Show Me the Money


About the amount of funding currently in place for one of my film projects. The other project has no money as of yet, just faith.

(Warning: Cliches ahead!)

A huge part of my time is dedicated to two very different film projects, that, despite their differences, also have several things in common. Both “Had me at hello” (cliche # 1). The one is my idea, so no shock that I have a love affair with what I from time to time have felt to be proof of my creative genius… The other is someone else’s idea, but it has become an adopted child that I love as deeply as I would my own creative one.

I have two hats on in both of these projects: writer and producer. As the writer my only job is to deliver the screenplay, which of course, has to be amazing, divine and all other superlatives of grandeur (see my last blog on Shooting for the Moon).

That’s the easy part.

Switching to hat # 2 (and Cliche # 2), life is all about “Show me the money.”

As a writer, all I need is my laptop with the fancy scriptwriter’s program and/or some paper. Aided by those tools, I can write a movie script.

As a producer, I need a whole bunch more than that. If I don’t raise enough money and/or persuade enough people to work free/dirt cheap and/or have enough equipment/persuade enough equipment owners to lend me theirs – no film. Anyone who has ever given this a go knows how difficult these options are.

Naturally, this is why so many filmmakers never actually make many films. Filmmaking is just so darn time consuming and expensive.

And yet there ARE humungous amounts of movies being made all the time, all over the planet. Some make it to the movie theaters, some go right to dvd, some live a life of festival touring and some are shown on tv. In addition you’ll find all those that previously only mom, dad and the closest friends had exclusive viewing experiences of, which now Facebook friends and others may join their ranks thanks to Vimeo, YouTube etc.

Norway is one of the few countries in the world where it is possible to get funding to produce a film. We have The Norwegian Film Institute, regional film funds, as well as other national, regional and local government and non-government funds supporting film projects to turn to. Some of these in turn open possibilities to co-funding in other countries.  Norwegian filmmakers have one of the most generous systems in the world at their disposal.

Of course, the number of filmmakers crowding in line to get hold of these precious coins, by far outnumbers the amount of coins these funders have to give. As it should be. New as I still am in this business, it still surprises me how many people get discouraged and stuck when they don’t get their hands on this type of funding. Sadly, too many filmmakers seem to take this generous system as their God-given right and take up the role of crybabies when their projects rot while waiting in vain for money from these funders.

I know it is frustrating. Believe me, I have had my share of doors slammed shut in my face from them. So many times so that my nose is numb and doesn’t hurt anymore, so I keep trying. Occasionally the trying works. Several of the projects I have been involved in have gotten funding both in development and production.

In most every other corner of the world, filmmakers are making films without the possibility of accessing the funding Norwegian filmmakers are permitted to apply for. They make as many – and even more – films, than we do.

Without access to grants, filmmakers are forced to be creative.

I am going to continue to pester the film granters for their coins for every one of my projects, but I am not going to wait until they see the light of my genius. Or take their “no”s as rejections and give up. I’ll take their money when they give it to me, listen to the reasons they give for saying no (will often improve my projects) and push on to other fields to sow and hopefully reap.

Fellow producer on one of my two projects, Solveig Arnesen of Genesis Film, wrote in a previous blog about the shift from being an independent filmmaker to being a fan-dependent one. Crowd funding is one strategy some filmmakers have tried which we will be trying out. Some producers have had success from their crowd funding efforts, while others have not. I have met quite a few skeptics here in Norway who wrinkle their noses and shake their heads when we talk about this being one of our planned strategies. Just like the Norwegian grant system, it will probably come through for a few projects and not amount to much for the majority. Just because the odds are slim, I am not going to knock it until I try it. (Ironically, many of the nose-wrinklers are the same who still rely on the slim chance of getting their films funded from the Norwegian Film Institute and the like. As if the chances of funding success has proven greater by that method alone!)

We have other strategies lined up as far as funding goes. We have tried some already, some with a fair result, others none. Experience shows which strategies to hold on to, which that might work if tweaked, and which to drop like a hot potato. One thing I see clearer and clearer is that since no two projects are alike, what works on one, is no magic button that will deliver the same result on the next. Then again, what doesn’t work on one, might still be a good strategy on another project.

I believe that the most important thing filmmakers can do, is make films. Most simply never make enough films to getting the experience they need to make the films they know they are capable of. The mantra is that they just don’t have the means to get to this point.

Musicians don’t seem to have this same attitude. Many practice, practice, practice. They make darn sure they know their craft and sometimes they create magic. Those who are really passionate about their music make it their business to get out of their dark rooms and play for audiences. Not all of them land a record deal, and those who do, do not always “make it”. I am aware of the differences in filmmaking and the music industry, but there are, in fact, quite a lot of similarities. What I am trying to get at here, is that a true musician is one in her soul and never gives up living her music in one form or another. This is not always the case for filmmakers, because it is too easy to get hung up in all the outer reasons (lack of funding!) that prevent us from making our films.

Every day is a huge learning process for me on my journey towards my dream. I choose to hang on to what encourages me, instead of the obvious discouragements. For every rejection or “failure”, there is one less to handle. It’s done. A thing of the past. What lies ahead are options of both success and failure. The small things I have succeeded in so far, encourage me to keep on moving. To keep on trying. Except for any constructive lessons I can learn and turn around to my future benefit, I choose to forget about the negative experiences. Life is just too short.

I have my work cut out for me in these coming months. Two projects are scheduled to go into production during 2012. The one has a mere couple of pennies in place, the other just a lot of faith. My mission is “Show me the money” so these projects which “Had me at hello” will also capture the hearts of film-lovers.