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Rotterdam Panel: Creative Co-Funding of Indie Films, from Tribeca to Kickstarter (UPDATED)

Thompson on Hollywood By Torene Svitil | Thompson on Hollywood January 31, 2014 at 4:38PM

Funding and financing an independent film takes almost as much creativity as making the film, according to a panel of representatives from The Tribeca Film Fund, Kickstarter and Cinereach. Filmmakers from outside the U.S. -- especially those in Europe -- benefit from government support and co-production treaties, but Americans are on their own.
'Computer Chess'
'Computer Chess'

"I look for projects with a defined audience," Mohammad said.  "I'm  looking for filmmakers who are already making a film - for projects that will be completed."  

Because Kickstarter is a funding platform, any project can ask for support as long as it meets the guidelines.   Once launched, it's an all-or-nothing proposition and it's up to the filmmaker to convince potential investors to pony up.  Although the Kickstarter campaigns of Spike Lee and Zach Braff raised some hackles in the indie community,  "Kickstarter is for everyone" Holm insisted.

As anyone who has looked at the end credits of an indie film knows, most cobble together funds from a number of sources.  Money for "Obvious Child" for example, was raised on Kickstarter and also from Tribeca All Access.  Holm counseled filmmakers to create different narratives about their film to appeal to as many funding sources as possible.

As for audience building, each panelist saw it as crucial for the ultimate success of a project.  

Holm stressed the importance of the community that develops among a Kickstarter project's supporters.   This group is likely to promote the film on social media, talk it up among their friends and become the core of the film's target audience.  Kickstarter itself holds an annual free Kickstarter Film Festival which screens selections of films and works-in-progress and also partners with the Sundance Institute.

Using the TFI Sloan Filmmaker Fund as an example, Mohammad pointed to TFF screenings of films like "A Beautiful Mind" which has a two-fold purpose:  it lets aspiring filmmakers see the kinds of broadly science-related projects the Fund supports and  builds an audience for them.  In another audience building tactic, TFI Sloan provides a list of science-related films to movie theaters and gives grants to theaters that agree to screen one of them. 

Cinereach also hosts screenings, Goldman noted, and has been partnering with the Sundance Artists Services Initiative to distribute films over digital platforms.  He hopes to also develop theatrical distribution platforms in the future.

Although the U.S. is not a party to international co-production treaties, some international cooperation does take place.

"People have pledged to Kickstarter in 98% of countries around the world," said Holm.  She added that Kickstarter is expanding to the U.K., Canada and E.U. countries, but because more funds are available for indie filmmakers outside the U.S., for now, most supported projects will be American.

"The CNC [France's National Cinema Center) fund has treaties with many countries - but not the U.S. " said Mohammad, "but it is friendly to first- and second-time filmmakers and is willing to work with Tribeca."   He pointed to Screen Australia as an international organization that will support U.S. films as long as they have significate Australian content and talent and to the CFC (Canadian Film Center) which will help navigate co-productions.

According to Goldman, Cinereach grants are not limited to U.S. artists--international filmmakers are definitely part of the mix.  

This article is related to: Kickstarter , Tribeca Film Institute, Tribeca Film, International Film Festival Rotterdam

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.