Show Me the Fund, a new resource aimed at helping Latin American producers navigate a myriad of little known funding opportunities, was the focus of Wednesday’s Ventana Sur session on international funding.

The initiative – a partnership between film export bodies Brazilian Content and Cinema do Brasil and the AV support organization Projeto Paradiso – wants to support an industry dealing with the corrosive effects of politics and the coronavirus pandemic on cultural funds by seeking out alternative sources of finance.

Last month these three entities, along with cinema information portal LatAm Cinema, unveiled their mapping of international resources available for different stages of a film project – from development through to post and distribution.

The initiative’s researcher Gerardo Michelin, director of LatAm Cinema, explored 250 funds in total and selected 50 viable funding opportunities that – to paraphrase the immortal words of Jerry Maguire – show producers the money.

“We are talking about international funds not coproduction agreements or community coproduction or bilateral agreements between countries or tax breaks, but funds for all phases of a project,” Michelin said.

A former TV producer and journalist, who also manages the press for Cartoon Forum and Cartoon Movie, Michelin is keen to dispel the producer fantasy of “a magic fund that writes a blank check to bankroll productions.”

But he highlights that there are plenty of smaller funding pots out there “that will at the very least generate international visibility and attract other co producers.”

According to Michelin, around 13 of the 50 opportunities he has identified are script competitions – predominantly run by U.S. companies such as talent scouts and agencies.

“This is a direct way of accessing the U.S. market, which is generally not viewed as viable from Latin America,” he said.

Around 35 of the funding opportunities are aimed at documentaries (only around 30% of all funds relate to fiction) with many of these held by little-known U.S.-based philanthropic organizations, non-governmental bodies and development institutions whose aim is usually to raise visibilities to specific causes.

“One fund was set up by the family of a director who died young who was a fan of documentaries, and so every year they donate money to three projects in line with that director’s vision.

Lazy loaded image
Gerardo Michelin Courtesy of Gerardo Michelin

“Some of these don’t offer a lot but we consider them key to the education of a producer that’s starting out or to launch the career of a young director,” Michelin added.

Vitrine Filmes founder Silvia Cruz, who has worked across distribution and production, added that she is now advising producers and directors who need a modest cash injection ($12,000-$18,000) to apply for one of these funds rather than opting for pre-sales.

“If you sell all your windows of projection and then declare ‘I only have movie theaters left’ that might not be enough for a distributor,” she said.

“So I’m suggesting that producers try to exploit resources like Show Me the Fund first to help with film projects and avoid approaching me with a movie that is no longer exploitable,” she said.

Cruz added that she was surprised that many funds listed on the resource didn’t require producers to be local, only to make content that supports a specific cause such as LGBTI or for women making their first or second film.

For this reason, Uruguayan film producer Agustina Chiarino who has both read and applied for funds during her career, advises that producers study the resource and specific fund carefully, to ensure that their project aligns with the goals of the fund, or to at least steer it that way.

“Look at which films have won the fund in previous editions – a jury may change, but every fund has a profile and a type of project that they want to sponsor,” she advised.

“Also look to see if your project has multiple themes, a specific director or several other characteristics that may be adapted for one fund or another without jeopardizing the project. The trick is to align with the goals of the fund without losing the film’s identity,” she added.