Monday, 17 February 2014

RUNNING A SUCCESSFUL CROWD FUNDING CAMPAIGN

 READ THIS : Please bare in mind that this is just how I have approached filmmaking. These are things that have worked for me, they may or may not work for you. I'm not saying there is a right way or a wrong way to do these things I can only speak from my own experience and point of view. There is also no substitute for hard work. With that in mind Read on

So you've written your killer script (pun intended), Now what? What do you do with your 90+ pages of awesomeness. You could try and sell it sure, that is pretty tough (although not impossible) but if you're a first time screenwriter it going to be difficult. You could produce it yourself, but how would you raise the money to do so? Well, as with everything, The internet has the answer.  ;)

If you haven't heard about crowdfunding by now, well I'm not sure why you're reading this. Crowdfunding through IndieGoGo and Kickstarter is now a very viable tool in funding your project, be it a movie, an album, a video game or even a sex dungeon that specialises in Dwarf bondage. It has become a very useful tool for audiences to decide what they want to see, play, listen to and gives them a chance put thier money where thier mouth is and make projects happen. 

In 2010 crowdfunding was still in its relative infancy, but we used a combination of early IndieGoGo (when it was still only available in $) and our own similar paypal based system where people could essentially donate small amounts of money for thanks credits, DVD's and Posters, to help raise money toward our budget for Slasher House. We raised a small amount of money this way (about 10%), as we were realativly unknown beyond a few shorts and Creepsville (our first no budget feature affair) that at the time one of Warner Bro's Independent subs were interested in, Due  to the success of Paranormal Activity. 

We raised the rest of the money for Slasher House through private investment amongst ourselves and close friends and family members and manged to raise enough to push us to production and kind of wrote off crowdfunding as a viable option for us as we felt it had been largely unsuccessful for us. However, a couple of years later, as Slasher House picked up a bit of speed and press, we started to get a lot of messages asking if we would be be doing another 'kickstarter' for our next movie, Legacy Of Thorn, which we had announced earlier in the year. 

It was something I wasn't keen on, I didn't really enjoy the stress of it the last time we'd tried it, There was a lot of maintenance needed doing to keep interest up and it became a 24/7 job. Yet this time, I felt, we had enough interest before even started to justify it. We were already pouring all of our own money into it, as well as into post production costs to get Slasher House ready to be distributed, so we decided to give it a shot to raise some of our budget.

1. WHICH PLATFORM TO CHOOSE?

Although there are a variety of options these days in terms of where you set up your crowd funding, There are two main platforms that most people take on. IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. They both work in a very similar way. You set a target and then offer incentives of various values that contributors receive in return for their contribution. 

There are subtle differences, 

KICKSTARTER



 Kickstarter offers a target based service, In which, if the target is not met then no funding is received and no contributors are charged. This is a great idea as it forces you to work around the clock to make sure you get those donations in. Its not like you're Veronica Mars, so chances are you gonna have to work your butt of earn those contributions. Upside is, that you won't be left in a tough position should you only hit some of your target. 

http://kickstarter.com

INDIEGOGO



IndieGoGo offers the same service, as well as another which allows you to keep any contribution you get for a higher fee to IndieGoGo themselves, however the fee is reduced if the target is met.  So even if you don't meet your target you keep all contributions given. 


It sounds like the better option, however it became obvious very quickly that it was riddled with pit falls. I'll talk about that later. 


http://indiegogo.com

Oh, yeah. We went with IndieGoGo, based on raising as much as we could there and then making up the difference ourselves if needs be. 


2. WHAT TO INCLUDE

IndieGoGo have a template built in that is very helpful in covering what you should include in your information to make your project more appealing, which I found very helpful as this was the first time I had attempted this on any serious level. What you need to do is ensure that you spend this time really selling your project, discussing why you want to make it,why people should want to watch it, why people should want to get behind it.

You should go into specific depth about what each one of incentives is (Including their terms and conditions), Explain what each one actually entails. If one of the incentives is a ticket to the premiere, for instance, are you covering travel, hotels? If so mention that, if not, make it clear. You need to make sure that contibutors understandfully what they are getting into. 

It's important to let people know how the money will 'Help' your production. In our case we had some very specific costumes needed making and very specific props that needed building. On top of that there were some big effects shots that we wanted to achieve that needed some specialised equipment that we just didn't have a work around for, so we explained where we would be spending the money, how it would help us and how it would improve the production. This is an area I wish we had gone into more detail in, simply for our own sake. But it really does help to let people know exactly where thier contributions are going. 

I see crowd funding campaigns everyday that are literally 1 or 2 lines, that read like 


"Its a zombie film, about zombies eating people and people trying to survive being eaten by zombies" 


and they offer stuff like 'Special Thanks' for £1000 and then wonder why their own £1 pledge from their mum is the only contribution. Be thorough here, it'll be worth it. 


You can check the page for our it here

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/thorn-a-new-age-slasher-epic

Although please note the videos have since gone. 

3. WHAT TO PREPARE

The real key to a sucessful crowdfunding campaign is here, you need to be prepared. For Legacy Of Thorn I had some stuff ready, in the form of artwork, the Thorn short film that we had made back in 2009 on £0 (it had won some awards too which helped) and of course we had Slasher House about to hit major stores in the UK, which features the title character. This was all stuff we already had in place from early pre production. You can view the no budget short film below. 


After that we prepared a pitch video, In which. I sat in front of the camera and just pitched our movie in as short a time as I could. It was a simple talking head video that just went through the information in the campaign, but people tend to find video more engaging than just reading and it plays a huge part in making others want to contribute.

Over the course of the campaign we added more incentives based on what was popular or by request.  We did social media shout outs to contibutors, which in turn helped us find more contibutors. We did interviews, sent out press releases, did video up dates and cast announcements, all in the name of getting people interested and keeping them interested.

We prepared a strategy well in advance and every step of the campaign was planned out mine before we implemented it. We let the campaign built up a bit of a buzz and that got us into the local paper and even onto BBC radio with Ted Robbins from League Of Gentlemen (That's a big comedy show in the UK, I don't know how big it was in the rest of the world), All of which we had planned to do from the outset (Although the Ted Robbin's thing was a bonus). 

As preparation goes, we made one huge mistake. We didn't pre announce the campaign, we didn't get people ready invest, we launched it and then realised that the flood gates were open and no flood was coming in. All the guys who had asked us to do a campaign for the movie went silent. By the end not one single person who had emailed me asking me to do so had contributed anything. However, a lot of other people did, which we are eternally grateful for and these are the people that helped us really make a difference when it came to making the movie. 



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4. WHAT TO OFFER

That really comes down to what kind of project your making, in regards to making a film. We offered Thanks Credits, Signed Posters, Digital Downloads, DVDs, Walk On roles, Screenused Props, Producer Credits amongst other things. All of them obviously related to the film and all them exclusive to the campaign.

We used the incentives to get people not only interested in investing, but also to drum up excitment about the project itself. We did competitions in conjunction with the release of Slasher House and entered everyone who donated anything into a raffle to encourage smaller donations. 

However we only offered things that we knew we could deliver, people were warned that there maybe delays on somethings, especially set appearances and such, but we were very careful not to offer incentives that we couldn't make good on. 

5. WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR

The biggest problem we came across straight away, were the fees that IndieGoGo began to apply to every payment. Instead of holding the money till the end of campaign, every payment was placed in our company account, with IndieGoGo's fees already taken off and then on top of that paypal took a fee too, so we lost a decent percentage of each investment before it even got to us. That might not sound like an issue, but as we hit just under a £1000 we realised that if the campaign wasn't sucessful we were going to be left with 3 choices. 

Make the movie on a portion of the budget, borrow the remaining money from the bank or pay the money back, but this time the fees had already been taken and so they would have had to go back out of our own pocket. The pressure to hit target became emmense and it certainly wasnt good for us creatively as suddenly all our effort went into trying to raise money rather than focusing on fine tuning the film.

The biggest issue we had was that we raised 125% of our target, due to round the clock hard work and a very kind contributions for our biggest incentives that helped reach our target a couple of weeks before the campaign ended. However after fees we ended up landing only just over our original actual target. Had we simply hit our target, We would have ended up way further off still. 

I understand that companies need to make their living, so please know that I'm not complaining about these fees, they certainly need to be there to maintain these sites, but if I was going to do it again I would certainly be more wary at the very least. We could have very easily ended up in worse position than when we started and that shouldn't be the case here. 

One more thing. IndieGoGo waited till our campaign had finished before telling us that we couldn't offer stakes in the movie (Our highest incentive offer), but by then it was over, We went through their policy about this, which was clearly labelled on the Kickstarter site, but here on IndieGoGo (at least at the time) was worded in such vague language that we had deemed it safe to offer said incentive at the time. This nearly caused a problem, but we sorted it out privately with those contributors.

6. WHAT TO REMEMBER

I'm not saying that crowdfunding is bad, Quite the opposite, I think its a great tool in regards to giving audiences a voice and creatives a choice in now they fund thier projects. It has its pitfalls, the same way that private investment does or making a movie on no budget does. It is worth bearing in mind that you have to hit way over target to actually hit your budget on the nose. 

That being said, running the campaign saw us find much more support for the project, it built more interest, We ended up on the radio and in the papers, in national magazines, all of which was great for the movie and Slasher House which was just hitting major stores in the UK during the campaign. 

I think that next time (if there is one) we would most likely aim for the Kickstarter option, but I really think that whatever approach you take needs to suit your project. Thorn was happening with or without the campaign so every little toward that helped. If you want your crowdfunding to decide weather your project lives or dies then the Kickstarter option maybe for you. After all it is certainly a lot less pressure. 

7. WHAT TO DO AFTERWARD

Campaign Exclusive Posters for Legacy Of Thorn
A quick side note, Once you've hit your goal (or even if you haven't) it's important to keep your contributors updated on the films progress and the incentives they will be receiving. If, like us, you are small independent studio in North England, keeping to schedule can be tricky, but we do our best to deliver the incentives as soon as they are ready. I hear a lot of stories about people running crowdfunding campaigns and then never receiving thier incentives and you want to avoid being branded one of those people. 

As with anything, do your best to stay on time and if you can't, just let people know. they are usually every understanding. Within reason.

Above all just try to have fun with it, making movies, and even raise money to make movie is stressful. Luckily it's the good kind of stressful, the kind that doesn't see you trapped in a sex dungeon that specialises in Dwarf bondage.


Oh yeah... Heres the Trailer For LEGACY OF THORN




MJ

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