Any success on with funding from private or individual investors?

Curious to understand the process of finding investors for your film and securing the funds. Outside of looking at past track record of films, and the team behind it. What else do they look for? Marketing and Distribution plans, tax credits, ROI? What do you normally have to prepare before meeting with a potential investor? How often are you successful in getting funding? Is the process vastly different for new filmmakers vs established creators? How much do they care about the actual content?

Whats better? Crowdfunding or investments from individuals, private investors?

Apologies on all the questions. But very eager to learn this process.

Mark Sonoda

Richard, you are asking a lot of questions, which is good. Being inquisitive is paramount in the process of understating and navigating film finance. Many of these questions require much more robust, long winded answers, but I will attempt to provide you abridged answers, but please keep in mind, film finance is something that is very specialized. I spent 13 years at the studios dealing with high level finance and securing institutional & private financing; and I can tell you that I have an extremely good grasp of it and a large black book of investors, but even so, there are always new vehicles, access points and sources that appear pretty regularly.

Private investors are a tricky lot. The first thing you have to identify is if the investor is "viable" or "a tourist". Viable is pretty clear - are they solid and actually capable of pulling the trigger on a financing agreement. "A tourist", which is an internal term that we used at one of the studios I worked at, was a term we would give to wealthy investors / individuals who show and support the means to invest, but they have no intention to do so, but they are happy to have you court them and pursue them. They love the attention and get a high out of being in the discussion, even they are not willing to invest in any capacity.

As for what they look for, this is one that we would need to have a call about cause if differs for each investor, and many other factors come into play when you decide what you need or don't need to have in an investment deck.

In regards to success, the numbers are tough to swallow at times. Even with a season veteran of film finance running the raise, you might fall into the 20-35% success range, maybe higher if the producer raising funds has worked at the studios and/or for companies that are historically involved in hybrid film financing. The average "Joe" filmmaker walking into this and who might access to some high net worth individuals is sitting around a 3-5% success rate.

This answer is massively more detailed but the streamline answer is YES, the process is vastly different for a new filmmaker than an established one.

Some studios, mini majors, private investors, equity funds and hedge funds could care two shits about the create merit of the content, as long as the marketing side is intact and viable. This, of course, is not a remark that would make the average filmmaker very happy, but unfortunately it's the truth. In other cases, the creative merit or content has a significant influence on the financing in general. What you need to understand is that in the end, the level of risk or "capital risk threshold" that an investor is willing to sit on, is what 100% determines their level of involvement, scope of investment and scale of interest.

Hope these help a bit, If you have additional questions, just reach out to me via Stage32, social media or via email.

Best of luck to you,
Mark Sonoda
Dauntless Studios

Richard Smith

Thanks, Mark!

This is very informative and well articulated! I would love to ask you additional questions if that is okay!


Doug Nelson

Richard; my advice is to invest some time in Business School.

John T. Trigonis

Hey there Richard,

Chiming in here since I'm sorta the resident expert when it comes to crowdfunding for filmmakers (two published books on the subject, plus I'm Indiegogo's Film & Creative Campaign Strategist :-) I think that if you're realistic with your goals of what crowdfunding can and cannot get you, it's a very viable route. But, I will say that you will do more work for less of a raise than you would were you to go after traditional investors. The main thing that crowdfunding gets you that no investor has ever gotten a filmmaker before is an audience. That should be the ONLY reason someone chooses crowdfunding.

The fact is crowdfunding has now become a mandatory part of any indie production because of the audience-building factor, which must be done long before your actual campaign launches; otherwise, it comes across to potential backers that you're all about the money and not the community, and that's a surefire way to ostracize present and future backers to campaigns. It has to be about the backers.

What I recommend is doing a mix of grants (depending on the project) and/or equity and/or private investment (phase one) and crowdfunding (phase two, for a very specific aspect of the production.) So, to answer your final question, there is no "what's better" question here –– they are both viable avenues. The bigger questions is do you want an audience for your film once it comes out? If yes, crowdfunding is a must part of the process.

Richard Smith

Doug Nelson I have an MBA in Marketing. Done my time in B-School! thanks for the feedback!

Richard Smith

John T. Trigonis Thanks for the insight John! For the equity and private investments, what are they typically looking for? of course a film that can make them money (have a competnent and experienced team, etc) , but how would they determine that? How can I make it easier for them to invest?

John T. Trigonis

In my experience (I've also worked with some equity crowdfunding campaigns), a movie that is most likely going to make their investment back with some more is really all they care about with regard to equity. They definitely determine this by the team you've got on board, the talent (you need talent on board), and potential distribution already secured so they know the film will have an audience to which it can be sold to. Again, investment is all about selling a movie, whereas crowdfunding is more about getting audiences involved on a deeper, more meaningful scale than the green; they leave that to you; the audience just wants to see and be a part of a good picture.

Dan MaxXx

lawyer up before you ask friends & strangers for money and put up your own money into it. not of it but some $$ to get the ball rolling. Setup a corporation, business bank acct, pay quarterly taxes

Doug Nelson

Richard, you asked "what are they typically looking for?" Your money.

Shawn Speake


John T. Trigonis

Two more cents, Richard: If you're going the perks-based crowdfunding route, there's no need to consult a lawyer, since it's all about giving money in exchange of a perk, not an equity stake in the movie (that's standard investment or equity crowdfunding.) If you're going those routes, you'll actually need a lawyer on retainer.

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