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Filmmaker Penny Lane on Crowdfunding ‘Nuts!:’ ‘Doing a Kickstarter is a Full-Time Job’

Filmmaker Penny Lane on Crowdfunding 'Nuts!:' 'Doing a Kickstarter is a Full-Time Job'

Award-winning filmmaker Penny Lane is a crowdfunding pro, having conducted two successful Kickstarter campaigns for the critically acclaimed “Our Nixon,” back when Kickstarter was still relatively new. Now she’s crowdfunding for her latest project, “Nuts!,” a documentary about the story of John Romulus Brinkley, who in 1917 discovered he could cure impotence in men via goat testicle transplantation. Indiewire recently e-mailed with Lane about her latest campaign and what tips she’d offer to other filmmakers who are thinking of crowdfunding.

READ MORE: Here’s How to Crowdfund Successfully with Insider Tips

This is your third time crowdfunding — you did two campaigns for “Our Nixon.”

They were for more modest sums, but at the time, it felt huge. The amount of effort you put into your Kickstarter is very rarely in proportion to the goal. My heart stopped every time my phone buzzed with a pledge update, and it still stops, even though now we’re going for $78,000 rather than $15,000

Does it get easier to raise funds after having made a successful feature?

Short answer: no, I don’t think so. Nothing about fundraising is easy. I have a number of incredible people who have supported my work in the past, and have seen the success of “Our Nixon.” They know my sensibility, and they know the high standards I have for my creative work. All of this is indeed a great help, in a certain way.

But every film is different. “Nuts!” is a different kettle of fish from “Our Nixon.” Richard Nixon was a tremendous figure in the lives of countless Americans, which creates a built-in audience interested to see a different telling of his story. A supplement to their memories, if you will. While John R. Brinkley, the subject of “Nuts!” was a popular hero in his day, he has been largely forgotten. So the “pitch” and the appeal of the story is very different. Brinkley is more of a discovery for most people, like “I can’t believe I never knew this!”

It’s not a better or worse fundraising challenge; just different.
Why did you choose Kickstarter over another crowdfunding site?

I have a lot of incredible friends at Kickstarter, who made a safe home for me when I was crowdfunding for my first feature. They helped get the word out about “Our Nixon” and have been supporters of my work. For that reason, I feel very loyal, and when it came time to crowdfund for “Nuts!,” although I was presented with truly great options, the decision came down first to that loyalty. 

I also believe in the “all of nothing” model of Kickstarter for a few reasons. For starters, I think it keeps project creators accountable to their backers. If I need $78,000 to make a film, and I only raise $25,000, that’s great, but how am I going to make the film that I actually need $78,000 for? How am I going to send my backers what I’ve promised them, the DVDs of a finished film and so on? Using Kickstarter forced us to think about what the bare minimum we knew we needed, if all other funding options for some reason don’t work out, to be accountable to our backers by finishing the film. Secondly, as miserable and exhausted as I am right now, I think this is the way it should: all in! All systems go! The pressure not to to fail an incredible motivator. Third, maybe I just like to insert a little risk in my life every once in a while. 

Do you have any tips or advice for filmmakers about raising funds and/or crowdfunding in particular?

I think it’s really important to thoroughly and expansively identify your audiences. For “Nuts!,” we had to think beyond “people who like innovative documentaries and history buffs.” We’ve had great success reaching out to skeptic societies, medical schools, radio aficionados, science educators, and other groups that might have not seemed obvious without some thought. Our strangest outreach has definitely been to Testicle Festivals (gatherings where people eat preparations of various animal gonads.) Did you know that there are more than a dozen active Testicle Festivals in the U.S.? Did you know they’re pretty tickled by the idea of a goat ball movie? Neither did we, but we’re pretty glad to make their supporters ours.

Why should people donate to your project?

Gosh, it is hard to say how great my own film is. But seriously: “NUTS!” is really, really great!!! I am so proud of it. I’ve been working on it for 7 years now; that’s how committed I am. People are going to love it (if it ever gets done). It’s funny as heck and crazy entertaining. It’s full of surprises, formally and thematically

People should donate because otherwise, I don’t know if/when I will ever finish it and get to show it to you! I am raising funds to complete the animations for the film, and also to record the score. I’ve already worked with three incredible animators, whose efforts and process were spotlighted in our campaign updates this week. I need to find and pay four more animators to complete the remaining animations. For the film to work, the animations need to be truly exceptional, and even for that reason alone, we need to meet our goal. Funds from this campaign will also be used to allow our incredible composer, Brian McOmber, to hire musicians, rent studio space, and complete the original music for the film.

Check out the campaign page for “Nuts!” here and watch the campaign video below:

READ MORE: Dario Argento on Crowdfunding ‘The Sandman’ with Iggy Pop

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