How to Ask for Money Creatively: Lessons from Cannes' Young Filmmakers

How to Ask for Money Creatively: Lessons from Cannes' Young Filmmakers
How to Ask for Money Creatively: Lessons from Cannes' Young Filmmakers

CANNES, France -- Borrowing money is hard enough. Asking for money with no intention of paying it back is even harder.

The Price of Fame asked young filmmakers in the shorts sections at the Cannes Film Festival how they raised funds for their projects. Their answers might inspire you the next time you need to pull together big bucks to fulfill a dream.

Taking a cue from an Andy Kaufman routine, Jeff Moneo once wrestled women for $25 a take-down to cobble together a film budget. "It's not as fun as it sounds," he said. "I was wearing a wrestling mask and I couldn't breathe."

For his first appearance in the Cinefondation film-school section at Cannes, Moneo took a more conventional route. He posted his project on Kickstarter, a website that invites contributions to creative projects. Recipients must meet their posted goal within a prescribed period of time or forfeit the cash. Moneo, who attends graduate film school at Columbia University in New York City, collected $5,000 to make Big Muddy, about outlaws who rob farm houses. He estimates that about 30% of the contributors were strangers. Using Kickstarter, he notes, was easier than wrestling women: He didn't throw up from the heat and exertion in his pursuit of funds. "People will beg, borrow and steal to get their films made," he said.

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Alessio Di Giambattista, an L.A. resident by way of Italy, is premiering his love-hate story, A True Love, in the festival's Short Film Corner. Nothing unusual about how he raised the $500 for the short -- the father of the lead actress, Erin Elizabeth Patrick, chipped in a chunk. Di Giambattista saved his fund-raising genius for the full-length version: He's auctioning off a date with Patrick.

"I'll probably sit at the next table in disguise," he said. "Not like a pimp, of course."

Dinner with Patrick will highlight his campaign on Kickstarter. Giambattista said he wanted to raise $150,000 to show heavy-hitting investors that he's serious.

Patrick called the date-bait maneuver "classic Alessio." The film's producer, Roberta Sparta, said a night out for the bidding had an appeal beyond a meal with a pretty woman. "I think people will be interested in it -- not the dating part, but the chance to be behind a movie," he said. "If the movie makes it big, they can say, 'I dated the actress.' "

'Our Tuxedos Cost More Than Our Film'

The fledgling auteurs have impressive company in alternative fundraising. Spy Kids franchise maker Robert Rodriguez enrolled in drug trials to help finance El Mariachi, his industry calling card. Kevin Smith took the tuition he had raised for film school and plunked it into Clerks.

D. Jesse Damazo and Joe Bookman of the University of Iowa overcame long odds to win entry into the Cinefondation. Their short, The Agony and Sweat of the Human Spirit, was one of just 16 out of 1,600 submissions chosen, and they were the first students from Iowa ever to qualify. They made their filmfor a tidy $500 -- easily covered out of pocket. But scraping up the cash to get to Cannes and properly partake of the pomp and glitz was another matter. "Our tuxedos cost more than our film if you include the shoes," Damazo said.

Damazo, who plays a quiet ukeleleist in Agony and Bookman, who plays his talkative manager, got the university to foot the travel costs, and convinced the state of Iowa to cover the cost of DVDs, postcards and business cards. Damazo said the two spent an entire semester soliciting grants from various groups at the university. "I wouldn't spend too much of your money on this stuff if you can avoid it," Damazo said. "It's really expensive and it's a risk."

Of course, filmmakers can avoid having to ask for money by making their movies for next to nothing. London's Nina Hatchwell shot her movie, You Look Stunning, in 12 hours. Period. Hatchwell already had the digital equipment, wrote the script to fit the surroundings, and had friends work gratis for one frantic day.

"I had an idea and I just did it," she said. "Where there's a will, there really is a way. I had to compromise on some things, but if you don't start somewhere, you will get nowhere.

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