filmmaking: Funding Films in the U.S. versus Funding in Germany/Europe

Independent filmmaking is all around the world a tricky matter. European countries have a solid funding system, although the application process is complex and mostly a small group of well known filmmakers have access to those grants. In Germany there are two main systems of funding. On the one hand the German state is supporting all kind of films and on the other hand, every federal state has a film funding system. The German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) writes:

The German Film Fund (DFFF) is a model of success. The available funds were exhausted in 2009 as well, in a way that more films were financed than in the two previous years. Since its establishment in January 2007, the DFFF has supported 302 projects in all categories and genres with grants totalling 178.1 million euros. The film productions involved resulted in investments in the German film industry alone, amounting to 1.1 billion euros. This enormously successful balance in the economic and cultural political objectives of the DFFF persuaded me at an early stage to extend the funding, originally set for only three years, for a further three years until the end of 2012.

Those funds are not only for German films: Well-known European Filmmakers like Lars von Trier got support from the Filmstiftung NRW (Nordrhein-Westfalen) The last film Me­lan­cho­liawas the fifth cooperation between the Filmstiftung NRW and Lars von Trier. Filmmakers, who are starting their career, can apply for for funds, which are not that high, but even allow them to realize their ideas. Another strong funding system is the European Cinema Support Fund, called Eurimages. The aim of this Fund is:

… cultural, in that it endeavours to support works which reflect the multiple facets of a European society whose common roots are evidence of a single culture. The second one is economic, in that the Fund invests in an industry which, while concerned with commercial success, is interested in demonstrating that cinema is one of the arts and should be treated as such.

Those two main pillars of the European Cinema Support Fund demonstrate how the film funding system in Germany and in most of all European countries work. First there is the cultural aspect and secondly the economic factor.

The U.S. independent filmmaker Kurtis Hough shared his thoughts about funding in his country:

Funding short films and music videos can be tricky in the United States. Music videos were once a lush and creative marketplace back when M-TV actually played music and before record companies had to tighten their budgets from internet piracy losses. Because of that my music videos have been independently produced by myself with the musicians’ permission to freely promote both of our work.

Likewise, short films can be a challenge to find funding for. There is virtually no industry to make or fund short films. The entire film industry is built around feature-length films and short films are often produced at the artists’ expense and as a stepping stone to feature length works. There are a few grants available to apply for, but they are hard to count on as a steady way to continue to make work. For my new 18 minute timelapse film project I was unsuccessful in the Oregon grant I applied for.

Currently the best chance to fund and create successful projects in the short film realm is to reach out to an internet fanbase. Places like kickstarter.com offer the chance to share your creative ideas and gain support. After failing to receive grant money for my new film project I have recently begun a kickstarter campaign to raise $5,000 by May 18.

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