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Forward! Film Funding’s Future
By Rob Millis
Two changes in tech and finance are about to have a huge impact on independent film: crowdfunding and the JOBS Act.
We all know about Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, the crowdfunding platforms that have been helping independent creators launch projects. These platforms and others have already been hugely successful with DIY projects and direct-to-fan networking, yet even after years of growing popularity they haven’t come anywhere close to their full potential.
Last year the Slated networking and fundraising platform joined the market as well. Slated offers a system geared toward film professionals seeking (or supplying) investment dollars. Unlike previous crowdfunding platforms, Slated’s approach is less about DIY and more about professional partnerships. In short, they are taking crowdfunding to the next level.
Recent legislation is paving the way for platforms like these to offer services for startups and small businesses (including your production company) to raise funds by selling equity. Since 1933 there have been tight restrictions on fundraising from American investors, intended to prevent nefarious characters from swindling naive investors, and to prevent fools from taking out a second mortgage to finance risky ventures. Startup companies haven’t been able to promote investment offerings to the public at all, which has meant that in most cases only private equity firms and wealthy individuals with personal connections have been able to even learn about opportunities to invest in new ventures.
But this year the JOBS Act will enable any small company to raise up to $1 million in private funding from almost anyone. Investors will soon be able to buy a small stake in your film production without having to be multi-millionaires or know you personally. With such a game-changing opportunity on the horizon, it’s a good idea to build a foundation right now by getting to know the popular platforms.
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are worth trying out if you haven’t already. To familiarize yourself with both, browse through some of the film projects seeking funding and spend a few dollars on a film project to see how the process works. For instance, just $10 will get you a nice mention in the credits for a short crime film on IndieGoGo, and just $5 will get you a poster and soundtrack for a zombie thriller on Kickstarter.
Slated operates as a closed community (you need two professional members to vouch for you before joining), but most readers of this blog will likely have no problem with that. Once you’ve joined, you can set up your profile and begin tracking films, people and companies that interest you. When the time is right, a long history and deep network in this community will help you present film projects for funding, distribution assistance and other services. Many independents may find the greatest value actually comes from tracking the investment companies on Slated, which will help you better understand the marketplace and what investors are seeking when financing film productions.
There is no telling exactly how public policy will shape the market, but anyone with a long term career in the industry will benefit from an early understanding of the tools available.
Rob Millis is the founder of Dynamo Media and one of the creators behind the Dynamo Player, the first online pay-per-view platform freely available to independent filmmakers. Rob was an early pioneer of online video production and distribution, and has been a founder, investor or advisor with several online media and industrial technology companies. You can find Rob on Twitter at @robmillis or learn more about Dynamo at http://www.DynamoPlayer.com