New direction for film funding

Film & Video and WA Screen Academy

Despite the continued popularity of movies, producers are facing increasing obstacles in getting their independent films financed and distributed. But one filmmaker has the answer.

WA Screen Academy Director Dr Cathy Henkel’s presentation at the Screen Producers Australia (SPA) Screen Forever conference in Melbourne this week will reflect on the challenges and opportunities of the producer-led distribution strategy she adopted for Rise of the Eco-Warriors, a film she wrote and directed.

Choosing to bypass traditional funding methods for Rise of the Eco-Warriors, Dr Henkel instead rode the rapids of private investment, sponsorship, philanthropy and crowd-funding.

The film was shot over 100 days in the jungles of Borneo. Dr Henkel uses the analogy of venturing into the jungle to describe the experience of this type of alternative distribution.

“It’s not for the faint-hearted, the weak or the lazy,” Dr Henkel said.

“You need a back-pack and jungle gear as it will be a long hard slog.”

Her presentation at Screen Forever will address the lessons learned from this pioneering distribution exercise, which include:

- Know your audience and where and how they access their media;

- Spend your distribution budget online and not in mainstream media which are crowded spaces dominated by those with big budgets and celebrity cast and crew;

- Know that cinema is just one platform for your film and use it to build prestige, buzz and awareness for your DVD, Video On Demand, education and TV strategies – which is where producers can make money; and

- Timing: Be aware of what else is coming out in cinemas at the time of your release. It also helps enormously if the topics and issues in your film are in the zeitgeist, and therefore attracting media attention and space.

Dr Henkel won Documentary Producer of the Year at the SPA Awards in 2009 for her work on the film, The Burning Season.

She has once again been honoured with a nomination at the SPA Awards this year for Rise of the Eco-Warriors in the Feature Length Documentary Production category.

If you’re interested in studying at the WA Screen Academy in the School of Communications and Arts, visit the WA Screen Academy web page.

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