New Film Funding Initiative Thunder Funder to Offer $12 Million in Services to 12 Indies

thunderWith studios closing their independent film divisions over the last few years and Miramax no longer the cultural powerhouse it was in the 90s, new models are being tried in the indie film world: while some venture capitalists are promoting the idea of an accelerator model, borrowed from the tech-startup world, others, such as the program recently announced by Thunder Studios, which is offering $12 million to twelve indie features each year, are planning to do away with cash altogether, though not in the way you'd expect. Click through to learn about this new way to get your movie made, and how you can submit your film.

Thunder Studios, a motion picture service and soundstage company, announced today that it was partnering with  the following equipment and services companies: Pace Pictures (post production services), RED Digital Cinema (camera equipment), and Cassian Elwes of Elevated Film Sales (distribution) in order to form a sort of one stop indie film shop, a little like the studios of old.  The brainchild of Thunder C.E.O. Rodric David, Thunder Studios will provide the chosen films with $1 million each in services, rather than money to be spent on those services.

Under the deal, the 12 films selected will let the Thunder Funder provide everything up to and including distribution and sales, as well as taking an Executive Producer credit. According to IndieWire, the only aspect of production they will not be involved in is casting, and there is, of course, the question of salaries, etc.

The presence of Elwes, who handled financing and distribution for nearly 300 indies during his time at William Morris from 2004-2009, as well as countless others during his nearly thirty year career, certainly lends the project an air of seriousness given his track record. 

You can submit your project here.

What do you think? Is this is a viable way to finance a film? Would you be willing to give up so much for the chance to see your movie on the big screen? What do you think the future model for indie film financing will be, or do you think it's going to be a free for all, with various streaming, VOD and theatrical release platforms all coexisting. What do you think the optimal solution would be?


[via IndieWire]

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Looks like an interesting idea for a partnership that could work. I'd love to see more detail on the whole concept. A couple of the links in your post are dead so I couldn't get to the "Thunder Funder" application page.

May 15, 2014 at 9:05AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


May 15, 2014 at 9:54AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


You have to sign up in order to see this, however, here's the general info:

Thunder Funder will accept a maximum of 500 submissions per cycle, two submission cycles per year (Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer). For each cycle, the selection process will look like this:

- Applicants submit to Thunder Funder via upload to our website. Submissions include a filmmaker biography, project synopsis, sizzle reel, and script.

- Each applicant will pay a one-time submission fee of $300. This fee includes a one-year Thunder Funder Membership.

- With the input of seasoned industry professionals, the Thunder Funder review board will narrow down the submission pool until 12 projects are selected.

- Of those 12 shortlisted projects, each applicant will go through an interview process to narrow the selection to 8.

- The final 8 applicants will then develop a crowdfunding campaign to gauge audience commitment and raise additional financing.

- The top 6 projects that raise the highest percentage of their total budget through their crowdfunding campaigns are green-lit for production!

May 15, 2014 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Wow yeah thats a no. Seriously this sounds like a long process that I would rather devote my time in raising a quarter of this cash on my own and having complete control. The resources sound great but realistically when you step into an environment like this a million dollars wont get you far as you quickly become bloated with roles that will drain your budget. Skeleton crews and true passion mixed with creative talent and just enough cash to give your flick an edge is what true indie films are about. Distribution is the name of the game in your budget, which I suspect these houses wont be able to push as bold as they may claim.

Create a story, muster the best talent around you who want to make your script their own, and forge your own path. Call in lots of favors, and never loose sight of your true goal even when disappointment strikes (which it will) thats what indie film making is about. Great concept thunder, but it seems like to me ironically with all these resources, structured financing, and a stripped down studio approach all you will be doing to the indie scene is "stealing thunder" when you slap your logo all over the content and take your majority share of the cut from the earnings. Thanks, but no thanks!

May 15, 2014 at 10:21AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I agree with you Bob. That million of in-kind services wont go very far. And you are right, so much work just to lose so much control of your film. I'm not sure if I'd apply even if they paid me $300 to submit.

May 18, 2014 at 10:42PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


A lot of hoops to jump through. It'd be easier to just offer these services in bulk in exchange for the financial considerations, current or future. The way this looks to me is that a filmmaker has to raise funds first, then give away any possible earning potential. Plus, that $1M is probably not worth it in real market prices either.
This idea, however, is roughly the same as I've been suggesting for a while here. It's just that ThunderFunder wants to skim the very top of the independent filmmaker market. The bulk of the budgets, of course, don't run into the seven figures. In that regard, studio time may be the most worthwhile investment. Video gear and the post can be done very efficiently by the filmmakers themselves. A GH4/A7s/BMPC4K would suffice here for shooting and MacPro would suffice for the post and all can be rented or purchased outright. The difficult and the expensive part is once again the soundstage. That's where this type of service will find the most use and provide the most benefit. (and, clearly, this doesn't have to be the size of the Santa Monica Airport hangar, just a few inexpensive and modular bar, restaurant, night club, living-bedroom type sets + a small garden-park-forest type outdoor sets, etc ... if one counts, as an example, all sets from something like "When Harry met Sally", with a quick rewrite, one can get by with one convertible (fake) outdoor, one bar/restaurant-diner and one apartment sets and none would have to exceed 1000 sq ft)

May 15, 2014 at 10:19AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM



May 15, 2014 at 10:40AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


They're obviously trying to target more 'established' indie filmmakers, who have enough funding to pay their rent, crew, etc. Personally, even throwing out $300 to submit, just to HOPE to be considered out of 500 submissions... it's a bit steep.

Quite the gamble. $25 I could stomach, for $300 I better get a swag bag full of consolation prizes... hehe.

May 15, 2014 at 10:54AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Everything about this sounds great... until you see that it costs you $300 to just submit your project. This is a red flag and a pretty sketchy way to go about getting cash from desperate filmmakers. A submission fee of $25-50 is already significant if all that's happening is to get a pair of eyes on your project. $300 is just silly.

May 15, 2014 at 11:23AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Absolute NO on this idea. I put up $300 to run through your submission process? Then if you "accept" my film, I have to go out and crowdfund it which 1) requires enormous amounts of time and energy for the scale of a feature film, and 2) is a suspect way of gauging what film is going to do best.

How does the filmmaker get paid? How do the actors get paid? Where's the guarantee for the folks who have spent all the time writing and rewriting and coming up with the ideas? You're offering the equipment and "services" but people can't pay their rent with that.

Sorry, this is starting to sound worse than Amazon Studios "deals."

May 15, 2014 at 11:46AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I have to add the one thing that resourceful indie filmmakers don't need is usually equipment and services. Even though it would be a huge help, that's not even close to a road block for filmmakers who can cut deals with rental places, buy used gear, hustle etc. This is where anyone with an idea and a bit of passion can make their own way.

But... paying actual actors and crew and buying props / food etc... this, THIS is where filmmakers get stuck. And why their projects sometimes never get off the ground. Money is the real answer, as it always was. Paying $300 for some vague hope of being subsidized in services and gear is just a bad idea. This whole thing is just horrible lol.

May 15, 2014 at 12:59PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Agreed. all those "in kind" producing deals are of zero value if you don't have funding for the far more important hard costs, salaries, etc.

May 20, 2014 at 5:45AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Javier Bonafont

I think that crowdfunding is going to be a lot bigger. If you can go right to the audience to get the money and support and it works than that just shows that you have a good project on your hands. So if you can make some cash using kickstarter and get the word going then other investors will see that your project has potential and are more likely to back you. I think with the new age of crowdfunding studios and ideas like this are going to start to die out because the audience will have way more say in the process.

May 15, 2014 at 2:10PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


500 people times $300 = $150000

May 15, 2014 at 2:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

Darren Orange

" Each applicant will pay a one-time submission fee of $300"

I've seriously had enough of the side industry of indie film funds, festivals, contests, whatevers, banking off application fees.

The facts are damning:
Someone will get their salary paid off application fees.
There is no administrative reason for this to cost $300.
Chosen projects for similar initiatives rarely pay application fees.
Every year, more of these film funds are announced, and rarely do the films receive a valid release.

May 18, 2014 at 2:12PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


Here's your basic (non-Hollywood) 2,500 ft sq. soundstage. No sets (which can be built on an a la carte basis) and can be rented for $1,250/day. An LA based set of similar size probably runs around $2K/Day.

May 15, 2014 at 5:54PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

You voted '-1'.