Taking the fear out of crowdfunding!
You can have the best film script in the world, the best director, the best crew, and even the best crafty! But if you don’t have funding? Well, you might as well pack it up and head home.
“But crowdfunding is scary!” you say. Baloney! And even if it is, it doesn’t have to be! Many, if not most, indie productions get some amount of much-needed capital boost from crowdfunding nowadays, so it’s time for you to dip your toe in the waters to help supercharge your production to the next level!
Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
One of the most popular ways for filmmakers to get their projects off the ground is crowdfunding. Sites like GoFundMe, Kickstarter, and IndieGoGo provide an independent lifeline, free of studios or credit cards, that give filmmakers the freedom to cast off the shackles of credit card debt, overbearing executive producers, and personal wealth. Giving the filmmaker that ability and freedom really allows them to put the focus on making their project as good as they can.
Crowdfunding helps remove the risk of a few large investors by replacing it with small risk-averse donations from many people. But that doesn’t mean it’s free money! Crowdfunding is as responsible as traditional methods of fundraising because it allows you to assure participating people that their investment is worthwhile due to the number of eyes and ears on your project!
Set a Reasonable Funding Goal & Campaign Length
Let’s be real, it would be great to have a fundraising campaign that would raise infinite money for the entire period of production. But that’s not going to happen. Setting boundaries and goals for your campaign are integral to the success of your film. If you go too long, people might not feel the pressure to donate, or they may think that the project isn’t far enough along to deserve fundraising. If you go too short, you might not be able to generate the buzz needed to raise enough money, and your campaign could fail before it gets off the ground.
Kickstarter lists that the most successful campaigns average a length of 30 days, far from their upper limit of 60 days, so maybe that’s something to consider. You don’t want your campaign to go stale with a lengthy campaign so observing some of the more successful film campaigns can be a great resource for you. As they say, emulation is the highest form of flattery, and if that emulation gets you the capital you need in order to make your film, then emulate away!
Creating Your Pitch Video
HAVE. A. GREAT. PITCH. VIDEO.
Almost nothing is more important than your pitch video. This could be your first and last opportunity to sell your project to donors, so make it count. People enjoy the visual nature of the pitch video and you know what people say about first impressions… So think of this as yours. Your pitch should follow these simple rules:
- Match the theme of your project. The pitch should convey the mood of the project you are creating. If it’s a serious subject, make sure your pitch is serious. If it’s funny, make them laugh! This demonstrates you have the creative chops to pull off your production while also showing your dedication.
- Show them who you are. Introduce yourself/eves! Attach a face to your production to add that important personal element. Show your potential donors who you are and tell them why you are passionate about your project.
- Demonstrate your skills. If you are not an established filmmaker, you may need to show that you have the skills needed to pay the bills. Examples/clips of your previous work, or better, proof-of-concept art, pictures, or footage of your current project are great ways to prove your mastery of the subject matter and medium.
- Finally, your call to action. Show your donors why it’s important to donate! It’s not begging, so don’t feel guilty. You both know why you’re here, so show them that you know what you’re doing and make them feel like they should donate to you. Tell them the best way to donate and tempt them with what they can gain if they do!
Setting Up Your Page
Okay so you’ve made your pitch video and you’re ready to set up your page. Congrats! You’re doing great! Now comes the minutia that shows everyone the nuts and bolts of your campaign.
Personal Info & Pitch: Tell your prospective donors who you are! Let them know your filmmaking experience! Provide examples of your past projects if possible, your educational inspirations, anything you feel would help enamor them. Also, include a short pitch for your project. This is a great place to use your logline to really hook the donor into why your project is worth investing in and why it should be interesting to them.
Graphs: Building pie charts is a classic way to demonstrate your responsibility with the money you will be receiving. Include all the major areas of expenses to show exactly where your donor’s money will be spent. Examples:
This type of information will show where your donor’s money will be going and will dissolve the barrier of privacy that can concern people about giving away capital to someone they don’t know.
Images: Press images, shots from practice shoots, or even proof-of-concept imagery used to promote the film are powerful tools for engagement. Posters and banners will help build hype even if the final project isn’t complete. If you study the release cycle of Hollywood films, you can see how hype is built up gradually over time with posters, ads, banners, and teasers to keep people engaged but not annoyed by updates.
Schedule: Provide your donors with at least a rough schedule of the planned production. Include any pre-production days remaining, how long you expect to be on set, post-production in all of its stages, and finally, a rough planned release date if possible. Remember, by the time you are crowdfunding you should have an idea of how long it will take for your donors to receive a final project. No one wants to donate to a half-baked, shot in the dark project that will just take their money and never offer a return on investment.
Now comes everyone’s favorite part. Prizes. These are integral to selling your campaign to donors because it gives them a reward to remind them of their part of the effort both before and after the red carpet. As per IndieGoGo’s Guide (LINK), $25 donations are the most common, so make those very important and use them as the signifier between Low and Mid-level donations. However, the most money is raised off of $100 donations, so use that donation amount for your best perks! As the donor amounts get higher, you can warrant spending a little more time with your rewards. Get creative, give out signed merch from the team, photo options at the red carpet, a personal call from a big-named actor on set… Anything to get people’s blood pumping and wallets opening!
Special Thanks: For the lower donators (think $5-10), a Special Thanks on your film’s website can go along way. In addition, depending on your generosity and number of expected donors, Special Thanks can be added to the end of the credits for the film for an even bigger sentimental gesture to your supporters.
Direct Production Updates: For higher caliber contributers, periodic and timely updates can help calm their nerves about donating. Some people really like to see how far their dollar stretches and what better way to show them that than updating them about your progress.
People. Love. Merch: T-shirts, posters, mugs, whatever. People love it. Also, it’s actually a great way to get the word out for your project before and after it comes out. However, bad merch such as unprofessional looking posters, shirts with the poster slapped on in MSPaint, or pens with the movie title printed on the side can be real drags on your project. Putting effort into your merch is VERY important because it can help make your production look that much more professional. It also proves your dedication to your supporters and makes them feel that their donations were worthwhile.
Limited Edition Items: Signed editions of your film, photos with the cast and crew, Original Soundtrack albums, copies of the script, you name it! If it’s exclusive, it could be worth something someday but at the very least it has a sentimental value, which can almost be worth its weight in gold to some people.
Physical Copies vs Digital: In the days of yore, a successful project would send out hard copies of its film as rewards for even mid-level supporters. Nowadays, most people don’t even have disk readers so this practice has fallen to the wayside. That does not mean that a hard copy won’t go a long way, but consider giving out hard copies only to higher level donors. In lieu of this, however, you can send supporters a dropbox or similar service with a folder containing; the .mov, film poster, and a thank you note for the supporter to show you care! Bonus: You can’t scratch a digital copy!
Engagement with the Production: A visit to set, an extra role on-screen, VIP seating, and perks for the red carpet event. Make them feel like the royalty they are for donating this much. Executive Producer credits are also a great selling point!
Keep in mind… you don’t want to spend too much with all these perks. It can be easy to get carried away trying to thank your generous donors but keep in mind, these count towards your expenses. Perks and rewards are exciting and really can help get people on board with your campaign, but they also cost money. So keep a keen eye on how much you are giving away along with shipping, manufacturing, and time spent!
We hope that we have provided you with the toolset to start your next crowdfunding campaign. Crowdfunding may seem scary but it doesn’t have to be if you treat it like a production. Envision your goal, plan your approach, and stay honest with your progress and you will see a marked increase in the success of your campaigns. Keep your heads up for our Part II where we will explore Social Media and involvement post-Red Carpet!