Film Financing – Can Film Graduates Take the Challenge?

Graduates of a film degree open up new opportunities in film and video production. Of course, with every opportunity comes a challenge – and in this case, the challenge is finding funding for your projects or those of your employer.

With the advent of digital devices, the scope of film and video production has expanded. Standard Hollywood-style film production is no longer the only career path for film graduates. There is a multitude of opportunities in audiovisual applications in business, government and the entertainment industry. That means CHANCE for the most eager graduates to produce their own film and video projects or to get the most interesting positions at leading film and video production companies.

Financing has been a dirty word in the film industry for years. The banker’s “blue suits” and cold heart are synonymous with the enemy of the creative. However, in this new era of opportunity, you must be both the blue suit and the creative.

How do you find a way to find out about film financing, film budgeting, etc.? Let’s first look at the degree programs in film studies.

There are now so many film degree programs that I find it confusing and I have worked in the film industry for over 20 years. Universities have a liberal arts degree approach in their curricula and colleges/schools have a primarily hands-on technical approach. In any case, there’s no denying that film studies are big business. The following excerpt from The New York Times Company, published

March 6, 2005© made it clear to me how big the business of film studies really is:

“Some 600 colleges and universities in the United States offer programs in film studies or related subjects, a number that has steadily increased over the years… At the University of Southern California, whose School of Cinema-Television is the nation’s oldest film School (established in 1929), half of the university’s 16,500 students take at least one film/television course.

Which college, school or university best prepares the graduate for a career in film & video? When a student has invested 2 to 4 years of their life in this degree, how can they turn it into a rewarding career?

Let’s see what universities say about their own programs and what kind of results they expect – that is, what the graduate will be able to do upon entering the workforce. This sales letter posted on a university’s website says it all:

“A degree in film studies is not a professional qualification. However, a solid degree in this subject should qualify you for a wide range of professional opportunities. Of course, the individual must bring his or her knowledge of film to bear as either a creative or a practical skill, and in either case exercise the discernment and initiative that a rigorous pursuit of a film studies major should develop.

Using “should” twice in three sentences tells the story – it’s up to you Bud!

Film degree programs (at all levels) either do not address, or do not address strongly enough, the main force behind all film and video production – the MONEY! If the word money is mentioned at all, it’s just a handshake and a nod. In most undergraduate courses, there is little mention of film budgeting, and things like cost reports and business plans are treated as completely alien subjects. The Master’s courses are only slightly better.

The reason for the lack of information about things like film budgets, expense reports, etc. in academia lies in the large Hollywood production machinery. The constant negotiations with the three big guilds (SAG, DGA and WGA) as well as with the crew unions IATSE & Teamster have forced the producing studios to the utmost confidentiality.

This era of absolute confidentiality is not over yet, yet there is a great demand to learn more about film financing, film budgeting and so on. The new generation of independent film and video makers want to make their own projects, find their own funding, and do their own film budgeting and production cost reporting. It is even increasingly possible for producers to sell their own projects via the Internet.

Believe me, the film school graduate who thoroughly understands their film degree program AND understands the basic processes of film budgeting, expense reporting, and business plans is light years ahead of the crowd. A film studies graduate who can help create a financing package (i.e. help create a film budget and a simple business plan) would absolutely blow any independent film and video production company’s eye. Can you think of an independent producer who wouldn’t like some help preparing and presenting a funding package?

I used to assume that film students had no interest in film budgeting and costs (of any kind). No longer. I recently conducted a survey of film students at a reputable film school. Here are the results of the survey:

Over 80% of students indicated that they felt it was important to learn more about budgeting and how it affects their filmmaking career.

Film and video production is one of the largest industries in the world (alongside weapon manufacture, of course). The widespread use of digital media has created a new opportunity. While this option is cheaper than the Hollywood-style film productions we’ve become accustomed to, it’s still costly and requires financing. How do you get this funding? where do you start

Answer: You start with the basics of film budgeting, expense reporting and very basic business plans. If you can calculate a center of gravity or learn how to operate a video camera, a film budget is a cinch.

Based on my experience in the film industry over the past 20 years, I can say with confidence:

1. Graduates of film majors who understand the basics of film and video production money (budgeting, expense reporting, and business plans) will find they can take on more responsibility in their film and video projects and

2. As a result, they will have more successful careers than their peers who have not learned how to make film budgets, who do not understand a production’s cost report and who have never seen a simple business plan.

So how does a film student learn about budgets, expense reports and a simple business plan? I’ve been a production auditor for 20 years and in all that time I’ve NEVER shown a crew member a final budget or a weekly expense report (the universal standard financial report card issued to the financiers and producers each week). They are considered sacrosanct by studio executives, producers and financiers everywhere.

Well, I’m about to tease you with some relevant articles that will open the door wide enough for you to walk through. They’re written for the absolute novice, so be patient if you’ve already learned about budgets and expense reports.

Thanks to John Gaskin | #Film #Financing #Film #Graduates #Challenge

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