Financing Alberta’s film industry
Here’s how independent filmmakers can get the funds they need.
By ATB Financial 17 April 2023
Alberta’s film industry is seeing unprecedented growth, with plenty of productions coming to the region along with greater support from the government for local filmmakers. In the latest provincial budget, $100 million dollars over three years has been allocated to the film and tax credit, with another $4 million to the Alberta Made Production Grant—this dramatically increases the funding available for independent Alberta creatives.
Plus, our province has been the backdrop for big-budget international productions like The Last of Us, Fargo, The Revenant, Brokeback Mountain and many more.
Despite the evident success of Alberta’s film industry, filmmakers—like other artists—often face roadblocks when they approach a bank for financing. From bankers who don’t understand artistic industries to policies that exclude artists on the basis of formalities, traditional banks are often not the most helpful or supportive places to go when you’re trying to make a movie in Alberta.
Financing Alberta film
Just like in any business, in film, it takes money to make money. Without significant amounts available right from the get-go, it’s often impossible to shoot a movie at all—much less deal with all the costs of post-production, marketing and distribution that come later.
After years of working with Alberta producers and our team members’ deep roots in the industry, we at The Branch for Arts & Culture often seek out filmmakers ourselves. We partner with film productions by providing something called “interim financing.” That means we take inventory of a production’s tax credits, grants, license and distribution agreements to give them funds upfront, and then we’re paid back as the production receives funding from these various channels.
What makes this type of financing helpful to filmmakers? Production budgets often rely heavily on presales to distribution companies and licensers, grants and provincial and federal tax credits—all of which are paid out after the movie is finished. So a loan—interim financing—to cover the cost of equipment, locations, cast and crew can make or break a movie before the cameras even start rolling.
It may sound glamorous, but it’s the same kind of banking support that any big business—dealing with large sums of money constantly moving in and out—would require. In fact, when The Branch was first figuring out how best to serve Alberta’s film industry, we used Alberta’s agriculture industry as a model. As it turns out, the kind of risk and reward analysis that applies to crop production also applies to movie productions!
Are you an Alberta filmmaker looking for financial support?
We would love to meet with you and see what we can make possible together. Here’s a checklist of what you’d need to get started:
- Written budget: total cost of production from beginning to end, breaking down where funds are coming from.
- Cashflow statement.
- Your long form commitments: AMF, CMF, CAVCO, license agreement, grants, personal commitment letter for private investors, etc.
- Business financial statements from any other business (a parent company, for example) involved.
- Pitch deck to help our adjudicators get excited about the project.
- For CAVCO and FTTC: an accountant prepared letter stating how much you’re expecting to receive in tax credit.
- Production schedule: timelines for how long principal photography and post-production would take, time for grants, etc.
- Financial structure: this may contain the cashflow and budget.
Ready to dive in and get your film rolling? Reach out to the Branch for Arts & Culture where one of our industry experts can partner with you.
Meet with a Culture Banker