Posted 25 July 2019
Written by Becky Perryman
Interview by Marianne Hanoun

Advice on how to get your animated film funded from Passion Pictures

The business of making things move can be a laborious and also pretty expensive affair. Which means if you’re a fledgling animator, finding the finances to actually bring it to life can be tricky. That’s why we sought out Becky Perryman, emerging talent producer at Passion Pictures to help shed some light on the situation. Having recently submitted a successful bid for funding from the BFI and raising the other half of the money from a private investor, she reflects on the experience to share her own learnings and top tips to help get your own film funded.

Getting your film funded in the UK involves a lot of figuring stuff out along the way, and seeking advice from people who have trodden this road before you. I wish I could give you an easy step-by-step guide of how to get your short, animated film funded, but unfortunately, there is no direct path to the golden pot.

But that’s not to say it’s impossible! Take a brilliant idea and treatment or proposal, combine it with one or two funding techniques, and often you will be pleasantly surprised by the results. Below are some of my top pointers to get you started.

Getting your film funded

What are your end goals?
It might sound strange to think about the end goal right at the start, but it’s useful to think about what shape you want your career and idea to take. Ask yourself: Will your idea or film help you achieve this? Do you want to go into commercial animation? Be a visual artist? Or get a gallery interested in your film or installation?

Knowing your end goal will help you work out how and where best to aim your searches to try and get funding. For example, the Wellcome Trust fund films but they must use accurate scientific research or data to back them up. The Arts Council don’t necessarily funds films but they do support projects which focus on dance, literature, museums, music, theatre, visual arts, combined arts, and libraries.

Getting funding is tricky, but not impossible in the UK
Animation is traditionally championed in Europe; France in particular has a long-standing history of nurturing animation and investing government funds into the industry and schools. But there isn’t yet quite the same level of appreciation – and therefore funding – in the UK, where it is still seen as quite niche.

The BFI has gone a long way to try and change this through their Year of Animation scheme in 2018, where they funded 12 emerging talent directors within animation. Myself and two friends got our short film, New Year, funded by the BFI through their ‘Postroom’ – where anyone can submit an idea. It did feel a bit like throwing a proposal into a void, never to see the light of day – but it paid off! So basically, don’t give up hope!

Becky's short film, New Year (2018). Written and directed by Diana Gradinaru and Rory Waudby-Tolley; Produced by Becky Perryman.

Treat your treatment
No matter what your discipline, to survive you need to know how to sell yourself. In this case, your treatment is your calling card, so start putting together a sh*t-hot proposal. A great treatment will stand you in good stead for so many different areas of your career – whether that is applying for shorts funding, pitching on a music video, your first commercial project as a director, applying for an artist residency and so on.

Remember that if you are not clear on what your film is about, then it will not be clear to the person looking at your proposal. Be clear, concise and always assume the person reading it doesn’t understand your subject and medium. Friends, family or classmates are great guinea pigs for this.

A treatment is the art of selling your idea, so think about the visuals. A style frame (a visual preview) or character design goes a long way; consider what technique you’re using and why. Remember most people don’t know the different types of animation so use references to back it up.

Plan your story – what is it about? What is your point and how do you want to make the viewer feel? How will you approach your sound? Will there be music, a voiceover or sound effects? Can using a well-known actor help lift the profile of your film and gain interest and funds? If you don’t have finished visuals, then include references, mood boards and links to illustrate the look, tone and feel you want to achieve. Always remember to hyper link if you reference someone by name – just because you know who they are doesn’t mean the person reading it will.

“No matter what your discipline, to survive you need to know how to sell yourself.”

Forecast and budget appropriately
The majority of funding in the UK is geared towards live action, so be aware that if you want to get your animated short funded in the UK, you will generally be applying for funds that are not necessarily clued up on the animation process. You need to have a firm grasp of your production plan and be prepared to walk your potential funders through it.

Animation can be very laborious – sometimes you might have eight people working for six weeks to make a one-minute film! Because of this, working for free or calling in too many favours is pretty much out of the question with animation: this could be the next three months of your and your team’s life – no one can work for free for all of that time, especially if you are living in London. However, most of the time, the funding you receive will not be enough to cover the full production, so it’s important to look at a combination of ways you can fund your short.

Lots of animators I know work commercially as a freelancer and save up to be able to take two months out to work on a personal piece. In my case, I still had a full-time job and produced my film on the side so that I didn’t need to take a fee. Juggling all of this was gruelling at times and exhausting, and I also used a lot of my allotted holiday days to take big chunks out of work to focus on this project.

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Consider crowdfunding
Kickstarter and other such platforms are a good way to get your film funded, but this takes some serious planning. You need to invest a bit of money up front in being able to afford production of the rewards (whether that be posters, artworks, limited edition T-Shirts and so on) that people will get when investing everything from £5 to £500 in your film. This article has some good advice.

Some of the most successful animated Kickstarters are those that have already started to make their film. This allows you to entice your audience by showing them the world you want them to buy into. In my opinion, one of the best I have seen was for experimental short film Ugly, which you can see here.

Funding can come from unlikely sources
Reach out to people, meet them, pitch your idea and see if they like it. Have a look at what companies offer grants, or consider approaching private investors. You can look at companies who invest in the arts, such as Lush, but this is really a case of being brave and putting yourself out there. This is how we managed to get the second half of our funding, and it was an absolute lifeline. Do your research, look at what else has been made recently, watch the credits and see who else appears on the list. Internet stalking can go a long way!

My main takeaways are: do lots of planning, get your goals set in advance and leave no stone unturned when it comes to rustling up finance – remember that there’s no shame in asking! And don’t give up hope. Good Luck!

Written by Becky Perryman
Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Mention Passion Animation Studios
Mention BFI
Illustration by Jiro Bevis