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Quick Advice On Crowdfunding

I’ve been asked a number of times for advice on how to crowdfund a movie, so I thought I’d post it here…

  • Do an “all or nothing” campaign. There is still a stigma to the idea that “filmmakers can keep the money even if they dont hit their goal”. I know too many people who refuse to donate to campaigns like that because, frankly, no one wants to have their money go to waste if you cant raise what you said you needed to make the movie.
  • Your pitch video should demonstrate a strong command of your filmmaking ability. Inspire confidence. Show them you can make a movie that looks like a movie. That means putting the same effort into it that you would into the making of the movie. you are a filmmaker, there is NO excuse for bad sound, wonky edits, bad lighting, noisy footage, etc. If you and your team are sitting down to record your pitch video and you or someone on your team says “the mic on the camera will be good enough”… you are not ready.
  • Don’t waste your time spamming people you don’t know. Focus on your core audience, the people who care. That is family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, etc. when someone donates, thank them publicly on their facebook profile and INCLUDE THE LINK TO YOUR CAMPAIGN. They will likely respond with a comment saying why they donated: “I believe in you” or “it’s looks awesome!”. Now you have a public testimonial that all THEIR friends can see. This is how we were able to run our campaign without randomly spamming facebook and twitter.
  • If you fail to find support, consider it a test or “filter” for what you’re putting out there and take a good hard look at it as you reassess. Why did you fail to connect? People generally don’t donate for the perks.
  • This is the thing I stressed over for weeks before we launched: What am I offering people who back us? Perks? Blah. Who really wants a poster of a movie that doesn’t even exist yet? No one. Think about what has inspired you to donate to someone’s campaign (and if you haven’t, you have bigger issues). What was it that motivated you to part with some dough? was it because of the movie they were making? Or was it something about them and their personal story and perhaps seeing yourself in their goals and ambitions? For me, the campaigns I donate to always seem to touch something inside of me that connects with my own aspirations and ideas about moviemaking. But it’s not that the film is personal, it’s because the filmmaker shared something personal that I could relate to. I think, “I like what this person is doing, where their head is at, I want to help.” Then I click the donate button. I’ve never said “okay, their pitch video was too long, it was edited weird, their poster looks bad, but damn it I love horror comedies! I’m donating!!!”
  • Be prepared to be at it every day. During our campaign, I spent nearly every waking hour either at the computer fostering the campaign, or shooting and editing video content to release as updates. Probably averaged no less than 14 hours a day on it for 30 days.
  • Build your team out of people who run in different social circles. You will need help, but if you and your team only know the same people, you’re only multiplying the annoyance factor for your friends and followers by the number of people in your team.
  • Do a short campaign. Kickstarter’s statistics show little benefit to running a campaign longer than 30 days. 30 days is the sweet spot. Use it to your advantage to create a sense of urgency. And use milestones and minigoals. It’s easier to motivate people to help you reach 25% funded by this Friday, than to reach 100% funded by the end of the month. Plus, you can publicly salute the people who brought you to each milestone! “So and so gave us our first $100 donation!” or “So and so’s pledge brought us to the 10% funded mark!”
  • At every step, don’t think like a filmmaker trying to raise money, think like a backer coming across your campaign for the first time. If you got an unsolicited email or postcard from someone you didn’t know, would you give them $25? $100? doubtful. When people send you facebook invites to ‘like’ something, do you ignore them? I do. So why would I expect others to react differently to my requests? Look to your own behavior. What moves you to take action? How many times must you hear about something before you check it out? Who in your social media circles is recommending the random youtube videos you watch each day and why do you trust their “recommendation”? Is it because you share interests? Or because you admire them? I am not a salesman. It’s not in my nature. But I’ve found a lot of answers by looking at my own habits and behavior online.
  • Last one. Talking AT people is not as effective as talk WITH them. I was able to keep a dialogue going about the project on twitter and facebook by releasing more videos about the project, posting audio recordings that inspired different aspects of the story and engaging in a public conversation with anybody who showed interest. But to have something to talk about, you need to be producing new content throughout the campaign. I liken the running of a campaign to producing a web series. And as filmmakers, producing quality, engaging content is what we’re good at. So use it.
  • Okay, this really is the last one. Be a part of the community. Get on twitter. Search for relevant keywords and follow the people who are part of that discussion and join it. Meet people, make friends, support THEIR projects, write blog posts, comment on theirs, give give give, be a decent human being and participate in the indie film community and you will be rewarded. Because these are the people who will support you in kind when you launch your crowdfunding campaign. This is your social media army who will be tweeting on your behalf and spreading the word. If you approach it as networking, you’re doing it wrong. The filmmakers, actors, producers, composers and others I’ve met on dvxuser and twitter, many have become lifelong friends. If you find yourself making genuine friendships, you’re doing it right.
  1. Mike Hedge02-03-2012

    awesome points Zak

  2. Tim Sparks07-17-2012

    Zak thanks for writing this! I think this is key to all of the projects I have been looking at which have been successful. This is great information for anyone starting a crowdfunding campaign for a film. I am looking forward to the final product.

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