In Film Funding, Pleasant Persistence Pays Off!

Persistence is willpower and a good habit that will lead to success

by Carole Dean

Persistence is the habit of concentrating one’s thoughts upon building plans for the attainment of a definite purpose.   Persistence is a direct result of habit. Your mind absorbs and becomes a part of the daily experiences upon which it feeds.


Using persistence to raise money and create your film takes a lot of courage. I see it all the time in the filmmakers we fiscally sponsor at From the Heart Productions and who apply for our Roy W. Dean Grant.

You want to believe in your heart that people really want to hear from you.  You want to believe that you are inviting them to join you in making your film. That you’re inviting them to join you in your distribution. 

If you are contacting them again for the second or third time consider this email to be a reminder, a gentle reminder, because persistence pays off. Persistence is the trait of any top salesperson.

Here’s how to develop persistence.

Go Until No

Producer Tom Malloy, who has raised millions for his films, his own saying that describes his belief in the power of persistence.  Go until no.  You want to keep asking until someone says, “absolutely no!  I will not fund your film.”

Then Tom says OK, I understand you won’t fund this film, but can I contact you when I start my next film? And always they say yes!  That is true persistence.

What is your motivation to contact people the third or fourth time?  To reach your goal.  Always work with your intention in mind.  Why do you need to send this email?  What is the benefit for you?  What is the benefit for the donor?  They need to be equal. 

You need to offer them something. Like putting their name on your website or listing their name in a rolling credit on the film or posting on social media the fact that they gave you money.  Find something to give to them.

Creating the Habit of Persistence

There are four simple steps which lead to the habit of persistence. They call for no great amount of intelligence, no particular amount of education, and little time or effort.

They are:

  1. A definite purpose backed by burning desire for its fulfillment. What is the amount of money you intend to raise at this time?  That is your burning desire, to hit that goal.
  2. A definite plan expressed in continuous action. Yes, you have a list of people to contact that you know like you and trust you and could contribute to your film.  Your plan is to get a large percentage of them to donate.  The normal rate is 5% of your data base.  You might set a goal of 30% of your data base will donate.  That is part of your plan.  Your persistence now is based on a plan to get 30% of your email base to donate.
  3. A mind closed tightly against all negative and discouraging influences, including negative suggestions of relatives, friends, and acquaintances. Definitely don’t discuss your goals with others, keep them to yourself.  People can’t understand how you can raise over $100K to make a film.  Set goals that you believe you can hit.  Because each time you hit a goal it empowers you.
  4. A friendly alliance with one or more person who will encourage one to follow through with both plan and purpose. This could be your producer, your social networking person, your best friend. Many times, producers will take on a mentor even if they only talk to them once a month so that producers can empower through these conversations to feel comfortable to continue asking for money. Use someone who give you good feedback and someone that you enjoy talking to and always feel better after you talk to them.

Napoleon Hill, is his masterwork Think and Grow Rich that has guided thousands to success over nearly 100 years, says these four steps are essential for success in all walks of life. The entire purpose is to be able to take these four steps as a matter of habit. These are the steps by which one may control one’s economic destiny.

They are the steps that lead to freedom and independence of thought.

They are the steps that lead to riches, in small or great amounts.

They lead the way to power, fame, and worldly recognition.

They are the four steps which guarantee favorable breaks.

They lead to the mastery of fear, discouragement, indifference.

“There is a magnificent reward for all,” Napoleon Hill writes, “who learn to take these four steps. It is the privilege of writing one’s own ticket and making life yield whatever price is asked.” 

Why You Need Sticky Story

When you are sending out emails asking for donations, you need to be persistent.  People are all in a hurry, often over caffeinated so you want to make it very easy to send the money and make your “ask” emotional. 

Tell me a sticky story that the person can remember.  Dan and Chip Heath wrote a brilliant book, called Made to Stick.  After reading their book I created, with their approval, what I call a sticky story which has the elements mentioned in their book and I wrote it for filmmakers.

In a “sticky story”, you take all the knowledge you have on your film and transform it into a simple story that is easy to remember. The first rule is to keep it simple, find the core of the idea. You may have volumes of fascinating information but keep taking things away until you can’t take anything else out or you lose the essence.

How To Create Your “Sticky Story”

Find the Core

Think of journalists who create lead copy for articles, and you get the story in a few words, they prioritize. So, can you.

Something Unexpected

This simple story needs something unexpected; this is to be sure you get their attention.

You might ask a question that the film needs to answer. It can be a surprise like a shocking fact or a point of interest they will remember or a massive change in direction for the film.

Something Concrete

You need specific people doing specific things or give them some facts. Concrete ideas are easy for people to remember and they create a foundation.

Credible Information

This is what makes people believe your story. This can be a place for truthful core details and please make them as vivid as possible. We need to see your film from the words you use.

Find the Emotional Heart

I say, “touch my heart and I reach for my pocketbook.” We communicate through the heart chakra, so touch me with your story.  You can do this through one of your characters, let me feel them.

When you pitch me your “sticky story,” I want to walk away with your film in my mind forever. Then I can tell my friends that I invested/donated to your film and brag about it on my social media.

Remember, you have carried this film for several years and your audience is just hearing about it. That’s why brevity and a sticky story are needed to transmit your knowledge.

Don’t Forget to Write

First write down your story.  Next, begin to say it, so that you can put these elements into your own words.  That should give you a good pitch, an outline for a written “ask” for emails or letters.   I get letters all the time from organizations I donate to.  Letter writing is still appreciated. 

I understand that wealthy people always open a hand addressed envelope first.  Use good stationary, find paper with texture.  I like to think about people being in three categories.

Audible, you can hear this in their conversations, I heard, He said, did you listen to….

Visual people say I see what you mean, they visualize everything…

Kinesthetic people are the “feelers.”  For them you want textured paper.  It’s the feel of something that they use to judge you by.    That’s why I always pay a bit more for textured paper with our stationary.

You may also want to put a special stamp on the envelope.  The post office normally has stamps for the Arts that are beautiful and will really set your envelope aside from all other mail.  You might get some of artistic looking stamps to use for any correspondence.

Do You Really Deserve This Money? 

Now, it is up to you.  Are you open to receive?  Do you deserve $100K to fund your film?  Why should people give you money? 

You want to be totally open to receive.  You may have to convince yourself that YES, you are worthy, yes you will be honest and use the money to the benefit of all concerned and produce an excellent film.

Remember, fear is the worst of all enemies and can be effectively cured by forced repetition of acts of courage. I agree it is an act of courage to ask someone for money for your film.

I’ve never met a filmmaker who wasn’t a self-starter.  it’s your persistence and your willpower that creates your success with funding and finishing your film. 


Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers the Roy W. Dean Film Grants and fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionHer new class “How to Fund Your Film” is available on Vimeo on Demand.  She is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits 

How to Find and Engage Strategic Partners for Your Film

Strategic partners are key to crowdfunding and marketing your film.  Connecting with them is a key to audience building for crowdfunding and selling your downloads.

by Carole Dean

Strategic Partners

You May Not Need to Stand On Your Head to Land Strategic Partners, But You Need to Make a Concerted Effort

Strategic partners are groups or nonprofit organizations online whose members would be interested in the subject matter of your film.

Because I run From the Heart Productions, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, I’m quite aware of how careful and protective nonprofits are of their mailing lists. We never give it out.  It’s hard work getting donors who’ve gained your trust. 

Most nonprofits live off of their mailing list.  They are very familiar with their top donors and take good care of them. That includes only sending them pertinent emails regarding their mission.

But, if you follow these steps, you can build a group of strategic partners of your own. 

Start Small, Finish Big

I suggest that you make a list of the top 20 potentials for strategic partners.  Some of these will be the largest organizations online that are interested in the subject matter of your film.  

However, I wouldn’t start with any of the largest in this group. I would start with some of the smaller nonprofits.  Find out what works and what doesn’t with them.

Calling Strategic Partners – What Not to Say When You First Call

When you call these nonprofits or organizations, who can become major “connectors” to your audience, don’t say “Hi, I making a film that your members would really love.”  You will not be quickly received. Expect them to immediately close ranks unless you do this right.

They want to know a lot about you and the film you’re making.  Also, they will want to know how it will be received by their members.  You want to create a long-term relationship with the organization.  What you say and how you introduce yourself is most important.

Build Trust

It might take you more than a year to gain the trust of strategic partners.  I suggest the first call is to introduce yourself.  Tell them who you are and what you’re doing. Make it short, sweet, and engaging.

The goal is to be able to communicate with them on an on-going basis, like every 4 or 5 months, to keep them informed of your film’s development.  You know that this nonprofit’s audience is interested in the content of your film.  What you want to do is to create a relationship.  Begin building trust so they will share your film with their audience. 

Create a Script

Before your first call to potential strategic partners, get prepared and write down what you want to say and how you want the call to go.  Do not read it.  This is to remind you of the highlights you want to say.  

Establish credibility.   You want to introduce yourself as an award-winning filmmaker or someone who graduated from film school or someone who is very passionate about the subject matter.  Make clear you are determined to create this important documentary or short film.

Next, you want to give them an under a two-minute pitch of your film making sure that they get the “essence” of your film. Consider using sticky story content so that you leave them with key elements they can remember.

Don’t Ask for Help…Yet

Get the person’s name and title and ask her if you can continue to communicate with her on the progress of the film.  Don’t ask for anything else.   Hopefully, you’ve introduced yourself and your film in a charming way to create a long-term relationship.  That’s what you’re after.

This is why I want you to only contact them once you have committed to your film.  This is a key to increasing your audience for you personally as a filmmaker and for the film.

Stay in Contact

Every 3 to 5 months find something wonderful to tell them.  Call after 2 expressos and be upbeat.  Convey that you are excited about your film.  Make a good impression of you as a filmmaker and how important your film can be to their audience. 

Keep it under 3 minutes.  Your budding strategic partners will appreciate your concern for their time.  If it is hard to get them on the phone, then send a brilliant email.  Don’t expect to get a reply because you probably won’t get one. 

But, they will read it.  I know because people who apply for my grant email me all year with updates.   I read them and enjoy them but I don’t always respond because of time.  However, when they do call me or apply again to the grant, I remember them and the film.  That’s what you want.

When to Get Them Involved

After about a year, you will begin to hear the interest they have for you and the film in their voice.  This is when you can begin to decide when you can ask them to get their audience involved in your film. 

Don’t ask too soon.  You should be able to know when to ask them to post something about your film on their website or drive their audience to your website to see your trailer and you get their email address.

This is a Worthwhile Endeavor

I spoke to filmmakers who created such a great rapport that the nonprofit actually introduced him to their top donor who helped fund his film.  Anything is possible.  Create a vision of what you want from them and move towards that.


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