Film Financing - Page 2 of 3

Film Financing

tax credits, the specific requirements, along with the types of projects eligible, visit

In evaluating financing options, filmmakers might also consider looking outside the U.S. for potential investment. “Countries all around the world–South Africa, Namibia, to countries in the Middle East–may step in as equity players for film projects. That’s nothing new,” says actor, producer, and director Danny Glover. After having difficulty obtaining international sales estimates for his project on Toussaint L’Ouverture, a black man who led the Haitian revolution, Glover, a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, approached Venezuela’s Villa del Cine, a government-sponsored foundation for film and television. The foundation made an $18 million equity investment in the film, which has a $30 million budget. “Venezuela saw the historical and cultural relevance of this film, and they saw it as a chance to provide opportunities for disenfranchised communities in Venezuela, many of whom are Afro-Venezuelan,” he says. Glover, who will direct the film, is still in the process of procuring additional funds for the project.

When making his documentary The Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela, New York-based documentary filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris was able to raise an initial round of financing from Bloemfontein, South Africa, the town where the subjects of the film had lived before going into exile to spread their anti-apartheid message. “Bloemfontein’s department of culture provided me with a grant equal to approximately 10% of the film’s budget,” Harris says of the film, budgeted at under $1 million. That contribution, along with additional funds, allowed Harris to shoot the film. He also raised finishing funds for editing and other post-production work from ITVS/PBS and other sources including the National Endowment for the Arts.

And in March, the South African government announced location incentives to attract big-budget overseas projects produced by foreign-owned companies. The Location Film and Television Production Incentive offers a 15% rebate to foreign-owned productions that spend at least 12 million rand ($1.5 million) in the country.

Another way to finance a film is through the process of foreign pre-sales, a practice in which a film’s producer sells the distribution rights to the film in foreign territories around the world prior to production. The film’s producer then raises production capital–through banks or other film financing entities–by using the distribution agreements as collateral. Foreign presales have historically, however, been a hurdle for films with African American content, with the perennial argument being that films with all-black casts or urban-oriented storylines do not typically perform well overseas. Films starring mainstream crossover stars such as Will Smith and Denzel Washington are considered rare exceptions. Graham, of 120dB Films, said the company is currently working on a film on the life of iconic jazz great Miles Davis and that the film has been presold in Japan. This suggests that music-driven movies like the film, along with 2004’s Ray and 2006’s Dreamgirls, which earned $37 million and $50 million abroad, respectively, have strong overseas potential.

Though raising money for a film will undoubtedly never be simple, African American filmmakers can’t help but