How Donors to Fiscally Sponsored Films Benefit from Covid-19 CARES Act

In Creating the CARES Act, Congress Gave Everyone the Opportunity to Be a Little More Charitable

by Richard Kaufman – Guest Contributor

In crafting a response to the disastrous economic impact caused by the Covid-19 crisis, Congress created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (known as the CARES Act).  Most of us are familiar now with its Emergency Small Business Loans, Paycheck Protection Program, and disaster loans.  (And most of us who applied for those are familiar with not getting a response to our applications)

Did you know the CARES Act also boosted tax incentives for charitable giving? 

CARES Act

Congress realized that the crashing economy needed help beyond what they could provide.  While millions have been thrown out of work, many others are still getting a paycheck working from home or at essential businesses.  And, there are others who need not worry about working.  So, they created a perk to get them to donate to charities.

The New Benefit for Donors

While charitable giving comes from the heart, there have always been tax incentives to encourage donations.  Recent changes in the tax law have made it more difficult to get a deduction for giving.  

Under the current tax law, if you itemize on your tax return, you can deduct donations to registered charities up to 60% of your adjusted gross income.  Most people, however, don’t itemize and claim the standard deduction.  Those who do this can’t deduct charitable contributions they make during the year.

But, now, as explained by in NPQ (Non-Profit Quarterly), the rules have changed temporarily under the CARES Act providing several benefits:

The stimulus bill also contains a one-time, above-the-line deduction for cash contributions of up to $300 made to certain qualifying charities. All taxpayers would be eligible to take the deduction, even people who use the standard deduction. The incentive applies to contributions made in 2020 and would be claimed on tax forms next year.

So, anyone, even if they itemize, can deduct up to $300 in charitable giving.

For the eight percent of individual taxpayers who itemize their deductions, the bill would suspend for 2020 the normal limit on deductions for contributions, ordinarily 50 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) or 60 percent for cash.

This means that charitable contributions equaling up to 100% of your adjusted gross income are now deductible on your 2020 tax return if you itemize on it.

Of course, most people can’t afford to donate 100% of their income.  But those HNI’s (high net worth individuals) will now have greater reason to part with their savings in order to help good causes.

Finally, corporate donation limits were raised as well. 

For corporations, the limit on deductions for contributions, ordinarily 10 percent of AGI, is elevated to 25 percent for 2020.

What the CARES Act Means for Fiscally Sponsored Filmmakers

Having your film fiscally sponsored means your project has been accepted by a 501(c)3 non-profit, like From the Heart Productions, into their fiscal sponsorship program.  This allows those making donations to those films to get tax deductions for their donations. Just like they would for other donations to any other charitable foundations.

And, under this new bill, donors can give more, get larger deductions, and get deductions where previously one had not been possible.   This will make it easier for these filmmakers to continue to get funding and get funded faster.

Why Donate to a Fiscally Sponsored Film?

Films that are fiscally sponsored must fall under the mission statement of the non-profit under which they fundraise.  For films fiscally sponsored by From the Heart Productions, these are films that are unique and make a contribution to society.  They are important, life-changing films, by filmmakers with a passion for their work. 

As Carole Dean, President of From the Heart Productions, says “Film is one of the most important art forms and it takes the longest to create.”  These independent films take years to produce from conception, through pre-production, to finished product.  A gap in their funding might mean some filmmakers would need to give up their projects.  Especially, when they are under the weight of having to make a living right now as well.

What Fiscally Sponsored Filmmakers Should Do Right Now?

Make these changes in the tax law known to your potential investors.  Include it in your pitch and on your crowdfunding pages. 

Focus on going after large companies and wealthy individuals in 2020.  This offer by the government for these new tax deductions is good for this year only. 

Don’t miss this opportunity to make the most of it

Why You Need a Covid-19 Film Production Plan for Fundraising

The biggest challenge filmmakers have now in getting money for their project is proving to investors that they can make or finish a film during a pandemic

By Richard Kaufman – Guest Contributor

Your film investor is reaching for their Amex card after you’ve made your brilliant Zoom meeting pitch for your dream film project.  They like your experience, your passion, your story, but they are asking themselves what everyone asks who ever thought of giving money to a privately financed independent film project.

“Is this film ever going to get made?”

Covid-19 Film Production Plan

Will you be able to make sure everyone on set wears a mask?

In Spring 2020, that question has a new ominous twist fear behind it.  We are in the middle of a health crisis that has put a hold on all our lives and filmmaking.  Virtually no projects are being produced right now.  No one is sure when anyone will start filming again. 

Covid-19 Film Production Plan

Which is why, when you fund raise now for you film, you need Covid-19 Film Production Plan for investors and donors. 

You need to be able to show anyone who is willing to give money to you for your feature, documentary, short film or web series that it will get produced and completed.  If not soon, then sometime in the near future.  

This plan, or least the mention of it, should go in all fundraising materials, crowdfunding pages, and in your pitch. 

Pandemic Precautions May Last 4 Years

In a study published in the journal Science , researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have warned that, in the absence of a vaccine or an effective treatment of the coronavirus, social-distancing measures may be required through to 2022.  It’s possible, they say, that we may need do this until 2024.

If you’ve made a movie, you know that social distancing on a set will be a challenge.  Your investors and donors know how hard that is to accomplish social distancing in their daily live when take walks or navigate supermarket produces aisles avoiding others grabbing for the same avocados.  They also know they’ve not been back to work as the places of business may not be able to accommodate social distancing or other requirements needed for employees to stay healthy.

What will make your business, your film project, different.  How can everyone on it go to work, not become ill, and get it finished?    What steps will you take to insure everyone stays healthy?

Do Your Research

Fortunately, the entertainment business is filled with creative minds sharing ideas to get production started.   There are many plans and proposals circulating from producers, directors, and unions. 

Variety Magazine recently wrote about how Producers Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and Chris Ferguson — from the companies Automatik (“Honey Boy,” “Bad Education”) and Oddfellows (“Child’s Play”), respectively — have created a proposal titled “Isolation Based Production Plan.”

In their proposal, they raise issues that you will should think about address in production of making your film.

  • Quarantining Cast and Crew – The entire cast and crew would be in a two-week quarantine before they would begin production, and would be tested.
  • Quarantining Costumes, Props and Sets – Locations and sets would be dressed, and then sealed for three days (or whatever the most conservative estimate is) “to allow viruses on surfaces to die.”
  • Limited Hair and Make-Up Contact – Instead of working on multiple actors at once, the proposal suggests there would be a single person working on one actor at a time — and not on set. “Makeup application tools & supplies will be purchased per cast member and used only on that individual cast member.”

An article in Deadline called Reopening Hollywood, brought up other areas that need to be addressed including:

  • No More Cafeteria Style Craft Service Meals – Meals will only be doled out in single-serving pre-wrapped fashion. There will be no shared utensils. Lunch breaks will have to be staggered, to cut down on density.
  • Protecting Talent and Directors on Set – Below the line personnel coming into contact with actors or directors will have to wear masks and gloves at all times.
  • Eliminating Extras and Day Players – Perhaps cut out crowd scenes or if necessary, use green screen.

More Guidelines and Covid-19 Film Production Ideas

Production safety protocol suggestions from studios, trade groups, and film commissions.

Ted Sarandos, Chief Content Office at Netflix, offered his thoughts on How film and television production can safely resume in a COVID-19 world.

The Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) just issued their department specific production guidelines.

Film Florida released a list of detailed recommendations for safe sets.

Independent film crew members discuss what is on their wish list for a healthy and safe film set in Indiewire

What Covid-19 Film Production Plan Works Best for Your Film

The Covid-19 situation and what we know about the disease changes daily.  The production needs for every project is different as well.  Some require locations and some sound stages.  Maybe on your project, the director and DIT can work remotely. 

Whatever you feel is necessary to make your film under current conditions, write it down.  Modify your script if necessary, to accommodate safe working conditions. 

Let your investors and donors know that you have a plan.