You are chomping at the bit to make your film or web series. You have no money, no track record and no shortage of drive. Very quickly you come to the conclusion, I’ll crowdfund. And very quickly after that, you come to the conclusion, crowdfunding is overwhelming. Coming to grips with just how much work crowdfunding will be, you consider hiring someone to do it for you. You will quickly learn no one does that.
The next logical step is to frantically Google How To’s and that is probably why you landed here. I’m glad you’re here because I’m going to help you. Breathe, only one thing we need to get straight right out of the gate. If you are an unknown filmmaker with no track record, your project is going to be funded by your friends and family. You are not going to raise one hundred thousand dollars. Ten is more realistic. If you are a successful content creator with a following you will certainly already know all this information. It’s a lot of work to be sure but it’s all very doable so let’s get you started.
Determine the amount of money you can realistically raise. You and everyone on your team actors, DP, etc who are invested in the project need to comb your personal email lists. Go through your contacts and create a list of people you are very sure will donate to you. Go through that list again and be conservative. Now take that number of people who will most likely donate and multiply that number by $70. That is a very good estimate of what you will raise. If you come up with 100 people that is $7,000. Even if everyone gave you $200 which is unlikely that’s $20,000. My point is crowdfunding is not going to get you a $200,000 budget. It will get you $10,000 to make your short film or web series.
Choose a Platform the two majors are Indiegogo and Kickstarter. For a first timer, I recommend Indiegogo because you get whatever you raise regardless of your goal. With Kickstarter, you need to raise 100% of your stated goal to get the funds. People will say by not committing to something scary like an all or nothing proposition is setting yourself up for failure. Which to me makes no sense because of course, you don’t want to fail. You will be working on this for over a month you do not want to walk away with nothing. But in the end, it’s up to you I would just recommend you use one of those two. There are many others but it just confuses people. Keep it simple.
Start seeding social media. As soon as you start planning and before you launch create social media accounts around the project. Twitter & Facebook are best because you can have actionable links. Instagram is useful but not as good with links. Make dedicated accounts for the project or if you already have a personal account with a large following start making your crowdfunding a part of your daily feed. Replace your Banners and Avatars with something relating to your project. Post daily about the process. How you are starting to gear up for our crowdfunding. Post about production meetings and, always include photos. Post a concept drawing or storyboards in progress. Shoot behind the scenes pics of a reading or rehearsal. Document the process to make people aware that you are up to something extraordinary. Social media does not guarantee engagement with your content but people are always watching the stream. And Remember your friends and family are guaranteed engagement.
The Pitch Video. The pitch video is very important. Video and audio quality are paramount. You are asking people to give you money to make a film. Subconsciously if your pitch video looks bad you look bad as a filmmaker. Don’t try to wing it, write a script. Humor is always good but don’t force it. Keep it under 2 minutes. Don’t forget ‘the ask.’ A sincere, authentic message is the most effective. A concise clear video is crucial so I’ll share a road map – Intro with emotional hook / briefly explain your project / What’s special about it / How much backing do you need / what will the budget pay for/ Timeline to completion / What rewards are you offering / Call to action.
Tell them three times. Tell people you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them you told them. A week before you launch you will send one of three emails to your master list of likely donors. In your first email you will keep it short, talk about what you are about to do and what day you launch. Ask them straight up if you can count on their support. On average, campaigns that reach their goal raised one-third of their funds within the first quarter of their campaign lifetime. In your email say something like “ If we can raise 30% of our goal in the first 72 hrs we are well on our way”. Ask them to commit to donating on that 1st day. Make a list of those who say yes. The second email you send on the launch day you remind them they said they’d help get things started. And restate the importance of the 1st 72hrs to your entire list. The third email is on the third day as the reminder to people who have not donated yet.
Rewards Don’t make T-Shirts or printed things. They just cost you money in production and shipping and most people don’t want chachkies. Make your rewards something you can tie into the actual project. Offer a shout out on social media for a few dollars. I’ll explain why that is important later. Provide a digital download of the completed project. For larger amounts of money give associate producer credits. If you have fun or interesting props offer those as screen used items. Let them choose a character’s name for a generous donation, they can be an extra, etc. You get the idea.
Social Media Thank You Nobody will be too happy if you hijack their social media feed with your crowdfunding promotions. However when someone donates you immediately thank them on social media tagging them in a post. You say something like a big thank you to Tom, Mary and JoJo for supporting our project XYZ with a link to the campaign, the link is key. Since you tagged them everyone in their feed will see your info and links. They will see a friend of theirs deemed this a cool project so maybe they should check it out.
Launching a crowdfunding campaign is a big undertaking. I just scratched the surface here but this information certainly will get you started. It’s good form to run a campaign for at least 30 days. The first and last 72 hours will be the most fruitful. The other 24 days you will be grinding it out, one person at a time. You have to imagine yourself a politician running for office, shaking hands and kissing babies. You will succeed one person at a time. In the big picture, the larger benefit is building your audience. Everyone who donates is saying they are interested in what you do. Be sure to collect all the emails and start building an email list around your work. You will have a support base for when you launch your production and a head start with an established base for your second production. The further you go down this road of DIY filmmaking you will realize just how valuable that email list is. Which is why I’d ask you to please join mine. Just take the first step and before you know it, the crowdfunding mechanism will be in motion.
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