Fundraising Low-Budget Film Online and Off

  • Published in Film + Web

IndieGoGo.com is currently popular with filmmakers



Director: Ashley George
Contribute towards $5k goal by 5/18/11



Director: Heath Daniels
Contribute towards $14k goal by 2/24/11

“Luma” and “Peephole” are projects from artists in the FWD:labs Collective which are currently seeking funding. Both use IndieGoGo, but that’s just one of many ways to help successfully and quickly fund your low-budget film.

Threshold Pledge Systems

These crowdsourcing / crowdfunding companies also require rewards to be offered for different levels of giving. These are helpful for sharing and bookkeeping, but they come at some expense:

  • IndieGoGo
    • Goal does not need to be met
    • Processing Fee: 4% if meet goal, 9% if you don’t
    • Pays you as you receive payment (about 3% of each contribution to PayPal or IndieGoGo’s own credit card processing)
  • Kickstarter
    • Processing Fee: 5% plus 3-5% of the total amount going to Amazon Payments [source]
    • requires your goal to be met before you can cash out
    • Doesn’t fund you immediately
    • Tax-deductible options
    • Example Film: “The Highs and Lows of Ryder Martin”
  • German-based but English: Inkubato
    • 2 – 12 week windows of opportunity
    • Processing Fee: 7%
  • German: StartNext
    • Processing Fee: 9% (4% going into “crowd” projects)

E-commerce Payment Systems

Alternatively, you can use the direct online payment services, all of which accept credit cards:

  • Google Checkout
    • Processing Fee: For less than $3,000 per month, “2.9% + $0.30” [source]
    • Withdraw to Bank: Sync with your bank account (required initial validation period)
  • PayPal
    • Processing Fee: “2.9% of the total amount sent plus $0.30 USD per transaction” [source]
    • Withdraw to Bank: “Transfer it to their local bank account (takes 3-5 days)” [source]
    • Tax Deductible: No
    • Example Film: “Weak Species”
  • Amazon Payments / Amazon WebPay
    • Withdraw to Bank: “Withdrawing funds to your bank account usually takes about 5-7 business days, not including weekends or holidays.” … “$10 minimum” [source]
    • Processing Fee: None [source]

Other Options

Finally, there are both traditional and cutting-edge ways to raise money:

  • Square
    • Processing Fee: 2.75% + $0.15 if card swiped, 3.5% + $0.15 if card number keyed [source]
    • Withdraw to Bank: “Square will immediately deposit up to $1000/week into your bank account and any remaining balance in 30 days” [source] … Sync with your bank account (required initial validation period)
    • Cool Factor: Both parties receive SMS or email confirmation, plus tips can be included
  • Throw Your Own Party
    • Ideas: find an inexpensive/supportive venue, find a beer or drink sponsor, charge a small door fee, invite your friend’s bands, screen other short films, etc.
    • Fees: possibly any expenses for the venue and/or incentives (free/low-cost drinks or entertainers)
    • Example Films: “Strain” and “This Will All Make Perfect Sense Someday”
  • Prospectus, Direct Solicitation to Benefactors, and Grants

Other Opinions on Crowdfunding Your Film

Filmmaker Abe Schwartz recently wrote an article at The Huffington Post, insisting filmmakers ask, “What makes your project worth funding?” He came out of the Los Angeles Film Festival’s event called “Seize the Power: A Marketing and (DIY)stribution Symposium,” and notes how your online efforts need to be real campaigns, not simple pleas for money to be an artist. His feature, “Bad Batch,” is now available on NetFlix.

Filmmaker Lucas McNelly recently used Twitter to raise $12k via Kickstarter for “A Year Without Rent.” McNelly’s tweets were picked up by other filmmakers who rallied right down to the deadline to reach the goal, only crossing the finished line in the last hour. He recaps the process and tips on his blog.

Film Threat has 10 tips as well, including how to make use of updates to inform your current and prospective investors. Regarding persistence, the Girl Scout analogy might be inspiring, especially if you choose to fundraise within a tight deadline.

Web developer Daniel Siders shares 10 useful tips for crowdfunding, which can illuminate new ideas beyond Facebook for getting people’s attention to your project.

Spanner Films has a step-by-step guide for crowdfunding. They value the idea of stages: early adopters get a bigger bonus than those who give later.

Filmmaker Jason Gilmore wrote for Film Courage about 5 crowdfunding tips, such as having perseverance and reaching beyond your Facebook friends. Gilmore recently and successfully used Kickstarter to raise seed money to start Feb4 Productions.

Docs in Progress has a useful post (even from 2007) on ways to procure grant funding for documentaries.

Anything else you have done for your own films or can recommend from being in the business? Comment below. We’ll either update this post with more or make it a collective resource.


Aaron Proctor
Founder, FWD:labs
Director of Photography site


Indiegogo rocks!
Check out our page for our upcoming low budget feature film about a young writer who gets his idea stolen by his famous writing mentor.



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