Indie film (n.): An independent film, independent movie, indie film or indie movie is a feature film that is produced outside of the major film studio system, in addition to being produced and distributed by independent entertainment agencies. Wikipedia
As an indie production house, VM Productions creates movies that, as the definition states, is outside of the major film studio system. The independent nature of indie film allows both aspiring and established filmmakers, to push the limits of the art of cinema. While this is all well and good, independent studios don’t have the resources that the major studios have. Nevertheless, independent movies can quickly transition from the film festival circuit into your local theatres, thanks to the publicity associated with major festivals like Sundance, LA, or Cannes.
The caveat to VM productions is that we have a fiscal sponsor, From The Heart Productions, which allows us to apply for grants reserved for charities. Headed by Carole Dean, From the Heart Productions aims to help filmmakers create profound and sincere films. The films that they sponsor regularly tell stories you wouldn’t see in the Summer blockbuster season, works that can change cinema, culture, and give us a new perspective on the world we live in.
Charitable donations are tax-deductible donations within the United States. This provides an incentive to ‘give back’. The problem that we faced was that VM Productions is not a traditional charity/non-profit organization; the status is towards our Dostoyevsky Reimagined: Behind the Scenes feature film, a part of our Dostoyevsky LA project.
As such, the Dostoyevsky-BTS project, and the educational and cultural benefits, had to be conveyed properly. Vitaly Sumin (Executive Producer & Director) gave me the green light, and I began designing a brochure, drafting a grant proposal, and pestering my teammates, in order to let the world know that helping us create our amazing films will also help you during tax season!
The brochure is a stripped down version of our support page, in a three-fold front-to-back format, easily digestible, and exportable. The grant proposal incorporated teaming up with Debbie Hockey, and the other team members to create a unified voice and image for our production company, within the non-profit sector. Furthermore, the grant proposal is, in practice, a template, allowing it to be easily edited down to company requirements, or modified towards the companies or individuals who are potential matches. After five or six drafts and edits, we created a proposal that both Vitaly Sumin, and Carole Dean approved.
Together, the grant proposal, our letter of official sponsorship, and our brochure serve as a Donor Relations Kit, similar to what a museum or theatre would present. Along with prior experience in the field, our informational material is easily accessible. The two best indicators of potential donations are as follows: the proximity to the area of impact (ours is the Greater Los Angeles area) and similarities in areas of interest. Barnes and Noble, for example, would donate to a library, as opposed to establishing fair-trade practices for coffee farmers.
Companies have specific protocols for donation requests; some request e-mails, or Tax Identification numbers; others have pre-formatted submission forms. Furthermore, some ask for website links, budgets, a full staff directory, but every grant I have applied to requires the grant proposal. There are many free resources and notes on proper grant proposals and requests, but above all, when you do this, explain the actionable result. Be honest, and have an overall goal for the project or event that your organization requests funding for.
As of now, using the process outlined above, we’ve submitted applications towards Canon, and the LA Dodgers. It must be noted that most charitable grant funds are delayed anywhere from a fiscal quarter to a year because they must be properly filed for taxes. We are not the typical charity, nor are we the typical production company, but, now we can properly communicate our project, and its benefits to society, which, honestly, feels amazing!
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