It was 2006 and in a kitchen in San Francisco, three people put their heads together.
Two years later, Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin and Eric Schell cofounded Indiegogo, launched at Sundance and the rest is history. Indiegogo is the original crowdfunder, an open platform that invites independent filmmakers, artists and dreamers of all kinds to get their ideas off the ground through fan support.
At a recent panel in Los Angeles, Marc Hofstatter of Indiegogo was joined by campaign producer Ray Brown (“The Bounce Back”) to discuss the ins-and-outs of the company, and what makes a successful campaign — in other words, sage wisdom for any indie filmmaker looking to crowdfund. Indiegogo also talked about a little something they call the Gogofactor, which increases your exposure if you’re a smart, committed campaigner. Highlights below.
Crowdfunding has become a new normal for filmmakers who want an audience that’s more than just a theater full of passive eyeballs. Instead, crowdfunding encourages a groundswell of fans to come out, and shell out, for a compelling campaign launched by someone they care about. But an Indiegogo campaign is more than tapping into a preexisting fan base — it’s also about looking under rocks for the right people.
Indiegogo launched before Kickstarter, its main competitor that has been successful for celebrities like Zach Braff ($3.1 million) and Spike Lee ($1.4 million) as well as Rob Thomas’ “Veronica Mars” reboot ($5.7 million). What sets Indiegogo apart from Kickstarter and other crowdfunders? Indiegogo won’t tell you if your project is good or not. Kickstarter is more selective, and it can be a risky, all-or-nothing wager. At Indiegogo, campaigners are offered a flexible funding option, which means that even if you don’t meet your goal, you can still walk away with all the money you’ve earned. (Check out some notable Indiegogo-funded film projects with the San Francisco Film Society here.)
Actor/producer Shemar Moore went the flex funding route with his summer 2013 Indiegogo campaign. With his TV starrer “Criminal Minds” now in its ninth season, seasoned actor Moore was ready to step out of the small screen and into the big one with “The Bounce Back,” a romantic comedy to be directed by Youssef Delara, and executive produced by and starring Moore.
On June 11, Shemar Moore and his team, among them Ray Brown, launched a campaign that eventually netted over $638,000, well-exceeding the goal of $500,000. Even after the $500,000 goal was met, the money kept rolling in. Fans were invested in the project, and this was because Moore and his team kept them engaged every day of the 23-day-long fundraiser. The film will shoot this May.
On preparing to launch your campaign:
Indiegogo: You are taking a 24/7 job for the next 30 days, depending on how long your campaign is. Back in the day, when you wanted to fund a project, you had to travel, you had to knock on doors, make phone calls, look under rocks. But now what you’re knocking on is thousands of doors.
You have to build buzz. You have to reach a crowd that can actually support you and will support you. We encourage a soft launch, which means that 24 hours before you make the main push, you launch your campaign, tell your family and friends, let them funnel in the funds so when you launch fully, people will see there is already money in the campaign. Once people start seeing 20 percent completion on a campaign, that’s when strangers start donating to campaigns.
Ray Brown: Before you dive in and launch, figure out different ways to
reach out to people to help. And when
it does fall, how do you pick it back up? I put it up in a couple of days and
just launched it without any preparation thinking that the social media
traction Shemar Moore had was just going to drive it. But it didn’t work that way. We had to get the fans to engage in a way where they created their own little community and talked to each other every day. You have to bring in other
partners to keep it going. It’s almost like launching a movie with a trailer,
setting it up so that people know what is coming. He has a big fan base, but
that wasn’t enough.
More after the jump.
On Indiegogo’s funding models:
Indiegogo: Flexible funding is our most popular choice. If someone is trying to raise $100,000 and they only raise $95,000, coming up $5,000 short after a 30-day campaign, did they really fail? In our minds, they didn’t, and we give them the option to walk away with that $95k and get that $5k somewhere else. In independent film, you’re going to find money from other sources. If you can get that close [to your goal], you are a success.
Ray Brown: We set a goal of $500,000 on the $1.5 million budget and we
raised over $638,000. Because the campaign was successful, a lot of people
started reaching out to invest. There are brands reaching out to be part of it.
As far as distribution we’ve had companies reach out for that too because of
his fan base around the world. We created a stretch code, which was basically
if we get more money we can get it in more theaters, we can do more with the
On marketing campaigns and engaging your audience:
Indiegogo: Even if you don’t reach your goal, you’re still getting incoming phone calls. The campaign offers pre-awareness, it’s free marketing, it proves to your crowd, to your audience and your market that you have value and that your project has value, and that it’s worth continuing on… The crowdfunding campaign is not just about the money: it’s about the fan. It’s a good marketing tool because you’re keeping fans engaged. You don’t even need to put out a trailer. You’re keeping people involved in the whole process.
Ray Brown: He’s got a crazy female fan base (nothing against females!) who were on the campaign site every day. We created a blog and a “Bounce
Back” Twitter where they could communicate on both Indiegogo and on the
blog. They created a group called “The Bounce Back” Sister Wives.
They communicated all day so I didn’t have to work as hard but I had to stay
engaged with them and he had to stay engaged. There were over 5,000 comments
total. I couldn’t respond to all of them but fans started to respond for me. We
also did live chats, so they felt like it was real.
On controversies surrounding celebrity campaigns:
Indiegogo: Everybody should have the opportunity to crowdfund. Whether it’s Zach Braff, Shemar Moore or James Franco, it’s about that engagement. It’s not just about a celebrity panhandling money. It’s about the project and the audience’s reaction to it.
Ray Brown: Shemar was thinking about financing it himself,
which you’re not supposed to do… He explained to fans that it was less about the money, since
he could fund it, and more about engaging with them and taking that to
Hollywood. Shemar let them know, it’s not about me taking the money, it’s about
you supporting something I think you might enjoy.
Why choose Indiegogo over Kickstarter:
Indiegogo: There’s no screening process. We don’t tell our campaigners whether or not
their project is good. That’s not our job. It defeats the purpose of crowdfunding.
It’s up to the crowd to decide. You have to find your audience and crowdfunding
allows that. We have a Happiness Team in San Francisco, about
a dozen people who take your emails, your calls and your concerns and walk you
through the process. We have an in-house PR team who pushes out campaigns. We
have 7,000 campaigns running at any given time, so we make our best efforts to
be there for our campaigners because their success is [also] ours.
Ray Brown: We created this whole plan to go to Kickstarter. Kickstarter
felt more corporate to us because if we didn’t make it, we would look bad. We
didn’t want to put Shemar out there like that. So we went to Indiegogo. As soon
as we moved over and the campaign started to move, Indiegogo reached out to us
to help along the process.
What is the Gogofactor?:
Indiegogo: The Gogofactor is a proprietary algorithm. It levels the playing field and encourages you to be successful campaigner. If
you are a $5 million celebrity-driven campaign but you’re doing nothing to
promote it and on the other hand you have a $15,000 short film or film campaign
and you’re busting your hump, the Gogofactor
will push for you. If you want to be on the front page or on a newsletter,
everyone has the same exact opportunity: it all comes down to what you’re doing
to promote your campaign and how quickly you’re contributing. The harder you’re pushing to share and get
contributors, the more the algorithm will back you. The algorithm
will allow it to pop up on the front page, the newsletter, and in every single
section of the site.