Guidelines for independent scriptwriters and filmmakers for a film funding. [UK]

Guidelines for independent scriptwriters and filmmakers for a film funding. [UK]

Filmmaking like any other performance arts requires a degree of focus for it to be successful. The most common challenges in the film industry are finance and publicizing your film. The best way for a filmmaker to get a deal on the market is to win something at the competition. However, as a young beginner filmmaker the journey does not start there, it starts with hard work, blood and sweat. This post provides guidelines on how to be successful and how to avoid common mistakes that young filmmakers make when looking for funds, agents and producers.

Your audience is the most important people when making a script. It is important to know what type of people you are targeting with your script, that way it is easier for the producer or any other financially privileged well wishers to estimate the returns the film will make. The beauty of a film is felt by the audience after they have watched it and understood the whole concept behind the film. Therefore, presentation and a treatment of the concept should be simple so as to appeal the audience.

As an independent artist, filmmaker there are challenges of getting your content out to the public, while trying to make some money. Finding money to make your film can be quite challenging. It helps going in and having your script, loglines, and synopsis all proofread and put in the right chronological order. Additionally, you need your budget free of mistakes and complete with top sheet. You will need to have a control on how much money you will need to produce your film when you start looking for funding.

Successful grant writing involves the coordination of several activities, including planning, searching for data and resources, writing and packaging a proposal, submitting a proposal to a funder, and follow-up. First the project is defined and it is followed by clarification of the purpose of the project or its mission statement.

In England there are Government funded schemes which are specific programmes of education or funding specifically aimed at new or emerging filmmakers. The British Film Institute (BFI) are in charge right now although they have only been running things for a couple of years and are still figuring it out. However, it is the largest public film fund in the UK using Lottery funds to support film development, production and distribution in the UK. Each year they invest over £26m of Lottery funds to support film development, production and distribution activity in the UK and the budget is set to rise to £30m by 2017. (

BFI make every effort to ensure that the application process is fair. Your application may have been rejected for a number of reasons; the project was not eligible for funding, they felt the material was too ambitious for the budget, they felt the material was too familiar or derivative, they didn’t feel the filmmakers were experienced enough to make a feature, they didn’t feel that there was sufficient appeal in the project for its target audience among many other reasons. Of the 300+ applications they receive each year for production funding, they are only able to support between 25 and 30, so they have to say ‘no’ far more often than they are able to say ‘yes’. (

This takes us to the next biggest government run filmmaking body - CREATIVE ENGLAND. This is their website: (

“CREATIVEENGLAND deliver tailored mentoring, support & funding to filmmakers & businesses to feed the future of our industry”.

Film London is the regional media development agency, set up to support cultural, independent and innovative film and video activities, productions and events in the Greater London region. (

Pinewood has a range of funding options available to UK Film and TV productions, including equity finance investment, GAP finance and discounting of the UK tax credit or pre-sales of a project. (

BRITISH COUNCIL (FILM) – more about supporting films once they’ve been made. If they like it they will have promote it, pay for you to take it to festivals, get DCP’s made etc. (

“British Council Film links UK films and filmmakers to international audiences, profiling innovation, diversity and excellence and seeking opportunities for creative exchange between UK and international film communities.”

Film Arts Foundations - whether working on narrative features, documentaries, nontraditional work, shorts, industrials, cable programs, music videos or student projects – by offering them affordable services essential to the creation of their work and the development of their careers.

The UK film industry contributes approximately £4 billion per year to the UK economy. UK films take 7% of the global box office and 17% of the UK box office. The industry directly provides jobs for almost 44000 people, with extended employment impact of 95000jobs. UK film distributors alone spend around £300 million a year on bringing new releases to market. (Makers Our Story Documentary)

Taking a loan is one of the most effective means of funding one’s film. The advantage of a loan, from a legal point of view, is that the transaction can often be structured in a fairly simple and inexpensive manner. You are obligated to repay the loan and whatever interest is charged, regardless of whether the film is a flop or a hit. However, loans are not always repaid, especially unsecured loans that don’t have any collateral backing them. (Book: The Independent Filmmakers, Guide to Film Financing)

Raising of funds through fundraising activities such as luncheons, is also popular among young film producers. It involves grants and contributors who do not expect any financial return. This is mostly for non-commercial projects, such as social-issue documentaries, short films, and experimental projects. Additionally, if you’re shooting your film in another city, out-of-town productions may be eligible for local grants, provided you use of local crew and resources.

Be flexible about your budget in case the funder chooses to negotiate costs.

Funds from foundations, the government, and corporate giving programs require an application process. The application process should not be underrated since there are common application mistakes. They include; not reading the guidelines, not filling in all the blanks or providing enough information, not fully comprehending the foundation’s mission and inflating or low-balling the budget. Consequently you must know how to approach Financiers. Sending out the script should not be random and unorganized but well planed ahead of time. Most production companies won’t accept unsolicited scripts. Usually, it is required that an agent or lawyer send it in. (Book: The Independent Filmmakers, Guide to Film Financing. Baker & McKenzie)

Funding sources should not be limited to a single source. Direct contact with funders to support projects like yours is encouraged. Think of the funder as a resource. Ask for the guidelines, read carefully and determine personnel needs. This information will be useful for specifications about required information and how it should be arranged. Standard proposal components are: the narrative, budget, appendix of support material, and authorized signature. Sometimes proposal applications require abstracts or summaries, an explanation of budget items, and certifications. Flexibility about your budget in case the funder chooses to negotiate costs is also important. (

There are various ways to sell your material. One way is to get an agent to represent you. Agents are like bank loans; you can get one if you do not need one, and if you need one, you cannot get one. Moreover, they have a lot of clients banging at their doors. Most production companies wont read scripts unless they come through an agent so if you want to get your film made outside of competitions and funding schemes then you need to get one. Most will accept scripts to read but check their websites to see how you need to send them – format, length, email or posted etc. Additionally, make sure the script is as good as it can be, well written, formatted correctly and with no typos. (Butler, 2013)

Agents know how hard is to sell the work of new writers. It is double sell: the script and the script’s author. And if the script isn’t a high concept work or does not have a easily identifiable audience, then the agent has to work twice as hard. Start calling agencies regardless of the advice you get about who does and who does not look at new writers’ work. If you can get a bit of your pitch out to someone and he responds, you’ve just got your toe in the door – ever so slightly.

Here are some of the highest profile literary agents in the UK.

The Dench Arnold Agency represent award-winning writers, directors and heads of department. (

International Creative Management (ICM) is one of the biggest talent agencies in the world. (

Peters, Frasers, Dunlop is a leading talent and literary agency. (

Knight Hall Agency is a specialist litery agency for film, TV and theatre.


Sayle Screen reprezents writers, directors and producers for film and TV drama.


Independent Talent represents actors, directors, writers, producers, models, casting directors, presenters, comedians etc. (

William Morris Agency is an international talent and literary agency representing screenwriters, producers, directors and actors. (

The best method of getting an agent is to know one or to have a friend who is reprezented by one. The friend recommends you, and the agent is almost automatically more interested in you than he is in the huge pile of scripts he has on his desk.

Use your imagination and come up with your own ideas. If the conventional routes don’t work out. This is called Shameless Stratagem method. You can dress like a Pizza delivery boy and deliver your script to a top agent or producer using a Pizza Box. But keep in ming that you might be ignored or treated like a crazy. (Book: The Perfect Screenplay, Writing it and Selling it. Katherine Atwell Herbert)

You need to know how to market yourself. One step to achieving this is by creating your own social media, an important first step since when people first hear about you, they will Google you to see what other credits you have, and will make a judgment call based on the personality you show in your tweets, Facebook messages, LinkedIn posts. They will also check you out on to see what projects you may have been involved in. Moreover, you need to know how to network. The key to great networking is to become a good listener. Ask others about themselves and be prepared to listen intently people will assume immediately that you are worth remembering. (

You also need to know about film gatherings. There are a few key events where filmmakers gather looking for new scripts and ideas for features, shorts, documentaries, and web series. Among the important ones are:,, Hollywood Reporter and Variety. These important publications are where you can find out about important trade and industry events.

Distribution is also a key process in the film industry. If you don’t distribute your film, nobody is going to watch it. There is a difference between self-distribution and having a distributor. Use of social media distribution such as Youtube, vimeo, daily motion and renderyard are among the popular self-distribution internet sites. These platforms also provide a strong network facility for new talents. Through renderyard you can upload, promote and sell your production. Independent artist are delivering their work through these platforms for millions of audience around the world every day. Filmmakers want to be able to get revenue from it (

If you need to find cast or crew for your projects, start with places like SHOOTING PEOPLE, TALENT CIRCLE, THE KNOWLEDGE, MANDY and CASTING CALL PRO.

SHOOTING PEOPLE is a network of young up and coming filmmakers who talk via forums and also has tips on networking, funding etc. Definitely worth a look.


TALENT CIRCLE is similar and worth checking out too.


THE KNOWLEDGE is a listings directory of all kinds of agents and production companies in the UK.


MANDY is a crew directory so if your looking for a crew member you can advertise on their or search their database for people and get contact details.


CASTING CALL PRO is a place actors put their CV and SHOWREELS and you can contact them through the site.


BBC WRITERS ROOM is set up by the BBC and means you can submit work directly to the BBC for feedback and possible work within the BCC. The website also has links to other writing opportunities that appear outside of the BBC.


WRITE WORDS is a UK based online community for writers:


International SCRIPT WRITING ADVICE and DISCUSSION can be found online at:


For all kinds of WRITING, including scripts:


 Submit your film to as many film festivals as possible, as long as they accept it.

There are thousands, some better than others. They mostly have submission fees to enter.

One of the well known and I think really good websites to submit your films to the festivals worldwide is: (

The British Council website is a good place to start, they have a ‘festival directory’ that lists all the film festivals worldwide:


There are also annual lists of the OSCAR & BAFTA QUALIFYING FESTIVALS which gives you an idea of the really good festivals worldwide. Available at


Packaging and presentation of the Project are very important when presenting it to grants or approach investors. The better “packaged” your project is the greater the likelihood you’ll end up with a check. It should include; the script, a thorough synopsis of the project, resumes of key personnel, the project’s budget, a fundraising plan, a distribution plan, and letters of intent from funding entities, cast, or advisors. Additionally, a sample reel of past work and/or footage of the project could also come in order.

Organizations like Raindance in the UK are respected by the industry. If you can get a letter of reference from an employee about your script, give yourself a treat. If you can persuade them to call up the head of development at a film company and recommend your screenplay – fantastic. If you succeed in this, the production company will read your script.

Some film production companies have close ties with organizations. In the UK, Working Title, FilmFour, BBC Films and Pathé are a few of the production companies with close links to Raindance.

Get a star to read and recommend your script This would almost certainly guarantee a positive reaction from any number of film production companies. It’s called PEDIGREE.

Find a producer who has made a film, even if it’s not a very good one, and get them to read and comment on your script. They have already succeeded in financing one film and they know how the business works.

( Writers' Lab: Write + Sell the Hot Screenplay)

There are hundreds of screen writing competitions, some are more open to anything, others want very specific genres or scripts from certain kinds of people.

A list of recommended SCRIPT COMPETITIONS:






Furthermore, you need to know about micro-budget filmmaking. Have you ever thought about making the movie yourself? "The Blair Witch Project" was produced for $450,000 USD, screened at Sundance, and was purchased $1.1 million USD. The movie grossed worldwide well over $3 million USD (BFI, 2015). ( The_Blair_Witch_Project)

So how does an independent filmmaker start raising money?

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people, typically via the internet.

Here are the UK's top ten crowd funding websites which can assist you with your crowd funding efforts:

Seedrs -
Crowdcube -
Buzzbnk -
Crowdfunder –
Bloom VC –
WeFund –
Funding Circle –
Abundance –
Bank to the Future –
Unbound –

With crowd funding platforms, you are raising bits of money from various sources, hoping to fund your film so that you can produce/direct it yourself. The funds will help pay your crew, your cast, by all of your supplies, everything you can imagine, that's part of producing a film right through until completion. The alternative would be selling your script to a third-party, accepting a fee, and then letting your script be produced by somebody else. Initially, a lot of new writers feel that their script is their "baby", and really don't want anyone to change anything about it. This is the sacrifice you make if you are offered a tidy sum of money for your script and choose to accept it. Many screen writers operate like this; they write their scripts simply to be sold off. You have to decide which option is best for you (

If you should decide to try to sell your screenplay, there are several ways you can go about this., a rather notable film Festival, gives invaluable information to new writers about how to go about selling their material (

Know who you’re talking to. If you’re appealing to professional investors such as venture capitalists who don’t know the entertainment business and who need facts and figures, then a prospectus is needed. Additionally, creative fundraising is also a popular method of attracting funds. You can raise money by putting on special events and parties, and inviting people you know are interested in your film’s subject or theme. Moreover, donations don’t only come in the form of cash. You can save a lot on your bottom line if you can acquire goods and services.

They call it "Nine Golden Rules for Selling Your Screenplay." An overview is in order; first you need to get the right person to sell it to. Focus on finding a producer since he is the only person in the world that cares about scripts. Secondly, you need to get the producer to ask you for your script actually there is a saying in Hollywood quote: "You'll never get anyone to read your script unless they ask you for it.” Consequently, you need to get really good at pitching since people interested in buying our scripts are very time-deficient. The reality is that once you have caught their attention, you have quite literally 2 min. at most to hook them in with your idea and get them to ask for more. (

In an article entitled "Become a Crowd Funding Wizard”, Catherine Clifford, a crowd funding specialist, interviewing Clay Hebert, puts forth some great input. Here are a few excerpted highlights from their discussion:

His website: (

One of the world's leading crowd funding experts.

One popular method is by creating a video with two endings. When producing a video for your campaign page, shoot two different video endings: one for before the campaign launches and one for when the campaign is live. The first ending should invite people to sign up for email updates on your upcoming crowd funding campaign and should be posted on your company's website six months before your campaign launches. The second ending should be used when you post your video to your campaign site; it should invite people to contribute. If you have a strong project and a passion for it, people will follow you and they will help you. Advertising is one of the most common effective means of attaining publicity. Flyers or leaflets explaining what you are doing, along with the date, time and place of the first meeting, can be printed cheaply. Distribute the leaflets to film schools, libraries, actors’ groups, theatres and art house cinemas. ( interview with Clay Hebert)

I'll be honest, I haven't attempted a project on Indiegogo or Kickstarter yet, but I have looked around these sites and here's what I found.

There are quite a few funding websites available on the net. Some are fairly popular, for example, and, while others are a bit more obscure. Kickstarter is a global crowd funding platform, based in the United States. The company’s mission statement promises to help bring creative projects to life.

Although the company was founded in 2009, projects from the UK were not allowed until 2012.

Here's how Kickstarter works:

Once you have posted your project to Kickstarter (who takes 5% of the funds raised), and arranged all the particulars and details for your film project, donors will (hopefully) start pledging, and paying, their investment funds. Payment is accepted through Amazon Payments, who charges an additional 3-5%.

Backers of Kickstarter projects understand that there is no guarantee that people will deliver their completed project, or that they will use the money to implement their projects, or that the completed projects will meet their expectations.

Indiegogo is the other very popular crowd funding website, and works a little differently than Kickstarter. Although launched one year earlier than Kickstarter, Indiegogo has not quite reached the popularity of its competitor. Indiegogo was founded in San Francisco, California in 2008, and was actually one of the first sites to present the concept of crowd funding. It is different from Kickstarter in that Indiegogo allows people to solicit funds for an idea, charity, or start-up business. The site's mission is to empower anyone that has an idea, and allows them to be able to raise the funds.

Kickstarter currently has much higher name recognition than Indiegogo. Name recognition will not help you very much in terms of actual dollars pledged via the Kickstarter site itself, but it helps enormously when you are trying to spread the word that you are crowd sourcing a project.

Kickstarter offers only "fixed funding" which means that, if you don't make 100% of your goal, you get NOTHING.

Another problem with Amazon payments is that a lot of my potential backers did not have Amazon accounts and did not want to create them just to donate to my project. So they would offer me a check or some other way to pay instead, assuming I could just put that money into the project account myself.

Amazon payments has a STRICT policy that no one can "pay themselves" to fund a project. Even if the money comes from a genuine backer via a personal check, you CANNOT pay it to the Kickstarter project. If you do attempt to "pay yourself" in this way, Kickstarter will cancel your project and blacklist you.

Payments you can use - this is a HUGE difference - credit card or paypal.
Flexible Funding - in a flexible funding campaign, the campaign creator keeps all funds donated regardless of whether or not the campaigns meets its stated funding goal.
In a “normal” crowdfunding campaign, backers are reimbursed if the stated funding goal isn’t met in a certain amount of time. Indiegogo calls this “fixed funding.”

WARNING - on Indiegogo, the fees for a flexible campaign that does not reach its goal are much higher. 9% vs 4%

These two differences alone make me want to try Indiegogo when I will be trying to crowd fund my project.

And believe me, if you don't have active backers who REALLY, REALLY want to see your project succeed, it won't.

( and


- BFI. (2015, January 23). Production funding for first features.



-Creative England. (2015, January 23). Film Talent centres. Retrieved January 23, 2015, from creativeengland:


- Book: The Perfect Screenplay, Writing it and Selling it. Katherine Atwell Herbert.

- Book: The Independent Filmmakers, Guide to Film Financing. Baker & McKenzie





- Documentary Film by Amadin Ryan