Carole Dean – The Art of Film Funding Blog

Carole Dean founded From the Heart Productions 24 years ago to help indie filmmakers get their films funded. In her blog, she shares her knowledge and advice on:

  • Raising Money for Your Film
  • Getting Distribution
  • Manifesting Money and Success
  • Crowdfunding
  • Fiscal Sponsorship

And more with the goal of giving filmmakers the tools to get their films produced.

She hosts the weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, interviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film production. She is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

“The Coverup” Wins Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant for 2016

October 3rd, 2016

Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant Winning Documentary Uncovers Effects of Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics and Personal Care Products

Oxnard, CA  Oct 4, 2016  From The Heart Productions, the 501(c)3 non-profit with a mission to help filmmakers get their films funded, has awarded the Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant of 2016 to the feature documentary, The Coverup, and its mother and daughter filmmaking team of Lynn Pelletier and Malina Fagan.  For winning the grant, they will receive $30k in cash, film products and services to complete their film.

Started in 1993, the Roy W. Dean Film Grant is awarded 3 times each year to films that are unique and make a contribution to society.  There is a Spring, Winter, and Fall Grant.  The grants are open to all types of film projects including documentaries, short films, features, and web series in any stage of production.  225 films were submitted for this year’s Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant from the United States and around the world.

"The Coverup" - 2016 Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant Winner

“The Coverup” – 2016 Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant Winner

“The Coverup” reveals that the average person is exposed to about 126 chemicals a day, just from their cosmetics and personal care products (soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, etc.).  Scientists have linked some of the chemicals to serious health effects including cancer, infertility, and birth defects. The documentary seeks to empower consumers and companies alike and challenge our government to protect the public.

Filmmakers Lynn and Malina had previously applied several times to the Roy W. Dean Film Grant.  Like all other applicants, were given a free consultation to improve their application. They persisted and made the appropriate adjustments and eventually won the grant. 

“These two women are talented and determined.” admired Carole Dean, president and founder of From the Heart Productions. “Those are two traits that always equal success in film funding.  It’s especially nice for myself and Carole Joyce, my daughter who helps with grant outreach, to be able to give the grant to another mother and daughter team.”

“The Coverup” reveals that the average person is exposed to about 126 chemicals a day, just from their cosmetics and personal care products (soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, etc.).  Scientists have linked some of the chemicals to serious health effects including cancer, infertility, and birth defects.  The documentary seeks to empower consumers and companies to challenge the government to protect the public.

Filmmaker's Lynn and Malina Fagan

Malina Fagan and Lynn Pelletier

Lynn Pelletier and Malina Fagan are the dynamic mother-daughter duo behind “The Coverup”.  Lynn is a health practitioner of over 30 years who specializes in acupuncture and allergy treatments.  Malina is an award winning filmmaker who is passionate about health, the environment and human empowerment. Having lost several people in their family to cancer, they are committed to raising awareness of environmental toxins and disease prevention.

Malina’s films have premiered in IMAX at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, aired on Rocky Mountain PBS, and been selected at festivals across the country, winning awards for their cinematography and storytelling. 

For winning the Roy W. Dean Spring Film Grant, they will receive $3,500 cash donated by From The Heart Productions.  The grant also includes a hard drive from G-Technology, tape stock from Media Distributors, discount on color, editing and production services from Promedia, equipment rental from Alpha Cine NY,  and much more from many heart-felt donors

About the Roy W. Dean Grant

Now in its 23rd year, the Roy W. Dean Grant has awarded over $2,000,000 in cash and donated film services to films.   The grant has been an important lifeline for filmmakers needing help to continue working on their film and to get it completed.  Without assistance from the grant, many excellent and important films may never have been made. 

Past winners of the grant that have been completed include the Emmy winning Mia: A Dancer’s Journey, the SXSW Best of Fest Music Film The Winding Stream: An Oral History of the Carter and Cash Family, and the now in release on video and on demand The Brainwashing of My Dad

About From The Heart Productions

From The Heart Productions is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to helping filmmakers get their projects funded and made.  Besides providing funding through the grant, they are also a fiscal sponsor which allows donations made to films they sponsor to be tax deductible.  From The Heart has raised over $2.3 million for crowdfunding films as a partner with Indiegogo.  President Carole Dean is the best-selling author of The Art of Film Funding: 2nd Edition, Alternative Financing Concepts

For More Information, please contact

Richard Kaufman

www.fromtheheartproductions.com

Your Mind is Your Greatest Asset for Filmmaking

August 14th, 2016

Use Your Knowledge and Intention to Get Films Funded

by Carole Dean

In the beginning was the word…..

I am lucky to be able to teach indie film funding in our Intentional Filmmaking Class with actor/writer/producer Tom Malloy.  Tom is owner of Trick Candle Productions and has raised over $20 million for his films as well as having produced, Screamers, Hero of the Underworld, and Fair Haven.

We both believe that your mind is your greatest asset for filmmaking.

RD IntentionIn a recent episode of my podcast The Art of Film Funding, Tom covered How to Devlop a Feature Film From Scratch.

“Everything you can see was an idea at one time” he started,” that chair you are in, the computer you are using, everything in your room started as an idea.”

“When you get a compelling idea for a film he says you should feel the energy of the universe in it. That’s when it can be powerful.  That’s when it’s worth the time to seriously consider it.  You need to be completely sold on this idea and know that it can be made and you are the one to make it.”

Once you feel an idea this strongly you need to get it on paper.  Moving that thought from your head onto paper will start the process of bringing your film into this third dimension where you can birth it.  Pull out your notebook and start to write about it.  Put down all the information you get.

Then start considering, is this something that I could really create, is this for me?  Start visualizing yourself making the film and see how it feels.  If that works then go to the next step start to develop it.

Most importantly, don’t tell anyone about this in the writing stage.  Keep all of that energy inside you and use it to create.  You are not ready for rejections.  Just use this energy for creating.

I know from reading many applications to the Roy Dean Grant that this is where the rubber hits the road.  Many people have ideas and only a few have really developed them.

Tom puts his full attention on the project when he gets that idea and feels the universe is behind it.   Documentaries and features.  He stays on the project while the energy is there and he knows that it will work.

This has helped him make many films. The secret seems to be, “is this project for me?”  “Is it worth my full time and attention over everything else in my life?”  It’s either dive in with 100% dedication or let it go.  Only you know the answer.

In our Intentional Filmmaking class Tom and I take people by the hand and walk them through the funding and the attachment process.  It’s amazing to watch how filmmakers develop themselves while developing their film.

Our next class starts in late September 2016.  I teach the Trailblazer Class for documentary filmmakers and Tom is my co-instructor for the Mastermind Class for Short and Feature filmmakers.  Full information is at http://fromtheheartproductions.com/intentional-filmmaking/

If you are passionate about your project this class will take you to the next level.

 

Creating a Logline

July 20th, 2016

courtesy of Kathie Fong Yoneda

author of THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME (2nd edition)

When queried by an editor, agent, producer, novelist  or exec, the experienced writer can usually summarize his/her project in just one or two sentences.  Encapsulating the essence of your story is creating a logline, a fast, effective, attention-getting selling tool for your book, movie, tv or web series project.

The easiest and most successful method I’ve used with my clients to create a logline is by starting off with a short simple sentence, then having them building upon it.

Here is an example using the film AVATAR:

Marine gets new assignment.— We know the main character is a Marine

Paraplegic Marine is sent to foreign moon on assignment. — We now know the Marine is a paraplegic and that the story takes place on a foreign moon.

Paraplegic Marine in an Avatar body is sent to a foreign moon to infiltrate a colony of aliens. — We learn that he’ll be encountering alien life and to he will be using an Avatar body to accomplish his mission, but we need to know what that mission is.

Paraplegic Marine in an Avatar body  is sent to a foreign moon to infiltrate a colony of aliens who pose a threat to Earth. — This version now tells us that the aliens could be a threat to Earth.

Paraplegic Marine in an Avatar body is sent to a foreign moon to infiltrate a colony of aliens who pose a threat to Earth, but eventually questions his mission. — The additional wording lets us know that our hero faces a moral challenge and that there is more to his assignment than initially realized. We just need to know why he questions his assignment and what will be at stake.

LOGLINE:  Paraplegic Marine in an Avatar body is dispatched to a foreign moon to infiltrate a colony of aliens who pose a threat to Earth, only to question his mission when he realizes he is being used to extract a valuable energy source  which will result in destroying the aliens and their peaceful world. — In this final version, we now have a compelling story as the hero realizes his initial assignment is bogus and that he will ultimately need to make a difficult decision as he faces a crucial crisis of consciousness by story’s end.

You will note that each successive version gains more importance and gives us:

*         a better understanding of the character,

*         knowledge about his goal

*         what challenges he will face.

From a simple sentence, use colorful, descriptive adjectives, active verbs and creative restructuring of the logline to obtain more flow, intensity and interest which will hook and entice the person hearing or reading your project.

If your project is a TV or web series, here is an example of the “simple sentence” approach for the TV show, THE MENTALIST:

Former psychic gets job at investigative bureau.

Fraudulent psychic helps the California Investigative Bureau to solve crimes.

Fraudulent psychic helps the California Investigative Bureau to help solve crimes, but has a hidden agenda of his own.

LOGLINE:  In this investigative drama series, an admittedly fraudulent psychic joins the California Investigative Bureau, using his keen observation skills and deep insights into human behavior to help the bureau solve crimes — hoping one day to ultimately solve the murders of his late wife and daughter, victims of a serial killer.

Here are three other popular film examples in different genres which started out with a simple sentence and became the following loglines:

MAMMA MIA Hotel owner prepares for daughter’s wedding

LOGLINE: In this musical-comedy, the owner of a small hotel on a Greek isle prepares for her daughter’s wedding, unaware that her daughter has invited three men from her mother’s past, hoping that one of them is her father and will walk her down the aisle.

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL Retirees go to India

LOGLINE:  A group of British retirees are lured to India to live in what they believe is a newly restored hotel, only to discover it is far less luxurious than they thought. But as they are forced to settle in, they slowly allow the Marigold Hotel, its staff and the culture of India to charm them in the most unexpected ways.

THE KING’S SPEECH Prince is forced to become king

LOGLINE: Following the death of his father and the scandalous abdication of his brother Edward, Prince George VI, who suffers from a debilitating speech impediment, is forced to overcome his handicap to become King with the help of his wife and an unorthodox speech therapist.

Kathie can be reached at: . Copies of THE SCRIPT-SELLING GAME can be purchased at a 25% discount at:  mwp.com
Kathie-Fong-Yoneda-500pxKathie Fong Yoneda is a consultant specializing in development and marketing of live action and animated film, television, literary, and web projects. A former exec at Disney, Island Pictures, and Disney TV Animation, she has taught workshops worldwide. A partial list of clientele includes Singapore Media Academy, RAI-TV Roma, National Film School of Denmark, Women in Film/Television Atlanta, University of Hawaii, Romance Writers of America, Smithsonian Institute, Scriptfest, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Digital Media Academy Jakarta, and the Marseille, Melbourne, Roma and LA web festivals as well as several award-winning writers. Kathie is a popular jurist and panelist for many film festivals and screenwriting competitions and serves on the boards of Imago and the LAWEBFEST. She is the author of The Script-Selling Game and co-exec produced the series Beyond The Break.

 

 

Keeping Faith

June 27th, 2016

By diane estelle Vicari

I was inspired to make my documentary Imagining a Better World in 2006 when I first read Dr. Nelly Toll’s award winning biography Behind the Secret Window: her remarkable story of hiding from the Nazis in occupied Poland alongside her mother during WWII.

Painting by Nelly Toll

Painting by Dr. Nelly Toll

Still a child during this terrible ordeal, with her mother’s love as her only protection, Nelly created a body of sixty watercolor paintings depicting what her life would resemble under normal circumstances.

Without the kindness of a Catholic family, who risked their lives simply by hiding them, Nelly and her mom would not have survived.

Today, a renowned art therapist and teacher, she believes strongly in emphasizing the positive values she took away from her experience to triumph over adversity as she goes and visits schools, of all levels, across the country to share her story.

The Nelly Toll Story is another example of “one man can make a difference”, a theme explored in my previous work, Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness.  This documentary film relates the story of Japanese Diplomat Chiune Sempo Sugihara who risked it “all” acting against government orders during WWII to save the lives of strangers, by writing visas for escaping Jews.

He did so with the belief that somehow these strangers would find their way to safety.  Were it not for his courageous actions, some 60,000 people would not be alive today.

As a storyteller, I am constantly reminded that FAITH is a critical tool in my work as well.   Without it, no matter the value of our vision, it will not bear fruit.  If courageous individuals, like Dr. Nelly Toll and Chiune Sugihara could “imagine a better world” under some of the worst circumstances in our history, well, so can we.

As a filmmaker and a messenger, my subjects teach me through their stories, to have faith in a better humanity.

diane estelle Vicari, Director / Producer is an award-­winning filmmaker and is internationally renowned for her work in promoting the production and advancement of the documentary film genre.  Now in production on Imagining a Better World, her last documentary, Sugihara: Conspiracy of Kindness, won the Hollywood Film Festival Award for Best Documentary and the prestigious IDA/ Pare Lorentz Award. It has also been honored by the United Nations and aired nationally on PBS.

How Filmmakers Can Benefit From LinkedIn Groups

June 23rd, 2016

LinkedIn Groups are Great For Sharing Filmmaking Info, Getting Tips, and Finding Work

by Carole Dean

Independent filmmakers seeking for social networking opportunities should not overlook LinkedIn Groups.   (And no one should overlook LinkedIn now that Microsoft paid $26 billion to purchase it).

LinkedIn Group Members Can Get and Give Advice on Story Structure, Budgets, and Funding

LinkedIn Group Members Can Get and Give Advice on Story Structure, Budgets, and Funding

There are groups to join for documentary, feature, and short films as well as crowdfunding and financing.

On my weekly Art of Film Funding  Podcast , I was lucky to spend some time with a cherished friend, Norman Berns, an Emmy award winning producer who is head of the LinkedIn group for Film & Television Professionals.   They now have over 200,000 members.

Norman shared with me his insights and tips on how best to use LinkedIn Groups.

Why should filmmakers join online groups?

“Why do people go to the town square and hang out for the evening? You do it because that’s where the people are.” suggests Norman.

“If you want to find out from filmmakers, where do you find a whatever, anything from a prop to a location to a producer, those are the people you would ask.  And if you sell it well enough, if you present the information well enough, you’ll get a good answer.”

What should you do when you join a LinkedIn Group?

“Alright, we have this town square”, said Norman “If you rush into the town square and you say, ‘I’m here, I’m here, look at me,’ people will wander away.  You have given them nothing.”

The best way to start is to share something that you learned.  Share your experiences in filmmaking.   The easiest thing people can do in groups is to share knowledge and come off as the wisest person in the room.

How can you get people to give you advice on your film?

If you want people to look at your film, if you want to utilize the group, explain what you did.

“Say, ‘Look, we had to go to this location, we only had xxx dollars. We climbed a mountain. We used this camera and these lenses and we put the camera “here”.  You tell me how difficult it was to film in this location. Then I’m interested.”

But, just saying “Hey, look at my film!’” Norman warns, “Doesn’t work well.”

So, if you’re free with information, if you give, before you ask to get, you will get a good response.

How do you market yourself and actually make money for a professional4 service in a group?

Norman said his group has a lot of people in it who work closely with story structure, who teach writing, who talk about protagonists, antagonists, all the pieces that make up a good story.  They’re really incredibly generous and some have workshops.

But, if you want to get people into your workshop, you have to set out a lot of breadcrumbs of wisdom to attract them.  As they come in picking up all these bits of knowledge you’ve laid out, they will eventually come through your door.  It takes some effort.

This is the helpful and the respected way to promote yourself online in groups.  Then you can tell people when you have a seminar and you have a much better chance to get customers.

How do you promote your talents to get work?

Norman’s advice is to answer:  “Who are you? What are you talking about?”

“If you come to me and you say, ‘I made a film for $20,000. I had these people in the cast. We shot for these many days, and I used this special crane that I had my grips build.’

Well, all of a sudden I really am interested, I really want to know.”

The people who say, “hire me, hire me”, are missing the point.

“If I like what you’re telling me, if I like the product that you’re delivering, I’ll hire you. But, I’m not going to start the conversation by hiring you, and then figure out whether I like your stuff.”

Can you talk about funding for your film?

Norman said that he limits this discussion to technique rather than making an “ask” from the group.

What’s fair and acceptable is for someone to say, “If I were looking for money for my film, where would I go?”  That’s worthy of a discussion.

“But please do not say,” Norman chides “Go to my Indiegogo campaign and donate!”

You can check out the entire Art of Film Funding podcast with Norman Berns for insights on LinkedIn and producing.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, interviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.

Successful Self-Distribution: When You Do it With Others

May 31st, 2016

By Carole Dean

In a recent episode of my Art of Film Funding Podcast, I interviewed Nick Gonda, President & Director of TUGG.com, an expert on self-distribution for independent films. He spoke of a filmmaker who had over 500 screenings set up by other people for him in cities across the US.

This is the new world of self-distribution for indie films and Tugg is one of the leaders in the field.

Here’s how it works.

Self-Distribution

Collaborate with Groups That Can Use Your Film To Motivate Their Members to Attend Your Screenings

Tugg encourages filmmakers to think about who in your community doesn’t just want to buy tickets, but who would like to share and evangelize around your event on your behalf.

That’s the mentality of a promoter. Tugg gives you the tools to collaborate with people or groups and to do so in a way that people are incentivized.

Touch the Wall was one of Tugg’s most successful films last year.  It’s about swimmer Missy Franklin and it documents her journey of becoming an Olympian. This incredible filmmaking team set the bar high in terms of entrepreneurial mind sets and other types of outreach.

They knew they had a certain amount of people through their direct community.  But then they thought, how could we collaborate with swim organizations and swim teams around the country?

They created a system and a campaign where swim coaches could promote the screening as an event.  They participated not just for their love of the film or love subject.  They were also able to use these events as fundraisers for their local issues and needs.

As a result of that campaign and being able to approach swim coaches with that value proposition, they’ve had about 500 events around the country.

After all of those events, the filmmakers were able to get every email address from every ticket buyer and every promoter.  That’s because Tugg provides that transparency to its filmmaking partners.

Now, when they do their home video and VOD release, they are not going with just the financial success generated from all of these events, but with an expanded community as well.

By using the social connections of other organziations, Touch the Wall was able to financially reward themselves, gain a massive data base of people interested in the subject of their film, and give back to the community by letting locals use their film as a funding event.

Tugg also helps migrate that community into other auxiliary buying experiences. At the point or purchase, Tugg has a screen for you to sell your merchandise items with your tickets.

Nick says that the Girl Scouts have raised over $5,000 in donations at one of these events.  So, your film is helping fund other important issues while you are getting paid for the screening from the box office and merchandise sales.

This is a wonderful way for you to reach your audience, make money, build a data base and give back to communities across America.

Please listen to the interview for more wonderful ideas on marketing your film via Cinema on Demand.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, interviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.

Your Film Can Set Hollywood on Fire…If You Know What You’ve Got

March 13th, 2016

by Patrice Hall

A revolution is occurring in the way films are marketed and distributed.  Direct to Video, Day and Date, Streaming, Self-Distribution are just some of the options popping up and new ones are added seemingly daily.

If you are a filmmaker who can navigate the changes, there are significant rewards.

Does Your Film Have the Necessary Buzzability?

Does Your Film Have the Necessary “Buzzability”

At the same time, savvy investors want a clear understanding of how they can profit from their investment.  As I create the business plan for my documentary, The Shamans of Rock & Roll, it’s crucial that the marketing and distribution section provide background on how to achieve that goal.

To get an idea of what to say to investors, I refer to the great insights provided by Kevin Goetz of Screen Engine at the ITVA’s 15th Annual Production Conference.  Kevin’s company specializes in market research and he believes that “every movie can make money as long as you know what you have.”

In today’s marketplace, Kevin says it’s the Big Idea is the single most important indicator of a film’s success.  More than even the story – it’s the idea of it all – the DNA.

The Big Idea motivates a big audience.

Also, filmmakers should know just who makes up their audience.  Who are they making their film for?  How large is this audience?

It’s important that their film is “comp’d” (using examples of other films that are similar) correctly.  You should not use “aspirational” comps –what they wish it could be.  But, filmmakers should choose films with similar genres and similar budget ranges.

To be successful, a film needs at have at least one the following:

*Capability – the DNA measurement, the gut.

*Playability – the audience’s experience when they sit down and watch the  film.  How well does it “play”?

*Marketability – the ability of a film to attract an audience.

*Buzzability – what critics and social media want to see.

I’ve found that it’s been extremely useful to include a discussion of these ideas in conversations with potential investors – especially those from outside the entertainment industry.

It gives them an understanding of today’s marketplace and just how successful my film can be.

Patrice Hall is the writer and producer of the feature documentary The Shamans of Rock & Roll  that explores the shamanic influences in the early lives and music of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and John Lennon.  You can contact Patrice at hello@shamans-of-rock-and-roll.com

Don’t Myth Up Your Crowdfunding Campaign

January 23rd, 2016

Let Go of These 5 Myths to Raise Money for Your Film

by Carole Dean

The reward for crowdfunding your film comes not just in money, but knowing that others support you and your work.  At From the Heart Productions, we’re partners with Indiegogo and have helped filmmakers raise over $2 million for their films.

But, that support or money did not always come easy.  We provide lots of resources to create a successful campaign and fiscal sponsorship that allows tax free donations, but it took work and dedication from filmmakers.

And that only happened when we got them to let go of the myths they have about crowdfunding.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

Myth 1 – You build it and they will come. 

Nonsense.  No matter how fantastic a campaign page you create, how important the cause, or how great the concept, you need to bring your crowd to the crowdfunding campaign.  You will probably get 98% of your funds from you own email list.  Not from Facebook, Twitter, or any of your social networks.  Just from people you know.   Focus on getting your list to send to their lists is the first trick of crowdfunding.

Myth 2 – My film’s budget is $85,000 so that is where I need to set my campaign goal. 

Your film’s budget has nothing to do with where you should set your campaign goal. Raising money is not easy so why set your goal for an amount you will have trouble getting.  Break it up into achievable segments.

How to know what you can raise?   Use the number of names in your data base and multiply by 5 for the number of donations you will get.  Example: Let’s say you’ve got 1,000 names.  1,000 x 5 = 50.  So, you can expect 50 people will give you money.

At From the Heart, we have an average of $100 per donation.  That means for 50 donors you can raise $5,000.00 (per those 1,000 names).  Don’t plan on getting much from your name on your social networks.  They do not donate much.  Focus on your data base where you can send emails every 5 days.  These are your prime donors.

Myth 3 – I’ve got 45 days reach my goal so I can take my time.

You may have a 45 day campaign, but it’s critical to hit 30% in first 72 hours.  If you hit that, your campaign has an 80% chance of succeeding.

What amount can you raise in 3 days?  $3,000.00?  You may want to work backwards and use this calculation to set your ultimate goal.  If you think you can raise $3,000 in first 3 days, then you ask for $9,000 and you can probably hit it.

Lots of work?  Yes, but the payoff is more in marketing than you would ever imagine.

Myth 4 – If I don’t hit goal, I still get money so that’s ok, right?

Hitting your goal is essential.  The record of how your campaign performed and how it was accepted by others will be out there forever.  While not necessarily an accurate judgement on how successful your project will ultimately be, it will be seen by some that way.

Distributors want to know you understand social networking.  They think crowdfunding is an example of how good you are at marketing so they judge you by your success.  Be prepared for this.

Myth 5 – T-Shirts make great perks.

I like gifts that are personal and I like you to be part of the gift.  Send me something personal.  John Trigonis, Film Campaign Strategist at Indiegogo, wrote a poem for those who donated to his campaign and he was very successful.

Make your gift something that sets your project apart and makes other take notice.  One crowdfunder asked his potential donors, “Where is your dream vacation?”  Then, he took a picture of you and put you in that location.  He did very well because people posted these items on Facebook.  That got him new leads who eventually donated because of the extraordinary gifts.

Whatever you do on your campaign, let go of the myths and you will be much more successful.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers.   She is also the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing ConceptsHer Intentional Filmmaking Class teaches filmmakers on how to get their films funded.  New classes begin February 29th

Section 181 Tax Incentive for Filmmakers is Back

January 5th, 2016

The US government gives filmmakers a great gift at the end of 2015 in the recently signed budget

by Carole Dean

Just before Congress dashed out for their end of year holiday vacation, Section 181 of the tax code of 2004 was reinstated.  For a filmmaker, this is going to be an important tool to attract investors.

Corky Kessler - Entertainment Attorney and Expert on Section 181

Entertainment Attorney and Section 181 Expert Corky Kessler

Enacted originally in 2004, Section 181 allows you to eliminate your investor’s tax bill by what they’ve invested in your film.   It permits a 100% write-off for the first $15 million of the cost of producing a film in the U.S.   It had expired at the end of 2014, but Congress instead extended it to the end of 2016 and made it retroactive to the beginning of 2015.

Entertainment lawyer, Corky Kessler, is one of our best film attorneys, an expert on Section 181, and one of its biggest advocates.   He has used Section 181 seventy-four times to help filmmakers.   He revealed more highlights and new benefits of Section 181 during my interview with him on my Art of Film Funding Podcast.

Section 181 is for shorts, documentaries and features up to $15 million and some up to $20 million dollars.

It covers all films started or finished in 2015, if you know how to apply for it.  Section 181 also can cover films that finish in 2016.

How it works.   For example, if $500K is spent on your film in 2016 and your investor is active in the production or made active, they can write it off as an expense against their taxes.   If that investor is in a 30% tax bracket, they will save $150K from that $500K investment.

That is because you can create 100% of a tax loss when you invest under Section 181.

Depending on what state you decide to film in, you can minimize your investors risk considerably.

For example, let’s say you are shooting in a state with 40% state rebate your investor is using Section 181.  If that investor is in the 35% tax bracket, then they could have an assurance that 75% of the money is returned to them.

States like Georgia, Louisiana, California and NY all have great incentives.  To protect your investor Corky, recommends finding a state to shoot in with a good incentive.   Some states like Louisiana allow you to bring people in to work on your film from out of state and you still get 30% benefits.

Section 181 is fairly simple if you have a good lawyer and accountant who can advise you on how to use it.

If your accountant is not well versed in Section 181, you can lose this benefit.  For example, if the accountant capitalizes the production expenses you can lose this.  Also, if your accountant does not file in the first year that you intend to use the 181, you cannot use it.  Knowledge is the key to using this.

Also, for the first time, Section 181 includes theatre.  Certain rules about theatre are still to be revealed.  The good news is that you have until the end of 2016 to get your projects grandfathered in case this is not extended again.

Get started before you do your taxes. 

“If you want to use 181 for an upcoming film you need to complete a form this year when you do your taxes.” Corky explained.  “This form tells the IRS that you intend to use it for your film to shoot in 2016.  That’s the most important thing to know now before you do your taxes.”

You also need to have your paperwork completed for the film.  Your lawyer will know what papers are required.  Put aside a week to get these done so that you can file that extension and be eligible for this great tax incentive offer for your investors.

You can contact Corky via email at and or call him at 312 853 8448 For an accountant, he recommends Todd Hein with Crowe Horwath  who knows how to do the election and file properly.

Carole Dean is the president and founder of From the Heart Productions and author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  She hosts a weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, with guests offering tips and advice on indie filmmaking. 

Her unique, innovative Intentional Filmmaking Class teaches filmmakers how to get their films funded.  Corky Kessler is a guest speaker for the class.   New classes begin February. . 

Dissecting Docs: This Ain’t No Mouse Music

December 15th, 2015

by Carole Dean

When 16 year old Chris Strachwitz left Germany and came to the US in 1960, he played his radio every day because he was so impressed with the music in America.  He loved it all!

This Aint No Mouse Music 2He listened to Mexican music, soul, and blues, jazz and accordion music.  Chris developed a very good “ear” for music.  He knew how to discern talented people.  But, many of the artists he liked were older musicians whose work would be lost when they went away.

He decided to dedicate his life to record them to save their music.

In the documentary “This Ain’t No Mouse Music”, we follow Chris from teenage music lover to a restless archivist who discovered and preserved the work of many great songs and artists.

He started on a shoestring.  He began to record music exactly where he found it.  In front yards, restaurants, bars, by the lake.  Wherever the musicians played, that’s where Chris recorded them.

Chris never had a studio.  He never wanted one.  He wanted to record the music just where he found it.  This brilliant idea really worked, you can hear it in the recordings.  It’s natural and the outside or surrounding sounds belong.

Music was the life blood in the heart of these deep rooted communities. People loved their music and loved their musicians.

Chris started his own record label Arhoolie Records.   Arhoolie is the word for a field hand in the south.   He became a folk, blues and soul music detective combing Texas, Louisiana & Mississippi for musicians and also for local records.

During his search for music, he found folklorist Mac McCormick who became a brilliant partner to help Chris in his quest.  Chris & Mac were not afraid to ask anyone for the names of musicians.  Once they had a name, they used their detective skills and went to work to find them.

This desire to find folk music in the South would cause him to find some of the greats.   He found Fred McDowell, Aakka White, and Big Mama Thornton, who sang Hound Dog and I Smell a Rat.

He found Richard Thompson, John Jackson, Mance Lipscomb, Charlie Musclewhite and Big Joe Williams whose great song is Sloppy Drunk!

Chris took many of these people to the folk festivals and on tour to either create or resurrect their careers.   He took Big Mama Thornton overseas where she recorded on of her best-selling record Big Momma Thornton – In Europe.

He recorded Country Joe and the Fish singing their anti-Vietnam War song I Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die Rag.  Chris recorded this in his home and when they were leaving they said, “What do we owe you for the recording?”

“Well, you don’t have a publisher,” Chris replied “So, let me be the publisher.”

They signed a contract which brought Chris a lot of money.  Chris used this income to cross the country and find us these marvelous musicians.   Years later, when they next met, Chris gave the publishing rights back to the artist.

Chris is a one-man-band by finding the talent, producing, recording, editing, marketing, selling and promoting.  He even shows you how to wash your records!

If you love music, musicians and good bio pics, this is a wonderful film for you.

Songs truly are the poetry of the people…

The podcast Dissecting Docs with Carole Dean and Don Schwartz is dedicated to our most precious and beloved filmmakers, the documentary filmmaker.  Each week, the show honors these brilliant creatives who give of their time, energy, and sometimes their freedom to bring us the truth.  They are our last vestige of sincere, unbiased reporters who put their heart into their films.