The Money Chase
In this section, you'll read about some of the obvious and subtle approaches to raising capital. There are no guarantees that all of these suggestions will be successful, but they will encourage you to begin thinking outside the money box. The most obvious potential investors to approach for your film production are in your immediate circle, including family members, friends, and acquaintances who are interested in your ambitions and may be willing to invest with you. If you're concerned that the folks close to you are going to feel exploited, you'll need to work on your diplomatic skills and your own self-perception. As long as you believe in yourself and that your film has artistic and, hopefully, financial value, you can effectively convey your ambitions without creating any awkward situations in your personal relationships. Always be honest, realistic, and forthcoming about every aspect of your production.
Working the Circuit
As a potential filmmaker, you would be wise to mingle in circles that are focused on filmmaking — or circles that attract people with money who are interested in investing — so you can effectively spread the word about your project to prospective investors. The more people you talk to, the better your chances are of making the right connections. Don't think of this as just a game, think of it as a percentage game. For example, let's say that five out of every hundred people who know about your production may be interested in pursuing it as an investment opportunity. From there, you can extrapolate those numbers into infinity. For every two hundred people who know about you, you'll get ten interested people; for every three hundred, you'll get fifteen, and so on. You have to play these percentages when you spread the word about your film production. The more people who know about it, the more likely it is that you'll get responses from truly interested investors.
One example of playing percentages is the ridiculous spam e-mail that clutters your inbox. Why do they keep coming? Because the people who send them know that a percentage of those e-mails will elicit responses. Under no circumstances, however, should you spam anyone when searching for investors.
The Frustration Factor
It can be easy to become frustrated when you're searching for investors. In fact, it's likely that you
Making Yourself Available
Sharing your talents, abilities, and enthusiasm with other filmmakers is always good business. If someone in a bind needs a fill-in boom operator for a couple of days, offer to pitch in and pick up the pole. If you can make yourself known as a reliable go-to person for helping to fix disasters or solve technical problems on other productions, you'll build a solid reputation for reliability and become the type of filmmaker whom other filmmakers will happily support — this can work to your advantage when it comes time to raise funds.
Attending screenings and film festivals can put you near people who have the influence and financial pull to get your film off the ground. Try to attend every party you're invited to, make plenty of friends, and strike up acquaintances everywhere you go. The more exposure you get in those environments, the more exposure your project will receive. If you've got free time on your weekends, make a point of visiting high-profile night spots. Don't waste your time in dives or local bars unless you know for certain that potential investors are also hanging out in them. Learn to nurse drinks for hours, and often switch to bottled water or club soda. Relaxed investors can be chatty and amiable.
High-end health clubs have member rosters loaded with well-heeled potential investors, so start visiting a club when you've got a few spare hours. If you express some interest in joining, more often than not you'll be offered a complimentary pass for the day. Spend some time around the weight machines and strike up conversations. If you're a handball or racquetball player, challenge a member to a game or two. You'll sometimes even be invited back as a guest, which will give you another chance at making new acquaintances. And don't forget those business cards!
If tennis or golf is more your style, even fairly upscale clubs will have no problem with you hanging out in the lounge or restaurant as long you dress the part. Some clubs, however, won't be so accommodating to nonmembers, so be prepared to search for clubs that'll allow you to mingle without joining. A low-key, very soft sell is the best attitude to take when approaching people in these environments so whatever you do, don't make a nuisance of yourself.
Playing the Ponies
Is there a horse track nearby where you live? If so, spend a couple of bucks to get in and cruise the stables. You're not looking for bettors or gambling addicts — you want to meet the horse
You can be chatty and amiable when networking, but remember that you're there on business. Make sure you're thinking clearly and on top of your game. Always bring plenty of business cards and hand them out at every opportunity.
Polo fields are also magnets for type-A risk-takers with expendable incomes. Most people who regularly play polo have the funds to support strings of ponies. By surfing the Internet, you can learn enough about the game to carry on a reasonably intelligent conversation, so check out the polo barns in your area and make a few friends.
Riding academies and dressage barns are also playgrounds for folks with expensive hobbies. Check in with a few of them and get schedules of horse shows and jumping and dressage competitions. Doing some more Internet homework to become reasonably knowledgeable about these sports will help you start conversations. Horse people are passionate when it comes to talking about their horses, and they love an interested listener. Mention that you have a horse-oriented scene or two in your film that might be perfect for their beloved $30,000 Dutch Warmblood show horse, and you'll be talking films and horses all day long.
Another group of well-heeled riding enthusiasts are Harley-Davidson fans. The days of the Harley as strictly a bad boy bike are going away quickly. Most Harley riders today are saddled up on a motorcycle that can cost as much as a luxury automobile. It's a thrill and status symbol for many of these bikers, who tend to associate with other Harley riders. Show up on a Yamaha or a Honda, they'll treat you like you've got leprosy. If you have a Harley, or access to one, you'll be golden to this group. If you hook up with one of Harley-Davidson 's sponsored Hog Riders clubs, you'll be hanging out with businesspeople, doctors, lawyers, builders, chiropractors, and entrepreneurs who have something in common — they're well-to-do and they enjoy a little risk. It can be the perfect hunting ground for potential investors.
The Sky's the Limit
With ingenuity and a lot of footwork, you can expose yourself to potential investors in an unlimited number of ways. If you get discouraged easily and find that tracking down financing is too daunting a task, then producing your own films probably isn't your best career choice. It takes time, determination, and unwavering faith in yourself. If you're willing to work hard and make sacrifices, however, there's no good reason you can't make your production happen.