Short Film Fundraising

An issue-oriented short film is one that has a theme of social relevance at it’s core. Drug abuse, poverty, the environment, homelessness… these are all examples of a short film with a socially relevant theme. This is significant as it is MUCH easier to get donations of time, equipment and supplies when there is a “cause” behind the film.

In the mid 90’s I was able to get a 12 minute 35mm film produced for under a thousand dollars, an absolutely unheard of amount. Catering, locations, film stock and processing, misc supplies, equipment – almost everything was covered through generous donations because the film had two major social issues as the primary themes – child abuse and it’s resultant connection to drug abuse later in life.

The approach? Go through production directories and cold call until you can’t speak anymore. A typical pitch went like this: “we’re working on a film that deals with some pretty intense social issues and we’re wondering if there’s someone we can speak to about making a donation of….” It takes a lot of calls, but it works.

Getting donations is in one sense quite easy as many production companies are willing to contribute. The difficulty that comes from this alternative to short film funding is in the additional coordination efforts required, for you’ll need to adapt your schedule to the donors. An example of this is that we had to cancel a film shoot two weekends in a row because the 35mm camera that was being donated to us became unavailable as it was booked out on a paid shoot (a reality that has to be accepted taking this approach). But as soon as the rental company’s schedule cleared up, the camera was ours and we were able to shoot, saving hundreds of dollars in rental fees.

Another issue with taking this path is producer coordination. It’s better if you have a distinct producer working on acquiring donations as it’s a full time job in and of itself. It’s best to have one producer to manage shooting logistics and another to manage donations. In the end, while our team was able to accomplish a lot with very little funds, the film suffered because the director/producer (myself) was overworked with managing logistics and had less time to spend on creative shots, acting, etc. Having a unique producer to handle donations will solve that problem!

By Suzana