If I had to guess the top Indie film buzzword for 2011, I would definitely place bets on “crowdfunding”. Who hasn’t gotten an email, Facebook spam, Twitterfeed clog or plain in-person begging for so-and-so’s IndieGoGo or Kickstarter project? Or perhaps you’ve been that campaigner glued to their screen typing in a shortened campaign url to anyone who ever knew you.
I was taught to believe like most of my peers, film folk outside the studio system would have to move heaven and earth to pay for their projects. Fast-forward to today, where any Joe with a 7D can raise up to $80,000 from complete strangers! The crazy part is that a lot of the contributors put their dollars in film projects they can’t even see past the idea stage.
According to the Kickstarter.com blog, 14 of the 174 films selected for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival were projects raising funds on their site. Overall, the 10 features and 4 shorts received more than $370,000 from Kickstarter backers in 2011. Just…wow.
If either of these sites are new to you, here’s the gist of them. In one corner, you have “win-win either way” IndieGoGo.com. IGG allows folks to raise money for just about ANYTHING and collect ANY money raised in select deadline (fees charged vary on campaign’s success). In the opposing team, we have “all-or-nothing” Kickstarter.com. Kickstarter allows U.S. residents to raise funds for “projects with clear BEGINNING and END (not CAUSES or CHARITY PROJECTS) that must be FULLY funded to receive any money.
From 12/24/2010 to 1/24/2011, two of my classmates and I campaigned via IndieGoGo to raise $2,000 for “Jemila’s Tale”, our Ithaca College senior thesis short film. This was a simpler time before everyone and their mom was hitting you up for a dollar.
Looking back, I wanted to humbly offer my two cents about embarking on crowdfunding a film. Note: I’m speaking on behalf on a team of 3 female film students with a small goal of raising $2,000 in 30 days to help pay for their short film shot on 16mm film.
#1. Do your homework- My team and I looked at both KS and IGG and weighed pros/cons of both. As first-timers, we wanted to be able to keep any of the money we raised.
#2. Commit like you life depends on it- Now my team and I were going to make our film either way (we did have to graduate!). But personally as the writer/director, I sought out to learn Twitter, Facebook blast, email my entire address book and pitch the campaign to every person I met. If you’re going to be successful, you have to become one with your campaign.
#3. Be a realistic optimist- We racked our brains figuring out how long to campaign and how much to ask for. For us, 30 days was right before our 1st day of classes and $2,000 would pay for 16mm stock/digital processing and set design costs.
#4. Don’t break the bank on perks- My team had to pay for every DVD, poster and t-shirt that we promised every $20, $50 or $100 contributor, so we budgeted ahead of time. Only give perks you can honestly afford that will still equate the value of each contribution amount category.
#5. Be visible- This means posters, (pre)production stills, an original pitch video, storyboards, constant updates, Twitter page and Facebook page. People give to a face, not an idea. Our personal campaign had our full team featured in the pitch video, daily tweets/FB contributor shout-outs, became a IGG “Campaign of the Day”, got retweeted by our college network and was featured in 2 of our hometown digital news publications. I also tweeted our IGG url weekly with “#SupportIndieFilm”, which is a hashtag retweeted every Sunday by @FirstGlanceFilms (a Philly based film fest with over $5,000 followers).
#6. The pitch is the word- You only get one chance to clearly, concisely and creatively ask for the money you need. Have fun! Simply be honest with yourself. My team and I saw it as a mixture of old school budgeting by “raising as much as we could on our own” plus new school strategy of “assessing our klout”. Would X amount of people we knew (and some we didn’t) willingly give us X amount of dollars for X perks in return?
As a former IGG’er, part of me is grateful for new platforms to fund creative projects. However, I fear a huge problem will arise as well. There are too many hands reaching in what has always been a tiny pot, especially for indie artist. And let’s be real, some film projects just aren’t of the caliber to be asking for such high dollar amounts in a short time span. On the other hand, it’s disappointing when truly amazing projects get lost in the clutter and go unfunded. It’s a catch-22 when everyone’s allowed to participate in creating today’s art. What do you think: is something sacred losing its value or is this the necessary artist-consumer collaboration that could bring about a society that truly values the indie filmmaker?