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  • Anukriti Srivastava

7 Ways To Get Your Documentary Film Project Funded

Finance is the most critical part of any film production because the entire production team needs funding to pay for everything from equipment to actors. Getting funding for a film project can be a daunting task for filmmakers. However, there is financial assistance available to pursue. If you are new to filmmaking, you must know about these sources. But before that, let's understand film finance.

What is Film Finance?

Film finance is a process of getting funding from different sources. It'sIt's the responsibility of the producer to make proposals and manage funds. Every film is different, and thus it has a different film finance structure.

How Are Films Financed?

Film financing is an arduous process. Most films are financed by investors, film grants, tax credits, personal sources or a combination. The funding depends on the type of film for which the fund is required, and the filmmaker has to submit the distribution and sale rights to the main fund. To get funds for your film, you must submit the film's summary, script, budget plan, distribution plan, details about the director and previous work, if any.

For making documentary movies, there are various sources of funding available that you can take advantage of. Here we have curated a list of funding options available-

1. Government grants:

Government separately provides funding to arts and cultural projects. There are various filmmaking grants and fellowships available for filmmakers. There are government grants to non-governmental grants offered by NGOs, film festivals, and film institutes.

The best part of these grants is that you don't have to pay them back. However, there is a lot of competition for government grants, and it's a long-complicated process. The grantee has to go through the funding body's requirements, curate the film plan according to their objective and fulfil the eligibility criteria to receive money. Every grant has different criteria; for example, there are grants for women, new-media storytellers, first-time filmmakers and documentary filmmakers. Also, there are grants available for every phase of film production, that includes pre-production grants, production grants, post-production grants, development grants and distribution grants.

Here is a list of a few grants-

2. Crowdfunding: Crowdfunding is one of the best ways to get finance for your film. It has various benefits. The best part is crowdfunding campaigns allow you to raise funds simultaneously and build an audience. However, the crowdfunding process is labour extensive and requires strategic thinking, resources and time. Also, you need an impactful sales pitch to attract an audience and raise funding for your film.

Here are a few crowdfunding platforms:

b. Slated

3. Pre-sales funding:

Pre-sales funding is when the production company receives funds before the film's completion by distributing the selling rights or distribution format to different territories. To get pre-sales funding, the filmmaker has to package the film and include the script, details of directors, producers, cast, crew and sales projections.

The key here is to involve popular directors and actors. The best part of pre-sales funding is that the distribution is guaranteed. However, it requires theatrical co-production limitations and is unsuitable for first-timers.

4. Private investors:

Private investors are usually entrepreneurs or rich people who want to diversify their investment portfolio or love films. They are also called equity investors. The best part of working with these equity investors is that they make quick decisions as they don't need approval from anyone as they are their bosses.

The biggest disadvantage of dealing with them is that you need to pay them back. The more money they have invested in the film, the more gross revenue you have to return. However, they make up a very small part of the film funding, as investing in films is quite risky.

5. Self-funding:

Self-funding is self-explanatory. Some filmmakers invest their own money in making films, especially first-timers. However, some well-established filmmakers also prefer this way. The best part of this funding source is that you will entirely control the film, i.e., no interference and commercial exploitation. In this, you can either use your savings or the revenue generated from the previous project.

6. Product Placement:

Product placement is a method in which filmmakers agree to feature a particular product or brand in their film. In return, they either receive free products that can be utilized as props or direct money for film financing.

7. Working together: combining different types of financing:

Only one source of funding rarely is enough to finance the film entirely. Normally, filmmakers combine two or more sources. There is no set way of doing this. Every film has a different financial structure and budget, and you need to figure out what works for you as a filmmaker.


Documentary movies are the best ways to explore the experiences of everyday people. But making a documentary is not a cakewalk. It requires lots of effort and, most importantly, funding. Many filmmakers have to go through the challenge of managing funds. But fortunately, nowadays, many documentary grants are available. I hope the sources mentioned above of funding will aid you in making your documentary.

However, each has its pros and cons, a few of which can be very much from the beholder's perspective. The conditions of getting the grants might be desirable and unacceptable to others.

The key here is to understand what each type of funding has to offer, how it can benefit you, and how you can combine different funding sources to finance your film production.


Written by Anukriti Srivastava

Writer @ Skyshot Media


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