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Has Kickstarter Reached its Goal of Changing the Way Movies are Made?

Has Kickstarter Reached its Goal of Changing the Way Movies are Made?

Last summer, I wrote an article for Filmmaker Magazine called “DIWO Realities: Why Won’t Kickstarter and Twitter Save Indie Film” and one of the “lessons” I learned about the “do-it-with-others revolution” was this: “it may be just too early in the process.” As I quoted Brian Newman saying, “We’re still at this beginning clumsy stage.”

Nearly one year later, my new article for indieWIRE asks: “Has Kickstarter Reached Its Goal of Changing the Way Movies are Made?“. In our rapidly changing media environment, it seems, we may already be graduating from the clumsy stage and into a more mature environment for crowd-funded projects.

As doc director Gary Hustwit (“Helvetica”) told me, “For any filmmaker that has an audience and has made a few films, I don’t understand why they’re not on Kickstarter,” he says. “It’s totally the direction documentary funding should be headed. Not specifically Kickstarter, but the idea of getting people involved early on.”

And not just docs. As I write, acclaimed writer-director Ira Sachs (“The Delta,” “Forty Shades of Blue”) is in the middle of a Kickstarter drive to close on start-up funds to shoot his latest project “Keep the Lights On.” (He’s already raised $20,000 and has eight more days to reach a $25,000 goal.)

From my vantage point, it seems any low-budget filmmaker who is well-liked and has a fan-base would be well-advised to employ Kickstarter, and not just as a way to get some money, but to increase their audience’s investment (both personal and financial) in their work.

Christopher Salmon also noted an important detail for Kickstarter users: expect some 1% of pledges to fall through. Salmon told me one high-level backer actually pulled out after committing on the site.

Some final thoughts about Kickstarter that did not make it into the final edit on my piece:

For those who think Kickstarter is superfluous — why not set up your own website and save yourself the 5% cut that Kickstarter takes — Hustwit argues there’s enough people using Kickstarter to offset the loss who wouldn’t normally have stumbled upon your project. But because there’s some 100,000 people funding projects, there’s a chance they’ll find yours.

For whatever reason, certain pledge levels don’t seem to fly. Cora Olson says the $20 and $100 funding levels made up a huge proportion of their total backers. Interestingly, $5 and $50 donations seem to be far less substantial for many projects on the site. It seems round non-prime numbers are more compelling to donors.

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