Moon Dance and
Movie Finance:
The Heart and Soul
of Making your Film
by Arthur Kanegis

MOONDANCE : The Soul of Movie Making

The Art of Funding Your Film


Got a burning desire to make your voice heard? Something you want to tell the world?  Not just in words, but in a movie that will rock their world? - Move them heart and soul? Well, you've picked the right time:
-- The technology explosion puts more power into the palm of your hand than an entire '60's era TV studio.
-- The net gives you an instant venue that literally goes around the world.
-- The explosion of documentaries from Supersize Me to Outfoxed and Fahrenheit 9/11 mean that now, more than ever before, a person with a great idea and a camera can make their voice heard.

So what's missing? Money and a way to get your movie recognized so millions will watch it.

Let me tell you about two extraordinary women who hold some keys to your success.

Elizabeth English runs the Moondance International Film Festival - an opportunity to get the recognition and exposure you deserve.  In contrast to the more glitzy festivals that originate in the macho world of power and money, the Moondance festival reaches for that soul connection -- people writing stories or making movies that make a difference. 

Carole Dean runs workshops on how to get your movie financed.    She teaches her students how to come from their own heart - because your heart is the most powerful fundraising tool you have! (see below)

Moondance awards not those films with the most car crashes and mayhem, but those with the courage to show nonviolent heroism and nurturing values. And they award the best screenplays, short stories, stageplays, scripts for TV episodes, children's stories, and even music scores and lebretti.


MOONDANCE : The Soul of Movie Making

Set in the beautiful foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the Moondance Film Festival is a breath of fresh air – especially for those who feel their more soulful writings and productions are shunted aside by the mainstream festivals.

Aristotle once wrote: "The soul never thinks without a mental picture."

After attending Moondance, I found myself with a cornucopia of mental pictures flashing through my head - bringing a chuckle while standing in line at the bank, a sudden smile in the midst of work and some deep contemplation about the fate of our planet during my ride home:

  • The hilarious image of two enemy bomber-pilots caught by their parachutes in the same tree, dangling there until they can work out what their two nations cannot – in Gravity,winner of the Columbine Award.
  • The lonely cry of the Pacific Northwest wolf in the Calypso Award-winning  The Cost of Freedom  
  • World Leaders saying they want peace while waging war to establish peace in the ironic Life of Death, winner of the Spirit of Moondance Award.
  • And many, many more.  

Moondance is more than a film festival.  It's a school for filmmakers, a community of other writers and a place to promote your work and with Hollywood movers and shakers.

Does it really work?  Well, here's my experience.

One of the bedrock courses is given by Elizabeth English, the founder and creator of Moondance, who says "The title and logline are the keys that open the door to getting your script read."   The logline, she says, should give the full concept of the script in less than three sentences.  

This was my first attempt at a log line: "One" tells the story of a common man, a comic, forced to confront the horror of war. He rises to the occasion, triumphing against overwhelming odds to pioneer a new path for the planet, a way we the people can claim our rightful place not as subjects, but as sovereign citizens on top of the Earth  

That log-line failed several items on Elizabeth's checklist. It failed to: Reveal the star's situation.  Reveal the important complications.  Describe the action the star takes.  Describe the star's crisis decision.  Hint at the star's potential transformation.  Hint at the climax.   

With class input, I finally came up with this for my screenplay, which is based on a true story:   

"A Broadway comedian is ripped off the stage, thrown into a pilot's uniform, and ordered to bomb a city full of people in World War II.   Wracked with guilt, he gives up what is most precious - his US citizenship.  He declares himself a World Citizen, and takes off on a quest to Germany to rebuild the homes ravaged by his bombs.  Blocked by border-guards, police and armies, he is locked behind bars in a former Nazi concentration camp FOREVER!  Or until he can find an inner power greater than all their bars, bullets and bombs. "

We also changed the title from "One" to "Borderline!"   Still not perfect, but at least it has more inherent tension than the title "One."

Armed with this new log line, I was able to pitch my script to Terry Porter, a WGA signatory agent who gave the next workshop, a fascinating inside look at how things work in Hollywood.  Terry liked my story and asked to read my screenplay.

But before I gave it to him, I had it analyzed by Linda Seger, one of Hollywood's top script consultants who ran a workshop on the subject of her book:  Making a Good Script Great. (See for this and other wonderful books like Creating Unforgettable Characters.)

Linda's class taught us to analyze the structure of the screenplay – not because studios demand that you follow certain rules.  Rather because there is a need for a certain story structure embedded deep in the human psyche – perhaps dating back to the days of telling stories around the tribal fire. When we follow that structure, it makes the movie feel "right" to the audience.

Linda's analysis revealed that one of my main characters was bogging down the story and served no crucial purpose.  In real life she served a very useful purpose: She was Garry's first wife!  But in the movie reality she had to go.   

With the help of several friends, including actress Mimi Kennedy, I had struggled hard to capture the emotion and drama of this character.  And now, a character we worked on for many months had to go.  Was that painful?   Frankly, no.  I was elated.  If you're going to write movies, you have to let go of ego and look only at the story.  And the story was vastly improved.   

Once I polished my script, Terry read it.  And loved it.  He signed me up as his client and now he is planning pitching sessions in Los Angeles with major film companies.

Three workshops and Bingo!    

How did such an extraordinary film festival get started?  I asked Elizabeth when we sat down for an interview.  

"In the 1990's I was frustrated with The Hollywood Old Boys Network."

"I had 5 points against me.  I was a woman, over 30, not living in LA, without relatives in the business and my scripts were meaningful.   

"In 22 years Sundance never had a male name among the list of winners.  I searched the list and didn't see a single woman's name.  And few films have positive roles for women - especially over 40."

"I knew so many talented writers, and they all said the same thing.  So I started Moondance to encourage women not to give up."

"It was the opposite of Sundance.  Women encouraged - only indie films - international.  Did you know that Sundance requires entrants to be American citizens?  We get entries and winners from all over the world.  Everyone is welcomed and equal.  Here at Moondance men, women, young, old, Oscar winners, big directors, wanna be screenwriters - all are equal.  We had Oscar winners who wanted to be limoed and have hairdresser, but I said no.  No one gets limo service or we all do.   

"In April of 2000, the year after I started Moondance, I was busy reading scripts, when the massacre happened at Columbine - 35 miles away.   All of Colorado was in mourning. As I watched the TV coverage, I continued to read script.  Not one of these scripts used violence to solve the conflicts.  No one was getting shot in the head.    

"But in Hollywood, even female heroes Thelma and Louise blow up a truck and kill the rapist.  Logically a woman should call the police not kill a guy. Is it really necessary to kill the guy to make an exciting story?"

"So I instituted the Columbine award which promotes imaginative conflict resolution and alternatives to violence and in writing and film.  The columbine is also the state flower, yellow and purple white."

"Participants have entered the competitions or come to our festivals from the USA, Israel, Australia, Canada, France, UK, Greece, Brazil, Finland, Iran, South Africa, Norway, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Uruguay, Russia, New Zealand, Morocco, China, Chile, Mexico, Lithuania, France, Japan, Argentina, Tasmania, Spain, Costa Rica, Turkey, India, Nepal and many other countries."

"Winning the award changes that writer's life.  They gain confidence.  We had a professor at American university who had scripts out for 10 years.   No one would look at them.  Now that she won, she has agent and has written more scripts. "

"The winners of the columbine awards have dealt with apartheid in South Africa, the Gulf war, all those conflicts.  But in all these films the hero never kills the bad guys.  We challenge writers to think of a way our hero can win without war. What would Jesus do?"

Now that certainly doesn't sound very Hollywood.  So how is Moondance regarded within the entertainment industry?

"The Los Angeles-based Filmmakers Alliance did a poll of their 150,000 members, most of whom work in the industry or are struggling filmmakers."

They asked: What are the top 10 festivals that are important to your career and important to the international film industry?

"A week later the results came back.  We were ranked as number 3.   I almost fell over.  I was surprised and pleased."

From short stories to full-blown screenplays, from animations to feature films, whatever your creativity has created – click on  to submit it to the Moondance competition.  Good luck.  Hope to see you there.   


The Art of Funding your Film – A workshop by Carole Dean

Kelly wants to do a film on spirituality and sports.  Nizam feels he must make a movie about misconceptions of Islam in America.  Melody is dedicated to filming an expose of media deception.  Ann is developing a narrative feature set in India.  Nick has a very hot topic: gay marriage.    

Ruth wants to reach a wide audience with her movie: "God and Allah need to talk!"  Yerban wants to film a Civil War movie in his home state of Virginia.  Douglas is dying to make a movie in Southern Mexico - about the colorful rituals and passions of the Day of the Dead.  Ethan aims to produce a historical documentary on World War II in South Australia.  Patty is orchestrating a music documentary about a concert that reunites old friends.  Reed aims to make a movie about ethnic profiling and hate crimes in the post-9/11 era.  

And I am determined to produce a movie telling the true story of the first World Citizen, Garry Davis.

Thirty Five of us were gathered at Raleigh Studios -- a great bunch of people with great ideas and the willingness to dedicate their lives to getting their films made! Yet despite all our good ideas, skills, talents and creativity, we were all missing one key ingredient: money.

Show me the money!

I came up from Mexico, others flew in from the East Coast or drove long distances to be here at the historic Raleigh Studio, the lot where Bette Davis and Walt Disney used to film.  But we weren't here to film movies – yet – we were here to take a workshop with a rather amazing woman, Carole Dean.

Carole Dean is the author of The Art of Funding your Film. She has produced over 100 television programs and created the Roy W. Dean Grant Foundation to honor her late father.

We were all hoping Carole would give us a key contact – a connection with just the right person to get our movie funded. And she did.

But before I tell you who that person is, let me quote what Carole told us and wrote in her book:
"Throughout my career in the industry I have witnessed the success of some very strange films while excellent projects fell by the wayside. This led me to the realization that there is a missing ingredient in filmmaking that is not spoken of within industry circles.  I first believed the missing ingredient was passion.  Then I looked deeper and saw that many filmmakers who found themselves blocked half-way through production had plenty of passion.  Some were so dedicated they were working sixty hours a week so they could scrape together the funds to complete there film, but it still wasn't happening for them.  No, passion is an important ingredient, but it is not the secret ingredient.

By now you may be guessing who that key contact is.  Yes, me!   And me.  And me.  Each of us, holds within us the key to getting our movie made.  

If we are filled with fear, worry, guilt, and self-doubt, that is what we will attract to us.   

On they other hand if I know that my film must be made and that I'm the right person to make it, then I'll attract to me the contacts and opportunities to make it."   

As Carole put it: "The Journey starts upstairs in your head.  You have to learn to go outside the box…adopting new ways of thinking when it comes to funding your film."

"Get a mental picture of how you will fund your film.  See a check with a large amount of money and see yourself depositing it in your account.  Visualize your dream by believing that the money is coming from a specific place – a bank, a generous philanthropist, a corporation… Believing will open your mind and allow you to continue without being blocked by fear.

"Next, verbalize your dream…  Describe your dream or goal exactly as you see it.  The more detail you use the better."

"We become what we believe.  You are a very unique being.  Look at the talents you possess and cherish yourself.  Never put yourself  down… You have been chosen to impart art, beauty and knowledge to the rest of us.  Everything you do is a reflection of you"

"Remember, they aren't giving money to an LLC or an organization, they are giving it to you.  

"You need to state clearly what you need.  No maybes, no trying.  Just doing.

"Remember, there is no such thing as a NO.  It's only the first step in a negotiation."

It's not just about money.  It's about energy.  Money is the energy, the current or "currency" that will empower you to tell an important story to the world.

Studies have show than filmic experiences can be so emotionally real that they are recorded within the body at a cellular level.  The phenomenon has been called "prosthetic memory."   

"If you move to the concept that you are shaping minds and assigning emotions and beliefs with every picture, every word, and every sound, you will realize how important your words, sounds, and pictures are to humanity."

To help us visualize and verbalize our movies, Carole invited us to pitch our films in front of her, the class, and a camera.   She worked with us to mold our pitches until they captured all the passion, intrigue, drama or humor of our stories.  Then she gave us our videos so we could watch ourselves at home and keep making our pitches better and better.  

And the pitches were fascinating.  Candice, for example, pitched her film about 3000 Nigerian women who were threatening to disrobe as a protest against Chevron and Shell's exploitation of their economy! When the women had peacefully protested the destruction of their farming and fishing livelihood, the company responded by having goons beat them severely.  So the women mounted the ultimate retaliation – they threatened to stand before them naked. In Nigerian culture this is such a shame to the men that they can never go back to their village.  The company capitulated! (

Carole and the class gave Candice feedback to polish her pitch.

Carole also gave her funding tips, and gave all of us example after example of innovative ways people have funded their films.  She urged us to use as much creativity and imagination in plotting our funding as we use in plotting our stories.

She brought in several experts to share their funding secrets, including Barbara Trent, the courageous producer of The Panama Deception who pioneered the art of distributing films through living room gatherings – a technique that has now been used by Move-On to get millions of people to see Robert Greenwald's Uncovered andOutfoxed.   

Barbara brought along her Oscar for us to hold, touch, and visualize ourselves up there on the stage thanking the many people who made our film possible – including Carole Dean!   (see pictures)

Barbara brought along her new film "Waging Peace", her powerful  new documentary that makes the case that "there are two superpowers: The United States Government and Global Public Opinion." 

Another speaker was Jay May. President of "Feature This!" a Company that specializes in "Product Placement."    

Whether you are making a small documentary and would like the local Pizza shop to donate pizza's for your crew, or major feature film needing cars and money – product placement is a way to reduce your costs and increase your funding.  

When Tom Cruise wore Rayban sunglasses in Risky Business, Rayban's sales went up 400%, May said.

Companies learned the lesson, and paid $25 million for product placements in Minority Report.

Over 100 million was paid for product placement in the last James Bond film before one piece of film was shot.

When Adam Sandler declared Popeye's chicken "awesome" their sales shot up 600 percent.

Jay's company is dedicated to matching products with up and coming films (

This is just a small sampling of the great wealth of insights, experiences, tips and leads that you will find in The Art of Funding your Film.  Workshops are coming up in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.   The book has a terrific appendix of names, emails and phone numbers of key funding sources.  For more info see  

©2004 Arthur Kanegis


Arthur Kanegis is a writer, producer and founder of
Future WAVE (Working for Alternatives to Violence through Entertainment)  He also heads One Productions, LLC,
a development-stage film production company. 
He writes screenplays on the beach in Baja.

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