Five Ways To Help Fund Your Next Film or Documentary
Financing is often the most crucial aspect in getting the ball rolling on any film or documentary project. Securing funding can be a challenging task, however there are a number of financing options available for Aussie filmmakers to apply for.
Typically large scale films are funded through a combination of finance streams, secured by film producers or sales agents at the beginning of a film or documentary to cover all costs accrued during development.
Large motion pictures are often funded under the umbrella of a major film studio. In the U.S., studios known collectively as the “big 5” -Disney, Paramount, Sony, Universal, and Warner Bros -hold a massive 81% of the movie market.
However, most filmmakers won’t have the help of a major studio and finance their film or documentary independently. We dive into avenues they can explore, from local grants and offsets, to fiscal sponsorship and crowdfunding to help patch together funding.
SCREEN AUSTRALIA FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES
As a national screen agency, Screen Australia is the main body that oversees the funding of Australian drama and documentary content, for cinema, television and online streaming.
They provide funding for a number of stages in the film creation process from:
- Story development e.g. scripting, international finance attraction
- Production e.g. filming and enhancement
- Completion e.g. post-production and editing
- Distribution e.g. sales and distribution support, marketing
Screen Australia funding programmes outline eligibility and experience requirements in their guidelines. There are a number of programs available whereby no previous professional credits are required, opening a world of opportunity for emerging filmmakers and under-represented groups.
Learn more about funding opportunities and deadlines at Screen Australia here and find out their top tips for acing your funding application here.
GUARANTEED FUNDS: TAX OFFSETS
For large scale Australian feature film and television projects, the Federal government has enacted three refundable tax offsets within the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
The Producer Offset is a rebate for eligible Australian projects that is calculated on a project’s qualifying Australian production expenditure (QAPE). Offset amounts range from 20-40% of an applicant’s QAPE, depending on factors such as date of commencement and whether the film was produced for commercial exhibition in cinemas, or for television or a subscription service.
Screen Australia also offers rebates in the form of a Location Offset and PDV Offset. The former a 16.5% offset on QAPE for large-scale projects filmed in Australia (with spend over 15 million) and the latter a 30% offset on QAPE on post-digital and visual effects production for a film.
It is important to note that these offsets are mutually exclusive so it’s essential for film companies to understand qualifying guidelines before logging an application.
Learn more about tax offsets on Screen Australia here.
FUNDRAISING THROUGH CROWDFUNDING
Crowdfunding can be a great way to raise capital for a film as there is potential for a big reward with no financial risk.
There are a number of fundraising websites such as GoFundMe, Kickstarter and IndieGogo that allow filmmakers to share their story and use the power of the internet and social networks to find donors who connect with their project.
At the same time, you can solicit interest in your project and build a community of fans. However, building a community is a big job in itself, from providing constant progress updates to building a social media campaign to increase campaign reach. It’s important to prepare several months before launch in order to build a successful crowdfunding campaign.
The Australian Cultural Fund is another fundraising platform established to raise funds for Australian artists and creatives to produce and share their projects. Through ACF, filmmakers can upload their project under the “Screen & Photography” category to invite supporters to make tax-deductible donations.
You can learn more about ACF here.
Depending on the nature of a film or documentary, it may be eligible for fiscal sponsorship. This is when a filmmaker partners with a nonprofit organisationto receive a tax-exempt status for the project, making them eligible for philanthropic grants and tax-deductible donations.
Documentary Australia is an example of one local organisation that provides fiscal sponsorship to projects that align with their social mission. That is, supporting documentary filmmakers that are utilising their films to “create positive change in the world.”
Assisting with development, post production, distribution and impact campaigns, Documentary Australia will accept and administer funds on behalf of the filmmaker. To be eligible, the project must be a non-fiction film, video or multimedia project with a clear social impact goal, produced not only for commercial purposes.
Learn more about fiscal sponsorship with Documentary Australia here.
STATE AND TERRITORY LOCAL GRANTS
There are also funding opportunities to explore within state and territory screen development agencies.
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