Funding Your First Short Film: What Beginners Need To Know

You may have written your script, identified your shoot locations, and are ready to start filming your first project. There’s just one problem: funding. 

To get a short film off the ground, you need funding of some kind to pay for equipment, cast members, insurance, and travel. But finding your first source of funding can be daunting — especially if you’re yet to build a credible resume and don’t want to go into debt during your first project. 

Every new filmmaker begins their career in this catch-22. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to find funding while shooting your first film, even if you’re a total beginner. 


Starting your career as a filmmaker is exciting. Not everyone has the gumption to get up and follow their passions. When you announce your desire to start writing scripts and shooting scenes, try to appeal to good-natured folks who want to see you succeed.

It may sound machiavellian, but even the pros start projects with crowdfunding. Writer and filmmaker, William Yu, recently raised $17,768 to shoot and promote his film at festivals. Yu crowdsourced through sites like Seed&Spark, Kickstarter, and Patreon. 

Getting your film crowdfunded isn’t as simple as writing a short description and a plea for funds. You need to show people that you’re authentically committed as a filmmaker and that your production will be worth their investment. This means you need to target specific audiences who want to see your film come to life.

You also need to be strategic about how you pitch your first short film to strangers on the web and in real life. For example, if you wanted to create a short documentary about the wildlife around your city, you are more likely to find support amongst environmental groups online and folks who live in your city. Post your pitch to Reddit pages and community groups, offering some form of digital reward to those who sign up.


To get your first film off the ground, you have to treat your filmmaking project like a small business. There are plenty of ways to fund a small business but as a first-time filmmaker, you can focus your attention on landing a grant. Grants essentially give you free money to fund your creative endeavor and if you fail, you won’t find yourself in debt after the grant money has run out.

Qualifying for grants as a filmmaker can be a little tricky — particularly if you aren’t associated with a higher education institution. Most grants look for specific opportunities and can be highly competitive. Many grants are only available to special interest groups and traditionally underrepresented filmmakers, too.

The amount that you receive via a grant will vary. However, securing a grant to fund your film will boost the reputation of your project. Grants are competitive and, if you receive one, it shows your commitment to making films. This can help you land other forms of funding, as credibility goes a long way in the filmmaking world.

Loans and Self-funding

Taking out a short-term loan to fund your film will give you the cash you need to get started. Getting a sudden injection of cash in the form of a loan allows you to sidestep the investor meetings and grant applications. However, it isn’t without its pitfalls. 

Receiving a loan and self-financing your film project means that you skip much of the development cycle. This means that your script may be undercooked or you may be missing key details from your overall plan. With no one to tell you “no,” you may be headed down the wrong track without ever knowing it.

You also have to be in good standing financially to consider this option. Taking out a loan to fund your film is typically more realistic if you have a good credit score. Before heading to the bank, determine your current credit score to see if you’ll even qualify for a loan for funding. If you’ve been keeping up with repayments, you’ll qualify for lower rates and good terms. This can make a big difference to your overall budget and may mean that loans are a viable source of funding. Just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew, and you have a plan to pay the loan back quickly without racking up interest.

Keeping a Budget

Regardless of how you fund your first film, you’ll need to learn how to keep a budget. Creating a budget may sound like a creative dampener, but it will ensure that your film actually makes it to distribution.

When compiling your first budget, it can be useful to take inspiration from other small-budget, short filmmakers. You can make a budget-friendly film by shooting with natural lighting whenever possible and shooting in one location. These common-sense steps keep your production costs low and allow you to focus your spending on renting equipment and paying your crew.

If it’s your first time budgeting for a film, try using SMART goals to simplify the process. SMART stands for goals that are: 

  • Specific;
  • Measurable;
  • Achievable;
  • Relevant;
  • Time-bound

Setting film goals with these attributes will help you break down your budget and spot issues before they become major roadblocks. For example, if you’re shooting a documentary that focuses on a social issue, you need to complete the production phase before the issue is solved or changes. This means that you’ll probably spend more on travel than productions that aren’t time-bound and should account for this in your overall budgeting. 


Funding your short film can be daunting. Getting investors to take your first project seriously is difficult as you represent a risk. A little gumption and some hard work can help you land the funding you need. Crowdfunding and grants are available to first-time filmmakers, but you will need a tight budget to ensure you stay on track. Always try to work within your means, and use budget-friendly workarounds to keep your spending well within the constraints of what you’ll require to make a stunning short film.

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