In this essay I will be exploring how digital technology has influenced how films can now be financed and made in the 21st century. This essay will be exploring the many avenues a film maker can now utilise in order to get their movies funded, filmed and released. The avenues which will be explored come in the form of funding via crowdfunding from popular sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Other avenues which can be approached by film makers which will be addressed in this essay is product placement. I will be looking at these avenues from critical perspectives such as the industry and from audience perspective.
Crowdfunding is a relatively new form of funding that a film maker can utilise. How crowdfunding works is that it relies on people (outside of the industry) donating a certain amount of money towards the project; people are free to donate however much they want. In return, the director may offer rewards for higher donations as a sort of incentive to donate that little bit more, such as an invitation to the premier of the film or a signed DVD. There are many examples of films which have gone through crowdfunding and have reached and exceeded the amount they originally went out for such as Rooster Teeth’s Lazer Team (2015, Matt Hullum) which is a campaign that shattered its “$650,000 goal, raising $2,480,099”. The sci-fi film focuses on the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. The campaign for the Rooster Teeth film aimed to allocate the funds earned toward production and location expenses, post-production effects, costumes, and compensation for the cast and crew. Another example of a film which was able to be made and earned more than what is set out for was Gosnell Movie (2016) which is a film that gives the audience and account of the gruesome story of Kermit Gosnell, a serial killer whose crimes are ingrained in U.S crime history and “the campaign surpassed its $2,100,000 goal, raising $2,241,043 overall”.
From a creative standpoint, Crowdfunding is an excellent way for directors who can’t find funding from big studios such as Paramount or Warner Bros to still have a chance of finding funding for their film. Crowdfunding ensures that intellectual properties which haven’t received the funding from studios can still see the light of day where as in the past, before crowdfunding was common place, you’d have to rely on studios to fund your project or you’d have to self-fund, putting up your own money which might not, due to marketing, make a profit. One major risk of using these forms of funding is the risk you can have your intellectual property be stolen or ripped off. This is a common problem with crowdfunding as the concept for the film is out there in the public and can easily be replicated. This point is also true of any kind of public launch, especially if the product is easily replicable. Trademarks and patents do provide some defensibility, but they are hard to enforce internationally.
Another form of funding a film is product placement whereby a director approaches a company and offers to have their product be placed in the film the director is making, in the form of logos or an actual product. There have been many instances of product placement in films and it’s becoming a bigger trend; films are becoming more expensive to produce so it makes smart business sense to reach out to companies to help with the funding of the film. For example, Iron Man 2 (2010, Jon Favreau) had the most product placement in 2010 with over 60 products placed and had a budget of just over “$200,000,000” which accumulated towards covering more than “$100 million in media buys, retail tie-ins and giveaways” proving that product placement is a very efficient way of funding a film. Documentary director Morgan Spurlock directed the POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011) where he directed a documentary about product placement, which was funded by product placement. The budget for the documentary was around “$1,500,000” and this was completely covered by product placement, no external means of funding was used, just the income from product placement.
Although there are billions of dollars in advertising revenues up for grabs every year thanks to product placement, having excessive levels of advertising in a movie can be distracting. Some movies like Minority Report (2002, Steven Spielberg) or The Island (2005, Michael Bay) became renown not for their plot or cinematography as they should, but because of the shameless product placements that are placed in front of viewers as “obvious product placements break people’s immersion in the story”. Shameless product placement doesn’t just ruin films or break immersion; it can become a stigma that can follow a director, such as Michael Bay, for his Transformers series or Adam Sandler’s Jack and Jill (2011). Jack and Jill follows the story of Sandler’s character trying to get Al Pacino to shoot a commercial for Dunkin’ Donuts. He succeeded and there’s actually a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial at the end. But from an industry stand point, when product placement is utilised not shamelessly but to enhance the spectacle of cinema, product placements can reduce the expenses needed for filming, which enhances the potential profitability of a movie.
In conclusion I believe funding has changed for the better, there are many avenues a director can now utilise to have their film be funded and they no longer have to be a big name director or have a big name studio behind them. Crowdfunding is a very safe option in my opinion, especially if you have little to no funding behind yourself but as a director you can’t expect to have a sudden in flow of funding, you have to market the film, you also have to ensure there are rewards for people who donate, there needs to be an incentive to donate a higher amount of money. Product placement relies more on being somewhat renowned, as a business won’t lend out the product if they don’t believe interest in the product will be generate. There are also a lot of negative connotations around having product placement and thus, if not handled properly, can generate a lot of negative awareness which isn’t just detrimental to the film but also the business relationship between director and company that owns the product.