Wednesday, March 27, 2013
I've been writing up case-studies of the fundraising I did for two separate documentary films — WITH YOU and JACK LONDON: 20TH CENTURY MAN. Well, things just amped up for WITH YOU. Instead of blogging about our past fundraising success, I'm going to post over the coming weeks about our NEW fundraising campaign to raise $20K by April 20. In 2011, WITH YOU had two amazing work-in-progress screenings, one at the Frameline Film Festival and the other at Outfest in L.A. We got a lot of good audience input from those screenings. For the past 20 months, we've been completing the film while also figuring out our path forward. We needed to have a world festival premiere, an OFFICIAL premiere, with press write-ups and the green light to show off the film to potential broadcasters. Without an official premiere, our journey was over....but we did not give up. WITH YOU is now called THE RUGBY PLAYER. The name change supports our stepping onto a very big stage. Look out, world! Here comes THE RUGBY PLAYER, a documentary about Mark Bingham and Alice Hoagland. It’s official! The world tour of THE RUGBY PLAYER begins April 29th with our official world premiere at The Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. This is one of the top GLBT festivals in the world. We are already under consideration at other high profile festivals, and we will make more announcements. This is the road that leads to national exposure, as well as attention from potential broadcasters. We announced to our 755 Facebook friends, 400 email contacts on Vertical Response, and dozens of friends who need to receive a fundraising request by direct letter that we aim to raise $20K between now and April 20 to support the film on the road ahead. For every $250 you donate before April 20, you will earn one chance to win A TRIP FOR TWO TO THE MIAMI GAY AND LESBIAN FILM FESTIVAL. Donations of any amount are welcome and tax deductible. In all of our outreach, we tell people to click here to find out more: http://www.withyoufilm.com/make-a-donation/ We will keep sharing details in the days ahead. Thank you all! Since launching our fundraising campaign on March 22, we are already off to the races! We have raised $2,850 total in our campaign for THE RUGBY PLAYER (formerly WITH YOU)! Today I asked, can you help us cross the $3,000 mark today? For each $250 you donate, you get one chance for the prize drawing of a TRIP FOR TWO TO MIAMI! This money completes technical work for the film and supports it on the road ahead. Can't donate $250? DONATE ANY AMOUNT YOU CAN. All gifts are tax-deductible. Thank you all for believing in THE RUGBY PLAYER. http://www.withyoufilm.com/make-a-donation/ Over the past several days, I sent direct, personal Facebook messages to individuals from our list asking for $250, $500 or any amount. These are people who have either given at that level in the past or who are probably capable of making a gift of that amount. Having the drawing of a trip to the festival is a new tactic we are trying for the first time. We think this is working since most of the contributions made since we launched the campaign are $250 or more. We are able to launch and complete this sort of campaign because we worked so hard over the years to build up a contact list and we stayed in touch with people all along the way, letting them know our trials and tribulations and every success along the way. I'll keep posting updates about how the fundraising campaign is going all along the way to the finish line. Wish us luck! -- In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
So I left off in my last blog post for Case Two with my saga of the major donor who would not be reasonable. This is the guy who had promised to give me $50K for a documentary if I raised another $50K first. I promised to tell you how I responded when he got a little hot under the collar. I said in the last post that I was like a tiger waiting in the bushes at the watering hole for the gazelle to lower its head and extend its neck. So true. When I'm fundraising, the end goal of receiving the funds remains branded into my field of vision like an unwavering angelic avatar. No matter what happens, I don't give up on that goal But sometimes, donors make life hard. Like this guy. When he asked me how long it would take to edit the film after we completed the total $100K fundraising campaign, I told him about a year. He immediately heated up. Although I was talking to him on the phone, I could envision him shooting out of his seat like a rocket upon ignition. "That's totally unacceptable! When I build a building, it does not take a whole year!" He was inexperienced with film and filmmakers, but he was very experienced with building a business. Actually, a fast-food restaurant chain. THAT he understood. I knew I had to be careful. I did not want him to spook and run away, taking his $50K with him. So I tried to see if from his point of view. Why was he so agitated about the idea of our taking a year to edit? That's when I had an insight. He was 86 years old. Consciously or unconsciously, he may have feared that he would not be around in a year to see the completed film. Once I saw things that way, I realized that he just needed assurance that we would indeed begin to make progress soon, that there would be rough-cuts along the way to the final film, that we would show him different cuts as they became available. I smoothed him down. I ensured him that we were going to raise the additional $50K -- because I was monitoring my progress very closely and had projected a percentage of probability in a spreadsheet for each and every prospect I had included in my campaign outreach. I knew I had enough bankable income that would take me to the $50K and therefore to the right to claim his challenge gift. I needed to be calm, cool, collected -- and compassionate. When people, including successful, rich, powerful guys, act strangely, you can almost always bet that fear is playing a role. Once you know this, then it's your responsibility to act like a human being and not a scared rabbit with your successful, rich, powerful benefactor. In the end, my approach paid off. The donor was calmed down and cooled off. In the end, we met the goal, secured his gift, and now we are in the post-production process. Thank you, Almighty Buddha! (Photo, public domain image — Riparian brush rabbits endangered mammal species sylvilagus bachmani riparius by Lee Eastman, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
If you're going to fund your film, distribute your film, or -- "Please, Film Gods, hear my prayer!" -- SELL your film, you need to be able to pitch. I used to teach a class at Film Arts Foundation and later at the San Francisco Film Society on how to pitch. I guided the participants through an intensive process in which they learned how to answer ten key questions about their film in a concise, compelling fashion. Then I had them partner up and practice pitching to each other. Last, I had a panel of three experts assemble at the end of the class, and each participant pitched to them, receiving tips and feedback at the end. I felt pretty pumped by the end of every class, because I could see such improvement in each person's ability to articulate what he or she was aiming to create and bring into the world for the greater good of humanity. And at the end of every class, I suggested that the filmmakers go home and continue practicing in front of the mirror. By watching their physical mannerisms, adjusting their body language, polishing their delivery, they could get more and more in their element during future pitches. Once you have your message crafted and you have been practicing along and with trust friends, you need to look for opportunities in the real world to test your skills. One great place to pitch is at major film festivals. The Sundance Film Festival, for example, routinely hosts pitch sessions where you can sign up to sit at a round table with ten other hopefuls to actually pitch to a real flesh-and-blood funder or distributor. At the 2007 Sundance Film Festival, for example, I pitched It Came From Kuchar, a documentary by Jennifer Kroot that I had produced, to Lynne Kirby, SVP of Original Pogramming for the Sundance Channel. I thought I was going to pass out, because it was the first time I attempted to pitch that film in a public setting. Fortunately, Lynne knew of and loved the Kuchar Brothers, whom the film was about, so the pitch went as smooth as silk, and she asked me to follow up by sending her more information on the project. There were about 12 other distributors and funders in that same room -- from PBS, the Ford Foundation, Discovery, ITVS, the Travel Channel, A&E, etc. etc. All I had to do to get access was to put my name on a clipboard before the meeting. You need to develop relationships with funders and distributors early, long before it's time to fund or distribute your film. Don't have the means to get to Sundance or another big festival? Look for pitch opportunities locally. For example, the Center for Asian American Media hosted its Ready, Set, Pitch! event in San Francisco on March 11. About five filmmakers were selected from applicants and got the chance pitch to a panel before a live audience, vying for $5,000 in funding. Search "Pitch" and "Film" on Google and see what comes up. You need to speak, pitch, and score for your film, too. -- In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
If you really want to make serious fundraising hay while the sun shines, you have to build upon all those micro-donations you gather like fallen blossoms. You have to build the top of your funding pyramid. At the top, above all the little, heartfelt gifts from Aunt Mathilda and your former yoga instructor, you need some major gifts. Major gifts take time, cultivation, finesse, and patience. Oh, yes, and patience. More and more patience than you ever thought was contained in the cells of your body. Because major donors are demanding. They are often the kind of people who expect others to jump when they snap their fingers. They're busy. Busy making money. And you want some of their money. But they want something, too. Usually, they want to make your life hell. If you were to write them a little note acknowledging your feelings, it would go something like this:
Dear Major Donor Guy,
Filmmaker.When I led the fundraising campaign for my husband Chris Million's documentary film, "Jack London: Twentieth Century Man" last year, we had a major donor prospect come our way. As I mentioned in earlier blog posts on this site, he arrived out of the blue and came at the perfect time. He offered to donate $50,000 to the film, so long as we first raised $50,000 to match his gift. That was a good beginning. But after that, I needed all of my skill as a hardened fundraising professional who has raised millions of dollars from rich guys (and a few ladies) over the past twenty years. He tended to get upset. Sometimes he was close to yelling on the phone. "You won't have the film edited for another year!? That's not how I do business." His business was fast food. He was the owner of a chain of fast-food restaurants. He really had no experience dealing with films or filmmakers before. He shared a list of the other campaigns he had contributed to in the past by providing the lead, challenge gift. All of them had been with major organizations such as St. Vincent De Paul, large social service organizations, big civic organizations. He was terrified of our having a fiscal sponsor: "I make the check out to WHAT?" He did not understand why most of our smaller donors lived in California (because WE live in California). He wanted us to fax him weekly reports showing who gave, how much, and where they lived. Really, he was pretty demanding. But he never asked for credit in the film. Never asked to be "Executive Producer," and he never, ever asked to see different cuts of the emerging film in order to weigh in. Which is good, because I never would have agreed to any of that. How did I deal with all of this? I was patient. Patient, patient, oh, so patient! Patient like a tiger lying in the bushes, watching the gazelle sidling up to the waterhole and waiting for it to put its head down to drink. You have to be patient, sophisticated, a good, calm communicator, a diplomat, and a tiger when you are dealing with major donors. Find out next time how we were able to reach our $50,000 goal in order to earn this donor's match. And find out how I responded when he said, "A year!? That's not how I build a business!" You're gonna like it. After all, there's more than one way to slice a pizza. In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
San Francisco Film Society and Kenneth Rainin Foundation have $300,000 smackeroos to give away to projects that "help contribute to the Bay Area filmmaking community both professionally and economically." And by "projects," they mean narrative films. Documentarians, there is no need for you to read further. Past grant recipients include Destin Cretton's "Short Term 12" (SXSW 2013, World Premiere), Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale" (Sundance 2013, Dramatic Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize Winner) and Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" (Four-time 2013 Academy Award Nominee). Here are the deadlines, and I told you they were looming! EARLY DEADLINE: February 13, 2013, 4:59pm PST LATE DEADLINE: February 20, 2013, 4:59pm PST Here is where the fine print lives. To apply, visit this link and be ready to submit! And by the way -- good luck! -- In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million (Public domain photo by Kosta Kostov)
Monday, February 11, 2013
"With You," we first set our goal, our deadline, and our purpose. Once that job was done, our next task was to amass our arsenal -- I mean toolkit, of tools and devices we needed in order to run a successful campaign. I have to watch myself sometimes. The language of war seems to creep into the fundraising lingo sometimes. And this is nothing like war. It's more like building a community -- a community of like-minded people who want to work with you and each other to achieve a goal you all believe in. So, we started work on our toolkit. The toolkit is how you put your feet on the ground and have a strong, steady platform to move forward from. We needed a website with specific language about the campaign. That included a prominent button with a few succinct words about donating right on the home page. Then, we needed a donation page that gave a bit more information and had a link to our online donation page via our fiscal sponsor. That way, with just two clicks, people could go to a secure, online donation page where they could donate by credit card. We also gave instructions on how to donate by check, just for those who don't like to give their credit card info online. Next, I wrote a one-page letter that described the campaign goal, deadline, and purpose and which gave a "Call to Action." In the fundraising world, you're always channeling your activity to the call to action. That's where you activate people as donors. The letter was printed out and mailed to a select group of people who don't use the Internet or who are going to be asked for larger amounts of money. This letter contained a reply envelope with our mailing address affixed to it. Then, we set up an EventBrite page to use for the fundraising event we planned to cap our fundraising campaign. By using this tool, we could sell "tickets" to our event in advance, and EventBrite would deduct a small fee. We set ticket prices from $35 to $1,000, allowing people to select what they wanted to give. This made it much easier for us to see who was coming and to ensure that they would give prior to the event. When the money is in your hand, it's in your hand! When the money is still a promise, who knows? Lots of people gave at the $35 level, and a handful gave at the $1,000 level, including some who knew they would be unable to attend in person. Another tool we created was three short clips from the film that we could show at the event. If you're making a film, the best draw for an event is sharing something from the work in progress. With all of these tools in our hands, we were able to launch our campaign. Find out more next time about how we secured some major gifts as part of the campaign, how we enlisted lieutenants from the closest friends of the film to help tap their own networks for bigger gifts, and how we kept up the excitement level and awareness of our entire donor prospect list to ensure that we would meet our goal. -- In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million (Public domain image by Leigh B. Shaklee)
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
My husband, Chris Million, has been an unofficial scholar of the great American author Jack London for the past twenty years. He was at a literary conference more than two decades ago and met Becky London, Jack's daughter, who autographed a book for him. Meeting the author's daughter made Jack even more real and tangible for Chris, and from that moment on, he was determined to make the world's first-ever feature-length documentary about London, his immense literary legacy, and his fascinating times. Flash forward more than two decades to 2012. One of Chris's academic advisors to the film emailed to say she had a wealthy donor who contributed to her university. This individual had endowed her faculty chair at the university where she was one of the world's foremost London scholar. Now, the donor was potentially interested in funding Chris's film, "Jack London: 20th Century Man." He was a long-time fan of London's writing who had made his fortune by owning a restaurant chain in the Deep South. He wanted to make a contribution to the film. But there was a catch. There was always a catch. There always IS a catch when it comes to major donors contributing to films, I can assure you of that. He wanted to make his contribution a matching gift. We would have to match his gift dollar for dollar in order to receive it. It was all or nothing. If we did not meet the match, we would not get a dime. His intended gift? $50,000. It was up to me to create a campaign that would take advantage of this offer and succeed. How did I structure the campaign? What did I tell the donor? How did this challenge test our nerves? Find out in my upcoming posts. -- In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million
Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Frameline and Outfest. This seemed like a good goal to me, not only because it served our real needs, but also because it had some flash, some bling. It was a big, hairy, audacious goal, the kind that gets you noticed. But it was also not so big a goal that I feared falling short. In other words, it was achievable. Plus, we already had $22K to kick off the campaign, meaning we just needed to raise another measly $28K to reach the goal. Very good! To answer the second question, we had a simple response. We needed $50K in order to complete a full-length cut of the film. Awesome! Concrete need, grand in scope, but totally achievable. Inherent in that goal was a reward for potential donors -- they would help the film reach a significant milestone, and there was the chance they could participate by getting to view that feature-length cut. Boffo! As far as the third question went, I did some mental calculations about the timing. First, we would be able to sustain the excitement level so long as we completed the campaign BEFORE the Frameline screening. We had received word that "With You" would screen on a Thursday evening at San Francisco's famous Castro Theatre. Definitely prime time. Once that moment passed, so would the impetus for people to donate. So we had to be done before then. To be safe, I set the goal for June 1, a couple weeks ahead of the screening. That meant that we had about eight weeks total to finish the campaign. This was a good target, because it was a fairly quick campaign (which would keep the sense of urgency up), but not so short that we would run out of time to put the messaging and tools of the campaign in place. Next time: I'll describe what tools we needed to run the campaign. In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million
Friday, January 4, 2013
"With You." This is a feature-length documentary that tells the story of Mark Bingham, one of the heroes of United Flight 93 who on September 11, 2001 helped prevent the terrorists who had hijacked the plane from completing their mission. The film also tells the story of Mark's mother, Alice Hoagland, who was a United Airlines flight attendant before Mark's death and who became a nationally known advocate for both transportation safety as well as LGBT rights after Mark's death. I'm going to call "With You" Case One on this blog, and I'll be writing a series of posts about how we were able to raise the funds we needed to complete the feature-length cut. In January 2011, the filmmaking team that included me, my husband Chris Million, Scott Gracheff our director, and Todd Sarner, a friend of Mark's from childhood, realized that we needed to capitalize on the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 that was swiftly approaching in 2011. We had been working for more than eight years on this film, following Mark's mom Alice, interviewing Alice and a wide range of Mark's friends from childhood and his adult life, filming Mark's friends as they ran in his honor at a marathon in San Diego, and collecting archival materials to tell Mark's story. We needed to get a cut together. But we had run out of money we'd raised years earlier to help us with production costs. We were literally down to spare change in the bank account. How were we going to hire an editor? Before you can launch any kind of successful fundraising campaign, you need to create a structure. You need to assemble your tools. You need to know how much you want to raise, by when, and for what purpose. And the first tool you need to have in your hand is a lead gift. You need one person who believes so strongly in your film and who wants it to succeed that they will give you a large sum of money to kick off your campaign. Years earlier, we had secured seed money for "With You" from Mark Bingham's family and friends. In order to make it to our finish line, we needed to go back to a true believer and get them to plunk down some serious cash. My top prospect was a family friend of Mark's who was our top donor to date. I approached him by phone with the good news that we had a plan together to finish the film. "Oh, that sounds wonderful," he said. "Yes, and to make this plan succeed, we need your help. Can you make a donation of $20,000 to kick off our fundraising effort?" There was an almost inaudible gulp on the other end. "$20,000?" "Yes, that's right," I said, and waited, patiently and silently for the donor to say yes or no. I needed to stay out of the way until I heard an answer. "Okay," he said. "I'll talk to my accountant and see how I can do this." A few days later, I received a check in the mail -- a check for $22,000. The lead donor had decided to enhance his contribution beyond what I had requested. I probably should have asked for $25,000. Next time I will write about how we structured the fundraising campaign: how much, by when, and for what purpose. Things got intense really fast, so stay tuned for all the gory details. In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
"With You," a documentary about September 11 hero Mark Bingham and his mother Alice Hoagland, had a sneak-preview screening at the 35th Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco and Outfest: The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. It is now zipping toward an official festival premiere, and we hope broadcast. Two years ago, we were raising close to $100,000 to finish the film and get it into distribution. The second film, "Jack London: Twentieth Century Man," is the film my husband, Chris Million is directing. It tells the story of American literary giant Jack London and will be the first feature documentary about the author and his times. We raised $100,000 last year to now take the film into editing for completion in 2013. Last but not least is "A Permanent Mark: Agent Orange in America and Vietnam," the film that I have been producing and directing about Agent Orange. My inspiration for making this film is the death of my stepfather, Bob Macher, from his exposure to Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. I am now applying for major grants for "A Permanent Mark" as I also hire an editor and begin the process of cutting a feature-length rough-cut. I've been busy, damn it! So who the hell has time to blog? But the good news is, I have a LOT more information and real, tangible stories from the fundraising trenches to share with you all. Starting this week, I am going to start telling my riveting tales of woe and triumph from the fundraising front. I think you will agree that my blogging hiatus was well worth it. Stay tuned for more posts about all the excitement from the fundraising campaigns of all three films! In fundraising solidarity, Holly Million
Posted by Holly Million... at 12:34 PM
Monday, June 21, 2010
If you are starting to plan (or worry) about where you will apply for grants for your documentary this year, then take a look at the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund.
Their website says that:
The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund provides finishing funds to feature-length documentaries which highlight and humanize issues of social importance from around the world. Funded films are driven by thoughtful and indepth storytelling, bolstered by a compelling visual approach.They are looking for films that cover issues ignored by the mainstream media and which humanize people who are ignored or ostracized. Show them something unique and compelling
As mainstream media moves away from in-depth coverage of world affairs, domestic issues and social conflicts, the documentary has become an important and much needed tool to draw attention to the serious issues facing our world today. At the same time, the craft of the documentary is expanding in exciting directions, merging diverse points-of-view with new technologies and responding to the immediacy of the internet.
This fund gives away about $100,000 per year in grants that range in size from $10,000 to $25,000. That's probably not going to be enough to put your film to bed, but it would be a nice chunk of change to move it in that direction. Projects in development or production are not eligible -- surprise! To be eligible, projects must be at least 70 minutes long.
This is a ferociously competitive fund, so make sure to look at the site and check out the types of films that have won grants in the past.
You can submit an application for the next round of grants starting in October 2010 and continuing through January 2012. You'll submit online forms and also deliver materials to the Gucci Tribeca office. One of the required elements is a trailer at least 7 minutes long.
So start planning now if you want to apply -- you don't want to wait until December to start thinking about making that close of deadline in January.
In fundraising solidarity,
Thursday, March 18, 2010
I recently delivered a fundraising training workshop for the board of directors of a start-up nonprofit organization called San Francisco Village. I've done plenty of fundraising trainings in the past, so I'm a veteran of how to present this information to those who are not familiar with fundraising.
What I find each time I deliver the workshop is that there is an unmistakable pattern. Each time, everybody in the room starts off grim, tense. Their lips are pressed tightly together and their shoulders hover somewhere near their ears. I'm talking about fundraising, people! Wouldn't you be tense, too?
But what I find each time is that, although everyone starts off tense and fearful because they are about to enter a world that they do not understand and which makes them scared, by the time the workshop is over, they are energized, excited, and raring to go.
So what happens? Well, that's the unmistakable pattern I was talking about. They start off tense. I introduce them to the basic concepts of individual donor fundraising. They stay tense. I start talking about why they are involved in this organization. They seem to open up a crack. And then we go through an exercise where we collect "message points" for why this organization is worth supporting, and then we break into groups and role play actual fundraising. And by the time we are done with this, they are levitating out of their seats and on fire. It happens every time.
So why is this so? Because there are some key things you can do to overcome your fear of fundraising. This is true whether you are volunteering for a nonprofit or raising money for a film.
First, connect with your passion — why are you involved? Is this story personal? Have you been touched by this issue? Do you know someone who has? Why do you want to do something about it? You are as much a part of the story as the story itself.
Second, collect your message points — create a list of reasons why this cause is worth supporting. How will this work change the world and make it a better place? What makes this organization or this film unique, effective, exciting?
Third, practice talking about your passion — talk with your friends and colleagues. Role play. Test the messaging and the pitch before you go out and try it on somebody outside your circle.
Fourth, take a risk and see what happens — what could really go wrong if you ask somebody for support? They might say no? Tragedy! If they say no, you need to find out why, and then work with them to get to a yes. If you think it's too early to ask, just ask. You might be surprised by a yes.
Fifth, don't think it ends with the ask — all fundraising begins with a relationship, and it continues with a relationship. You don't show up and ask a stranger for money and then disappear into the sunset. You stick with that person, through rain or shine, thick or thin, like bosom buddies. If they give you money, your relationship responsibilities have just begun.
If you follow this advice, your fears will shrink, and your success will increase.
Try it at home!
In fundraising solidarity,
(Photo by Petr Kratochvil)
Friday, February 19, 2010
I’ve been raising money for twenty years. During my career, I have asked people for all kinds of money for all kinds of reasons. However, whether I’m asking for $1,000 or $100,000, I have found that there are some key concepts that rule. These are my Hella Hot Tips for how to ask people for money. The good news is that this isn’t brain surgery. It’s common sense. If you take these key concepts and use them as your guide for individual donor fundraising, you, too, you'll find that the gateway to individual gifts will open to you.
Hella Hot Tip #1 — Put yourself in your donor’s shoes
You walk into a donor’s home or office because you have something to say to them. What you really need to do is listen to what they are saying. Understand what they are looking for. Understand what is getting in the way of their saying yes. Work with them to remove the obstacles so they can say yes. What do they get out of this?
Hella Hot Tip #2 — ALL fundraising is about relationships
You need to build a relationship with the donor or prospect. It doesn’t begin with your asking for money. It needs to start before that point. And it doesn’t end with their gift. You have plenty of work to do afterwards because you will want to ask them again later. There’s no use in calling up somebody you neglected for five years to ask them for money for your new film. When it comes to your donor prospects, be the constant gardener.
Hella Hot Tip #3 — There is no magical Rolodex
Everywhere I go, people are searching for the magic list – somebody else’s list that they can get a hold of that will give them the names of the people to ask for money. It doesn’t exist. You have to create your own list. It starts with who you know, then goes to who they know. Sit down and start writing out names. Have everybody in your organization do the same. Eureka! You now have a prospect list.
Hella Hot Tip #4 — Focus on six degrees of bringing home the bacon
Kevin Bacon is reputed to have been in so many films that every other actor is connected to him and through him to everybody else. This is called Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It’s based on Six Degrees of Separation. In the 1960s, a social scientist determined that we are ALL connected by no more than six degrees of separation. Anybody you could want to know is already part of your network. You just need to connect the dots.
Hella Hot Tip #5 — Your fundraising is only as good as your ideas
Spend time honing your message. What is your mission? What is your vision? What are your immediate objectives? What major ideas inform your actions? Who are you and why are you here, doing this thing? Now spend time getting good at talking about what you do. Practice. Create stories that show your impact. Who have you helped? What is their story? Put a face on this thing. Inspire me.
Hella Hot Tip #6 — Go out and ask, already!
It seems ridiculous that I have to say this. But you have to ask in order to raise money. Lots of people get stuck in the courtship and can’t seem to get to the consummation. When in doubt about timing, amount, etc. – just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no. The best thing that could happen is that they will say yes.
Hella Hot Tip #7 — There is no such thing as no
A board member of a nonprofit I used to work for once said of me, “For Holly, all roads lead to yes.” That’s true. I don’t believe in no. If I ask someone for money and they tell me no, I understand that this “no” is not the ending place. I need to find out why they said no. Is it the amount? My timing? Do they have unanswered questions? Do they want to do this a special way, maybe different from the way I’m asking them to do it? My job is to work with them to find a way to get past the no. I have to be patient and realize that it takes two, three, maybe more attempts to get the yes I want. Be persistent. Persistence pays off.
In fundraising solidarity,
(Photo by Peter Kratochvil)
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Just three more days until A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers! The camp is taking place at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 Ninth Street in San Francisco on Saturday, January 23, 2010.
For more information, to register, or to see the full line-up of presenters, visit www.goldenpoppy.com.
One of our featured presenters is Michael V. Williams.
Michael Williams is a producer/editor in the San Francisco Bay Area with over twenty years of experience in the television industry. Michael is that rare breed of professional that brings expertise to both producing and editing television and video projects. His company, VernonVision, is a fully equipped facility offering the latest non-linear editing technology including Final Cut Studio, Motion Graphics, Variable video compression up to 10-bit uncompressed, Serial digital & component input/output, Output to Video, DVD, CD-ROM, or Web. Mike is the founder of GuruTube.net. GuruTube provides objective information on a variety of subjects delivered by industry experts. Through the medium of video, the viewer is better able to understand and retain the content as well as the context. The goal of GuruTube is for Web video to become a primary means of information and education. GuruTube’s video presentations do not sell a particular brand or product. The focus of each video is simply the best, most recent and most useful information available.
Mike's presentation at A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers is entitled "Get Your Film on the Internet Today."
A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers is one full day, includes breakfast, lunch, and Peet's coffee and tea, and a whole line-up of presenters on subjects such as fundraising, distribution, marketing, and the latest technical info for indie filmmakers.
Discount registration of $145 before January 22, 2010.
Find out more at www.goldenpoppy.com
Or, email email@example.com
In fundraising solidarity,
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Seems like lately, all the filmmakers I know are ready to party! They’re all throwing fundraising events to raise cash for their films.
While I applaud their resourcefulness and dedication to a fundraising tactic relying upon individual, not foundation, money, I confess that I tremble at the thought of what they are getting themselves into. So many babes in the party-planning woods!
They are about to find out how much time, energy, resources, and focus it takes to host a successful fundraising event. How can they ensure the biggest bang for their buck and avoid getting burned?
Well, I’ve compiled five essential tips based on my 20-plus years of event organizing that I hope will help all these stalwart filmmakers host bang-up fundraising events.
Tip One: Give yourself twice as much lead time as you think you need.
Events are more complicated than they look. You have to shepherd your event from start to finish, deal with the location, invitations, supplies, parking, you-name-it, then marshal the resources and get them to gel. For example, I know some folks who gave themselves three months to organize a fundraising event. They were starting with no budget, no mailing list, and no help beyond the four of them. When I said they were going to need closer to six months to a year to pull off the event they envisioned, they scoffed. They didn’t believe it would be that hard. Well, three months whirled by, and in the end, they cancelled their event because they couldn’t pull it together in time. So learn from their bone-headedness. Take the amount of time you were planning to devote to organizing your fundraising event…and double it.
Tip Two: Know from square one how you’ll make money.
“I organized my sister’s bridal shower, so how hard can a fundraising event be?” How much money did your sister’s bridal shower raise? That’s what I thought. A fundraising event is not a social event. This is not a cultivation event. It is a fundraising event, and people need to know that right up front. Say so on the invitation. Say how attendees are expected to contribute financially. Do they buy a ticket? Are they going to be asked directly for a gift once they get to the event? Will it be both? Tell them. That way, they’ll bring their checkbooks and credit cards with them. You also need to know what they’re going to be asked for, who is going to ask them, when they are going to ask, and how they are going to ask. When it’s time to ask for the money at the event, keep it short, direct, and politely insistent.
Tip Three: Write a budget out on paper.
That’s right. On paper. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen people “wing” the financial side of their event. They don’t know how much they plan to spend, so how can they possibly know how much money they will make? You have to anticipate everything that will cost you money — did you include napkins? Unless they’re going to be donated, you will be paying for them. You also have to track how much you are spending. And then there’s the income side. How many tickets do you need to sell to make $X. Are you projecting to raise more money than you spend. Good! There’s your profit.
Tip Four: Expect something to go wrong.
I’ve been organizing events for a long time. In all my years doing this, there has never been one event I’ve organized that did not have something go wrong. We had an outdoor event, and it rained. We had a fundraising luncheon for 500 people, and the florist forgot to deliver the flowers (Never did hire that bum again). When you expect something to go wrong, you won’t freeze when it does. You’ll know your job is to stay calm and loose and solve the problem. That event where the florist forgot the flowers? We sent two volunteers out to buy 50 potted hydrangeas (one for each table) at a fraction of what the other flowers were going to cost. The problem was solved and the room decorated in under 90 minutes.
Tip Five: Avoid this reaction: “Oh, no! Not another event!”
These days, everybody is getting hit up day and night for cash. How many appeal letters did you receive from worthy causes and organizations this holiday season? I got three times the normal amount. And how many events have you been invited to? The past two weeks, I’ve gone to an event every night. Seems like half are “benefit” events. Considering what your event is up against, you better make it stand out. What is going to make somebody skip that other event and come to yours, even though you’ve already made it clear this will cost them? Come up with a special enticement or feature. Is it at a house, club, or locale that is exclusive and normally inaccessible? Does it feature high-quality entertainment or a celebrity or some really fun activity? Is the food sumptuous? The libations luscious? What is the draw?
Trust me. If you can get them to show up, you can certainly get them to write you a check.
In fundraising solidarity,
(Fireworks photo by Petr Kratochvil)
Monday, November 30, 2009
NEWS RELEASE Contact: Maureen Futtner
For Release: December 1, 2009 (415) 637-3280
MINI-CONFERENCES BOLSTER CREATIVE AND SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS
“A Helluva Camp” provides training for nonprofit rebels and indie filmmakers
San Francisco, CA - As the economy faces a ‘jobless recovery,’ creative entrepreneurs are emerging in all sectors and industries. While gumption counts for a lot, entrepreneurs still require hard skills and information to successfully launch an enterprise. Fundraising expert and author Holly Million helps big thinkers translate their vision into practical plans with A Helluva Camp, day-long mini-conferences presented by Million’s Golden Poppy Productions. The series of workshops is designed to provide filmmakers, nonprofit idealists and other social-change agents with a solid knowledgebase and up-to-the minute information. A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers takes place on Jan. 23, 2010; A Helluva Camp for Nonprofit Rebels is on Jan. 30, 2010; and A Helluva Camp on Film Production from Idea to Internet is offered on April 24, 2010. All workshops are at the Ninth Street Independent Film Center, 145 Ninth Street, San Francisco. Registration ranges from $125 to $250 with discounts for early registration. Registration includes breakfast, lunch and Peet’s coffee and teas. For more information visit www.goldenpoppy.com or call 415-902-0558.
Million developed A Helluva Camp to equip today’s change-agents with the tools necessary to transform the broken-down systems in today’s world. The series also aims to foster the “can-do” spirit emerging amid the economic shake-up. “The rewards go to the person willing to make her own opportunities, not wait for opportunity to pull up in a limo,” says Million. “If you’re a motivated, creative individual, you’ll seize this moment to start your own venture, launch your own creative project and make your own job.”
With topics such as “Caviar PR on a Baked-Bean Budget” and “How to Ask People For Money,” A Helluva Camp provides thorough and compelling content with a fired-up attitude. Million is committed to presenting relevant information in a fun and accessible format. The mini-conferences feature instructors who are not only working professionals, but also entrepreneurs in their own right.
Tom Lin, a veteran of the online advertising world for such corporations as Microsoft, Google and Yahoo, participated in Million’s recent workshop on Web 2.0 tools for film fundraising. “I'm very familiar with Web 2.0 and, as a filmmaker, I've attended classes that speak to these tools, but none of them successfully brought it all together until I participated in Holly's workshop,” notes Lin. “Hers was the best I've ever attended. Thanks, Holly!"
ABOUT A HELLUVA CAMP (TM)
A Helluva CampTM is sponsored by Golden Poppy Productions, LLC, Ninth Street Media Center, A Million Images, GuruTube.net, Women's Film Institute, New Documentary Editing
— A Helluva Camp (TM) for Indie Filmmakers— January 23, 2010
This camp is designed for new filmmakers and people switching to the film field and presents info on fundraising, marketing, the latest technology, distribution, and much more.
— A Helluva Camp (TM) for Nonprofit Rebels — January 30, 2010
This camp is designed for people who are starting new nonprofits or who want to change the ways of existing nonprofits and presents info on fundraising, PR, the latest technology, board development, and much more.
— A Helluva CampTM on Film Production from Idea to Internet — April 24, 2010
This camp is geared to somewhat more experienced filmmakers who want information on shooting, capturing, editing, and uploading footage to the Internet to take advantage of new, affordable ways to get their media into the world.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Hey, filmmakers! How often do you hear about new film-specific funding opportunities? Not often these days.
Well here is a relatively new funding opportunity you need to check out. And it comes in three flavors: Cinereach Grants & Awards, The Reach Film Fellowship, and Cinereach Productions.
Cinereach is now accepting letters of inquiry and sample work for their winter grant cycle. The deadline is December 1, 2009, and they will request full proposals from select projects in January. Each year Cinereach grants over $500,000 to well-crafted feature films that depict underrepresented perspectives, resonate across international boundaries, and spark dialogue. Grants usually range from $5,000 – $50,000 and are awarded to films at any stage.
Cinereach was created in 2006 by young filmmakers, philanthropists, and entrepreneurs to champion vital stories, artfully told. The young nonprofit facilitates the creation of films that challenge, excite, innovate, offer new perspectives and inspire action. Cinereach has awarded well over $2.5 million in grants and achievement awards to more than 40 feature films.
Recent Cinereach funding recipients include October Country, a new documentary by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher, which won Best American Documentary at Silverdocs and Entre Nos a fiction film by Paola Mendoza and Gloria La Morte, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.
For more information, visit the Cinereach website. And good luck! Let me know how it goes.
In fundraising solidarity,
(Lightning photo by Mark Coldren)
Friday, October 30, 2009
Register Now for A Helluva Camp™ for Indie Filmmakers
This camp is for indie filmmakers who want new ideas and new ways to succeed in an increasingly competitive world.
We spend one full day covering topics that aren’t covered in most film schools, and our instructors are working filmmakers or real-life movers and shakers in their fields of expertise.
This is a fantastic opportunity to network with other filmmakers and experts in many fields. You don’t want to miss this one!
And compared to what other camps and conferences are charging these days, A Helluva Camp is a real bargain!
Saturday, January 23, 2010
$125 by December 31, 2009
$145 between January 1, 2010 to January 22, 2010
$165 at the door
Ninth Street Media Center
145 Ninth Street (at Mission)
San Francisco, CA 94103
Breakfast and Lunch included! Featuring Peet’s Coffees and Teas!
Email confirmation will be sent to you.
For more information about the line-up or to sign up for this unique indie film camp, visit Golden Poppy Productions, LLC.
Golden Poppy Productions, LLC
Holly Million, Fundraising Consultant
A Million Images, LLC
Ninth Street Media and Arts Center
The Women's Film Institute
I'm presenting a free film fundraising webinar through the Women's Film Institute, the presenters of the San Francisco Women's Film Festival. Here is what they had to say about the presentation in their latest e-newsletter:
Free Webinar on How to Ask People for Money
This webinar is FREE and demonstrates how to develop relationships with individual donors and ask them to make a financial contribution to your film. Learn how to fundraise fearlessly and make a successful ask. We'll discuss how to identify donor prospects and cultivate them, what tools you need to do this kind of fundraising and how to go face to face to ask for money. Webinar will be held on Dec. 3, 2009 at 7:00 p.m. Space is limited and RSVP by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Holly Million:
Holly is a consultant, author, and filmmaker with nearly two decades' worth of experience in fundraising. In addition to securing funding for "A Story of Healing," which won a 1997 Academy Award, Million has raised money for documentary and dramatic films that have aired on PBS, HBO, and other broadcast outlets. She is the author of "Fear-Free Fundraising: How to Ask People for Money," available on Amazon.com. She is writing a new book, "A Helluva Guide to Indie Film Fundraising" to be published in 2010.
She is the founder of Golden Poppy Productions, LLC, the presenters of A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers on 1/23/2010 and for Nonprofit Rebels on 1/30/2010 in San Francisco, CA.
Fore more information on A Helluva Camp or to register visit:
Thursday, October 29, 2009
So you’re drafting a fundraising prospect list for your indie film? Looks like it’s shaping up to be the most extensive list of individual donor prospects known to mankind. Good job!
Your list covers your personal connections (everyone from Uncle Ernie to your former Econ 101 professor), people your personal connections can introduce you to who care about the same issues your film covers, and known suspects in the community who just love film. You have really done your homework and you even know how much you plan to ask each one of these prospects for.
So what’s the problem? Well, I’ll bet you know what you want from them. But do you have any clue what they want from you?
That’s right. You know you want their money. But what do these fine people get for giving their cash to you and your film? Stumped? Here are a few tried and true ways to both entice as well as reward your individual donors, along with a few totally off-the-wall tips to demonstrate that the sky really is the limit when it comes to thanking your donors.
Tip One: Credit Where Credit Is Due
Some people would love to see their name on the big screen, even if it’s tucked somewhere far down the list past where you thank the caterer and your accountant. In exchange for people’s financial support, promise to include them in your film’s credits. Want to make things really interesting? Offer different levels of credits for different sized gifts. Somebody wants to be the executive producer? Or assistant to Mr. Waters? They’re going to have to pay.
Tip Two: Ask for Their Opinions
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want money, ask for advice, and if you want advice, ask for money.” It’s surprising, but very few filmmakers think to ask people on their lists for ideas, information, and advice. Do you need a location? Do you need a graphic designer? Do you want feedback on your screenplay? The more you ask people for ideas, the more they will feel connected to your film. And when people feel connected to something, it increases their willingness to put some skin in the game.
Tip Three: Put Them on an Advisory Board
I secured a gift of $5,000 from an individual who was an artist who was passionate about women’s issues for a short narrative film I was making that focused on these issues. Although most short narratives don’t need the support of an advisory board, I created one anyway, seeing how it would both attach known names to my project and reward the people who cared most about my film. I invited my major donor to join this advisory board, and she was surprised — and pleased — by the invitation.
Tip Four: Put Them in the Film
Oh, my God! Did I really just write that? Am I out of my mind? Quite possibly. At least where some potential donors are concerned. I don’t recommend putting just anyone in your film. And I’m not talking about putting them in a speaking role if they can’t act their way out of a paper bag. But is there some scene in your film where you need a bunch of extras? Can they blend into the background somehow? If you have a really big potential donor or investor, this may be the ticket to get them to write that check.
Tip Five: Did I Mention the Tax Write-Off/Investment Potential?
If you’re making a non-commercial film that is fiscally sponsored, then you can offer your individual donors a tax write-off for their contributions to your film. You get their money, and they get to take a tax-deduction for making that gift. If you’re making a commercial film, then be prepared to talk about the potential return on investment. How is the investor going to make back her money? What are the risks involved? What are the potential payoffs?
Tip Six: Invite Them to Your World Premiere at Festival X
There is that special category of donors who just love the concept of making a film. They are probably themselves closeted filmmakers, but they won’t or can’t make the leap into making a film of their own. However, you’re a filmmaker. By inviting this potential donor to become part of the film scene by coming with you to a festival would start them swooning. You don’t know which festival you may get into, but for some people, it won’t matter one bit.
Tip Seven: Tell Other People How Great Your Donors Are
Whenever you host an event, thank the people who have shown their support. When you put up your website, list those who helped you get where you are today. Proclaim publicly that these folks are your heroes, and they will bask in the glow of your appreciation.
Tip Eight: Show How Your Film Has Changed the World
For donors who give to your film because of its subject matter, knowing that the film went on to great things will make them feel good. Did your documentary about food safety change national policy on food safety? Did your expose of corporate malfeasance bring the bad guys to justice? Show that impact, and those donors will see your film as the greatest thing their money has ever produced.
In fundraising solidarity,
(heart photo by Peter Kratochvil)
Thursday, October 22, 2009
I taught a three-hour class called "Web 2.0 Tools for Film Fundraising" last night through the San Francisco Film Society. That's a picture of me with most of the class attendees. Thanks to Vance Snyder for taking the picture!
This class focused on what Web 2.0 is all about, what specific tools are out there, and how to put them to work in support of your indie film fundraising. We covered everything from blogs to wikis to social networking to folksonomies and explored the inner workings of popular sites and tools such as Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Vertical Response.
I created a class document that I emailed to all the students after the class that contained hotlinks to all of the dozens and dozens of sites I shared during the class. What a deal!
I'll be offering the class again in coming months, so either stay tuned on this blog, or sign up using the form on the right-hand side of the blog to receive email announcements.
For two hot examples of how indie films are doing exciting, bold, and brilliant things with Web 2.0, check out the website of low-budget fright phenomenon Paranormal Activity and the site of polar opposite The Yes Men Fix Everything. You will be amazed at what Web 2.0 can do for your film.
If you are interested in learning more about connecting your film to the Internet, consider signing up for A Helluva Camp on Film Production from Idea to Internet, taking place on April 24, 2010. For more information or to register, visit Golden Poppy Productions, LLC.
Put the Web to work for you!
In fundraising solidarity,
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Editor and filmmaker Richard Levien is presenting at two different camps I am organizing in 2010. Richard will present on "A Low-Budget, Kick-Ass Trailer" at A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers which is taking place in San Francisco on Saturday, January 23, 2009. He will also be part of the four-person team of experts presenting at A Helluva Camp on Film Production from Idea to Internet on Saturday, January 30, 2009.
For more information about both camps or to register, visit Golden Poppy Productions.
Richard has a PhD in theoretical physics from Princeton University, but has found his real passion in film. As a freelance film editor, he co-edited the feature documentary D Tour, which won the Golden Gate award for Best Bay Area documentary at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival, and will appear on the PBS series Independent Lens in Fall 2009. He edited and did motion graphics for the short film "On the Assassination of the President" which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008. He also edited the cult Internet hit Store Wars, which was seen by 5.5 million people in the first 6 weeks of its release.
Levien's first film as a director is Immersion (2009), a short film about a ten-year-old immigrant from Mexico who speaks no English, and struggles to fit in at his new school in the U.S. "Immersion" debuted at the Slamdance Film Festival in January 2009. It has also played or will play at the San Francisco International, Seattle International, Sarasota, Palm Springs Shortfest, Mill Valley, Chicago International Children's, Media that Matters, New Zealand International and Brussels International Independent Film Festivals. It won the "No Violence" award at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and the Golden Gate award for Best Bay Area short film at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
At the same festival, Levien won the $35,000 San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Filmmaking Grant, the first in a cycle of grants that will infuse $3 million dollars into narrative feature filmmaking in the Bay Area in the next five years. Levien won for screenwriting and script development of La Migra, the story of an 11-year-old girl whose mother has been taken away by U.S. immigration police. He is working with author Malin Alegria on this project.
Levien was born in Auckland, New Zealand in 1968. He enjoys a good cup of tea and follows the (mostly ill) fate of the New Zealand cricket team. He is one of the few New Zealanders who played no part whatsoever in the making of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy.
For more information about A Helluva Camp or to register, visit www.goldenpoppy.com.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I'm organizing A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers on January 23, 2010 in San Francisco. For more information on this and other camps in the series, visit Golden Poppy Productions.
One of our featured presenters at the camp is Rod Minott, who will be presenting on the subject of "Grant Proposals That Don't Suck." We could all benefit from a discussion on that topic!
Rod Minott is the founder of Glisan Media, a San Francisco-based media company that focuses on video-journalism story production as well as consulting services for independent producers interested in producing programs for public television. Rod began his broadcasting career in 1984 as an on-air daily news reporter for the Boise, Idaho CBS station affiliate, KBCI TV2. In 1985 he joined public television as an on-air reporter/producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland. Rod has also been a reporter/producer for public television stations KTEH in San Jose, and KCTS in Seattle. From 1994 until 1999, Rod served as the Seattle-based on-air correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer on PBS. From 2005 until 2007 he worked at the Independent Television Service (ITVS) in San Francisco as Program Manager for the LINCS (Linking Independents and Co-Producing Stations) funding initiative. He also oversaw ITVS’s online digital initiative, “Electric Shadows.” Rod lives in San Francisco. He can be contacted at: phone-(415) 553-5969 email: email@example.com His website is: www.glisanmedia.com
Register now for A Helluva Camp for Indie Filmmakers and gain exciting knowledge from presenters like Rod Minott!
For more information or to register, visit www.goldenpoppy.com.
In fundraising solidarity,
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
I have launched some special camps to satisfy your jones for real information that's useful and up to date! Plenty of opportunity to network with your peers as well as experts in many avenues of the film field.
To find out more, visit www.goldenpoppy.com. You can also register on the website.
A Helluva Camp™ provides condensed, content-rich, cutting-edge, & fun mini-camps & mini-conferences. Our goal is to give you information & training you can’t find anywhere else about subjects that are exciting, practical, & up to the minute! Our goal is to fire up the can-do person in all of us.
Register now for our upcoming camps!
• A Helluva Camp™ for Indie Filmmakers — January 23, 2010
(Info on fundraising, marketing, the latest technology, distribution, & much more)
• A Helluva Camp™ for Nonprofit Rebels — January 30, 2010
(Info on fundraising, PR, the latest technology, board development, & much more)
• A Helluva Camp™ on Film Production from Idea to Internet — April 24, 2010
(Info on shooting, capturing, editing, & uploading your footage to the Internet)
* Each camp is one full day.
* Includes breakfast, lunch, & free Peet’s coffee & teas.
* To see the line-up of presenters, find out more details, or to register for any of the three camps, visit www.goldenpoppy.com.
* Or, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Monday, August 31, 2009
You need several things to land a foundation grant for your film. One, a well-edited trailer or work sample. Two, the hutzpah of Attila the Hun. And three, a kick-ass written proposal. Okay, so you have the first two. Is it the written proposal that is baffling you? Well, be baffled no more. Here are all the basic ingredients you need to bake up a tasty grant proposal.
A good proposal begins with good ideas. You have to know what you are trying to create and what success looks like for that creation. With a film, your proposal is only as strong as the ideas, images, and people your film contains. Do you have strong characters that give the audience somebody to identify with or whose story will move them? Are existential truths revealed through your film? Are there ideas, themes, lessons, and morals to give your film shape and life? Have you thought through what the film is about, and is there a driving rationale for what it contains?
A good proposal includes a plan. Who is your film aimed at? How will they see it? How are you going to raise the money to make the film? How long will it take you to make the film? You need to be able to answer these questions with some sophistication. Don’t say your film is aimed at everybody. Nobody believes that. Are you planning to have your film screen in festivals? Put down a really well considered list of festivals with an explanation of why you picked them and what your chances are for getting in. Don’t list the top ten festivals in North America and walk away. That will just look plain lazy. Will you use some creative tactics to help your distribution plan? Then give some juicy details about how that will work and what it will look like.
A good proposal paints a picture. Can a reader envision this film? Can they see the characters and what they’re going through? Can they visualize what’s going to be on the screen? One way to help your readers do this is by using actual quotes from the film. Having the words of real people from the film on the pages of the proposal helps bring it alive. Another way can be to tie current events to what your film will be about. Put in some description of what’s happening in the world and show how your film directly connects with this. A film is visual. Make your written proposal as visual as possible.
A good proposal is convincing. One of the things program officers, board members, and panel reviewers will all do is to decide whether they believe you can accomplish what you say you want to accomplish. You can make your proposal more likely to convince them by doing the following things. One, use affirmative language, not tentative language. Don’t say, “I would like to interview Joe Schmo, expert on the subject,” say, “I will interview (or even better, have interviewed) Joe Schmo, and he says X.” Include information about distribution to show you not only have a plan, but you are already taking steps to make it so. Do you want to be on Discovery Channel? Then call up Discovery Channel and talk to a producer. Now you can put that in your proposal. I helped one director I was working with by setting up a meeting with a producer at HBO. She met with him, and he was polite but noncommittal about the whole deal. However, the fact that the conversation had taken place allowed me to write in the proposal, “the director met with producer ‘Mr. X’ from HBO to discuss the project and share our trailer. HBO sees this project as being a potential fit for their CineMax outlet.” All of that is absolutely true.
A good proposal is well written. Well written means engaging. A good proposal has energy, verve, zing! The sentence structure is active. There’s a certain muscular quality to the writing. It is not flabby. Every word on the page must contain valuable information that presents the case for funding. There are no typos or grammatical errors. Yes, I need to say that last line, because some proposals go out in the mail in absolutely awful shape. Proofread! If you’re not good at that, have somebody else do it.
A good proposal includes partners. You are just one person. Wonderful as you are, unless you are Ken Burns, you alone will not be enough to convince the foundations you can pull off your film as proposed. Solution? Surround yourself with an experienced team who enhance your skills and abilities. Find a known filmmaker who has been around the block a few times who can serve as your executive producer. Hire an experienced director of photography and editor. In addition to the crew, how about an advisory board? Ask experts in the field to serve as advisors to your film, and include their bios on the proposal. Last, nonprofit partners are often a big boost to your credibility with foundations that are used to funding nonprofits. They can understand a nonprofit and its programs a helluva lot more than they can understand Joe Q. Filmmaker and his film. Nonprofits can bolster your resources by helping secure interviews with key people, adding advisors to the advisory board, helping to screen and distribute your film to interested audiences, and assisting with joint fundraising efforts that truly benefit both partners.
A good proposal is tailored to the funder. You cannot imagine how many people think applying to foundations is a one-size-fits-all deal. They write one boilerplate proposal and don’t change a word with each submission. That is a formula for failure. Your proposal needs to shift and evolve with each application. That’s why you’re going to all that trouble of poring over the guidelines, sifting through the records, and becoming bosom-buddies with that nerdy program officer. Why would you go through that and then use the same proposal every time? That’s right up there with recycling used underwear! Please, be more civilized.
In fundraising solidarity,
(Photo by Angie Perkins)
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Obama embraced fundraising like no political candidate before, raising over $750 million in the course of his campaign. That's the real secret to successful fundraising -- embrace it!
Want to become more intimate with the intricacies of fundraising? I'm teaching several film fundraising classes through the San Francisco Film Society throughout the rest of this year. Need to learn how to pitch? Want to find out how the Internet can enhance your film fundraising? I have the straight dope for you.
I'm teaching my long-running, popular class "How to Ask People for Money" on August 29 and September 12. The first session is sold out, but space is still available for the second class. This is an eight-hour-long, hands-on experience that has you learning what goes in to donor prospect identification, cultivation, and direct asks. By the end of the day, you are pitching your film to a live panel of real film experts who give you gentle, constructive feedback to improve your odds the next time you go out to bat!
I'm teaching a reprise of "How to Ask People for Money" on October 17 and again on December 5. I teach a simplified version of the class as a webinar on November 7.
I'm also teaching "Using Interactive Web Tools for Indie Film Fundraising" on October 21. Filmmakers are embracing blogs, tweets and social networking to help cast, market, distribute and raise money for films. Find out how Web 2.0 tools can enhance your donor cultivation and communication.
So there are plenty of class dates to choose from. Register now!
In fundraising solidarity,
(Obama artwork by Petr Kratochvil)