A filmmaking career is not easy neither is it financially stable. Many filmmakers have to do other work to supplement their incomes. All too often, filmmakers get into debt or rely on family and friends for financial support and bailouts. It’s not a very good place to be! Being a ‘starving artist’ sounds great, but does it really feel great? I don’t know about other filmmakers, but when I was in that position, I did not feel great or even act like it. Not even close.
It was a soul crushing time that looked like it would never end. The uncertainty, the constant worrying and the fear – it all took its toll on me in many ways – physically, mentally and emotionally.
I don’t want other filmmakers to go through half of what I went through, so here are the minimum things you need to put in place to ensure your financial well-being.
1. Set aside an emergency fund: Most emergencies (very urgent, life or death stuff) can usually be handled if you have set aside at least a £1,000 (or its currency equivalent) in cash. That’s more than enough to take care of any emergency. Without it, your financial life will be a bumpy ride from one cash crisis to another. Once this amount is set aside in an easy to access bank account, you don’t touch it ever. This amount should never be used to make up any shortfall in your income.
2. Second income: This income is not a supplement to your main filmmaking income – it is not income that is there to make up any shortfalls in your film income. You should always make enough money that you need from your main filmmaking work.
The second income is another completely separate income stream- constant revenue from another film related or even a completely different line of business. In an area that you can offer a valuable product or service that the market demands. Having a second income sets you up nicely financially without depending on your filmmaking income.
Work on this income stream side by side with your film work. Good time management and technology easily allows you to do this. Keep an eye out for a post I’ll write in future on what would be good second income streams for filmmakers.
3. A ‘screw you’ fund: This fund will be roughly 3-6 months of your total expenses. (Yes, paying tax is an expense, so include that in your expenses too). Once you have these funds in place/sitting in a bank account, you drastically reduce your financial worries. Even if your filmmaking and second income do get completely wiped out for whatever reason, you won’t be bothered much – the ‘screw you’ fund enables you to pay all your bills on time while still having 3-6 months time to focus on getting back on your feet.
If you are currently depending on partners, family, friends, credit cards, loans etc. to pay your bills and living expenses, you are speeding towards a financial cliff. Stop doing what you are doing and take a deliberate filmmaking hibernation. You need to get a job, any job that you can do to pay ALL your bills without outside help.
Once you are financially stable and can pay all your bills on time, then you are ready to come out of your hibernation and press the filmmaking restart button.
Please feel free to comment, ask questions and make suggestions in the comments section below.