We spent considerable time during our pre-production applying to a local UK film funding agency. Our plan was to shoot our very low-budget film for about £10,000, hoping that the funding body would provide 50-60 percent of that, as they mention in their paperwork, while we privately put in say up to £4,000. Extensive research and filling in of forms finally led to us being called into a meeting in London to discuss the project. We were excited –we had been shortlisted and they really liked our project!
But we learned two hard lessons that day:
1. Even on an empty Southern train, don’t accidentally sit in First Class. We less than savvy rail travellers found ourselves slapped with an instant £20 fine each, despite our protestations of how unfair it was (the train had been moving for less than a minute as we had just jumped on, not to mention the seats look no different!). So on our funding trip we were already £60 down and the day was still young!
2. And then the clincher. Yes, a government funding body can provide 50-60 percent of the funding, but only…. and wait for it… this was the really important part that was missing from all the funding paperwork we had spent months reading… only if everyone involved in the project is on union rates. Union rates!…..Equity rates?! A quick calculation instantly puts the budget over £100,000….and we would then have to provide the other 40% - ie £40,000! Needless to say, that wasn't going to happen. This harsh reality was brutally discovered in front of a meeting room full of executives. They didn’t have to open the door… we just kinda slid out under it.
So I suppose it’s just like the old adage about bank loans –you firstly have to prove you don’t need one to apply. And that’s why there is such a huge gulf between skint filmmakers making it on love, and those making it on money. So now you don’t have to learn it the hard way: To get government funding… well, you first have to be rich enough to travel first class.