Your Guide to Crowdfunding with Kickstarter
There are a number of websites specifically designed to help filmmakers raise capital. Kickstarter is one of the best-known and describes itself as “a way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavours”. It doesn’t solely focus on film but during the three and a half years the platform has been around, it raised over $130m for film related projects.
How does Kickstarter work?
Filmmakers set up a campaign. They write a text in which they set out the what, where, who, how and when of their project and convince you of the importance of supporting them. In addition to this they often release a video, a quick and, if used well, efficient way of getting your attention.
In return for your support a filmmaker will offer you some goodies, which can be anything from a DVD, T-shirt or meeting the main character to a ticket to the premier or credits in the film.
If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal within the time limit set - a maximum of 60 days - all backers' credit cards are charged when time expires (more on these costs further on).
It’s important to understand that Kickstarter is simply a facilitator. All responsibility for delivering a viable project and being accountable to backers lies with the creator.
Currently, Kickstarter is only available to US and UK creators (or those with a bank account in one of these countries) but it has announced plans to expand further.
Does Kickstarter charge for its services?
Yes, Kickstarter is powered by an all-or-nothing funding method where projects must be fully-funded or no money changes hands. If your project is successful, Kickstarter charges for its services. The business will apply a 5% fee to the funds collected.
In the US, pledges will be processed by Amazon Payments, while in the UK, pledges will be processed securely through a third-party payments processor. This works out to roughly 3-5%. Check the Kickstarter and Amazon websites for fee breakdowns in the UK and the US.
Is there any evidence that Kickstarter works?
Yes. In January 2013, Kickstarter provided a detailed breakdown of how much independent film funding it had facilitated since its launch. It also released a nice slideshow highlighting its successes in 2012.
In short, it helped raise more than $100m between April 2009 and January 2013 ($60m pledged in the past 12 months). A total of $42m of this went to documentary, $32m to narrative film, $17m to short film, $7m to web series and $5m to animation.
More than 8000 films have been created including 86 that received a theatrical release. In 2013 the first film funded through the crowdfunding platform even won an Oscar – Inocente, for best documentary short. This was after two others (Sun Come Up and Incident in New Baghdad) were previously nominated. In addition, 49 Kickstarter-funded films have been official selections at the prestigious Sundance festival.
How likely am I to get my project funded in this way?
First up it is worth noting that sites like Kickstarter seem suited to micro, small and medium budget projects. For the big bucks the more traditional way of funding does still seem to be the way forward. However, some of the filmmakers that have succeeded to make their film have used crowdfunding as a way to show the studios that there is a demand for their project, putting the big bosses minds at rest that there is an audience.
For the small and medium projects it does seem successful though. Kickstarter quotes that to date around 44% of the projects in search of funding have reached their goals. What happens after is of course up to the filmmaker. Kickstarter says it does not get involved in the development of the projects themselves.
On the platform backers decide the validity and worthiness of a project by whether they decide to fund it. The website does give some valuable tips on how to asses credibility though if you are planning to back any projects yourself. Take a look here.
To increase your success you need to keep communicating your campaign. You will need to make it your priority and get it out there via all social media platforms, email, word of mouth and other forms of communication you can possibly tie in with your campaign. One thing many filmmakers forget is that people will not just come to them; they need to be in the picture first and get noticed. Social media, blogs and word of mouth can help with this.
It is also advisable to launch a campaign once you have already got the first 10% (from friends and family for example). This has shown to work well for the outcome.
Are there any other sites that facilitate crowdfunding?
The biggest rival to Kickstarter is Indiegogo. Like Kickstarter, it is not a film-specific site, but is aimed at anyone with a creative idea. Its main advantage over Kickstarter is that it is available in more countries (US, UK, Canada, France and Germany). Another point of difference is that fundraisers can choose to keep the money they raise even if they don’t hit their specified funding goal. The catch here is that Indiegogo takes a bigger share of the money raised if the funding target is not met. But the upside is that it may be possible to take pre-committed crowd funding to a bank, private equity firm, sponsor or film commission fund to try and leverage conventional forms of funding.