Clerks. The Blair Witch Project. Hollywood Shuffle. She’s Gotta Have It. El Mariachi. Great films financed by gung-ho filmmakers racking up personal credit card debt.
With a tight budget and a whole lot of creative tenacity, you may still be able to fund your first feature simply by charging your expenses on your personal credit card, but it’s hardly the way to go anymore. Crowdfunding, bank loans, angel investors – there are more options available to you and most of them are less risky than a possible 19% APR weighing you down the next few years. Still, credits cards are bound to be used during production, so think ahead and figure out what’ll serve you best in the long run.
Do you have a production company? Is it registered as an LLC? Do you need a company credit card or can you simply use a personal credit card? Next, think about whether you are better off charging all expenses on one card or spreading them out over several. Some cards offer cash back rewards, while others may help you accommodate your crew while on location, or make air travel a little easier.
And start thinking about these things at the very beginning of pre-production. If you start earning miles on a Chase Sapphire card six months before shooting, you will be able to fly in your lead actress on points. If you charge your daily expenses on a Hilton Honors card, you will have enough points to put up a small crew for a day or two on location. That is, if you qualify for the respective card’s sign-up bonus, which can take anywhere from 1-3 months.
For larger productions, consider the CASHet Card – a cash rewards credit card specifically created for filmmakers, with advanced spending monitoring and restrictions, unlimited additional cards and much more.
And remember, credit card companies make a living encouraging you to spend money you don’t have, so always have a long-term plan for paying off debt and sustaining a good credit score.