Dealing with his father’s battle with Alzheimer’s, filmmaker Eric Gordon created a documentary to guide others. He got help in finishing it by finding those that cared including his fiscal sponsor.
Over the past six years, award winning filmmaker Eric Gordon has produced, shot and directed the feature-length documentary, “When All That’s Left Is Love.” It’s an emotionally gripping film about his aging mother’s determination against nearly impossible odds to care for her Alzheimer’s husband at home.
The film gives viewers an unprecedented behind-the-scenes understanding of a medical dilemma that currently has no cure, but has patients who depend heavily on the heroic tenacity and love of the Alzheimer’s caregivers.
Many times, Eric was on the brink of running out of funding. Using his resourcefulness, belief in his film, and important lessons from his fiscal sponsor, Eric was able to find financial support and an audience for his film. Through his community outreach, his film is now being shown to thousands who can learn from his mother’s and his experience caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s.
On The Art of Film Funding Podcast, Eric shared his story with host Carole Dean. He offered advice to other filmmakers on how to rally others around your film by thinking outside the box, by believing in yourself, and your project.
“Eric, Something’s Going on Here, You Need to Start Filming”
It started with a call from his mother telling him his father was lost. He found out his father had Alzheimer’s. Realizing his mother could not care for his father by herself, he moved in and started helping his mother care for his father for about five or six years.
“Eric, something’s going on here, you need to start filming,” he thought as his film-making instincts kicked in. His father was starting a research political trial program. He approached Dr. David Watson from the Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment Center and asked if he could film the program.
The total project took six years to make. Eric filmed for about four years of the total filming and with editing alone the production did over 900 editing hours in an editing suite. “It turned out to be a lot deeper and a lot more heartfelt than I could ever have imagined because, unfortunately, we captured the complete breakdown of a caregiver.”
“And, because of the access that I had, I was fortunate to have other caregivers who are dealing with the same situation to allow me into their lives as well and we built an amazing trust together and that’s how the project began.”
Donors Like When Their Money Goes to One Specific Thing
Dr. Watson allowed him into his office to film. Eric would keep him involved with the whole process of the film. As he got closer to completing his documentary, he noticed money was running out. “I started seeing the costs involved to finish the film because I was getting ready to hire a composer for the music score and I was a little shocked by the costs involved for a composer.
“So, because of my deep relationship with Dr. Watson, I shared with him.” He had been following Eric’s hard work and appreciated his dedication to bringing attention to the effect the disease has on families.
“You know, I need help with getting money for the composer,” Eric mentioned. Dr. Watson took care of the funds for the composer.
“Now that’s really what it’s all about,” Carole Dean pointed out. “Donors are giving money to you and the guy saw how hard you worked and dedicated, and yes, he wanted to help you. And I think a lot of donors like it when they know that their money goes for one specific thing.”
Finding Guidance from Fiscal Sponsor From the Heart Productions
“I didn’t have a grant proposal or a budget and I said, ‘Eric, your funds are running out.’ I worked very hard at my day job and any extra money I had, I used for the making of this documentary. My funds were running out because I had a lot of bills. You start seeing these enormous costs involved with a documentary, you realize you better start doing something.”
Eric considers Carole Dean and From the Heart Productions pivotal in changing his thinking and making him get money. He put together a budget and a proposal. He reached out to her and her organization for their fiscal sponsorship program. Their program offers personalized advice and film funding strategies.
“I have to thank you from the bottom of my heart, because From the Heart Productions is why I’m where I’m at today.”
“You were giving me guidance and Carole Joyce, who is also part of From the Heart, mentioned to me to think outside the box. I said to myself, ‘You know, my film deals with death, unfortunately, which comes with Alzheimer’s.’ And at the end of the film, we deal with the emotional distress of dealing with funerals and the death of a patient.”
He thought, what an important issue he could discuss with caregivers about pre-needs and the costs involved. He realized that a lot of people don’t realize how expensive it is when you pass away
“So, I reached out to various funeral homes to tell them, ‘My goal is to educate caregivers and I want to share this with the world and I would love for you to come in.’ Dignity Memorial, Melissa and Michael Tavers, were unbelievable. They have a foundation and the foundation vetted my film and they also believe in educating caregivers, not just about getting business, and they gave us a National Community Engagement sponsorship.”
Making A Screening an Event
Eric is a believer that any screening you have that you need to make your screenings like a show. Even if you’re starting out with your first rough cut screening or you finally add music.
“I make it an event and an experience and I invite various different people that I think would want to be part of the film. I don’t think just money at first. I think, ‘How can we build a relationship together?’ And so, at these screenings, I would invite all of these different various organizations, whoever it may be.
“For example, I invited a few funeral homes. Once they saw the film, I was able to take them to lunch, tell them my goals, and the importance of educating people in the community and nationwide.”
He told them how he could get them in front of thousands of people, their target audience. From that, they vetted him. It took months, but they believed in his passion. “They believed in the project and I’m so grateful and humbled and fortunate to have them part of my team.”
Making the Most of Every Connection
Near the end of production, looking at the budget at the funds needs to finish, calculating the costs involved with outreach, Eric started to think “How am I going to fund this film?”
He was outside at the Center for Doc Studies. It was 3:00 in the morning, freezing cold, and he was having a smoke when he met up with a gentleman who said he was here as an Alzheimer’s researcher.
“Are you going to the Alzheimer’s Summit?” he asked Eric.
“What’s the Alzheimer’s Summit?” Eric responded
“It’s in D.C. You need to be there.”
“So, I went there and from that I found out about the Alzheimer’s Association Conference. I didn’t know why I was going there at first, I just knew I needed to be there. And somebody at the conference said to me, ‘Eric, you need to meet with these foundations. They have funding available and they love to support different various projects that would educate caregivers.’”
“And I was walking down an aisle five minutes later, incredible story, and I walked up to the Roskamp Foundation Institute booth and they say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ And they say, ‘What do you do?’ And I said, ‘I’m a filmmaker. I just finished a documentary on Alzheimer’s caregivers.’
“They looked at each other strange, and they turned to me and they said, ‘We were just talking about backing some type of media project.’”
Always Bring Something to a Meeting or Screening
“I called them a week later, drove over to Sarasota with a big heart cake, showed them the film, and from there it’s history.” Eric said.
“You never walk into an office without bringing something,” Carole added. “You always bring a gift of something, right? People love that. In my teaching class, Stuart Wilde talks about the fact that you give to people. You open people’s hearts through your giving and they get to know who you are, so I bet the cake was something they loved, right?”
“They really loved it.”
“I took your advice and I’m making little chocolate hearts that say “love,” so anywhere I go, I think it’s really important that as a filmmaker, as an Indie filmmaker, any screening that we have … For me, if it’s one person or 10 people or 100 people, even one more person to watch my film is important.
“It’s crucial for a filmmaker to go to any screening they can, possible, and give something, hand something out. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it makes them a little curious. It makes them a little bit happier and they’ll show up to your films.”
“From my past experience, you never know what’s going to happen from one person watching your film. All the other doors that could open or just the fact that you’re impacting them, making a difference in their life.”
Getting Friends to Make Introductions
Eric wanted to get in contact with Brian and Steven from Senior Information Centers. His mother had visited them years ago, years before, because they help seniors with legal issues or finding nurses and doing their pharmaceutical drugs.
He approached Arlene Rossman who was one of the caregivers who’s in his film. She had a really close relationship with Steven and Brian and she got him a meeting with them. He showed them a few clips of the film. They believed in what he was doing.
“They are one of our main sponsors now, as well. And without them, I don’t think I would have been able to finish the film because they paid for all the funds to get the documentary finished.”
Creating a Package for Community Outreach
When Eric started realizing the enormous costs involved with outreach, He decided that he needed to make a grand proposal. He also needed to make a budget. “It was really was eye-opening for me.” Eric commented when realizing the enormous expense, he was facing in marketing his film.
“Thank God, that I met From the Heart Productions. Again, I go back to that because that was so pivotal for me focusing and really changed my life because I realized how important it was to envision and realize that the power of your mind is so important.”
“And so I made my vision board. I listened to those classes that you have on Saturdays. I listened to everything Carol Joyce and you told me and I followed those directions. Plus, utilizing my own experiences and since I was the event coordinator and sponsorship development officer at Clear Channel, I knew the importance of branding and putting together a package.”
Find Your Target Audience
“People want to see that they’re going to receive value for what they’re giving. So, I started thinking outside the box and I realized, as a filmmaker, and I want to share this with other filmmakers, it’s really, really, extremely important to know your target audience.”
Eric remembered the lessons he heard during From the Heart Productions bi-weekly film funding guidance classes. That your film “can’t be just for everybody. You have to have your target audience.”
He started thinking about people that would want to get in front of this target audience. They might be medical professionals, Alzheimer’s caregivers, people who have a loved one who have Alzheimer’s. He started to develop a package for these people so they would get their logo on the website. They would get announced at these screenings. They would get their logo on the film. He thought of all of these different ways that he could help their organization.
“I gave them my passion and love and told them how important this was for me to educate caregivers and they followed suit and they all came on board. Every single one of these organizations have gotten new business directly from our film.”
Calculate the Costs of Outreach
Eric found the costs for outreach rivaled the production cost of his film.
“Most of my production costs, people jumped in and devoted their time because they wanted to get a screen credit. But when you run into outreach, you’re running into such enormous costs.
“Posters, press kits, graphic designers, trailers, festival fees, that can run over $5,000 for festival fees. Social impact producers. You need a DCP, which is a digital cinema package to project. Publicity, publicity stills, private screenings, traveling, broadcast cuts and they add up.
“They could go over hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s what why it’s so crucial that you find people that believe in your project and show them the love, and they will see your vision and help get that project out into the world.”
Benefits of Working with a Non-Profit
“And another thing that I’ve learned is that I’m keeping it much simpler by going through a nonprofit, which I think is really important, not only for direction. Foundations love to give other foundations monies to educate people in the community, as I stated before.”
“They feel secure that the foundation they’re giving to will make sure that you follow through” added Carole, “because heretofore, there were a lot of films that got financed, but never got finished. So, nowadays, they want to make sure that you finish the film, so you’ve done all that. You’ve got a gold star, as far as most of your donors are concerned.”
“Carole Dean, I just love you and your organization” Eric responded. “I can’t think you enough for the guidance you’re giving me and the places you’re sending me to go to. You’re incredible and, again, I’m not just saying that. I really mean that from the bottom of my heart.”
Attracting a Team with Your Passion for Your Project
“Having an amazing team is really important. I hope filmmakers realize that and if you show the passion in what you’re doing, you don’t have to pay full fees.” Eric advised. “You can get people to help consult on your projects. They’re more than happy to answer questions.
“For example, when I first reached out to you”, he said to Carole, “I was calling you … I Googled amazing fiscal sponsors, found you, and asked you a question and you had no problem answering and helping me and that’s how, for example, I built my relationship with you.”
“I wasn’t a brilliant grant-writer, so I found an amazing grant-writer to help consult. Normally, it would astronomical charges, but because I did a lot of the work, they jumped in and helped consult. So again, I want to thank, for example, Carol Rainey.
“I have an impact producer that has been crucial in guiding me. She’s amazing and she’s so brilliant. Christina Lindstrom. And then I brought in a marketing team to help consult, and so I think these are key things to remember that, for outreach, that collaborating and building a really strong team is very important.”
Advice for Caregivers and Filmmakers
“One thing also I learned, and I hope this can help caregivers, is take a deep breath. You have this. You can do this. You need to believe in yourself. Believe in your project. Be passionate. You will do this. It will happen.
“And it takes a lot of time. It takes years, and years, and years, but look for giving programs from corporations. Think outside the box and I believe that all of us, as filmmakers, will succeed.”