Fund Your “Widget”: Film Financing in the Here and Now
A year ago or so, someone on Twitter bemoaned that the film community kept investor information inaccessible and unavailable to BIPOC and indie filmmakers. “Gatekeeping,” they called it. Because I always have something to say when folks cry-out “gatekeeping,” I, of course, responded with, “Laughing in Latino Filmmaker.”
This led subtweets about “Gatekeeping,” “crabs in the bucket,” and the “non-supportive” way in which I responded. It was, in essence, one of my highest viewed and shared comments of summer 2020.
The truth is, I was not laughing at them. I just found the complaint comical if not entirely positioning the Twitter user as not only inexperienced but completely unfamiliar with how the world works, not just Hollywood.
Yes, I compared the world to Hollywood, because while those who don’t work in Hollywood (or media) look at the industry as some sort of alien-like world kept under lock and key by some big, ugly, navy-suited monsters ready to say “no” to everything and everyone, the truth goes something like this:
Hollywood is like any other business. You are hired to make money or save money. Period and end of story.
If you can’t convince a friend, a coworker, a family member, or stranger you meet down the street to buy into your widget (aka film, art project, etc.), then, my friend, you will never have someone with “real money” invest in any of your work.
That includes “Hollywood."
Yes, I said it, repeat after me:
You are ready for “money investors” when you can actually engage someone to invest in YOU.
Because YOU is what a $20 GoFund stranger or $2,000+ investor is putting their money into. Not just a widget.
YOU are not everyone.
YOU are unique. And if you can’t bring people into believing in the value of YOU, then that widget will never get made. Plain and simple.
But let’s say you’re in the same position as I am: my family has the money to invest into not just one widget, but every widget I ever want to make. Unfortunately, they would rather burn their money than invest in my widgets (aka films). So it comes down to doing what I was advised to do by several mentors: invest your own money first to make not one, not two, but at least three proofs of concept.
It sounds daunting until you lay it out simply: if YOU can’t invest in YOU, then why would a stranger do it?
The great thing about working with your own money is that you will be forced to make quick and smart decisions, while working with the limited funds you have. You will make mistakes but you will also finish something. And that is already winning.
Share your widget making journey. Be true and authentic about the ups and downs. And, if you’re smart and strategic on how and where you share, people will start listening … and talking.
You want people to talk. Because even the ugliest widgets (aka ... my first film) have fans!
Once you build a tiny library of sample widgets, your confidence builds. While your early widgets won’t be perfect, you will soon find your style and discover your voice. But most importantly, you’re fully involved in the process from A-Z.
The excitement radiating from your pores will start engaging more and more people. Your dentist (invested in my work), your pharmacist (shared and encouraged her friends and family to invest in #lolasjourney), your online network (over $10K of my $20K #lolasjourney money raised came from social media), everyone and anyone can and will be your investor.
Actually, one of my “investors” is the head of a foundation that overhead me talking about photography at an art exhibit. A second is a Fortune 500 former CMO that saw a LinkedIn update about #lolasjourney. She didn’t just support that film (over $2k+), but has committed to helping future films and projects.
I can go on with example after example of how I met my $1k+ investors, of which not a one has or does, or has ever, worked in the film industry.
With the exception of when a fellow artist introduced me to a friend that is the head of a film investment group … after I raised $20k! This introduction would have never happened if I didn’t first raise money to make a film, finish it, receive rave (media) reviews, and place it in four film festivals (and counting).
Let me repeat, everyone and anyone can become an investor of your widgets.
There is no secret group.
No one is keeping anything from you.
So, instead of bemoaning and complaining about these “secret investor groups,” or spending energy and time on Google to find “money to make widgets,” invest in you and in your network.
It sounds expensive and complicated, until you realize how relatively easy it is. First, do the work. Then finish your widget. Make sure your works gets seen and reviewed by folks. Share those positive reviews. Celebrate every win.
Then, meet friends for coffee, dinner, hiking, art galleries, or anything that you love. Actually, buy the coffee yourself and invest in your friends. Start building those brownie points and good jujus.
Remember that you are keeping yourself away from new and different opportunities if you do not engage with anyone and everyone and truly believe that they bring value to you as you to them.
Take the time to invest in how you look. Make sure to dress as if you were expecting to see someone for lunch, even when you're walking your dog. If that means wearing your lucky baseball hat, or a coat of mascara ... do it. It’s the little touches that will elevate you.
Lastly, and most importantly—give back.
Put aside a portion of your time or pocketbook to invest in others when something good comes your way. Because one day, you, too, will not just be a patron, but an investor in other widget makers.
*Feature image by Fran_kie (Adobe)