The Screen Finance Kit: the plans
What's the plan?
The 2007/08 Book
Over 40 experts from six continents contributed to the 480-page, 250,000 word how-to, theory text & reference guide.
There are hundreds of new funds, tax breaks, platforms and models since our 2007/08 edition, as well as a need for new case studies and data around successful films and approaches. Crowdfunding has brought marketing, PR and audience engagement into the finance process so needs new coverage, while crowd & micro-investment is still in its infancy and varies from country to country.
Besides updating the content - after a detailed survey to former buyers earlier this year - it became really clear we needed a better digital strategy.
Tim O'Reilly said 'A reference book is a user interface to a body of information', and this idea has informed a lot of the thinking. Some data - such as funds - probably work best in a searchable database, while theory of film finance for many will still be best on paper so they can highlight bits and write notes. Our plan is to offer three main 'interfaces' into the funding book:
- The website. New updates will appear here first - where subscribers can comment, perform detailed filters and searches, and access direct links to guidelines, and embeds of maps, videos and related resources. And of course this will be viewable on desktops, laptops, tablets and smart phones.
- Digital Book (Kindle, PDF & ePub). As we work through the book updating sections we would aim to release chapters digitally as shorter eBooks throughout the campaign. This has a few advantages - they can be sold as stand-alone much cheaper titles for those just interested in that single topic; and are more manageable to read than a 3,500 page ebook. The PDF will be printable - Kindle and ePub versions should cover most book and phone readers.
- Printed completed book. If all goes well with the fundraising and updating, after about a year we should have a finished book ready to be compiled, proofed, typeset and printed. A PDF version - and compiled ebooks - will be made. These will be DRM-free so readers are free to print them out as needs be.
At this stage we'll pause and decide if there's demand and inclination to continue the process with ongoing updates: right now the plan is to get as far as a printed book with a good website, and then agree the next step.
How to fund your funding book
We're as independent as it comes. The book is technically published by Netribution Ltd, but the money it's made has been shared out between the core authors - there's no shareholders or middlemen sitting on the skim. While some online film resources have hundreds of thousands in public grants, we've just sold the occasional advert - and prefer the autonomy and freedom that gives us. Crowdfunding or micro-pre-selling the new book and digital access seems to fit perfectly as our funders will be our readers, not the bank.
However, even based on everyone taking a paycut, the cost of updating and printing the book and digital versions comes to about £32,000 - which is quite a bit of money for a book (the first advance we turned down from Focal Press was £1500).
So we're going to try a slightly different kind of crowdfunding - one that adapts to the amount of money we raise. All-or-nothing crowdfunding would mean we aimed for £32k or got nothing, while flexible crowdfunding could leave us with half what we need.
Instead we're funding this in stages over the next year - with the fundraising process happening parallel to us writing the book. We'll start with the most painfully out of date sections, releasing updates as we go. And as much money as we raise will be the amount of content we create. The idea is it should soon be clear if we're creating good work that deserves backing - so we don't have to keep begging for money: our work should do that. It's a more rolling crowdfunding.
The main backers will get access to everything we create, and if we hit our £32,000 target, all these backers will get a printed new book as well. And to thank them for taking an early punt - early backers get our core package cheaper.
Stage 1 Current
Get the directory online.
Update around 1000 funds, incentives & 50+ countries.
Update & expand main text.
Case studies and interviews.
Prepare and print the book.
Film is a tyranny, and the tyrant is money. The great thing is that, in spite of that, impossibly, some people keep on smuggling out messages of hope from the other side, past the tyrant. I mean, there shouldn't be one good movie made given the way it's structured, and yet there are many good movies made. That seems to be implausible and marvellous at the same time.
The art & practice of funding, marketing & distributing films has arguably faced more disruption and change in the last decade than any point since its birth. The future is still unwritten and contains at least as many challenges for independent filmmakers as opportunities.
The doomsayers envisage a world where features are lengthy advertisements funded by product placement, where social media, video games, file-sharing and short viral video has demoted cinema to a niche art form funded only thru public grants and philanthropists, where the power wielded by the seven studio giants is now in the hands of just one or two even more powerful tech gatekeepers and where the longtail is much thinner than anyone could ever have imagined.
The evangelists speak of a world where we’re all free to be makers and creators, where technology and multinational giants serve us rather than rule, where collaboration and lifelong learning helps a growing global family of artists and film-lovers to continue to find new ways to communicate and share our experiences with each other, a meritocracy where the best work rises to the top and finds its audience, supporting further work.
No-one can predict the future, all small and independent creatives & businesses need to chart their own course across a challenging and unknown sea. And although no book can plot the best route for you in that, we think we're creating a helpful map to use along the way.