Your guide to crowdfunding
What exactly is crowdfunding?
For those who haven’t pledged to a project set up by one of their filmmaking friends, crowdfunding is a way of raising money for your film by asking individuals for financial donations in exchange for small tokens of appreciation, such as a T-shirt or a DVD of the film.
Literally it means asking a crowd of people to support your film or a part of the production process. For example, it is possible to raise money for the post-production process alone.
One benefit of crowdfunding is the instant audience it creates. All your backers will want to see the film, otherwise why would they bother to support you?
As a creative individual you also won’t have to compromise on your creative vision. The audience, of course, can give its opinion on the project (crowdfunding platforms often form a useful tool to get responses to new ideas) but by no means does their donation mean they have any editorial influence.
There are various ways to crowdfund. You either set an all or nothing target, which means that when you don’t reach your target you get nothing – this also depends on the possibilities that your chosen crowdfund platform allows for. However, when you set your campaign for an ‘all or nothing’ target then you generally pay lower fees to the hosting platform.
Why is crowdfunding popular among filmmakers?
There are three main reasons people like the idea of crowdfunding:
- As you know, traditional film funding is extremely hard to come by so crowdfunding is a way of bypassing the industry’s gatekeepers.
- The advent of mainstream social media has made it possible for filmmakers to cast their net much wider in search of potential backers, and even reach celebs and the media.
- The final reason that crowdfunding is popular is that even if a filmmaker feels able to get funding from a more conventional source, crowdfunding, as said, is a way of ensuring greater editorial control over a project and, possibly, a better rights position.
Do big projects really succeed this way?
That depends. With Kickstarter last year reported a 40% success rate for film and videos, so you could say that the amount of successful projects is certainly rising compared to a few years ago. Early 2013 some crowdfunded films even made it into the Oscars.
But, to be realistic, many filmmakers fail (the other 60%). The simplest of reasons is that your project just isn’t very good or not good enough. This is why it is important to ask for honest and reliable feedback before you start your campaign.
One good example of a successful crowdfunding campaign is The Spirit Level, a documentary based on the bestselling book of the same name. The film, directed by Katherine Round, was crowdfunded via popular platform Indiegogo and managed to raise £70.000, which is £20.000 more than it had hoped for.
Down with their topic, good pitch, level of engagement and a vigorous social media regime - the small team behind the film created a real buzz even before they started shooting. Take a look here if you’re curious.
Why would anyone part with their cash?
There are a variety of reasons why people might be inclined to help you with your film. The first will always be the affiliation with your idea. But that alone is not enough. The public will look if you have potential as a filmmaker (or filmmaking team), they will quickly assess the likelihood of you making the target and they will look at the perks you are offering in return for their donation.
If you are an Oscar-winning filmmaker, such as David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) who raised funds to make a feature-length storyboard with sound effects for his animated film The Goon – then obviously people see you as a more solid ‘investment’. You can take a look at his campaign here on Kickstarter.
Can anyone start a crowdfunding campaign?
Yes, you will need to make sure though that you give the potential backers something that shows them that you are a good investment. Platforms allow (some insist) for a video in which you, as the director, can explain who you are, what you have done, why you are raising these funds, what you are intending to do with them and how you are intending to do this.
What factors make the difference between success and failure?
Well, we have named most of them but here’s your ‘must not forget’ list:
- You have a compelling project with a clearly-defined audience.
- Make a great pitch video (if you can’t do this as a filmmaker, who’s going to trust you?).
- Offer three or more perks to potential funders.
- Update your campaign page every few days.
- You need to be realistic with your goals, both for your project as well as for your funding.
- Post media to your campaign page gallery. Show people what you are getting on with.
- Campaign less than two months. Most pitching websites give you a maximum of two months to raise funds, this ensures it won’t be an on-going saga, backers know what to expect.
- Get the initial part of your funding (roughly 20%) from family and friends before you reach out to the rest of the world.
Another vital thing to remember is that, just like in the mainstream film industry, marketing is crucial. A successful campaign requires a creative approach to social marketing in the hope that the project is exciting enough to go viral (via Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest). It’s hard work but hopefully the one or two month investment will pay off.
Reach out to blogs, film buffs, organisations that share your film’s visions, perhaps even celebs and a friend or twenty who have a decent online footprint to help promote. The visibility can really help donations.
Where can I start?
All these platforms are different. They have different approaches, guidelines, pricing and audiences. Ensure you pick the one most suitable for your project. In order to do this you need clearly defined goals and a good browse around to compare the offerings.
Have you ever crowdfunded a film? Are you planning on raising finance this way? If so why not tell us about it via our Facebook page?