Fernanda RossiFernanda Rossi collaborates with filmmakers in all areas of storytelling, from development to fine cut. As an author, international speaker and story analyst she has doctored over 300 documentaries, fiction scripts and fundraising samples, including two nominated for an Academy Award®. Author of Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo. More info at documentarydoctor.com. Follow Fernanda at facebook.com/storydoctoring.

7 Funding Tricks from 7 Documentary Filmmakers

by |

Film Anatomy Posts

From David Bromberg Unsung Treasure to Behind the Blue Veil, Story Doctor Fernanda Rossi has dissected the making of documentaries in the “Film Anatomy” series.

POV’s Story Doctor Fernanda Rossi has been probing successful filmmakers about their budgets for the last few months. Here’s what she’s learned from seven of them.

1. Beth Toni Kruvant, David Bromberg Unsung Treasure

Though most of Beth Toni Kruvant’s funds for the music documentary David Bromberg Unsung Treasure came from friends and proceeds from her previous work, The Bluegrass Blog called her trick “an interesting twist on the crowdsourcing formula.” Kruvant auctioned off a Martin guitar signed by David Bromberg on Indiegogo, raising $10,000.

Read more in Film Anatomy: David Bromberg Unsung Treasure »

2. Kimberly Bautista, Justice For My Sister

For Justice For My Sister, a film about domestic violence in Guatemala, Kimberly Bautista found a few significant sources, but many more small sums of money wherever she could find them:

  • $66,000 from Dutch Embassy in Guatemala for post-production and initial outreach in Guatemala late 2011
  • $25,500 in thesis grants
  • $23,000 from U.S. Embassy in Guatemala for outreach in early 2012
  • $10,000 from Latino Public Broadcasting (LPB) for outreach in 2012
  • $10,000 for an HBO-NALIP prize in early 2013
  • $6,000 for the Camera Justitia Award at Movies That Matter Film Festival in 2013
  • $6,000 from Movies That Matter Foundation for outreach with police, judges, and lawyers with our partners from Aquí Entre Hombres 2013
  • $5,300 raised on Kickstarter in October 2010
  • $5,000 from a grad school foundation after graduation
  • $5,000 from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala in early 2011
  • $1,500 from independent donors
  • A couple of months working as a barista at a local café
  • Intermittent babysitting gigs
  • Activism work in Guatemala with Justice for My Sister campaign
  • Public speaking engagements related to film at universities

Read more in Film Anatomy: Justice For My Sister »

3. Therese Shechter, How to Lose Your Virginity

How to Lose Your Virginity, a film about the myths and misogyny surrounding the magical world of virginity, uses a lot of archival material. Shechter said, “I thought I’d have to cut them out or go broke paying fees — or get sued. Until I discovered Stanford Law School’s Fair Use Project.” Applying for a pro-bono review was long and complicated, but once she was got in, they reviewed and certified most of her third-party materials. “We still had to clear materials not under fair use, but working with them gave me an education and peace of mind.”

Read more in Film Anatomy: How to Lose Your Virginity »

4. Lindsey Dryden, Lost and Sound

When Lindsey Dryden’s documentary Lost and Sound wasn’t complete by the end of her post-production schedule, she learned that when the budget runs out — it was a modest $105,000 — the best thing to do is go back to your story. “Taking time out to work on the film’s structure — outside of the edit — was a scary decision, but the best move for the film,” she said. Dryden raised another $15,000, went back into the edit, and she soon had a final cut that was promptly delivered to SXSW, where it premiered.

Read more in Film Anatomy: Lost and Sound »

5. Amy Nicholson, Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride

With Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride, producer/director Amy Nicholson was turned down for every grant and opportunity available, so she used her income from her 9-to-5, and made the most of her 5-to-9. On most days, she got up early and spent two hours on the film before work, then after returning from work logged another three to four hours. “It gets old. And it makes you old!” Nicholson says, but the film premiered at DOC NYC, where it received a Special Jury Prize.

Read more in Film Anatomy: Zipper: Coney Island’s Last Wild Ride »

6. Christine Beebe, Felix Austria!

Christine Beebe made an arrangement with her spouse — she would raise the kids while working on the film, and her spouse would bring in the hard cash. “I had the best of both worlds,” Beebe said, “seeing my kids all the time and fulfilling my creative drive.”

Read more in Film Anatomy: Felix Austria! »

7. Robyn Symon, Behind the Blue Veil

Bring cash! Robyn Symon’s Behind the Blue Veil was funded (about $220,000), both from a major grant and a Kickstarter campaign, but when she was filming in the Sahara, she learned the hard way not to run out of cash. “I’m talking the actual paper money,” Symon said. “There are no working ATMs in the Sahara and plane tickets can only be paid in cash.” Good thing she had a credit card that could wire emergency money or she might still be there.

Read more in Film Anatomy: Behind the Blue Veil »

Read more posts in the “Film Anatomy” series on Fernanda Rossi’s Story Doctor blog on POV, http://www.pbs.org/pov/blog/storydoctor/.

Get more documentary film news and features: Subscribe to POV’s blog, like POV on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @povdocs!

POV Staff
POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.