Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Anthony Kaufman
June 2, 2011 8:30 AM
18 Comments
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The Top 7 Kickstarter Films (and 3 Secrets to Crowdfunding Success)

Jennifer Fox's Kickstarter page for "My Reincarnation."

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.
Pledged: $345,992
4,495 backers

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.
Pledged: $210,297
3,631 backers

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.
Pledged: $161,774
2,001 backers

4. MY REINCARNATION by Jennifer Fox
Be the CATALYST. Spread MY REINCARNATION, an epic documentary about spirituality, family and destiny...
Pledged: $150,456
518 backers


5. Urbanized: A Documentary Film by Gary Hustwit
Help finish the new design documentary from the director of "Helvetica" and "Objectified".
Pledged: $118,505
1,814 backers

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.
Pledged: $111,965
902 backers

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.
Pledged: $105,042
1,495 backers

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18 Comments

  • Michael Wiebler | August 22, 2013 10:11 AMReply

    A bit disappointed that our film, The Grace of Jake, which was an IndieWire Project of the Day and raised over $135,000 via Kickstarter was not included in this list.

  • twat | March 12, 2014 6:12 AM

    It probably wasn't interesting, but it is kind of interesting that you are tracking down articles that you might not have been included in. Let me know if you find all of them.

  • mike finegan | February 12, 2013 3:45 AMReply

    Any feedback or recommendations on the following kickstarter?
    kickstarter/projects/alecsarkisov/one-week-feature-film
    Wonder if indiegogo is a better platform than kickstarter

  • mike finegan | February 12, 2013 3:43 AMReply

    Any feedback or recommendations on the following kickstarter?
    kickstarter/projects/alecsarkisov/one-week-feature-film
    Wonder if indiegogo is a better platform than kickstarter

  • rodrick hersh | March 12, 2012 8:27 PMReply

    3 backers so far! check out the kickstart for my film! Shot entirely at the Salton Sea! kck.st/zJhCFV entirely shot, needs post production work only! @collapsedfilm THANKS GUYS!

  • Scott | December 10, 2011 8:50 PMReply

    Any suggestions for social philanthropy for situations like this: http://www.gofundme.com/b49yg (frivolous lawsuit) ?

  • Madeline Eberhard | August 25, 2011 11:46 AMReply

    @christopher salmon
    Thanks for the site posting - the article is very good. I've taken a few steps in that direction of "reaching your network" with my first kickstarter. Link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/theprettymovie/pretty-a-feature-film?ref=live

    We've found great support with our facebook community but now it's time to reach that bigger audience. Let me know what you think!

  • Tonya van Dijk | June 24, 2011 2:39 AMReply

    When Kickstarter celebrated it's birthday/anniversary last April 28th, they presented various charts that somehow summarized their success for the past years. See more at http://crowdsourcing.org/l/1333. These charts define what Kickstarter is and of how it has helped creative individuals made their dreams a reality.

  • Pierre Côté | June 6, 2011 1:15 AMReply

    @james

    can you reach me please here pierre@gramsclo.com

  • wellywoodwoman | June 5, 2011 11:24 AMReply

    Noticing the predominance of 'based on' and docos in this list. Wondering why I Am I - the feature film by Jocelyn Towne was exceptional, as a feature-length film that is not a doco, and not 'based on'. Any suggestions?

  • james | June 5, 2011 9:31 AMReply

    A few notes from the maker of a successfully funded short film project who will probably not use Kickstarter again:

    - Kickstarter is a for-profit business associated with Amazon.com. The total amount taken from successful projects is 10%: five for Kickstarter and five for Amazon.

    - Projects (funded or failed) remain permanently archived on Kickstarter's homepage. This includes media: photos, videos, sound clips. Each project's homepage (not "updates") is locked once the deadline has been reached. According to the Kickstater terms of service, this is done in the name of "transparency." The effect, however, is permanent and searchable branding.

    - The emphasis on Kickstarter as a cure all for film funding woes overlooks the essentially republican concept at its core: artists should fund themselves or pre-sell their art; if there is a need for a work, only then is the work is allowed to exist. It is a business and sales approach to culture production that aligns neatly with cutbacks in state funding for the arts. Or in other words, the continued attrition of culture funding being as important as parks funding, military funding, education funding, etc.

    - Kickstarter is essentially an app. It is a not a scam but similar to a pyramid scheme. Like most Web 2.0 success stories (such as Facebook), it neatly packages what we were already capable of doing: contacting our friends and family and asking them for money. It provides a nice looking and safe-seeming way of transacting. However, it may not be a comfortably repeatable option for most users (asking friends and family multiple times). The success stories---just like the success stories in the independent film world of the 90s (pre-Web 2.0 technology)---are anomalies that speak more to uniqueness of individuals.

    - Use of Kickstarter entails embracing its ethos: the site is heavily curated and projects are selected (as mentioned in a comment above) if they fall in line with the unspoken taste of the company. Yet this taste is very traceable through streamlined designed and emphasis upon youth consumption. Take a peek at how Facebook, Vimeo, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and many sites share a similar design aesthetic and approach to media production and the critical dialogue that surrounds it.

    Just a few thoughts.

  • Jennifer Fox | June 4, 2011 12:04 PMReply

    Dear Rob,

    We had no money to pay someone to help us work on the kickstarter campaign. So I offered them a small percentage of the total raised. Actually this is quite normal in the fundraising world, where people take a percentage of what they raise.

    In fact we couldn't have raised the money with out their help. They took a high risk and made a small fee for their effort – which lucky for them was successful. It could have turned out very differently. Absolutely above board.

    I am grateful they were willing to help out.

    Best Wishes,

    Jennifer Fox

  • Rob E | June 4, 2011 6:01 AMReply

    >>“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.)<<

    So, I have No problem with Kickstarter taking 5%, but what's with the filmmakers taking a percentage? It reads like they were a part of the film team.
    Were they contracted to help promote it SEPARATELY? And THEN were paid part of the money they helped raise? If so, then the Kickstarter campaign should have noted that fact for "My Reincarnation" as that is a bait and switch.

    In fact, I know that is illegal in the real world of fundraising (like grantwriting). When raising money through donations, etc, if someone (like a fundraiser) benefits from the donations that are given implicitly to a PROJECT and NOT the people who helped promote it is patently against the law.

    Seems shady.
    Anyone have clarification?

  • Kyle Henry | June 4, 2011 5:47 AMReply

    I had a great experience with Kickstater and my projects weren't squeaky clean, they are actually quite graphic tales that are part of my FOURPLAY series of shorts about sexual intimacy. We never would have made the films or travelled to the Cannes' Directors' Fortnight premiere of FOURPLAY: TAMPA without it! We DID explain ourselves thoroughly though, making it clear that athough the films were graphic they weren't porn. And I found the percentage that Kickstarter took to be about equivalent to what nonprofits charged me when I've been covered as an umbrellaed sponsored project.

  • Sally Outlaw | June 3, 2011 11:56 AMReply

    @Kay. Usually negative comments about Kickstarter are left by people whose projects have been rejected by the platform so they are unfortunately sour grapes. The are a fantastic company. I run a crowdfunding site for entrepreneurs (http://peerbackers.com) and we too have to reject some applicants as well so I understand the submission process and what has to be done to select the best quality projects - so some feelings are hurt in the process. You can have faith in the Kickstarter team.

  • some kickstarter dude | June 3, 2011 7:44 AMReply

    Just be known that kickstarter will only promote projects that are of a certain squeaky clean niche.

    Hipster friendly stuff, like cupcakes, green energy, documentaries and unoffensive films about nothing.

  • Christopher Salmon | June 3, 2011 6:11 AMReply

    My experience with the Kickstarter team was impeccable. They have the entire process well documented, and if prospective project launchers will read the material available, there won't be any surprises along the way. Of course, the backers themselves are unpredictable -- as the entire donation process is obviously a voluntary one -- and Kickstarter does not (and cannot) guarantee that people will actually donate what they say they will ... chalk that variable up to human nature, right?

    Also, for anyone interested in some additional tips for preparing a Kickstarter fundraise, check out this fantastic article by kickstarter guru Naathaniel Hanson at http://bit.ly/jDM3g0

  • Kay | June 3, 2011 5:02 AMReply

    Why is it that when one looks up Kickstarter there are a ton of articles claiming it's a "scam', fraudulent, lawsuits against them, etc.? Doesn't promote trustworthiness!