Case Study: Self-funding a Mini-series

Posted on: Monday 14 March 2016 12:55pm by Rob Doherty

David Curry (Cutlass Productions) made the case for self-funding animation projects and discussed sources of such finding and support.

Achieving finance for projects is difficult for UK animation producers.  There’s a lot of investment in tech –  for example £1.1bn was given in funding for Virtual Reality projects in the first two months of 2016 alone, and an LA based tech team recently raised $1.7m to develop the software to make your own, basic CG animation projects. But there is little investment in content.

David used the Steve Jobs/Pixar story to illustrate how someone from the tech side saw the longer term potential in the animation business. Steve Jobs invested in Pixar early on because he knew that while tech will advance and change constantly, a well made movie or TV show will last far, far longer bringing in a steady flow of revenue over a very long period of time. He predicted that kids would still be buying merchandiser from the 1937 movie ‘Snow White’ in 2037.

So, is there money in animation? Disney/Pixar would point towards there being so. But, does it apply to the UK? ‘Peppa Pig’ would suggest yes – in a massive way.  £1bn in merchandising led to the buy-out of Astley Baker Davies by EOne for £140m.

How to self finance then?

Consider the following:

  1. Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).  A key tool for projects up to £150,000. For the investor with a lot of money it’s a no brainer as there is massive tax relief on any investments (84%), even if the production invested in goes on to make money (64%). The BFI and HMRC can give tax and eligibility advice.
  2. The UK Animation Tax Break then helps with the production budget.
  3. Skills Investment Fund.  Young talent is the future and that can have a huge impact on your business, as well as your budgets, with 50% of costs of trainees covered.

Every production needs a catalyst. Ben Wheatley, started his first feature film ‘Down Terrace‘ with his own funding (£10k) – and shot it in eight days.  Once completed, that was a catalyst to getting more work and more funding – and now he;s just complete ‘High Rise’.

Another catalyst example is ‘Caterpillar Shoes’ that gets great views on YouTube. Potential investors then feel emotionally engaged with the content as well as the creator and invest in show once the talent is proven. The tax breaks then help with the production and Skills Investment provides assistance on budget while training young talent.

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Rob Doherty 

About the author

Rob Doherty

Festivus, Animation Producer and Consultant

Rob has 20 years experience in the animation industry. He has worked in every format of animation and in many countries around the world, as well as on both sides of the production/broadcast divide; working for ITV, Aardman, Disney, M2 Films, Endemol, Initial Productions, TVC Cartoons, Grand Slamm Children’s Films,… Read more