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Film Financing 101 with ‘Hellion’ Director Kat Candler

The 2015 Female Filmmakers Initiative Financing Intensive. © Sundance Institute | Rae Threat

Kat Candler

Last week’s Female Filmmakers Initiative Financing Intensive was exactly that—intense. But greatly so. It was a jam-packed day of intimate round tables, case studies, disheartening research coupled with empowerment coaching and Q&As with venture capitalists, financiers, and digital media leaders. And at the end of the day, it was filled with friends and a community rallying behind each other. Never would we make it through this business without friends and colleagues sharing contacts, being a phone call away with advice and experiences we can all learn and grow from. Here are a few things that resonated with me. Hopefully they put a little spark in you and your project.


Engage with foreign sales companies and agents early on. These guys have valuable knowledge, which will allow you to intelligently approach your budget and cast. Your budget should reflect the lowest take prices from foreign and domestic projections. If you know you’ll only be getting $300,000 bare minimum in foreign sales and $300,000 domestically, don’t try to make a three million dollar picture. You will have disgruntled investors. Be smart.


Look at your investments like a three-legged stool. Each leg of that stool represents: 1) International Pre-Sales and Value 2) Soft Money (Grants, Crowd-funding) 3) Private Equity. Find a good balance between all three so your stool isn’t leaning too heavy in one direction. Balance that stool as best you can so it doesn’t break.

Post-It takeaways at the Financing Intensive. | © Sundance Institute by Rae Threat


Investing is an exchange of gifts. What is the gift you’re giving them?

Investors come on board for all different reasons. They believe in you. They want to make money. They want to invest in an underrepresented voice or be a part of social change. First and foremost make sure you educate yourself as to what that reason is. When you head into the room, what is the personal connection? Why is your project perfect for them? Start with that.

Investors are looking for a pedigree and a package. What value do you have as producers, directors, cast, story, genre? Create a package so it’s a lot easier to say “yes” than it is to say “no.” But do the research and know what they’re looking for. Be the right level of confident and persistent. Don’t be annoying and weird. No one wants to spend several years with annoying and weird.

Be honest and transparent. Don’t sell investors snake oil. The more our community treats investors with respect, intelligence and honesty, the more likely they’ll come back to invest again in our community.


You want one actor and your investors might want another. How can you find common ground? When you’re passionate about someone, educate yourself and your investors. Why is this person a good bet? What are the details you can dig up from foreign sales companies? So and so is huge in Japan because she does big car commercials over there. Who’s on the cusp? So and so is on a hit TV show and has three movies coming out next year. Approach your investors with, “This actor is an amazing idea because…” Make a strong case.

Financing Intensive participant Su Kim chats with Kat Candler. © Sundance Institute | Rae Threat


The smarter your investors, the better they are to work with.

If you’re working with investors who understand the world of film, it’ll make your life that much easier.

Once a week starting in pre-production, send your investors producers updates. Send them a note with how things are going, what’s wrong, and how you plan to remedy the situation. Heavy communication with your investors will gain their respect and comfort. You want to build these relationships not only for this project, but for future projects.

Kat Candler is an independent filmmaker whose feature film Hellion screened in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Candler is a 2014 Women at Sundance Fellow and attended last week’s Female Filmmakers Initiative Financing Intensive designed to educate a large number of women filmmakers in all aspects of seeking, securing, and managing funding for their films.

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A man in a beige shirt and with medium-length dark hair kneels in the dirt and looks over his right shoulder at the camera

Who Was… Mark Silverman?

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