Crowdfunding

For many people, crowdfunding is now a necessary element of film-making. And it offers a fine opportunity for women filmmakers, in conjunction with digital technology, in a world where it's almost always more difficult to finance and distribute films by and about women. Especially if the director and/or the story don't fit within very narrow parameters. For example, take Alisa Lynn Valdes' adaptation of her best-selling Dirty Girls Social Club (700,000 copies sold in the US). She just launched a campaign on Kickstarter. Many of us are familiar with versions of the true story on which she bases her wonderful pitch.



But crowd funding is HARD.  I get lots of email from women filmmakers about their crowdfunding campaigns and it seems to me that the work on their campaigns are very similar their work making their films. Demanding. + +. If you have a crowdfunding friend, support her and treat her with tenderness! Spread the word. Deliver meals and hugs. Invest $5 or the price of a movie ticket (or more!). Persuade your family and mates to do the same. And then share the world's delight when we have another film by and (maybe) about women.

I'm not an expert (some links to experts are below), but here's a quick rundown of the crowdfunding process if you're not familiar with it. It's primarily about crowdfunding where you offer perks, or rewards, to people who want to contribute/donate; in some cases this reward may be a tax benefit.  I have had no experience at all of crowdfunding where the filmmaker sells shares in her film, or equity, though I recently interviewed producer Robin Scholes about New Zealand's first equity crowdfunding, for The Patriarch.

My understanding is that if equity is involved the legal issues (see note below) are far more complex than for other kinds of crowdfunding and you need to check them out very very early.  The Age of Stupid project, the earliest example I know of crowdfunding for film, used a mixed model which included selling equity and their crowdfunding page discusses their response to the legal issues.

If you've crowdfunded and think I've missed something, please let me know!

Development
Development is necessary. And it can't be rushed. I know some filmmakers who've developed their crowd funding campaign for around a year. Longer, if they've been creating a project community through social media ever since they started work on the project.

It's necessary first to decide which element of the film to crowdfund for (I've only seen one campaign to fund a script). Whether to have separate campaigns for several elements: production, post-production and distribution. Or to focus on something more specific, e.g. equipment hire, crew meals, insurance. (Alisa Lynn Valdes' first Kickstarter campaign was for travel to investor meetings.)

How much money to ask for? Which crowd funding site of those available will suit best (e.g. Kickstarter or Indiegogo or Seed & Spark or Sponsume, or, in New Zealand, Boosted or PledgeMe or or or...)? Which community or communities to approach for support? Once a crowdfunding site is chosen, what story to tell the community in the video pitch and in the associated text? What rewards to offer donors – what will appeal to a community or communities? (Some sites like Boosted are philanthropic and provide tax credits to donors instead of other rewards.) What physical size the rewards will be – e.g. posters are tricky to mail. Seed & Spark, a specialist filmmaker site, advises
Beyond a postcard from set, we recommend you avoid promising material-objects as much as possible, because they will cost you money and time to produce and ship. And lets stop proliferating stuff. Let's focus on making movies!
And there's more. Who will make immediate contributions at launch,  to provide initial momentum - families, friends, businesses? What virtual and real life friends will help on social media – Facebook, Twitter etc – and with carefully  organised 'conventional' media stories? Who will help run the campaign, which requires deep commitment for the weeks that it runs?

Production
After the development process comes the production process. It's like all production processes, utterly all-consuming. Working with the site-owners and setting up the site. Making the pitch video and writing the site text. If you're a director who hates being in front of the camera, you'll probably have to give it a go, because potential supporters want to see you talk about your vision and how you will realise it. They'll want to know why your project is unique, why it needs to exist, and why you're the best person to make that happen.

Here's Anne Flournoy's pitch video, from her Seed & Spark campaign for the third season of her webseries The Louise Log.



Then the launch. Then transparency, entertainment, gratitude, via emails, social media, formal updates for as long as the campaign runs. And twenty-four hours cover, because this is online and somewhere in the world there are people who are awake and potential supporters.

Anne Flournoy increased the entertainment value of her campaign through two clips I love, about How To Wreck Your Life With Crowd Funding Parts 1 & 2. Like the best comedy, they contain some difficult truths.





And she kept in touch about her progress, through emails and social media. And on the last day, this video which shows typical weariness – I've seen it at the end of other campaigns too. And remarkable grace under pressure.




And post-production?

Post-production
First, the wrap-up vid. Ideally, like Anne's, it points to the future and how supporters can stay in touch.



And then send out individual rewards if applicable. But the real post-production is using the money to advance the project itself, to share with the communities who care about the film.

RESOURCES

There's a group of women's campaigns on my Pinterest Women's Film Campaigns board. You could take a look and see what appeals to you and what doesn't.

Here are two excellent, recent, film-relevant articles, from Stage 32, a social network for film, television and theater creatives. And a long clip of interviews about crowdfunding from Film Courage, a website and radio show focused on DIY and DIWO (Do It With Others) indie filmmaking. Will add more as I find them.

Tips to a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign 1
Tips to a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign 2

Five Reasons You're Not Ready to Crowdfund from Etta Devine who's had lost of experience!

What Successful Kickstarter Campaigns Have in Common (quantitative analysis)

Angela Aguayo on HOW TO CROWDFUND WHEN YOU'RE NOT ZACH BRAFF OR SPIKE LEE: THE FIRST TIME FILMMAKERS GUIDE TO A BRAVE NEW WORLD

Filmmaker Niam Itani on 'My Experience Crowdfunding in the Third World'



New Directions

Please note, there's also now some 'high-end' crowdfunding experience for films like Veronica Mars. For examples see here.

Legal and Tax Issues 

You must check these out. I'm looking for good info about these, so let me know if you have some suggestions! Here's a good one to start with.

Film Festival Crowdfunding

Some British festival crowdfunding experience here and here.

The latest from The Age of Stupid team–



2 comments:

  1. Hi, I couldn't find a contact for you and although we follow each other on twitter it wouldn't let me send a message so excuse this way of contacting you. I just wanted to ask, if possible, do you mind giving my debut feature fundraising a shout out on your social media please? Thanks and no worries if not :) http://tinyurl.com/lnufha6

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