Aside from winning the lottery, an elaborate Post Office heist or blackmailing rich celebrities with awkward photos, getting hold of money to finance your first film is a nightmarish minefield laden with disappointment. Just like a real minefield but you get to keep your life and limbs.
I intend to have a more complete portfolio of scripts and treatments in preparation for an MA in Filmmaking. From there, I’d like to have submitted a few scripts to funding bodies in an effort to subsidise or even wholly pay for the course. I have yet to find anyone else who has taken the same avenue, which is making it seem less and less likely that this is even possible. It doesn’t mean that this isn’t though, so until I lose a limb through it then I’m happy to plough on through.
Some funding bodies are more specific than others in terms of application requirements, others are more abstract and can even offer finance for entrepreneurial endeavours such as self-starter production companies etc. Creative England for example, offers various different types of funds from the same body, each serving different purposes and individuals or projects at different stages of their development so it is important to research the correct funding bodies to tap into for first time shooter/producers.
Film Funding Bodies
BFI – The British Film Institute offers £2,000,000 of funding to first time directors for an assortment of projects each quarter. It is likely that the less expensive projects would be more likely to attain funding as they do fund multiple productions each quarter. Their website has a handy link directly to their applications form that can also be found here (sign in required).
CTBF – The Charity of Film and Television Benevolent Fund primarily deals with those who have already been working within the Film and Television industries but who may have suffered an accident or illness. At the same time, they do offer something called the John Brabourne Award that is provided to budding filmmakers from low income backgrounds in an effort to help pay for training or equipment. Applications for funding this year has now closed but they are currently receiving applications for 2014. The independent website for this award can be found here.
Collabor8te – Working in partnership with numerous media institutions including the likes of Nokia, Dazed and Confused and Rankin Film Productions, the Collabor8te initiative supplies grants for up to £10,000 for emerging talent and provides links and networking into the related industries. They do not offer funding for documentary proposals. At the same time, the applications process is relatively simply, requiring your CV and 15 pages of script material along with a single page synopsis. They do not appear to be taking submissions just yet but you can find the online application form just here.
Creative England – Sourcing funds directly from The National Lottery, Creative England has lots of different money pots to pull from. Providing that you are entirely clear on the type of project that you want to apply for, Creative England probably has a grant specifically tailored for what you need. There are often setbacks though, such as the requirement that you will not have been part funded from any other funding body for any enterprise or creative project already. They are currently accepting applications for various grants so its best to have a look here.
EU Media Programme – This is huge. It really is massive. It is also likely to attract filmmakers from all over Europe so although the financial backing is stronger throughout their numerous specialised grant categories, you’re also much less likely to get onto it. At the same time, there does appear to be fewer restrictions and the industry networking potential is incredible. This particular funding entity does not look like it is going to run short of cash any time soon so it could very well be worth the trouble of applying and just seeing where you end up. Also, you’ll need to have the backing of a production company that has already produced commercially viable work for at least a year. It might be worth brokering a deal stating that you’re happy to do all the leg work if they’re happy to support you with their logo. How hard can it be? This is probably the type of grant you’d be looking for from them.
The Ideas Tap – Create a user account, sign in and you can apply for as many different grants as you can for whatever project you’re working on. They also provide start up funds for plenty of other media related projects from print, audio to stage and screen. On top of that, they have a handy archive of jobs, opportunities and a massive database of useful links and tutorials designed to help you get onto the right path with your creative projects. It’s all REALLY worth a look at all their other resources, but more specifically their funding page can be found here.
Microwave Film London – Is not exactly a funding body, but they do have a handy databank of how to get low budget films off the ground, along with strong links to the right people in the right places throughout London. This one would probably be handy to those already on a Filmmaking course within LDN. One day… one day…
Sponsume – It might be easier to cluster Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Sponsume all in the same category but this crowd sourcing website seems to be more film friendly than others that tend to lean onto a more entrepreneurial edge. Essentially it operates much in the same way as any other platform of its type so it’s fairly self-explanatory. It’s free to set up, just like the others, but in exactly the same way, the site takes a percentage off the money raised per project. Have a look at the project page just here.
The Wellcome Trust – If you have a film idea related to biomedical or similar humanitarian subjects then you might be eligible to apply for funding from the Wellcome Trust. Yes, deliberately spelled with two ‘L’s. Previous films that they have invested in have been primarily documentary based but it’s always a good idea to keep your perspectives nice and broad! Their access to funding page can be found here.
This post is part of ongoing research, targeted at breaking into the film and television industry. Hard. This will be updated as hopeful progress ensues.