustain myself through great ideas, great execution and connection to audiences, I must produce stuff, sell it, and make a profit… and then repeat that process. And that’s why I need financing from key partners and not funding from a Quango.


OK so here are my pros and cons of funding versus financing.


Funding is better than financing because…


  • You may not need to pay any money back if you sell your film.
  • You may not need to prove your project has any commercial value.
  • You may get left alone to be as creative as you like (but probably wont).
  • You may be able to play a sex / disability / race card and get funding on those grounds (also known as positive discrimination).


Financing is better than funding because…


  • You don’t have to fill out endless forms.
  • You don’t need to make any excuses for your desire to make money, indeed it’s a requirement.
  • You will need to prove commercial viability, which will force you to refine your concept and script.
  • You are in much greater control as psychologically you are not asking for help, you are offering an opportunity.
  • Financing can often move quickly after a pitch and a handshake.
  • You don’t need to play a sex / disability / race card, your talent will speak for you instead.
  • If you fail to secure finance, it is probably because you or your proposition isn’t up to snuff, which is something that is fixable.
  • If someone else gets the money, it will act as a catalyst for you to work harder, unlike funding which often feels arbitrary and ‘unfair’ (I accept it may not be arbitrary or unfair, but if often looks and feels that way).
  • (addded by twitter @jazadal) Discouraging that they are gatekeepers whose support gives unfair credibility 2 filmmakers they deem worthy


(if you have any more pros or cons, do add them)


For me the great distinction is that when seeking financing, I am in control of my destiny. I can set up ten meetings a day, I can make any deal or offer I want to make, there are no predefined rules, only principles that have proven to work.


I believe that people involved in ‘funding’ organisations mean well. I really do. But I also believe that ‘funding’ skews the playing field, offers false hope and this has created a generation of film makers in the UK who have been slowed down in their growth because of it. Of course a handful of lucky ones have enjoyed huge acceleration (skewing the field yet further).


So the question for you and for me, the challenge even, is… are we going to ask, cap in hand, for help OR are we going to offer great opportunities that ACTIVELY attract investment?

In 2011 are we going to run a businesses where sales MUST outweigh costs, are we going to approach investors with killer proposals for commercially viable projects, or are we going to rely on a small (and getting smaller) group of well meaning people who will NEVER pay the price if our films do not perform?

It’s time break free of the ‘funding’ dangling carrot, to embrace freedom and commit to making a career in film that will last a lifetime, not the duration of a paltry handout.


I know for me at least, I am committed to 2011 being the year that I break all my past barriers. I really hope that I see you on that journey, just ahead of me to remind me to keep up the pace…!


Chris Jones


*Originally posted on www.ChrisJonesBlog.com