You jump in with this nervous enthusiasm – Does anybody give a fugg? Do they want to see this film? Do I have any friends? Do I have enough friends? I can do it. Can I do it? Yes I can – Obama did it – OK, wait yes, all things are possible. It’s already done. Done. Done. Just money- just numbers- just energy- OK go!
Kickstarter is its own rite of passage, its own ritual full of traditional archetypes. It’s structured crowd fundraising and you will go through a process – live to tell about it – and forever be part of a growing subculture who has benefitted or been brutalized.
Sounds dramatic, but there’s a whole lot of truth there.
We began considering the Kickstarter in June.
We meaning me, Numa Perrier, Dennis Dortch, Jeanine Daniels, and Brian Ali Harding- Black&Sexy.TV Creative Partners. We were somewhat overwhelmed with the weekly releases on Black&Sexy.TV
Running and funding your own independent digital network is not a game my friends. (Ask Oprah lol) Every week we must deliver a new episode on Black&Sexy Sundays (and now Saturdays as well for Roomieloverfriends syndicated on Issa Rae’s Channel) which means we are constantly in production. There is no break.
Dennis, Jeanine, and myself are developing and writing stories, then approved scripts move into production which I generally cast and produce. We all agree on a schedule, work out the location, Brian shoots, Dennis directs and edits, (sometimes me, Jeanine or another editor come on to assist), Brian does all of the finishing touches color and graphic wise, and if nothing goes wrong with the upload we have an on time release.
It’s not a complaint. We are in this for longevity and sustainability and that’s what it takes, but that should give you some insight on our ambitions. So since we aren’t busy at all we decided to go ahead and make a movie as well. This evolved from Dennis’ desire to do a second feature while broadening our digital enterprise at the same time. I’ve backed 8 different Kickstarter campaigns- most of them succeeded. I always remember why I funded those projects and apply that filter to how I talk to people about ours. We researched extensively, talked to other Kickstarter Survivors and took the plunge. Here’s some things we are learning along the way. The learning curve is sharp because every day that you make adjustments is another day closer to your deadline.
Indie Go Go or Kickstarter-
We did vacillate on which one, but settled on Kickstarter because of the success rates we had observed, and the overall sense of urgency that comes with an all or nothing campaign. Sundance also curates a project page for Kickstarter which was a big plus for us since Dennis is an alumni. They featured our campaign on their front page so that was a good move- it still took some persuading however since this film was not built in the Sundance Lab.
Amount – how far can we gooooo…
Well we knew we could reach 10K but we cannot make this movie on 10K. We felt somewhat confident about 20K and most successful campaigns top out at that number, still with associated fees and giving out the perks we settled on 25K – challenging, but we feel it is doable. This will give us a running start on shooting combined with some equipment resources. For reference sake- A Good Day to be Black and Sexy was made for 65K, and in the end cost about 100K to finish for Sundance and deliver to Magnolia Pictures.
When to launch it?
First we thought July- but realized (after consultation) that we still had more work to do in building our audience. People were getting used to us and the consistent weekly releases, but we hadn’t done much for our audience and really couldn’t say that we knew them well at all. We started to focus on our fans however we could-through Facebook, Twitter and directly with every release on our Youtube Channel. As a result we learned a lot about our audience. We love them! They are passionate and quite discerning and know what they want. We do not pander to the audience…sometimes we gotta “give them what they never knew they wanted”…but we definitely started listening more- responding and incorporating certain aspects in our episodes. This led us to our first ever breaking of the 4th wall with Melissa on The Number who was being treated pretty harshly by the audience and I personally as a woman felt her voice needed to be heard as well, so I wrote something for her, Dennis added some touches and it was one of our most engaged episodes ever. We also spent a good deal of the summer connecting to our audience by giving them an entire month of The Couple as well with back to back weekly releases- this also helped us tremendously.
We decided to go ahead and launch the Kickstarter on 9/2. At that point we knew we could not delay it any longer since we are looking to shoot this fall. Desmond and I got on camera for the video and we signed up on the Kickstarter site. We then learned that you have to go through an identity and bank verification as well as Kickstarter approving your project. This takes about a week. Since we were not aware of this we started on 9/9 instead of 9/2… See what I mean about all this learning along the way….?
Week one was great! – All of that start up excitement- high fiving every single time we got a new backer- making those first rounds of posts and calls, and we got our largest contributor thus far at $2500. It was a big week and we closed out approaching 9k.
We hit $10,000 and a lot of jumping around ensued. Then… a lull hit. The 10K plateau. We had seen it on another project so weren’t too alarmed, but didn’t want it to last long. Frustration and some panic set in…too big to fail, but where do we look to now? We called a production meeting. Have we exhausted our circle? Are people sick of hearing from us? We came up with additional strategies and re-focused. We mostly looked for ways to not be annoying and attract the people who love the series – Black&Sexy.TV at large, or love the idea about this every day black couple on the big screen. Black love on the big screen. Hmmm …we liked the sound of that and started incorporating it into the conversation. A lot of people shared the links Facebook and Twitter and many new people discovered the series this week so we took that as a win – even though we limped to 11K
We are in it now…at just over 13K. I’m feeling optimistic and we are still putting in the work while trying to relax with it at the same time. We are opening up and getting as personal as possible with everyone. People back people – not projects. Another lesson that we thought we knew but didn’t really know. It is a fine balance. A watched pot never boils- so we are continuing our outreach while in midst of production. We plan on succeeding and sharing the detailed story with all of you.