Who is the Entertainment Industry’s “Secret Santa?”
Do you remember Santa? How he’s coming to town, he’ll give you great presents if you are good all year? (Were you a good girl/boy this year?)
When you’re older, and become part of the “grown up world” many of the simplicities of childhood go right out the window, forever! But we always seem to look for a reward or magical gift, even as mature as we get, you have to admit most of us get excited when we “win” something, even if it’s only $5 from a $1 lottery ticket.
So what do Santa and lottery tickets have in common? They both encourage the believer to believe in magic and miracles. Even after we grow up, we still want to believe in Santa (and that we’ll win the lottery - big!). This sort of thinking and believing is part of what it takes to embark on the long and hard journey of raising funds in order to “go into production.” And just like believing in Santa, we [eventually] found out that there’s somebody behind that pile of gifts that “magically appear.”
In the realm of creating entertainment content, the phrase “smoke and mirrors” is commonly used to describe the approach to financing, pulling together the pieces of the budget puzzle. It’s practically a miracle indeed these days, to find out any project has been financed outside the studio system. So I’d like to share with you how there might be a “secret Santa” hiding out in a warm, tropical climate, who wants to help you finance your next show.
But first, a little background info on project financing.
Government grants are today’s most amazing form of raising money for entertainment projects, because typically, government(s) do not ask for much in return. Mostly they want you to spend their grant money locally, so they can support their labor pool. The goal is to grow “crops” of world class talent, who become globally competitive through co-production, and who also develop the skills to create and find financing for their own original home-grown entertainment projects that will work across multiple platforms.
Of all government funders I’ve come across, the most well thought out and accessible agency seems to be the Media Development Authority in Singapore, where un-bureaucratic executives make pithy statements like “We can be the best, if we learn from the best.” And their budget for “learning”? is about US$70 million this year.
So if you are not from Singapore and you have a strong project in an advanced stage, where there is global interest (broadcaster and distributor attachments) and other proof of commercial viability, including partial financing commitments, do not pass “go” instead you should proceed directly to the MDA’s website.
There you will see that successful applicants must be Singapore-based, so finding a co-producing partner in Singapore is Step Number One; thus, it behooves you to know about the MDAs government support schemes work.
Some key facts about the MDA: Up to 40% of money spent in Singapore (the “Singapore Spend”) can be granted in four major “assistance” categories: 1. Development; 2. Production; 3. Marketing; and 4. Talent. Under their newly modified MDA Grant Schemes, the scheme that will most likely help you to achieve your objectives: Production Assistance.