Celebrating 17 Years of Film.Biz.Fans.
by Paula Bernstein
September 16, 2013 3:00 PM
19 Comments
  • |

7 Things NOT To Do on Kickstarter: A Cautionary Tale

Film School Rejects has already dubbed it "probably the worst Kickstarter campaign ever made" and with good reason. The Kickstarter campaign for "Kate Allen Is Getting A Life" is riddled with problems, starting with the fact that the campaign's name -- "FILM W/THORA BIRCH, HEATHER MATARAZZO, JENNIFER ELISE COX --  doesn't feature the film's title. We don't mean to pick on this particular campaign since many others make the same mistakes, but given the fact that the campaign was created by Linda Stuart, who presents herself as an industry expert, we think it's fair to use this project as a noteworthy example of what not to do on Kickstarter, or when crowdfunding in general.

With a little over $40 in funding so far, it's highly unlikely that the project will reach its goal. Here are some lessons to take from Stuart's misguided Kickstarter campaign:

1. Don't give your project a generic or vague name. Ideally, you should use the film's title -- and hopefully you'll have a good title. Instead of using "Kate Allen Is Getting A Life" for her campaign title, Stuart called her Kickstarter campaign, "FILM W/THORA BIRCH, HEATHER MATARAZZO, JENNIFER ELISE COX," which is not so catchy.

2. Don't ask for too much money. In the case of "Kate Allen Is Getting A Life," Stuart is trying to raise $5 million. Sure, she's got some name actresses attached, but none of them has the name recognition and/or fan base to carry a $5 million film. Even Spike Lee and The Veronica Mars Project didn't ask for that much money. Film School Rejects calls her goal "insanely high" and notes that "the whole thing could be some kind of outsider art or satirical punch at crowdfunding."

3. Don't complain that you're broke. When a commenter posted advice to Stuart suggesting that she post a video appeal on the page, Stuart responding by saying, "I am not in a financial position right now to make a video, and I just created the best Kickstarter profile that I instinctively could. I didn't know what to offer in the way of gifts, but I do know that if I offer a lot of money as thank you gifts, I won't have enough to make the film. Any funds receive are taxable by the government, so if by some miracle I raised $5,000,000 on Kickstarter, that is considered taxable income. I just want to make an entertaining, funny, QUALITY film with a terrific music soundtrack and realize my dream. That's all. No, I won't reach my Kickstarter goal anyway unless, again, some miracle occurs, but I sincerely THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU." Kickstarter creators should sound confident about their project and saying that it will take a miracle to reach her goal and that she doesn't have money to make a video makes her sound desperate.

The commenter responded wisely: "Not in a financial position to make a pitch video? Linda, some people on kickstarter do the bare minimum and post a video they shot on their iPhone for christ sakes. You're essentially pitching to investors, except on a wider scale. If they can't see a passionate pitch from you, what's to say that THEY have anything at stake?"

4. Don't be vague when it comes to describing the project. People want some information before they back a project, even if it has recognizable names. For instance, Stuart describes the project as a "comedy with romance in the vein of WORKING GIRL and HOW TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS WITHOUT REALLY TRYING. The theme is never giving up on your dreams." Anytime you're using other films to describe your project, it ends up sounding derivative - and in this case, both of the titles she references are old.

5. Don't compare yourself to Steven Soderbergh. "Steven Soderbergh's recent hit film MAGIC MIKE was budgeted at $7 million and has made well over $100 million, so the financial and creative rewards can be great," Stuart writes on the project's page. But, of course, Stuart isn't Steven Soderbergh and the comparison doesn't reflect well on her.

6. Don't feature a photo of yourself on your Kickstarter page -- unless you're famous. Stuart features a headshot of herself on the page, but no photos of any of the actresses who have signed on to the project.

7. Don't forget about Kickstarter rewards. Even if you don't have a lot of money, you can be creative and come up with fun ideas for backers. All Stuart offers in the way of rewards is "your name in the film credits as a THANK YOU plus $25" for $1,000 donation We've written about the most creative celebrity Kickstarter rewards. Even if nobody wants to buy her old sneakers, maybe she can get some ideas from that article. Surely, she can do better than your name in the film credits and $25. People who support our project want to feel appreciated, after all.

It's not too late for Stuart. Even Spike Lee had to rethink his Kickstarter campaign and take criticisms into account. He improved his approach and his campaign succeeded.

You might also like:

19 Comments

  • Derek | September 18, 2013 5:23 PMReply

    Why hammer Film School Rejects and Indiewire for pointing out the weaknesses in this campaign ? Surely they only want to help everyone succeed !!! This is not a joke. I have heard of this book "Getting your script through the Hollywood maze". The problem with this campaign is thinking that one can calmly take 5 million bucks off strangers - and not give anything back. There is nothing to create a sense of involvement and participation. Contributors surely want to feel they are part of the creative process - they want to feel valued and perhaps learn something from being involved. If this lady wants to salvage her badly thought-out campaign, I would suggest she gives a FREE copy of her book ( in PDF format ) to every person who contributes. All 7 points in this article are highly relevant - and I've just added a few more.

  • sean | September 17, 2013 10:27 AMReply

    "Any funds receive are taxable by the government, so if by some miracle I raised $5,000,000 on Kickstarter, that is considered taxable income."

    Wow, so she didn't even do literally the most basic research she could possibly do into fund-raising a film? Income that is spent shooting a movie is deductible from your direct income. Anybody who is interested should Google "irs section 181".

  • DEE | September 17, 2013 10:20 AMReply

    Her campaign looks like some sort of joke.

  • Elliot | September 17, 2013 9:56 AMReply

    This is ridiculous. It's not "that" simple. I have tried to crowd fund on every platform using every tactic known and have NEVER made my goal. The only people who make their goals have celebs on board their projects or a sympathetic family chocked up with all sorts of money.

  • William Spiritdancer | September 16, 2013 9:44 PMReply

    This is silly, why not take a real campaign and use it as an example from some one making a serious attempt and not what is obviously a 'joke'. No serious filmmaker would make so many stupid obvious mistakes. Anyone can res research on Google and get a basic sense of what to do. I think you need to do your homework and redo this article.

  • francois b. | September 16, 2013 9:43 PMReply

    Do you have an hoax to grind?

  • Devin | September 16, 2013 7:05 PMReply

    I agree with Ashley and Paul: this article comes off as rather smug and mean-spirited.

  • Ashley | September 16, 2013 5:41 PMReply

    Wow, this article is kind of mean-spirited. I completely agree with Zak Forsman. The irony, however, is that in covering how bad this Kickstarter campaign is-- if it's in fact a real one-- you just gave the filmmaker a major boost. Most of the successful Kickstarters pull it off by getting loads of blog coverage. Hey Linda Stuart, if you read this, check out Tim Ferriss' 4-Hour Workweek blog. There is a brilliant post called "Hacking Kickstarter" that can help turn your campaign around.

  • Andrew S | September 16, 2013 3:59 PMReply

    I think Jimmy Kimmel is behind this. Wait, is that Jimmy Kimmel in drag?

  • Zak Forsman | September 16, 2013 3:49 PMReply

    Paula, how can you go from reading this woman's comments about losing her job (and her finances being in the crapper) to citing that as "Don't Sound Pathetic"? I mean, what is wrong with you? Indiewire now includes public humiliation amongst the things it's willing to do in the name of more eyeballs?

  • Matt | September 16, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    Her headshot looks like an image of Eddie Murphy in prosthetic makeup from one of the Nutty Professor movies. I guess all the advise went in one ear and out the other since her Kickstarter page hasn't changed any. How can someone who calls themselves an industry expert be so clueless as to how the industry works? If she just wants to make "an entertaining, funny, QUALITY film with a terrific music soundtrack" and realize her "dream" she should cast up-and-coming new talent (including indie bands for the soundtrack) who want exposure instead of aiming so high, then she might even end up turning a profit if the film is any good. That of course raises one good question: is there even a script for this thing or is she just making it up as she goes along? SMH.

  • Faith | September 16, 2013 3:41 PMReply

    So...your "story" is basically reprinting Film School Rejects' post?! Doesn't matter that you linked to the original story, isn't that PLAGIARISM?!

  • Zak Forsman | September 16, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    Indiewire has turned into the Buzzfeed of indie film. Really don't have anything better to do than beat up on some ill-informed lady who started a crummy campaign? You're better than this.

  • Ryan | September 16, 2013 3:28 PMReply

    Don't compare yourself to Spielberg...or Soderbergh who is a completely different person. Come on Indiewire.

  • Siouxfire | September 16, 2013 3:26 PMReply

    Hang on. Securing "letters of interest from Thora Birch, Heather Matarazzo and Jennifer Elise Cox"? What does that even mean to secure "letters of interest"?

    Perhaps that's point 8: If you're going to connect names to your project, be explicit in how attached said individuals really are. It's hard to take seriously when a proposed filming schedule hasn't been proposed.

  • Paula Bernstein | September 16, 2013 3:22 PMReply

    Spielberg, Soderbergh. Soderbergh, Spielberg. Let's call the whole thing off!

    It's been fixed.

  • Julian (ItTakesII) | September 16, 2013 3:18 PMReply

    She's not comparing herself to Speilberg, but rather Soderbergh. Kind of a rookie mistake in editing this article.

  • Shannon | September 16, 2013 3:12 PMReply

    *Soderbergh not Spielberg

  • Kate | September 16, 2013 3:10 PMReply

    Is this a joke?