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Ideas for Caribbean Filmmakers on Independent Film Financing

Speaking at Script to Screen, a Carifesta XIV event held at the Grundlos Kollective in Port of Spain, Trinidad

I was privileged to attend the Caribbean Festival of Arts (CARIFESTA XIV) which was held in Trinidad & Tobago in August. I will write more about the festival in separate posts. While there, I got to join two of my favorite people in the Caribbean Howard Allen of HAMA Films and Lisa Wickham of Imagine Media TT at the Grundlos Kollective for Script to Screen.

The evening was for young and aspiring filmmakers to meet and celebrate with the directors of several short films, which premiered at the event and had been funded by the Ministry of Culture. After the screening, I was invited to share some ideas on how filmmakers can finance their projects.

Me? *scratches head*

Somehow, more than 10 years of marketing and promoting entrepreneurs in the creative sector teaches you a thing or two. We already know that most filmmakers use bootstrapping….working other projects and saving the money to make their movie. Here is what I shared and a few other ideas I believe are also useful.

1. From the moment you’re formulating your story idea you should be thinking of potential partnerships. This should happen whether your project is a short film, feature film or a documentary. It is  possible to find individuals or corporations who are passionate about the ocean, climate change or whatever the issue is that you are writing on. Formulate ways to integrate their story and brand within the bigger theme of your movie. It is possible, to do this without compromising your story’s authenticity and vision. This is called product integration.

2. Filmmakers/Screenwriters/Producers should pay attention to news/read magazines/read random social posts. Look at who is making the news and what topics are in conversation. Look for the people and organisations who share your passions and approach them with an offer to finance or be in your film.

3. Don’t Chase Every Dime. There comes a point when the time that you will invest in collecting $200s from a local company will cost you much more than what you receive. If you can leave that sort of chasing to another team member who can focus solely on that, then by all means take the money. But it is much easier to get an investor to hand over a $109,000 check than it is to chase down the entrepreneur or company which you drastically discounted your ad rates for to get them in the movie.

4. Build a team, not only made up of friends but of people who bring the skills to the table that you as the producer/screenwriter/director may be lacking. While it is very often that in the Caribbean, we are adept at doing what is needed to get things done, it could affect the quality of the final production. It is a good idea to have people you can delegate tasks to.

4. After the movie is made. Think about screening to your network and other people’s networks. Don’t think about being a blockbuster. Look at how with each screening you can recoup what you invested to make the movie. Consider smaller venues, which you can reasonably afford and focus on filling them each night over and over. As the momentum grows and word spreads about your movie, expand to larger venues. Use local promoters who would have WhatsApp or other social media audiences you can market to.

The Grundlos Kollective is the right size venue for screening a movie. It isn’t intimidating to fill and it’s centrally located.

5. Get the reviews. Ask your audience to share their feedback via social media, on paper or any medium you like. Create ways for them to engage with you and the cast to encourage connection and even more buy in. They will be your best and most effective promoters of your film.

6. Make another movie. Even if your movie didn’t do as well as you would like. Don’t let that stop you. Write another script or find another project you want to direct or produce. You will only get better with time. Your consistency will also make it easier for companies and potential investors to build trust and hand over those checks.

Thanks again to Lisa and the Trinidad & Tobago National Artist Registry for having me.

Author Mosi Mandisa of St. Kitts, Lisa Wickham of Trinidad & Tobago, Howard Allen of Antigua & Barbuda and me on the set of TTT Live Now. They dragged me forward to take the shot. I was there with some of the Montserrat delegates who were waiting to be interviewed.

Do you have some other ideas for financing a movie? I would love to hear them.

I love telling stories. I help my clients from the private and public sector to leverage traditional and digital media to increase their visibility and make more money. I am a mentor, business strategist, a certified Business Continuity Specialist and the author of seven books, including the Making of a Caribbeanpreneur: Strategies for Overcoming Fear and Building Wealth. Follow me on FacebookInstagram and Twitter for more great tips and ideas to help you grow.

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