So you're thinking about crowd funding your new film project on one of those trendy websites like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter? What a coincidence, so am I, and about a million other people.
How will you get noticed and not rely only on your poor friends' money? How do you keep the momentum going? How do you avoid becoming the digital equivalent of a panhandler?
I’m independently funding a short film, called Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, for my final thesis film at Ryerson University. Our budget is well beyond my bank balance and every student is expected to come up with his or her funds independently. I’ve seen so many crowd-funding campaigns float by this year that the temptation was too much. I had to give it a shot.
After only 12 days (out of 45 days), our campaign reached its goal of raising $9,000. Although it’s still not the most successful IndieGoGo campaign ever we’ve surpassed our expectations by reaching $12,000 – and we still have 10 days left to our campaign!
Click here for my campaign.
There’s a lot of competition out there so if you want to garner some real attention you need to stand out.
Before you run out to start your own campaign you need to be more strategic than simply putting out a call pleading for people to donate to your film (which I FORBID you to do – see section 4). So I’ve simplified my process into 5 easy steps.
And by "easy steps" I mean… "steps".
**DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional marketing consultant. I’m just a poor university student desperate to make a film.
INDIEGOGO vs. KICKSTARTER
To sum it up, IndieGogo takes 4% of your earnings if you reach your goal and 9% if you don’t. Kickstarter is all or nothing. If you don’t reach your goal no money is exchanged, but if you do reach your goal you get the full amount minus 5%.
After much deliberation we chose IndieGogo.
Now you’re ready to get started:
1. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
I believe the secret to our fundraising success lies here.
Who is your audience?
If you’re a serious filmmaker this is something you should already be thinking about at every step of the way, but when you’re fundraising for donations you need to think a bit differently. You’re not just pitching your film; you’re pitching yourself, your aspirations and your team. Who is the audience for your whole project?
This is often quite a difficult question. Without a census committee, how do you figure out who exactly wants to see your project come together, not to mention watch your finished film?
What are your angles?
One trick to finding your audience is to focus on the anglesor hooks that make your project unique, entertaining and noteworthy. They will help reveal who you should be targeting with your fundraising campaign.
For my project, I knew that I already have a modest following due to my slightly embarrassing YouTube channel as well as a number of supporters from my home-province of Newfoundland, Canada. The film itself is directed towards a broad, but specifically female audience, focusing on Esther, a young girl navigating puberty with the help of only her misguided Grandfather, played by Canadian legend Gordon Pinsent (Away From Her), and his pet pug!
So here are my possible marketing angles:
1. YouTube followers
3. Women (13-65)
4. Pet-Owners/Animal Lovers
5. Fans of Gordon Pinsent
What are your angles? Who are your supporters and how are you going to appeal to them?
My strategy was to capitalize on every angle I could, starting with the most humourous one:
2. PRIME YOUR AUDIENCE
Ideally, you want your audience to hear about your exciting new project before you start asking them for money. One of the keys to a successful fundraising campaign is that the project must feel like a concrete thing that is already happening, and the fundraising campaign becomes an opportunity for the audience to join the circus!
Creating some form of teaser in advance of your campaign will start the buzz and solidify the project as real.
To prime my audience I focused on just one angle to pique their interest. What is the most popular genre of viral videos ever to grace the earth?
Animal videos, duh.
So I started on angle 5: I held a gigantic casting call with the assistance of Toronto pet blogs and JasonKB Pet Photography [jasonkb.com], sorted through 113 pug applicants so that I could audition 17 adorable and hilarious pugs and then made a Life Doesn’t Frighten Me Pug Audition Video:
If nothing else, this certainly got the Toronto Pet-Owners community excited as Life Doesn’t Frighten Me started popping up in pet news everywhere.
This is just one example that worked for my project. What hook about your project will arouse people’s attention even before the campaign starts? But, remember not to give too much information away in advance, save something for:
3. THE BIG LAUNCH!
This is where it all comes together. I saved the announcement of Gordon Pinsent’s involvement in our project until we were officially ready to launch our campaign on December 1st (the holiday month). It’s important to save some big, exciting angle of your project for the launch in order to reenergize your audience after interest in the teaser has faded.
Leading up to our launch, I cast a heartbreakingly earnest 11-year-old newcomer, Jade Aspros, as Esther. Aspros demonstrated just the right amount of humour and sincerity for this role that I think most women will be able to relate to. Then I orchestrated a photo-shoot with Aspros and Gordon Pinset, as well Igor the Pug with JasonKB Photography (our first in-kind contributor). While the photo-shoot was going on I filmed a vlog for my YouTube Channel with the entire cast and made a compelling case for why people might want to get involved:
The video also served double duty as our video pitch on the IndieGoGo site and pretty much covered all of our angles. My YouTube followers saw it first (angle 1), press releases ensured that Newfoundland media heard about it, not to mention the fact that Gordon Pinsent also happens to be from Newfoundland, making a compelling story (angles 2 and 4) and the prominent inclusion of Igor and Aspros in our posters helped solidify the rest (angles 3 and 5).
Check out all those “Likes”, “Comments” and “Shares”!
I should add that it’s important to be timely and relevant about your campaign. Consider all factors that may affect your audience’s likeliness to donate; Christmas, holidays, birthdays, what’s in fashion…etc. IndieGoGo notices an average increase of 13% in contributions during the month of December.
Make a compelling case. Why should people donate to your project? What are people donating to on a larger scale? What does this project mean to you and what are you going to do with it?
People don’t just buy into what you do; they buy why you do it.
Make your perks realistic and make your donation minimum level as low as possible. No amount should be too little. Encourage people to donate just a dollar! Research shows that when people are offered the chance to donate 1 dollar they will be more likely to donate $10 or $20. That money can add up really fast and those donations create momentum for your campaign.
And if people can’t donate at all encourage them to repost the link instead. Exclude no one.
Get creative with your perks. I’ve seen people offering a Wake Up Call or a Personalized Song. Think of unique rewards that people are unable to find anywhere else (and that won’t break your bank).
Work the budget for your perks into your campaign. This is something that may really stress you out when you start fulfilling your perk agreements. Be proactive and anticipate how much it’s going to cost you to distribute all of your rewards.
You’re off to a great start! But after the flurry of donations in the first week, things can die off easily. You need to keep it up.
You may be asking, “Stephen, how can I be expected to annoy my friends and family by asking for money when none of them have any to begin with!?!?!?!?”.
Easy. You don’t.
Not once, in over 5 million facebook and twitter updates did I EVER ask anyone to donate.
My most important tip is to never appear like you’re desperate. You’re not begging people to give you money, you’re offering the once in a lifetime opportunity to be apart of a film starring Igor the Pug or whatever you’re packing. You’re offering people involvement in your masterpiece and all they have to do is drop a couple of bucks.
I suggest posting public thank-yous and updates about the most current donators every day or so, always including the link back to the campaign, so people can check out the site and the latest progress and decide for themselves if they want to donate. Inevitably each thank-you post will yield another donation, and so on.
Make people aware of what you’re doing, but have some class and don’t shove it down their throats… too much.
Most people assume that IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are just meant to appeal to friends and family, however, this does not have to be the case. If you have a strong enough campaign your project can extend to people all over the world.
This is the approximate breakdown of Life Doesn’t Frighten Me supporters so far:
15% – Family
30% – Friends
55% – People we’ve never met
Getting featured on the main page of IndieGogo is really what helped us break out into the online global community. Once you’ve raised a sizable portion of your campaign, I would suggest making another update video and continually posting images and stills in the update section of IndieGogo. This keeps people interested and is how IndieGoGo decides who gets featured. Just make sure to space them out and don’t post them all at once.
In the final days of your campaign make one more impassioned push to media, friends and family. You could even write an IndieWire Lost Boys blog post about it… *wink wink*
You’ve made your goal and are ready create your project.
Don’t stop there.
Keep engaged with your supporters and treat everyone who has donated as if they are now apart of your team.
Because they are your team.
You’ve used your savvy marketing strategies to fund your film, but you need to get ready to distribute it with that same fervor.
I’ve seen so many fantastic short and feature films go down the gutter and into the crowded digital graveyard known as YouTube and Vimeo, even after a hugely successful fundraising campaign. Getting a bunch of people to fund your film is pointless if you can’t get a bunch of people to watch your film!
Submit to every festival under the sun, self distribute or just do everything in your power to get the film out into the world!
Marketing is such an incredibly crucial part of the filmmaking process at every stage. Look at independent filmmakers like Miranda July, Kevin Smith or Canadian Ingrid Veninger.
Whether you like their work or not, their films are more well attended than any other low-budget independent filmmaker. Why? Because they attend every premiere/screening, they engage with their viewers and, most importantly, they think about marketing.
If you’ve got an incredible project and follow through with the distribution of your film with the same passion you put into making it you could pretty much count on my 20 bucks. No promises though.
Congratulations again. Now, onto the hard part …don’t fuck up and go make a great film.