The art of financing indie movies

As an artist I've had to do this a LOT. Asking for money for your art is very commonplace in film when overhead is high. So how do you get the dough? Here's how I've managed to get the dollars...
  1. Gather your friends and family.
    Friends and family are an excellent source of $ for your next crowdfunding campaign. Make a list of the people who believe in you. Write your pitch. Be prepared. Convince them why they should be invested in your project (and not only because they like you or are related to you, though that certainly helps.)
  2. Crowdfund.
    Shoot some teaser footage. Set up a website. Write your artist's statement. Moving beyond your friends and family, why should total strangers contribute to your vision? Does your art have a message? A particular group to whom it will appeal? Find those influencers and get them to signal boost your project.
  3. Make friends with aggressive networkers/connectors.
    Even if these people don't have money themselves, they probably know someone who does. These are the charismatic connectors who know a guy who knows a guy who has an uncle who works in real estate that wants to invest in film.
  4. Get to know these professionals: lawyers, doctors and real estate agents.
    It's a lot easier to get money from folks whose lives aren't dependent on an ROI from film. You'd actually be surprised how many indie movies are put together by equity investors whose wealth didn't come from movies.
  5. Find a patron saint.
    These people are in the highest echelon of wealth - a few million dollars is not even a dent in their bank account, AKA I want to know Megan Ellison.
  6. Enlist A-list actors.
    Write a movie for a specific actor who you know is finance-able and has a desire to branch out/do something new. Some actors have production companies searching for projects for themselves to star in.
  7. Present your film as a train already headed toward the finish line.
    No one will push this train. They want to be a part of a project that's already on its way. This is mostly perception. Act as if you will shoot your project whether or not you get their money.
  8. Attach a producer.
    Have producers read your script through a regular submission by a rep. Find someone who wants to help your film fly.
  9. Foreign pre-sales money through a sales rep/agent.
    You can get money for a movie that is partially packaged by pre-selling its distribution territories before the film is even shot. Take it to a film market (Berlin/Cannes/AFM) and piece together your production budget.
  10. Babysit for producers in town.
    Casually mention how your project is "really taking off" and would they be interested in having a piece of the pie? (I heard this actually worked for somebody I know.) If high net-worth people can trust you with their kids, they should probably trust you with their money.
  11. Become a citizen of a nation that supports filmmakers through government grants.
    See: Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Germany to name a few.
  12. Self-fund.
    As a last resort. This is a giant risk and everyone will tell you it's a stupid idea, but if this is your calling in life and you have the cash, DO IT.
  13. Be prepared to talk about your film at all times.
    Have a 15 minute pitch, a 5 minute pitch, a 30-second pitch. Have your teaser footage, your look book, director's statement, bio, website and script ready AT ALL TIMES. If someone asks you for something and you don't have it, you don't look prepared. Have your shit together.
  14. Present yourself as a new voice in filmmaking.
    People want to be able to claim that they saw talent when others didn't. They aren't just investing in your film, they're investing in you.
  15. Remain positive in the face of endless rejection and disappointments.
    Even if your script and pitch and deck and all your work is amazing, there is still a very small chance that anyone will hand over hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund your vision. You will hear no a lot. Your faux friends will question your sanity. Your family may eventually stop supporting you. You may have to live on a couch for a year and a half putting a film together, only to have it fall apart (it happened to me). This is normal, I promise you.
  16. Do not allow anyone to tell you to do something else with your life.
    Think about your story, why you want to tell it. Let that motivate you through the couches you crash on and the odd jobs you take up to survive. You have a goal and a purpose and everything in between is a means to an end.
  17. Find filmmakers who have succeeded at making movies. Ask them how they did it.
    There are all sorts of ways to fund movies. Every project is different. Learn from people who've gone through it before and have come out the other side.