While almost any project can be crowdsourced, few have the capacity to capture a wide audience. We've listed the top seven of those that did; click here for more stories about their successes. And here's how Jennifer Fox made the system work for her.
1. Identify your target audience — preferably, audiences.
Fox had two built-in niche audiences to target; fans and followers of her primary subject Tibetan Buddhist Master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, of which there are many worldwide, and the estimated 7,000 people that Fox cultivated during the grassroots release of her last film, 2006's “Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman.”
2. Give your backers plenty to see.
The fact that “My Reincarnation” was essentially complete and already showing at select international film festivals also helped. While Fox was initially uncomfortable asking for money for a project that appeared complete, she still needed some $100,000 to cover the costs of music rights, post-production sound, subtitling and additional editing for broadcast. But she used the existing film to her advantage, touting the Kickstarter campaign at public screenings and teasing the movie with multiple video clips on the web.
“So our campaign didn’t just have a Web 2.0 aspect, it had screenings and it had video,” says Fox, who worked with a team of filmmakers Stefanie Diaz, Katherine Nolfi and Lisa Duva, to make the effort work. (Nolfi and Duva took a percentage of the proceeds. Kickstarter takes 5% of every project’s donations.)
3. Get creative with incentives. (Hint: Hats and T-shirts probably won't do the trick.)
Like most Kickstarter participants, Fox also offered special incentives to donors—and not just posters or DVDs, but limited-edition prints of paintings by a famous Buddhist teacher, original art and artifacts from Fox’s personal collection (“I raided my home,” she admits) and a gold ring and Tibetan statue donated by the father and son shown in the film, which went for $5,000 and $7,000, respectively.
“Those two donations tipped everything,” says Fox. “We probably raised $50,000 in four days.” In the future, Fox suggests, to bolster the value of incentives, “I’d ask people who believe in the project to donate precious objects. You have to know who is your target market and what do they want.”
Kickstarter's Hall of Fame movie projects
1. "Blue Like Jazz" by Steve Taylor
A feature film based on Donald Miller's New York Times bestselling memoir, directed by Steve Taylor and starring Marshall Allman.
2. Minecraft: The Story of Mojang by 2 Player Productions
A feature-length documentary on the first year of Mojang, the studio built upon the runaway success of indie computer game Minecraft.
3. Neil Gaiman's The Price by Christopher Salmon
A uniquely stylized CG animated film based on the short story "The Price" by award-winning author Neil Gaiman.
4. MY REINCARNATION by Jennifer Fox
Be the CATALYST. Spread MY REINCARNATION, an epic documentary about spirituality, family and destiny…
5. Urbanized: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit
Help finish the new design documentary from the director of "Helvetica" and "Objectified".
6. I Am I – Feature Film by Jocelyn Towne
A woman meets her mentally ill father who abandoned her as a child. He is convinced that she is his wife and tries to win her back.
7. "Finding Vivian Maier" – a feature length documentary film by Toneloof
This film unravels the discovery of 100,000 negatives from a mysterious photographer that shocked the world of photography.