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How to Be One of The World's Most Successful Crowdfunders: The 5 Top Tips

Photo of Nigel M Smith By Nigel M Smith | Indiewire June 14, 2012 at 10:31AM

Kickstarter is on track to fund more projects than the National Endowment of the Arts in the U.S. in 2012. To address the widespread popularity of the fundraising platform, this year's Sheffield Doc/Fest features a number of panels centered on how to best use the tool to your advantage.
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Kickstarter is on track to fund more projects than the National Endowment of the Arts in the U.S. in 2012. To address the widespread popularity of the fundraising platform, this year's Sheffield Doc/Fest features a number of panels centered on how to best use the tool to your advantage.

"More Than Just Money: The Unexpected Benefits of Crowdfunding" featured award-winning artist and filmmaker, Jeanie Finlay ("Sound it Out"); Catalan sociologist and filmmaker Xavier Artigas ("[NO-RES]," Spain's first crowdfunded film); Jennifer Fox, director of "My Reincarnation," who raised $150,000 on Kickstarter; and Malcolm Morrison, who helped crowdfund Stuart Murdoch's "God Help the Girl,"which became third top funded narrative film on the site.

Below find the top five crowdfunding tips made during the panel:
 

Know Your Niche Audience

Fox: Who’s your niche audience? A director recently called me from Sweden who was doing a failing crowding campaign, so I asked her who her niche audience was. She didn’t know. She said women. "Women" is not a target audience; it’s half the population.

Our key audience was first the followers of this teacher. We were very active building an email audience. We asked Buddhist partners to help e-blast people about the campaign.

"Women is not a target audience, it’s half the population." -- Jennifer Fox

Don’t Discount the Importance of In-Person Crowdsourcing

Artigas: In our country, you can only deal with government aid for film if you have a production company. We didn’t have that, so we had to make the decision to form our own production company. But I had always been an anti-capitalist. For me, it was clear to create a company without profits involved. We only had one way to produce, which was crowdfunding. In 2010 you couldn’t kickstart in Spain, so we started our own crowdfunding system. Because of the campaign, people became aware of what we were documenting.

Crowdfunding was very practical. The most important thing and beautiful thing is that we built a community that not only met on the Internet, but at gatherings. We call this the critical mass. They control how we work. We had work in progress meetings every month where we showed sequences we were editing, and asked people who had paid for the project for feedback. So we can say it’s a collective work. Of course I’m the director, but a lot of people would criticize that the mayor didn’t get to talk enough etc., so it was very interesting. It was like free research for us. We were building the future audience for this movie.

This project got so popular before it was finished that a TV company in Spain got interested. They came on as co-producers and we got enough money to finish the project. But they had a huge problem: It was not made under creative commons and therefore we didn’t have copyright. But we said no. We made the movie for people, not for consumers. We wanted the movie to be online, to flow so people could be aware of what we were documenting. In the end they changed their protocol.


"Having meetings all the time is not being a filmmaker. I have to hold a camera." -- Jeanie Finlay

Put Yourself in the Trailer

Finlay: I came to crowdfunding because I was stuck in a legal hellhole on a commissioned film. Having meetings all the time is not being a filmmaker. I have to hold a camera.

I went into it blind – my art will get me money. Indiegogo put me in touch with a very outspoken American filmmaker who had a successful campaign. He just said, put yourself in the trailer and get an audience. I ignored him, cut a trailer and made 10p. It was terrible. So I redid it and did what he said, and the money started to come in. The connection symbolized an idea that there was support for this film.
 

Say Thank You

"For me building a community is not about making the film, it’s about building something for life." -- Xavier Artigas

Finlay: Making this film let me have a direct connection with my audience, like making a handmade artwork. Everyone who funded the film, I emailed personally and thanked. I dedicated videos to them on our Facebook. You are my audience and I want you to come on this journey with me. It became bigger than making the film; it was about sharing this common sensibility. The way we raised the money reflected the ethos of the film.

The people that took part in the crowdfunding felt that they owned the film. We've done pop up screenings in record shops and town halls. It’s not their film, but they’ve taken it on which is amazing.
 

Don’t Lose Your Audience After Wrapping the Film

Artigas: For me building a community (I have only built one) is not about making the film, it’s about building something for life. You can use that to empower them, but also to be keep making films and making them for the same people. We are making another project now about police corruption in Barcelona. Of course it appealed to the same community. The other campaign took six months to raise 5,000 Euros. We made the same amount in a couple days. When we mentioned the case we were going to document, they were on board. It’s a good way to start the project.

This article is related to: Sheffield Doc/Fest, Festivals