Not a problem since Rees had adapted her film short from the first act of a full length script. She raised the initial $10,000 to finance the short using the crowd funding site Kickstarter.com, writing the film while interning on the set of Spike Lee’s movie Inside Man and finishing New York University’s graduate film program. After submitting the feature script for Pariah, Rees was invited to participate in both Sundance Institute’s screenwriting and directing labs. And the film’s producer Nekisa Cooper, 36, was invited to the institute’s inaugural creative producing lab.
“We gave them grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 to move the project forward during the development, pre-production, and post-production phases,” says Michelle Satter, founding director of the Sundance Institute’s feature film program. “We made a deep commitment to go through every stage of Pariah’s development.” Overall, Cooper estimates that grants accounted for 17% of the film’s financing, not including an in-kind donation of Kodak film stock.
Empowered with feedback and assorted filmmaking strategies, Cooper and Rees further sought private investors for Pariah, filmed on location in Brooklyn for 18 days in late December 2009. Cooper wrote a business plan and formed an L.L.C., and obtained a fiscal sponsor, Women Make Movies, that served as the film’s 501(c)3 pass-through for grants received; with a total of nine investors, including individuals and companies, they received 67% in private equity backing and 16% in distributor advance. While the duo had investors, they also had voluminous expenses. Cooper says financing was a “constant cash flow exercise where I was chasing the budget.” She sought three no-interest cash flow loans ($10,000 and less) from friends of the project throughout the course of production and drew up e-mail agreements with terms to repay those loans.
Pariah opens in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco on Dec. 28, and other cities in January 2012. Cooper and Rees are currently developing a third film and are negotiating an offer to develop a one-hour scripted TV show with a cable network. Rees is also developing a TV show with HBO.
Film festivals aren’t the only game in town; there are festivals for musicians, playwrights, and other artists that offer the same benefits. Check with local arts organizations.
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