Monday, November 15, 2010


While it may seem like raising $5,000 for your film over a 60-90 day span will lessen the impact of the campaign on the folks you are pitching to, it also runs the risk of slowing (or outright stopping) any momentum you may have. If you’re riding the fundraising campaign hard for, say, 30 days, you run the risk of annoying people but you also get in to it, get it done with and then can move on. Those annoyed won’t be annoyed for long and, at worst, you’ve only put yourself out for 30 days (which, for many filmmakers uninterested in fundraising, knowing the time limit is shorter can make it more bearable; you can get to the other stuff, like filming, that much faster). There is a flipside to this, however.

Let’s say you tried to raise $5,000 in 30 days, and we’re creeping up on Day 15 and you’re still under 50% of your goal… is your project done for? Not at all (I’ve seen a few projects that we covered here on Film Threat take such a scenario and turn it around, some even pulling in some insane final day tallies to pull off the goal), but the amount of work you have to put into the fundraising increases that much more. If you were hitting it hard before (sending emails, Twitter tweets, Facebook posts, blog entries, etc.), you have to up the effort. It pretty much becomes your job (if it wasn’t before, and if it was before, it’s now overtime). The shorter the campaign also means the intensity of the campaign is that much more heightened.

For the record, since noting this trend of the most intense period being the end period, I’ve used it to help decide what projects to feature on Film Threat. Why? Because the short timeframe moves people to act, and if I feature a project too early, it runs the risk of being forgotten… even by me. There are exceptions of course (if the money being raised is $8,000 or more, I like to feature a project earlier), but even in those cases the most intense fundraising hits in the first week, and the last two weeks.

Remember that whole “annoying” thing I mentioned above? Yeah, well, you may have to be a little bit annoying if you want to hit your goal. First, remember what it is that is more important: your project; you want to complete your project. You have to chance that, in order to make your goal, you may annoy someone somewhere, or that a friend or two may give you shit for it. I’m not talking about putting aside your dignity, but when you fundraise or crowdfund your film, you’re more than just a filmmaker, you are a salesperson. You are selling your project, and yourself, to other people to convince them to put money in.

Let’s look at it like selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. You don’t go up to one house, get turned down and then leave the neighborhood. No, you go to the next house in the neighborhood… then the next… then the next… then when the neighborhood is played out, you try a new neighborhood. Then next week, maybe you start all over again, this time with a new flavor of cookies. Those neighbors that turned you down initially may change their minds, they may hate you more… but if your timeframe is short (as mentioned above), that won’t last long, because you’ll be done. But when you’re selling, you have to sell everyday… to someone. Select your neighborhoods, and work through them… daily. Some of the most successful fundraising campaigns that I’ve seen on this site I’ve also seen and read about on Twitter, Facebook and on other film sites, because the people behind them were constantly at it, finding new ways to pitch their idea, find publicity, find interest… and many times, it wasn’t even the people behind the project doing the pitching; the investors or friends had picked up the flag and were marching it around for them, which brings us to…

Consider this, to keep with the Girl Scouts theme, as picking your neighborhoods. You map out which audience will be the most receptive, and you pitch to them first. If you’re right, there’s a good chance that you will find partners-in-arms who will be willing to do more than just give your campaign money, they’ll help you find more. One of the beautiful things about crowdfunding is that, for it to really work, the crowd has to feel like they benefit too. A campaign is more than just some filmmaker’s next film, it’s also now the crowd’s project. No one likes to throw cash away, and the crowd is much more likely to get behind your project if they feel like they’re really a part of it, and when you know your audience (or neighborhood), you can find that crowd faster. That said, sometimes you’re wrong about the neighborhood, or the neighborhood is receptive, but not enough to get the job done… so find another neighborhood (expand your audience). When you hit that receptive crowd, while the campaign remains intense, you will not be alone in your endeavors.

You know your audience, the crowd is engaged and… you don’t ever update your crowdfunding page, no one knows the status of the project, etc. If you were an investor who just put in money, how would you feel if the project you took a chance on isn’t even bothering to talk to you after taking your money. This is where the Girl Scouts metaphor breaks down, because, unlike the Girl Scouts, you owe the houses who bought cookies updates on how you’re doing. Because investors have put more than just money in, they’re interested in the success of the project. They want to back a winner, because a winner can make everyone look good.

Sidebar: you can never judge an investor by the amount they put in; just because someone puts in $35 doesn’t mean they’re less important. You don’t know every investor’s financial situation; what may look small to you ($35), may be the entertainment budget for the month for that investor.

Since, for many investors, it’s more than just about the money; they want the project to be successful, and they want to feel like they’re a part of that success, the least you can do is keep them informed and updated as much as possible. If you’re climbing to your goal, let them know what you’re doing to get there because THEY WANT YOU TO SUCCEED. They may be able to help you more. Maybe their monetary contribution is as high as it can go, but they may be able to help you spread the word. Consider every investor or crowdfunding supporter as part of your campaign and project, and let them help you!

You may be the aloof, laid-back type who is just trying this crowdfunding thing out because other financial avenues have dried up, but that doesn’t mean you should behave that way with your campaign. No one wants to back the project where the main driving force behind it is, “Yeah, it’d be nice… but it isn’t the end of the world. If it works, cool.” Screw that noise! Your investors, unless they’re made up entirely of friends and family that would back you regardless, want to feel the urgency of the campaign, and they want to see that you will stop at nothing to hit your goal. Again, they want to back a winner, and at the very least, they should feel like the campaign wants to win. If you take the “eh, we’ll see how this turns out” tack and then play the fundraising equally as laid-back, do not be surprised when you don’t hit your goal. The successful crowdfunders are the one that can’t imagine NOT hitting their goal.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the more successful campaigns I’ve seen are also the ones I’ve heard the most about on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Again, those campaigns hit it daily, and when the main project owner wasn’t doing the pitching, the investors were. If I feature your project on Film Threat, and the most I’m reading about it on Twitter or Facebook are things that I’ve written, your project is in trouble. It is NOT enough to simply post on your personal blog or your crowdfunding page, or to ride one piece of press. That is picking one neighborhood; it limits your chances in completing your goal considerably. You need to be everywhere.

Seriously, invest in someone else’s project. Find out how it feels to be a part of another campaign. Evaluate things you think or feel when you see the project you backed do the good things (or the bad). Become the audience to know the audience.

Beyond that, remember that the film community is like a natural environment or ecology. You can’t just take-take-take, you have to give back to the community too. Backing another project not only generates good karma, it can also help you form an alliance or friendship with other like-minded filmmakers who will also take up your flag and run with it as you’ve done with theirs. Without naming them, there is a group of filmmakers, and projects, I’ve featured on Film Threat that have been partially successful because they’ve all been supporting each others’ projects. When one hits their goal, they all turn to the next one who needs help. They retweet each other’s stuff on Twitter, they support each other, they share tips and ideas that worked for them… they’ve embraced the community aspect, and they’ve become givers as well as takers and they’ve ALL been successful thus far.

Deadlines are a great motivator, but for some people, they are not enough. If you’re using Kickstarter then, for example, maybe you’re using it because you like the added motivator that if you don’t hit your goal, you don’t get any money. If you’re using IndieGoGo, maybe the deadline is motivation enough, or maybe your goal isn’t the end-all need for your project (you could use all that you’re looking to raise, but if you can raise even half that, you can still move forward with your project). My point is, know yourself well enough to know what is going to work best for you. Don’t just pick a platform because it worked for this person or that friend… they are not you. You are much more likely to be successful if you pick a platform that you can embrace instead of dread. That said, likewise, if you know that the platform that fits you perfectly now probably won’t get it done (because you know that similar motivations haven’t been successful for you in the past), maybe do the opposite and challenge yourself. Still, you have to know yourself.

There are tons of projects out there that have been successful. Find the ones that the most similar to what you’re trying to do (subject matter, goal amount, etc) and look at how they did it. Drop those filmmakers a line, ask questions. Find out what you’re really in for. Your path and project will not be exactly the same as theirs, of course, but learn from the mistakes of others to save yourself the step of making those mistakes yourself. You’ll make other mistakes (that, likewise, someone else can learn from). There will not be a perfect blueprint to be successful in every scenario, every time BUT there is enough information out there to help push you in the right direction. Use it!

And don’t be afraid to question everything you read. This article is just one of many that exist out there of people trying to tell other people how they can be successful at crowdfunding. I don’t think many of my points are unique, nor do I think that they are better than a lot of advice floating around out there. That said, these are points that I, personally, have directly observed as having been components of successful campaigns. But I’m on the outside looking in, having not started my own campaign and applied these ideas myself.

Crowdfunding is hard. You’re going to be met with love and hate. Some things you do will be praised, others will be considered annoying and obnoxious, maybe even losing you some friends. It is important to remember, at every point, why you are doing all of this to begin with. Is it to see your dream brought to reality in a feature film? Is it to raise the right amount of money to insure that you and your film have the best shot at traveling the festival circuit? Is it to help you establish your own medium? Whatever it is, DO NOT FORGET IT. Focus on it in the hard and the easy moments. It should pull you through.

And those are my “10 Tips to Successfully Crowdfund Your Movie.” Hopefully something in there strikes some truth with you, and you can utilize the information to succeed yourself. Or, maybe your own success flies in the face of what I’ve said. Either way, let us know in the comments below. That way we can all learn because, as I said above, these are just the things I’ve directly observed. I may’ve missed something (it is more than likely I did), so share your experiences and we can all be the better for it.
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