Starting Your Film & Creating A Trailer

Chapter 4 THE PLAN
As Lilly Tomlin says, “We are all in this boat alone together!”

There are so many things to do when you start to make a film that its best if you have a plan of attack.
You need to know the order of your priorities. They come at you from every direction and if you can
just work with these immediate items you can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
You know you must have a fantastic trailer to make money. So how much is that going to cost you?
For a doc about $10,000 and for a feature about $20,000. So you need to have this as your
first and foremost goal, after you get your proposal and pitch to a brilliant level.

When people approach From the Heart to be their fiscal sponsor, they apply for acceptance and then
I immediately tell them that if their checks are to be made to them personally I must issue a 1099 at the

end of the year for miscellaneous income. Or, they can get an LLC. The LLC is very inexpensive,

you can get one online under $300.00 and you can get a Doing Business As from the city you live in.
It’s not much money. Both of these take about 4 to 6 weeks to complete.

  1. Get your bank account ready for the money. Where’s the money to open the account? Try your mother or grandmother and tell them you need this to become an entrepreneur.
  1. Now you have a film bank account and with your LLC or your DBA, so you are a real company. Find a fiscal sponsor that you like and who will help you. works as a fiscal sponsor and we are constantly putting information on our web site to help you raise money. We also review your proposal and your trailer and tell you the honest truth about your chance for success and we give you ideas to improve what you have. You really need this. You are out there in a vacuum and you need people who see hundreds of proposals and know what grantors want. This is where a thick skin is required. I know from talking to hundreds of sensitive artists that when you start telling them that thir favorite scene in the trailer doesn’t work, most of them just grin and bear it. They don’t have to take my advice, but many do. In fact many people just apply for the grant to find
    out what we think of their materials. That’s a very good thing to do. I recommend you apply for lots of grants and get feedback, that’s how you learn to improve your work.

    When looking for a fiscal sponsor, say to yourself, “What’s in it for me?” Make sure you feel you are getting something for your 5 to 8% fee.

  1. Now that your potential donors can have a tax deduction for giving you money for the film you are all set to start your internet work. is now a must to fund your film. Use their landing page to advertise your film. Lots of wonderful new things are coming out daily so stay on top and use facebook to start a dialogue with your potential audience. You need to find your audience online. Use and search for organizations and forums on your subject matter. Post on these forums and send people to your Facebook page and web site. Get as many people to join your page as possible, especially those that are interested in your subject. You are now building your audience.
  1. Create a budget for the trailer. See the chapter by Norman Berns and our sample doc and feature budgets for trailers. Stay focused to get that brilliant money-making trailer made.
  1. Set up your email names on a mailing company so you can stay in touch with your donors every other month always giving them the latest and greatest news on your film. I use They are very helpful. Don’t think it’s way above your level to create a fantastic newsletter, it’s actually easy.

  1. Decide how best to use your time. Morrie Warshawski draws a circle and says you usually get 50% of your money from people so how much time do you want to put into people? If you decide to put 50% then cut the pie in half and write PEOPLE. Next how much time to you want to spend on grants? Is your film a good fit for a lot of grants? If so put 20% GRANTS. How about Corporate donations? What amount of time do you want to give that? Put it on the chart. Letter writing is a brilliant way to get money, we have a sample letter for you with a card that Cid Walker Bush mailed out to her potential donors and they all sent the cards back
    to us at FTH with their checks. That is another time-eating funding possibility. Chart it out and tell yourself what you will do with your time.

  1. What’s in it for me? The Crowdfunding companies have shown us how much people want something back. We always knew it was all about, “what’s in it for me” and they are using that gift to the donors to raise tons of money. So, think about what you can give back to your donors and put it on your web site and your Facebook page. Example,
    a man I know is Indian and he is making a film called Bollywood to Hollywood and in our brainstorming session He revealed that his mother and brother are excellent cooks. So we set up a price for him to come to your house and cook an authentic Indian dinner for 6 people. Use the idea of your film as much as possible and create gifts around it to make people want to give you the bigger bucks.

  1. Now you need to collect some sponsors and partners for your film. This means you look for nonprofits that are supporting your same issue. Kitty Farmer is making a film on the healthcare, or lack of, that the US Government promised the American Indians. She calls it her circle of partners. She focused on this for several weeks and each day got on the phone and pitched her film to like-minded organizations and she came up with 20 organizations who want to support her film.
    How does this help you? Well, if each organization has 200 members or more multiply that by 20 and now you have a large data base of people who care about your issue. Your job is to keep them informed with your or newsletter.

  1. Finding these people is easy. You start with some of these nonprofit web sites like and and search for the subject matter of your film. Each organization has instructions on site to help you. Then get on the phone and pitch that brilliant money making pitch you created from chapter 2. Ask them to link to your organization and to post those 2 dynamite paragraphs explaining the overview of the film on their web site. Now when you create your newsletter ask them to forward to their members. You can create a good rapport with them and find support and money from their members. Be sure to add these sponsors to your proposal and web site.

  1. Now you need the money to make the trailer. Your platform is set, you have a bank account, a pitch and proposal, sponsors, web site, facebook page, perhaps a blog and you have people connected to you and your film. That’s perfect. Review your time table telling you how much time you want to put into each area of fund raising. You may want to focus on the PEOPLE section first. Decide if you want to call people to donate to a yard sale, create a funding party or a dinner funding party or do a letter campaign. You will find all of these in the book plus an outline of 43 things to do for your funding party. Make plans, set dates for these events and start your first funding adventure.

  1. You may want to listen to my online information on Manifesting and creating your future at it’s very important at this phase to be able to receive. You want to be sure that you are functioning at the highest level possible and as Dr. Chopra would say that you must know there are “infinite possibilities” waiting for you.

  1. Before you shoot anything for your trailer, I recommend you have a consultation with a trailer editor and find out just what he/she advises you to do to get what you need before you go out to shoot. Read Bill Woolery’s information on preparing to shoot.

  1. When you shoot your trailer you will have an outline of just what you want before you shoot. After your trailer editor is finished, add this trailer to your web site and post daily about producing the trailer in your blog. Consider creating a 90 second trailer for sponsors to put on their web site to send people to your site. Now you are really networking. Remember the people reading your web site and blog don’t know that filmmaking is 90% hard work and 10% filmmaking. So dazzled them with production information so they keep coming back to your site or facebook page. Then tell them where you are now in the funding process and make another “ask” as you need more money.

  1. Now you can look for development money from places like or or and go to the back of the book for a list of funding organizations.

  1. Celebrate you have just reached your first milestone. The rest can be a piece of cake.
    Remember, it’s the journey not the destination. Enjoy every moment.