Crowdfunding is a new trend in independent film financing where filmmakers offer perks/rewards in exchange for cash donations. The legal hurdles of an investment-based system are avoided as long as donors are not promised any ownership of the film.
The two prominent crowdfunding websites are IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. They both charge a percentage of what you raise and require filmmakers to set a deadline. However, there is one key difference: Kickstarter imposes an all-or-nothing policy where one must meet their monetary goal or receive nothing, whereas IndieGoGo will allow you to keep whatever you raise but charge you more if you come up short.
Most successful campaigns seem to feature niche content. English Bulldog owners and mariachi fans will get really excited about a film featuring their unique interest. Another common factor for crowdfunding success is teamwork. Campaigns with multiple team members working together generally raise more. Four people will exponentially reach more individuals than a one-man show.
Nonetheless, even if you are a team of 10 people with a movie about juggling monks, crowdfunding thousands of dollars is extremely difficult, plain-and-simple. To begin with, most people don’t care about your project by default. Let’s be honest: who are you and what is your film in comparison to the recession, natural disasters and the next Will Farrell movie? “Nothing.” As a result, most people who contribute to your campaign will either have a personal interest in you or your content, which is why you must connect with such people.
It took me many days to prepare an IndieGoGo campaign for my feature film, Girlfriend 19. Both sites provide a campaign page enabling you to post a pitch video supplemented with text. I took this very seriously: Who is my target audience? What will my video include? And what will be its overall mood and feel? In the end, I chose a mood that reflects my film itself while targeting a professional crowd. You must make a choice and, in the end, there will be people who dislike your video and not donate as a result. This definitely happened to me and it’s simply how it goes as with all marketing.
Girlfriend 19 is a unique feature film you can help produce! Check out this video to learn more about the film and our crowdfunding campaign on Girlfriend19
Girlfriend 19 is fiscally sponsored, so all donations are eligible for a 100% tax-deduction!
Now that you have created your campaign, you must now connect with and continually ask people to give. Since the launch of my campaign, I have spent countless hours sending emails, updating my blog, posting on Facebook, and Tweeting. They say crowdfunding is a full-time job and I completely agree. Again, I’m not cynical; it’s simple a fact that people generally don’t care and need to be inspired to give.
But that’s just the easy part. The emotional ups and downs have been the hardest aspect by far. They say crowdfunding campaigns start strong, slow down, and finally finish strong. My campaign start was awful. I merely raised $57 on Day One! Imagine how discouraged I was. And to top things off, my film is fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas, an arts service organization that has teamed up with IndieGoGo. This means donors can receive a 100% tax-deduction for their contribution. I was sure a tax break would lead to immediate results, but I was totally was wrong.
Then, the miracle happened! About two weeks into my campaign, I received an email from someone wanting to set-up a $2,500 match fund. This meant that all donations over the course of one week would be matched/doubled up to $2,500. This sparked new life in me, so I immediately sent out 113 personalized emails to people I believed cared about me and my film. The response was huge! Within a week, I raised well over $2,500 and my campaign total became $7,211, including the match fund itself.
All hardships aside, there is one primary reason I recommend crowdfunding: it gives friends, family and strangers the opportunity to contribute to your film and bless you with their kindness. In the end, crowdfunding is not only about you. There are many folks that want to support those pursuing their passion. It simply feels good to be a part of someone’s dream. Sure, most people may not want to help, but for those that do, you have given them the option.
Please visit my campaign site on IndieGoGo. Take a look at what I’ve done. Maybe you’ll like some things and not others. Hopefully my campaign will inspire you to launch your own if you haven’t already done so. In fact, my campaign is currently a “Featured” project on the site! And if you have any questions, ask away…
Christopher J. Boghosian is an independent filmmaker in Los Angeles, California. He regularly contributes Production Notes regarding the making of his feature film, Girlfriend 19, which you can check out at FollowMyFilm.com.