There is currently a thread regarding how one filmmaker is using donations through the internet to fund his film. That conversation has branched out to include other methods, including product placement. I thought it would be worthwhile to start a new discussion regarding the particulars of getting local merchants and suppliers to donate to a project.
I know a few filmmakers in town have had success going to both manufacturers/suppliers of goods, (either consumables like water/soft drinks/snacks, or props), as well as both brand specific vendors (like a sandwich chain), and more general vendors (like a restaurant or box store) to get donations for a project.
So let's chat about this.
We need to know how to sell this concept to the potential donor. So how can we do that?
1) Product placement is one possible pitch, and if the film can feature something in a way that works within the story, and is prominent enough to satisfy the donor, that can be a great help. But in order for a 'product placement' pitch to work, I would think the donor has to believe that people will actually see the movie. Since you are selling something that hasn't been made yet, you are really pitching yourself. Keep that in mind.
2) Is something like this a tax deduction for the donor? If so, what circumstances would allow that? Are the complications of that worth it for smaller donations, like a few cases of bottled water? I don't expect anyone to give specific tax advice in an online forum, but if anyone knows if this aspect is even worth pursuing, please pipe in and give us your feedback. If this is a possibility, then it enables us to go to vendors whose products or services we can't feature in a product placement (like a catering service, or something similar), and give them something concrete to offer in return.
3) There are people who do this for you. If you google "product placement services" you will get a bunch of links on this. Now, whether they are worth your time and effort, or you are worth theirs is up to you to decide. I just thought it was worth noting that they are out there. As with the Tax deduction point, if anyone has any particular experience with this type of service, please pipe in.
4) Local may be better. I have nothing factual to base this on, other than a few stories I have heard from a few local filmmakers, but I think there may be something to it. Go to local, Colorado based companies and pitch them not only your project, but talk about a sense of community, local and state pride. Let them know that you are giving them a chance to show that Colorado is more than the Broncos and Coors beer (unless you are pitching the Broncos or Coors). If your film gets picked up, all of a sudden a bunch of people on both coasts are wondering what kind of soda that guy is drinking in the shot. I wouldn't suggest ruling out national chains and brands, but you might have more success locally.
5) Say THANK YOU It might seem obvious to some, but include the people who helped you in the credits, invite them to the screening, and even give them a copy of the finished product if you think it's appropriate so they can see their name up there. It's a small gesture, but it can mean a lot