Top 5 Crowd Funding Tips for Filmmakers

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Good news. Another special guest blogger has been added to our arsenal. Author and filmmaker James Cooper wrote the book Kickstarter for Filmmakers after successfully funding his short film Elijah the Prophet through the popular crowd funding website. Below James shares his top five crowd funding tips for filmmakers.

TOP FIVE CROWD FUNDING TIPS FOR FILMMAKERS by James Cooper


Kickstarter is creating a boom in creative communities around the world! Filmmakers everywhere are chomping at the bit to get in on the action, but did you know over half of all campaigns launched on Kickstarter fail?

Crowd funding is still a relatively new business model, and it can be overwhelming to make sense of it all. Without the proper preparation, though, you may be dooming yourself to failure before your campaign even sees the light of day.

There are many things to take into consideration when launching a crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter, Indiegogo or any similar platform, but here are some of the most important:

5. Know Your Audience

This should be easy, but for some reason seems to be overlooked not just in crowd funding campaigns, but in general. When many new filmmakers are asked “Who is your audience?” with respect to their new project, they too often answer “Well, everyone!” This will not do. Crowd funding sites are jungles, and even though some do have good tools for discovery, it will be very easy for you to get lost in the crowd.

Your success will be determined by your ability to get the word out, and your success in that will be determined by your ability to identify what groups and niche audiences you can focus on reaching. Crowd funding is still new enough that an interesting campaign is in of itself news.

4. Tell Me Who Is Involved

Simple, right? You’d think so, but quite often you’ll read through a project’s entire description and still not know who else is involved aside from the person writing the description/appearing in the pitch video. It takes more than one person to make a film, and your audience will want to know they can all be trusted to deliver.

Even if none of the people involved in your film are recognizable to the uninitiated, it still helps spur support if people can get a quick glance at the passionate team that’s dying to bring this project to fruition.

3. Be Realistic

It’s easy to be blinded by dollar signs when looking at other successful campaigns, but don’t get carried away when setting your goal. Maximize your odds of success by taking stock of your network and making realistic estimates of what kind of support you’ll be able to gain. Be conservative in these estimates. It would be a far better surprise to end up with more than you thought you’d have, than to come up with less.

To this effect, you also have to figure out if you think you can realistically fund the entire project through your campaign, or if you’ll have to bring outside financing to fill the gap. If you do, it’s far safer to have that in place prior to launching your campaign.

2. Be Honest

This seems obvious, but it’s one of the most important things to keep in mind as you build your campaign: Don’t lie; don’t misrepresent yourself or your credits; don’t make promises you can’t keep. When people back a campaign, they’re making a deal directly with you. Kickstarter, Indiegogo and other similar platforms don’t police your ability to deliver, so it’s up to you to do so. You don’t want to waste their money or ruin your reputation, so ensure you’re not promising more than you’re capable of.

Everything you include in your pitch video and your project description should be able to be distilled into two words: “Trust me.” For better or worse, crowd funding is a model that relies solely on trust: Trust that you can get this film made, trust that it will be good, trust that the money will be well spent, and trust that the claims made in your campaign are true. Don’t forget: This is the internet; it’s not hard to sniff out false claims.

1. More Than Money

Don’t let the funding part of the term crowd funding distract you – you’re getting more out of your campaign than money. Backers are early adopters, and they are more likely than anyone else to champion your project and shout it from the rooftops. They are now invested, literally, in your success. They’ve become part of the process, so treat them as such. Don’t just take their money and say thanks; show them you’re grateful for their help. This can take any shape you choose, but make them feel like they’ve backed the right horse.

I had a hard time deciding if #2 should be #1 or not, as they’re both equally important, but I ultimately decided the backer/campaigner relationship is the cornerstone of any crowd funding campaign and that the benefits outside the strictly financial should not be overlooked.

James Cooper is a film director and the author of Kickstarter for Filmmakers, now available on iBooks, Kindle, Nook and DRM-free PDF. www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com

5 Responses to Top 5 Crowd Funding Tips for Filmmakers

  1. Pingback: Jon Reiss / Film Courage « kickstarterforfilmmakers

  2. Filmmaking is my hobby. So, these tips are really interesting and helpful for me. Thanks for that!

  3. Laura Harvey says:

    i saw somewhere that there is new crowdfunding for filmmakers. I could not find. It will launch this Dec 2012. Do you know who? what website? Thanks

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