Mark Freiburger was only 22 when he directed his first feature film. Since then, he has produced five independently financed films (two of which he also directed), directed “Fashionista Daddy,” winner of the 2013 Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” contest, and even got to shadow Michael Bay for three months on the set of a major studio film (Transformers 4: Age of Extinction with Mark Wahlberg). Mark insists that these opportunities didn’t come to him because he was more talented than other young filmmakers. The key to his success (beyond having some very talented friends) is that he learned one very important skill they don’t teach you in film school… how to raise money for movies!
I caught up with Mark after reading his new book, How To Raise Money For Your First Movie, and caught some his passion for filmmaking and for helping young filmmakers get the money they need to make great films.
Gary: So the films, the Super Bowl, and Transformers were just your warm up acts, what are you working on now?
Mark: I’m currently finishing up writing a movie for the producers at Original Film. It’s a sci-fi/action film set in a futuristic Brazil that I will be directing as well. We’ve taken a lot of time and care with developing this script, and it’s just about ready (or may already be by the time this article is published). This was the project I referred to earlier, and it has been taking up the majority of my time over the past year. Oh, and I just finished my book “How To Raise Money for Your First Movie“.
Mark: Raising money wasn’t a skill anyone taught me in film school. It came out of a driving passion to want to see my dreams come true, even if that meant I had to take a lot of beatings through trial and error in an effort to achieve those dreams. And after going through the process once on my first film, it afforded me the opportunity to link up with others who had done the same on their own, and that’s when I started to learn even more.
I’ve been in the business for nearly a decade now, but the one thing I get asked about the most by other aspiring filmmakers is not about those more high profile experiences, but about how to go out and raise money to make their first features. So I decided the best way to help others was to just allocate some time to sit down and write everything I share with aspiring filmmakers.
Gary: What would reading “How to Raise Money for Your First Movie” offer a young filmmaker that goes beyond other books out there on filmmaking?
Mark: This book is purely about the one thing that all young filmmakers out there really want to know… which is “How do I get the money to make my first movie?” There are a ton of great books out there on the fundamentals of filmmaking so I don’t need to write one of those, but there is a big need to help teach young filmmakers the practical steps of indie film financing. When I was in film school, even my professors never had good answers for me, because quite frankly they weren’t quite sure how to do it either. It’s not rocket science, but with the right knowledge I’m thoroughly convinced that anybody can go out and do it. You just need to plan accordingly and have the right tools to go out there and do it yourself. And that’s exactly what this book does… it gives you the tools and teaches you how to set yourself up for success in raising funds.
Gary: When did you know that you had to write this book?
Mark: A couple years ago I was teaching a seminar at a university on film financing, and after about 30 minutes into the seminar, one of the students raised his hand and said “This is good information and all, but when are you going to start teaching us how to actually raise money?” I looked to him and said, “But haven’t you been listening? I started teaching you that very thing 30 minutes ago.“
What the student failed to realize, and what most aspiring and first time filmmakers fail to realize, is that raising money for movies is not just about finding investors and giving them a good pitch… but instead, it’s about everything leading up to those moments. It’s about reverse engineering the process of making a film by beginning at the end… through discovering your marketplace first, connecting with distributors that have access into that marketplace, developing/crafting the script that fits what your distributor needs, creating the perfect business plan to support that script, and assembling the right team to help you execute your vision. This is how you begin to raise money for movies, and once you go through all the groundwork necessary to make this happen, you’ll be fully prepared to find and approach investors, which then becomes the easy part.
Gary: Any parting word of counsel to young filmmakers?
Mark: If you want to become a filmmaker or if you’re in the early stages of your filmmaking career, the main piece of advice that I’d like to try and pass on is to remember that a filmmaking career is more like a marathon, and not like a sprint. It takes a lot of time and energy to develop your craft and make the right connections. Things won’t happen overnight, but if you pace yourself, make wise decisions and are willing to adapt to the constant changes, you will see results. Don’t burn yourself out too early, try to live a balanced lifestyle, because even though this career is much more demanding than your average career out there, it’s that much more rewarding too.