Visions & Expectations

Seasoned funders and filmmakers say that it’s important to have an honest discussion about each other’s experience in filmmaking and in philanthropy. From there, they need to clearly communicate their goals and make sure they are in alignment with each other. Then the two parties must discuss what the final product(s) might be—whether it’s a feature-length documentary, a series of short web clips or several different versions of the same film to suit different audiences. And finally, the distribution plan must be addressed.

The time to start talking is before a significant investment of time and money is made—even though aspects of the project might change as it takes shape. The more “engaged” the funding relationship is, the deeper these conversations must go, and the more time they will take. As one funder says, “Sometimes you have to go slow to go fast.”

Here are some specific questions to touch upon:

•  What exactly is your experience with funding/film?

•  What do you think I might not know about philanthropy/film production but should know for purposes of this project?
•  Name a documentary you’ve seen, funded or made that had a big impact on you?
•  What do we bring combined that will make the funded project even more successful?

•  What are the filmmaker’s and the funder’s respective goals for the project, in terms of artistry, entertainment and social impact? How do these goals overlap, differ or conflict?
•  What audiences does each of us want to reach, and what different versions of the film (and what distribution platforms) might best serve each of the target audiences?
•  How might online distribution, and the use of social networking and other new technologies be used to support the funder’s and the filmmaker’s goals for the film?
•  What are the funder’s and filmmaker’s roles in the distribution plan?
•  What happens if elements of the distribution plan fall through? For example, PBS or HBO doesn’t accept the film or a theatrical release isn’t viable?

•  How might online streaming affect festival or theatrical distribution, educational/home video distribution, as well as the sale of tickets, DVDs or downloads?

Share Your Perspective
Tell us about your own thoughts and experiences in dealing with the issues raised in the Prenups.

The Prenups are a work-in-progress and need your input! Did we miss an important question? Did you have a great collaboration you want to tell us about? Or do you believe that all independent films need heat-proof editorial firewalls to protect the filmmaker?

Let us know—we may ask your permission to publish your perspectives, either attributed or anonymously. (You decide.)