Thursday, 3 April 2014

5 ways to get your creative idea funded in Bristol

Let's be honest, creative working is still assumed to be something you do for love rather than money.  After all you're just having fun so it's not really work, right?

Bristol is recognised as a creative and cultural hub and for many of us that's the very reason why we moved here in the first place.  But balancing paying the rent and giving your creative projects their all can be a real challenge.  I spoke to some of Bristol's creative community to find out what top tips they could share.

Novelist Ben Dickson says a video is a must for any
successful Kickstarter funding bid
Graphic novelist Ben Dickson has published four books and has a fifth coming out later this year.  However he is exploring the world of Kickstarter as a way of getting his book Unfinished City out there to the public.

Kickstarter is a crowd funding platform that helps people fund projects from films to stage shows, music, comics, video games and design related projects.  'Kickstarters' set up a page to ask for funding for their idea in exchange for which 'backers' receive a personalised copy of the created end product.  Each Kickstarter has a target amount they want to reach within a set period of time.  If time runs out and the funding goal is unfulfilled backers get their cash returned.

Dickson said: "We didn't want to take it directly to a publisher because it's an unusual project - it's set in Eastern Europe, it's not about superheros and it's a crime novel - which is a niche genre.  Self-funding through Kickstarter will ensure that the book is done the way we want it to be."

Read my full interview with Ben here and find out more about Unfinished City here.

"Is your work an act of self-expression or an act of communication?"

There are many routes to funding your ideas it can be hard to figure out which one is right for you.

Former BBC Head of Co-Production and Acquisition, now founder of production company Wildseed Studios Jesse Cleverly advises would-be creatives to ask themselves this tough question first: "Is your work an act of self-expression or an act of communication?"

Cleverly says having a clear answer to this question will automatically direct you in terms of where you pitch for your money: "Funding bodies and grant giving organisations are the people for an act of self expression - broadcasters and commercial production companies are the people to go for acts of communication as they are interested in making "products" that are designed to travel out into the world."

Whether your work is a heartfelt, personal piece or it's designed to cause a specific reaction on an audience 'out there' here are five routes to finding the pot of gold you're looking for:

1. Self-funding

A quick survey of Kickstarter shows that one in two Bristol projects are successful in their funding bids, so it's worth a punt.  Ben's top tip is make a video - you're unlikely to succeed without one.

2. Commercial funding

Bristol based Wildseed Studios offer an interesting model in which the creator and the company go into a commercial partnership.  You pitch your idea, they give you the money to make it. They advise, mentor, support, market, sell and monetise the content and share in the commercial success with you.

3. Grants and funding bodies

Other funding options include checking out what Bristol City Council offer and organisations such as Arts Council England. Arts Council England's South West Area Director Phil Gibby says when applying for arts funding there are a couple of obvious pointers to follow including reading the guidance carefully and seek advice of others who've written successful applications previously. He also said: "If unsuccessful, do seek constructive feedback from us - we're always happy to provide it!"

4. Socialism

Get involved in the creative community.  Bristol is a hugely helpful and friendly place.  Have a look at what venues show the sort of things you're interested in producing, follow them on Twitter and  Facebook.  Social media is a huge way that creative organisations let you know if they've got competitions or internships coming up.  I got my first paid for (yes, paid for!) script opportunity through tweeted information...

5. Think creatively

Yeah, you do this all the time I know, but what I mean here is opportunities do exist in more obscure places.  Bristol is about to be the European Green Capital next year for example but a key element of the bid is how we express that creatively as a city.

Locklease Labour councillor and spokesperson on arts and culture, Estella Tincknell (@EstellaTincknell) warns against going too far with this approach though.  She says "I'm not an expert on funding but I think it's important that you don't bend your project to fit the criteria of funders or you'll end up with a project you don't want to do!"

Right. Well then.  What are you waiting for?  Go get that money and get creating!

Related Links:
Bristol Theatre Net is the network to be hooked into if you're interested in anything theatre in Bristol
Creative Bristol is an online resource for all things art, craft and design in Bristol
Bristol Short Story Prize for the writerly types out there
Bristol Culture for news on all things cultural in Bristol

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