Tuesday, November 2, 2010

FIND Filmmaker Forum ’10 by David Branin



Karen Worden and I had the privilege of attending Film Independent’s Filmmaker Forum for the second straight year. It’s easy to think that this would be a rehash of last year’s event, but Film Independent is not in the Hollywood remake business. To their credit they put on a first class event that provides attendees with cutting edge and relevant information for today’s marketplace. This has quickly become one of our favorite events of the year.

This year we attended these panels ‘Evaluate Your Project for Today’s Marketplace,’ ‘Take Advantage of Domestic and Foreign Tax Incentives,’ ‘Realize Your Vision On a Budget: Production Case Studies,’ ‘Genre Films: Case Studies,’ ‘It’s Your Turn to Pitch: Packaging and Financing Clinic,’ ‘Your Marketing Toolkit,’ & ‘Piracy: The Real Cost of Free.’ Here's the full schedule with all of the panelists http://empower.filmindependent.org/schedule/

What resonated with me this year? Let’s go into it.

1) I hate to start off by shining the light on something like this but it is something I cannot get out of my head. Without giving away the person’s name (you will have to research it), there was one panelist who pointed out that he is currently receiving unemployment checks. No big deal, right? Except that his $3 million film made $20 million at the box office opening weekend. When are these kinds of stories going to go away? All together the film made close to $60 million worldwide and the filmmaker hasn’t received a dime. It’s hard enough to make it as a filmmaker as it is, I’m not saying you have to make the filmmaker a millionaire but if you make a $3 million film and it makes that much money, shouldn’t there be enough of a kickback where you can avoid unemployment checks?

2) One carryover from last year, ‘Drama’ is still not an attractive word when selling your film. Do everything in your power to label your film anything but drama. And I am sure many would argue to make anything but a drama.

3) Film Commissions (I love what Karen wrote much better than what I had written - link)

4) Actor star power. There will always be stars, but there is a shift happening. Stars aren’t shining so bright these days. Do not think that just because you have a star in your film that it’s success is guaranteed. One panelist asked, "Who is a a movie star right now?" Once you get beyond those first ten names on the tip of your tongue, it is something to ponder.

5) Another note on actors. Now is a great time to aim high in casting. Many of these talented actors want to act. There are less opportunities for an abundance of actors. Go after the top names on your wish list, but as one panelist cautioned, make sure the project is ready to be put in front of their eyes.

6) Theatrical is becoming less important for smaller films. They can be too much a sinkhole. Don’t be sad. In the Filmmaker Forum manual handed out to each attendee, one film with a production budget of $900,000 has made almost $2 million in VOD sales as opposed to $100,000 theatrically. That’s a startling differential. Especially when you factor in how much money was probably spent to make that $100,000.

7) Don’t sign anything without a lawyer. (refer back to #1)


Karen Worden, Peter Ong Lim, David Branin

8) Day and Date. I wrote about this in my last blog. Matt Dentler talked a little about Ed Burns and his current release of NICE GUY JOHNNY where Ed has foregone theatrical release. He went to say that right now Ed is able to heavily promote this idea of ‘day and date’ because it is still fresh. He says in two years that will no longer be the case. My opinion is that I wouldn't be surprised to see ‘day and date’ will become the standard by this time next year.

9) Have you ever talked to a distributor before you made your film? Have you pitched your project to buyers to see what the current market may bear for your project? This is what Effie T. Brown did before making her latest film THE INHERITANCE. She got a price from distributors and she made sure that her production didn’t go over that price. It’s not a foolproof method, but how many first time filmmakers could have saved heart ache if they took this approach?

10) As I listened to producer Dean Zanuck tell the story of why a significant investor contributed to GET LOW, I couldn’t help but think of crowd-funding, just on a grander scale. Did the investor want guaranteed enormous returns? Well, that wouldn’t hurt, but he ended up investing money so that he could have a round of golf with stars Bill Murray and Lucas Black. It’s all about experiences that we can give to those who want to support us and our work.

11) Want to build an audience for your film? Identify niche groups that correspond with your film's subject matter, then seek out existing groups who service that audience. Do you do this the week before your World Premiere? No, it was emphasized to build these relationships before you roll cameras. Get these groups involved with your film right away and engage with them. Get them involved in the process and nurture the relationship. You will have advocates that will become invaluable when the time comes for you to release your film.

12) Two memorable quotes from Matt Dentler “Piracy is a scapegoat for a film that under performs” and “The DVD boom was an anomaly. It’s never going back, at least not anytime soon.”

13) The main take away from this year’s Forum is this, ‘Make Your Film at the Right Price.‘ Just because you make a film for $1 million doesn’t mean that your film is worth $1 million. You may want to take the advice of Joe Drake, head of Lionsgate, who shared these words in his keynote address, “Develop something that has extraordinary market demand, in which your contribution is essential.”


FIND Filmmaker Forum ’10 by Karen Worden



David Branin and I had the great fortune of attending the 2010 Film Independent Filmmaker Forum at the Directors Guild in Hollywood. As with last year, the weekend went by with us wishing we had one more day listening to panels speak on everything from piracy to Nine Inch Nails Trent Reznor’s business model. I measured how a year’s time had broadened my prospective on filmmaking. I tested myself to see if the information from the panelists was easier or harder to understand than last year. Attending the Forum made me realize I am a little fish in a big pond. It made me think back to a former sadistic colleague of mine who gleefully reminded me “you don’t even know what you don’t know.”

In prior discussions at other events and on his blogs, producer Ted Hope has reminded us that the world is a different place since 2008. The fragments of the global economy and our prior consumption habits have yet to shake themselves out. In keeping with this theme, the general consensus of the panelist was that none of us are certain where the film industry is headed. As one panelist mentioned, this paradigm shift is both scary and exciting at the same time.

Although David and I did not catch Joe Drake’s (Lionsgate) opening Forum address in person, I watched video footage of the speech on Youtube. Mr. Drake reminded the audience of author Malcolm Gladwell’s (Outliers, The Tipping Point) much talked about 10,000 hours of hard work to achieve mastery at something. Drake revealed his own journey taking 10 to 12 years. Drake commented that if you weren’t willing to commit endless hours to this pursuit, you might as well leave the event and find what is worth your time. Among the many other pieces of practical advice he gave, “If you want to see which films sell, visit your local Wal-Mart.” Also worth noting was “It’s not enough to have a dream. You have to have a plan.”

Some other interesting concepts that resonated with me during the Forum were:

1). Friendsourcing: Wendy Cohen, Manager of Community and Alliances at Participant Media discussed this interesting concept that is somewhat lost in the wake of crowdfunding, Twitter, and constant pitching (which I have been guilty of). She introduced ‘friendsourcing’ as gathering people in your network as friends, not just as bodies to sell to. She advised keeping people updated on your projects and making them feel a part of your work. Telling individuals in your network about your successes, without asking anything from them. Hopefully, everyone on your e-mail list takes this the right way.

2). Taking Great Stills: An idea that seems like a no-brainer amongst a crowd of filmmakers was hammered through numerous times. Many panelists stressed the importance of taking great stills while on the set. They mentioned that many times this is neglected in various ways. Sometimes directors think they can slow down footage frame by frame in order to pick a few great shots, but this does not always work. Other times photos are taken on set, but they don’t convey the right message. They advised planning out where and when you want photos taken, similar to micromanaging your photographer in order to get the right shots. On the flipside, the panelist also warned against inundating your site or blog with too many photos, which might overwhelm a potential audience.

3). Perception’s Everything: “When it comes to attracting funding for a film and name talent, it’s a real smoke and mirrors act” says Dean Zanuck of Get Low and Road to Perdition. You have to convince investors that you have name actors in the project, and you have to convince name actors that you have money behind the film. You need both. And it’s difficult to obtain one without the other. Dean also added that every project is a new opportunity. Each film you’re involved with brings new people, new places, new relationships, and even new problems.

4). Relying on The Gatekeepers: Force yourself into the public. With the Internet, you don’t need the studios to do this, as one panelist said. Additionally, you can never really trust that a studio will promote your film as much as you can.

5). Utilize Film Commissions: Many filmmakers do themselves a disservice by foregoing film commissions. As panelist Han Fraikin, Commissioner at Quebec Film Council explained, Film Commissions are conduits. They not only advise filmmakers to prevent them from getting tickets or even arrested. They can help filmmakers obtain better rates on goods and services. Think (possible) free office space post real estate meltdown, police escorts, free location scouting, and cheaper hotel rates.


Karen Worden, Peter Ong Lim, David Branin

6). How Many “No’s” Til You Get to the Center of The Tootsie Pop? Producer Dean Zanuck reminds us “Start with the rock solid belief in yourself. Ninety-nine percent of the time the answer from people about your project will be ‘no.’ But you will just have to keep going. Over time you will find people who believe in your work.”

7). Can We Be Too Indie For Our Own Good? “We all want to exist in this industry, no matter how independent we are. It’s a matter of getting your work out their regardless.” Explains Easier With Practice’s Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who won the 2010 Sprit Award Someone To Watch designation.

8). The Voices in Kevin Costner’s Head: “The great hurdle lies in once you’ve finished the film, then what?” says Shelby Stone of Lackawanna Blues and Life Support. There’s been much debate about what many call the Field of Dreams Approach (building it and they will come). Ask someone with a film set to show in a city outside their hometown and they’ll probably have an opinion.

9). Analysis Paralysis: Mike Masnick of Techdirt and Floor64 asks “Are we over thinking the business model? Do people think if a movie is going to be on DVD in a few weeks, why watch it in theaters? Movie going is a social experience. Similar to the concept-you can eat dinner at home, but people still go to restaurants.”

10). Mike Masnick also reminded us that water is something we can get for free but we still pay 2 to 5 dollars a bottle for it. With piracy - films may be available for free but we may still purchase them. It’s our job to make it a premium that people want to pay for. “We are all in the water bottle business.”

11). Last But Not Least: Parting words from Dean Zanuck - If you sign your name to anything, get an attorney to review it, even if it’s your friend’s dad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Today is the day for you to watch 'Night Before the Wedding.'

It has been 3 months since I have been able to make it back to this page. The subject of my previous post, 'efficiency,' is certainly still on my mind. I cannot say that I have it figured out yet. In the 3 months that have now passed, I have found myself with increasing responsibilities. And over the past month, I have begun to free up my schedule as best as I can so that I can be more productive.

It certainly helps that we are down to just two more Film Courage Interactives to close out the year. Our next one is this Monday and our last one this year will be on November 29th.

I am back here writing today for three reasons.

Number 1, our film Night Before the Wedding is officially now available on DVD, and it is also available for Online Rentals through a new platform entitled Dynamo Player.


(This is my last video blog while driving, hope you enjoy)

Number 2, we are hosting a LIVE ONLINE Q&A and DISCUSSION this Friday October 22nd at 7pm PST for those who have already seen the film and who would like to interact with us. It is our way of giving back to those who are supporting what we do. This is something we are really looking forward to doing and we hope a few folks show up to have some fun with us. I will be joined by Karen Worden, Gregor Collins, John Keating, James Anthony McQuillan and other members of the cast and crew. We will be using a LIVE video stream and you will be able to write in questions that we will answer. It's an experiment on our part, and if we can get some folks to show up it will be worth it. To join us, just visit www.nightbeforethewedding.com a little before 7pm PST this Friday!

Number 3, I wanted to give something back to you. I want to give you something more than coming here to read my promotion.

I have been quiet recently. I have spent more time listening and learning. It really is staggering how much information is available to us on a daily basis.

Knowing that, I am not sure if this has been said elsewhere, but I will say it very clearly here. We have reached the time for the majority of films to be utilize the 'DAY AND DATE' distribution strategy. From this point forward, I believe you are acting foolishly if you are not ready to fully deliver your film the same date that it premieres theatrically.

This is especially true if you are a micro-budget film. Currently with 'Night Before the Wedding' we can see now that we have lost a lot of momentum over the past year. Despite playing in a handful of Film Festivals and close to a dozen cities all together we find ourselves looking to build up interest again as we release our film into the home marekt. This is certainly not an easy proposition. It is getting trickier and harder to get people's attention. I highly recommend you view this Woodstock Film Festival panel discussion on distribution which features Ted Hope, John Sloss & Ed Burns.


(One of the best panels I have seen in a long time)

Distribution Panel, Woodstock Film Festival 2010 from BEA Submitter on Vimeo.

I find it very telling that Ed Burns latest film Nice Guy Johnny was made for $25,000 and that he has decided to 'Day and Date' the film. I believe it tells you all you need to know about the current marketplace if someone of Mr. Burns stature is making a film at this budget level, that he is bypassing a theatrical run, and he is looking to monetize it on as many platforms all at once.

Bottom line, you and I are not Ed Burns. (unless Ed, himself comes across this blog.) You can say whatever you want to say about Ed's films. Yes I am aware that he released his previous film directly on iTunes.

In my case, I will not release my second film, Goodbye Promise until it is ready for a 'Day and Date' release. Over the past year it has gotten tougher for the standard window release. My advice to those following in my path is to not just finish your film, but you now have to go beyond that and deliver your film to all platforms on your premiere date.

As we move into 2011, what was once considered experimentation will become the standard.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Efficiency

It has been harder and harder for me to share my thoughts and experiences with you from the confines of this blog. That is why I am forcing myself to make the time right now to put down a few words.

I believe what I am going through these days is what all creatives are going through. We are simply overwhelmed.

There has been so much that has been racing through my mind, so much that I have wanted to share here. Yet, I have been pulled into too many directions regarding too many projects. By no means am I pointing any fingers. I believe everything I am doing is out of necessity. Though on many days it is hard to know if I am moving in the right direction or not.

My current circumstances have me thinking more and more about efficiency. This past Sunday and Monday (July 4th & 5th) were the first two days that Karen and I have had in a long time where we didn't have to race around to be somewhere. We actually had a little down time where there were less demands on our shoulders. I had almost forgotten what that was like. (With less pressure on us, we were actually quite productive.)

In the today's world, the pressures, the responsibilities, and the demands all seem to increase daily. It is tough to keep up with it all. Everyone wants more, yet they give less.

Racing thought, There have been so many advances in the last 3 years and the masses are oblivious to the opportunities in front of us. For the first time ever, no matter what your passion the cost of entry is virtually zero. And on the other side, the cost of distribution is also virtually zero. This mainly due to the ever increasing power of the internet and the tools available. Never before have we seen this. This is unfreakingbelievable. 50 years ago, people dreamed for the opportunities that are in front of us right now. This really is a pivotal time.

We are going to see more and more people who follow their passions and create a sustainable living for themselves. They might not be millionaires, but they are going to be able to do what they love and they are going to earn a very respectable income doing what they love.

Back to Efficiency. While I have been quiet here in this format, I have been working steadily to put myself in a position to open up revenue streams for my creative efforts. These efforts include identifying and assembling a team of go-getters who are talented, creative, passionate, humble, and intelligent. Of course I am blessed to have my dearest Karen Worden who is at the heart of it all. She really is the heartbeat. She doesn't get the recognition she deserves. So here in this space, I would like to shine a little light on her. She is amazing.

If you are going to carve out a career for yourself pursuing your passions, you will be best suited with a strong team around you. Though he is getting absolutely thrashed right now, LeBron James understands the power of surrounding yourself with those who compliment your talents and can push you to new heights. We view Shaquille O'Neal a lot differently today because he fled Orlando where he may have never won a championship. (I can literally feel the heat right now just for writing those few lines.)



In terms of my team needs, I dream of the day where we have a full time assistant editor who can handle web videos and behind the scenes stuff. I also dream of a full-time graphic designer. I do want to thank Filmmaker Julian Tancredi who has been excellent in helping us finalize the artwork for our NBTW DVD cover. One day maybe we will even have an assistant, that would really help with efficiency.

Where am I right now? As you can see above, we are literally in the final stages of finalizing our Night Before the Wedding DVD. I was with DVD Author / Filmmaker Cory Reeder all day yesterday delivering assets and conceptualizing the menu. Believe we have a simple yet dynamic menu that suits our current needs perfectly. The last step is to now find our DVD manufacturer. We are only going to run off 300 copies in our first run. It really feels great to be in these final stages and to be so close to delivering the film to those who have waited a long time. The other news surrounding the film is that we will be screening it in New York City on Friday September 24th.

The focus has been with NBTW for the last few weeks to get this work done. Shortly my focus will turn back to Goodbye Promise where our editor Aric Lewis has been shaping the rough cut. My days will require watching dailies over and over again and working with Aric to figure out the spine of this film.

In addition to all the work required on the two project above. Karen and I have been extremely busy with our Film Courage radio show. I am really excited about some things we have on deck for the show. We really have some tremendous guests scheduled and our listener ship has been on the rise with more and more folks discovering the show overseas.

Our Film Courage Interactive series at the Downtown Independent is now booked up through February. We have had so much demand that we have added a date in September and are awaiting confirmation on a second date in October. We have seen the event grow from average attendance of 40-50 for our first four events to an average of over 100 at our last two. We certainly hope we can maintain that kind of momentum. We are really proud to have partnered with Producer John Paul Rice (One Hour Fantasy Girl). 50% of the box office for our July 26th event is going to the Downtown Women's Center. It's an event we are really looking forward to. In addition to OHFG, we will also be featuring the works of Julie Keck, Jessica King, Suzy Benfatto & Shawna Baca.

We have a couple of other projects in the works that I cannot mention until they are further along. Now you can see why I have efficiency on my mind.

My question to you, how do you stay efficient?

(Though I understand if you prefer to discuss 'The Decision.' For the first time ever, we got Gary Vaynerchuk to respond to us. Here is what he wrote us about LeBron.)


Saturday, July 3, 2010

My Kickstarter Experience: The Good, Bad, and Ugly by Joey Daoud

I read this posting by Filmmaker Joey Daoud back on May 27th, 2010. Didn't realize he had given me permission to repost it. I believe it is worth the read, so I have included it as mandatory reading in my Crowd Funding Cheat Sheet. Joey blogs frequently at his site Coffee and Celluoid and I recommend that you become a regular reader.

Thank you Joey, for allowing me to share your posting here.

My Kickstarter Experience: The Good, Bad, and Ugly
by Joey Daoud

It’s four days before the deadline for my Kickstarter project reaches its end. I’m only about a third of the way to my $9000 goal – a seemingly impossible feat.

A few hours later the goal is reached! So sudden? Anti-climactic? I know.

Now I wish I could say I received a miracle flood of donations in the 11th hour, or a mysterious backer stumbled on the project and became very interested. But no, it came from a phone call I made asking for an emergency bailout.

A few days later I wrote a check repaying this money. This is my Kickstarter experience.

So this post is not going to be pretty and inspirational, like Miao Wang raising $10,000 to go to SXSW (half of which came from one donor), or Driven raising $25,000, $12,000 of which they raised in the last four days.

Instead it might be a hard hitting dose of reality, but I think it’ll balance out the more popular success stories that you read that actually make you think this stuff is easy. And at the end are some things I learned that you can take away and learn from.

(Some backstory: I made a Kickstarter project to fund my feature documentary Bots High, which follows high school robotics teams built combat robots)

The Good

Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m still a huge fan of Kickstarter. I think the main thing to takeaway is it’s a tool, not a magical source of funding.

The best thing about having the project is it gave me a hard deadline, and forced me to do stuff I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

So I created the project. Within an hour I got a $25 pledge from a stranger. Yay, hopeful start! I posted the link on all my social networks, and got a good response, mostly from people invovled in the documentary and friends. But then it stalled.

I’m at about $600 and suddenly $9000 seems like a ridiculous ammount. So I started doing what I had been meaning to do – I emailed blogs. Tons of them.

I emailed anything to do with robots, science, technology, teaching. I created a press area on the site so they could grab photos, videos, and logos easily. I got a good response.

A few popular robotics sites wrote about the film, and RSS subscribers went from a handful to a couple hundred. So awareness of the film definitely went way up. Plus I created connections with blogs (and kept a spreadsheet of everyone I contacted, over 100 different sites), which will definitely come in handy once the film is done.

The Bad

Despite the good writeups on various sites, and increased traffic and subscribers, none of that really converted into donations.

Funding was still stalled around $600. I’ve read studies that people are more likely to give if the funding goal is closer to being reached, rather than really low. So I put in $1500 to bring the level to over $2000. Not exactly close to the goal, but at least it was something in the four digits.1

My marketing campaign continued, and I feel like the awareness was great. I emailed all my mailing lists. A few weeks before the deadline I was the Kickstarter Project of the Day. The project was written about in the Miami New Times Blog (mainly because I was using Kickstarter).

So while awareness was great, that still didn’t convert into donations.

But you know what did work? Credible referrals. A super nice and famous robot builder that I met when he came to Miami wrote about my project on a robot forum. I got a few good donations from that, just because his opinion had a lot of weight and he liked the project.

The Ugly

You already know where this is going. It was a few days before the deadline and aside from a miracle I didn’t see anyway that I was going to reach the goal. I didn’t want to lose all the pledges I already had. Plus I couldn’t have an email going out to everyone saying the project wasn’t successful. I always said from the start that success or not, this is happening, it just depends how much hair I’m going to pull out and stress over.

So I called a relative and got bailed out. Not pretty. Not glorious. Not the ending I was hoping for (I could have used that money, especially now that I got rejected from the Tribeca Gucci Grant).

Epilogue

I learned a lot from this experience, and I think I know where I went wrong and what I can do better in the future (and what you can learn from my experience).

Larger Established Fan Base: Sure, I have a few hundred Fans on Facebook and picked up more fans while marketing the project, but this is my first film and I don’t have anywhere near Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans. It’s also harder to build a fan base and raise money in the early stages of a project, before you have something to show and spread. That’s why there’s so many finishing grants – they want to put their money on something that has a high chance of seeing completion.

People like a sure thing (preferably a completed thing): So I just touched on this, but it’s a tougher sell for a film in pre-pro or production. A lot of this stems from my short doc/experiment You 2.0. I had been pre-selling DVDs for a few months for $9.99. Got a few buys – I think 30 or so. Then when the DVD was actually done and I raised the price to $14.99, I got tons of orders. People weren’t willing to gamble on a pre-sale. They were fine paying more for a sure thing. So if you’re trying to raise funds while you’re in development or production, you just have to work that much harder to sell it to donors.2

Be a Hustler or Find Someone Who Is: So by my standards, I hustled more than I ever have before. But that clearly wasn’t enough, and I should have found someone who is a born hustler to get in touch with more blogs and groups to promote the film (Jon Reiss talks about this, though it relates more to booking films in theaters. Either way, if you’re not a hustler, find someone who is).

Get on a high profile blog: This is pretty elusive and I might as well have put “Create a Smash Hit Viral Video,” but it’s worth mentioning. If I were to have gotten Fluffy on fire or some other video on Boing Boing or Gizmodo, I would have been set.

Going back to You 2.0, I’m not actively promoting it and pay zero for advertising, yet I get a few sales a week. Most of that is coming from two Lifehacker write-ups – one of a video of a guy talking about his office, and the other about a program I had developed (and there’s also an article I wrote on another popular blog about creating that program solely to drum up traffic). That’s how powerful these big aggregating sites are.

Goal Amount: As far as the whole post on the True Cost of a Kickstarter Project, I still stand behind the issues brought up there. But I might add to throw in a dose of reality. I probably should have set the goal lower, maybe $5,000. After all, more can always be raised (Like Diaspora, which is nearly 1800% over their goal. Insanity! A NY Times article does help. And Signal vs. Noise has an interesting explanation as to why people are giving to them.)

—–

I hope you found this useful. On a positive note, that survey I did that graphed behavior patterns of Kickstarter backers was spot on – all the donations I got pretty much matched the graph.

I’m curious to hear other Kickstarter stories that might not have ended so well, as well as other tips or things learned from fundraising. Leave them in the comments!

Goodbye Promise UPDATE 6/22/10



Believe it or not, it is easiest for us to provide this video update rather than other forms. It is raw and gritty. It was important for us to get something to you.

If you would like us to consider bringing 'Goodbye Promise' to your city, please visit
http://www.openindie.com/film/goodbye-promise
and 'Request' to see it.

You can also connect with us on Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/goodbyepromise

as well as on Twitter
http://www.twitter.com/goodbyepromise

Friday, May 7, 2010

David Branin's CROWD-FUNDING CHEAT SHEET



2 weeks ago, we reached our all or nothing fundraising goal of raising $15,000 in 52 days. Thanks to 227 amazing backers, we ended up 108% funded with $16,203 in Post-Production monies for our film Goodbye Promise. As I crunch the numbers I see that 85% of contributions were $50 or less. I have had a number of folks approach me for advice on how we did it. I thought it would be best capture some of my ideas, principles, and lessons learned in one place for all to benefit.

....At long last, here are some of my thoughts on Crowd-Funding. I wish I had read this before I started my campaign. It isn’t meant as an absolute list but I am hoping there is enough here to help you in your efforts. You can take ‘em or leave ‘em.

1) Believe in your project, LOVE your project.
2) There are NO short-cuts
3) Your work begins BEFORE you launch your campaign
4) Begin your campaign on a Monday, End it on a Friday (via Karen)
5) Personal Incentives and Combatting Piracy
6) Your campaign is more than your campaign video
7) Set an obtainable goal within a proper timeframe
8) Varying your message, Use your creativity
9) Audience Building
10) The exposure from your campaign is more valuable than the amount of money you raise
11) TWITTER
12) The Kickstarter Effect
14) Your work doesn’t end when your campaign ends



1) Believe in your project, LOVE your project. It starts with love. If you do not believe and if you do not love your project, stop. Your lack of love will be seen in every step of your campaign. We are motivated by someone’s love, dedication, and passion to reach their goal. If you do not love your project, you are not going to put in the effort levels nor the creative punch needed to reach your goal. If you cannot get excited about your own project, why should I?

2) There are NO short-cuts. Really if I could, this would be my only rule and I would repeat it 10 times. The moment you launch your crowd-funding campaign it becomes a full-time job. It’s not something you dabble with on the weekends. If you are not prepared, of if you are not in a situation to put in the work, then do not launch your campaign. Crowd-funding gives you the opportunity to raise a good sum of money from your supporters before your project is completed. Do not take that for granted. It is a privilege.

Here is what I fear, we are going to see a number of folks diving blindly into a Crowd-Funding campaign expecting miracles and magic to happen for them just because their idea is “the most unique thing the world has ever seen.” When these campaigns fail, we are going to hear things like, “it’s oversaturated,” “I would have succeeded if I got in earlier,” “they were lucky”etc. Or maybe they will be honest and admit that it is a lot work, much of which they were not prepared for nor willing to put in. Let me say it one last time, there are NO short-cuts. Keep reading for specifics on the work that has to be put in.

3) Your work begins BEFORE you launch your campaign. PART 1) It’s just common sense. In filmmaking terms think pre-production. A crowd-funding campaign needs the same amount of time, planning, and attention to detail. I believe you must really approach your campaign in the same manner you would approach your film. Pre-Campaign, Campaign, Post-Campaign and beyond where you continue to engage and nurture your audience.

I am seeing a number of folks skipping the Pre-Campaign, throwing together half-hearted campaigns and launching them. You should have an idea of what you are going to do with your campaign before you launch it. The more prepared you are beforehand, the easier it will be to make in-game adjustments. Even if you are not able to execute everything you would like, at least you have options rather than grasping at straws.

You should research other successful campaigns. What ideas can you borrow? What methods can you expand on? How can you be different? What do you blatantly have to borrow because it is effective?

Here are five items I always recommend.

Listen to this interview with Lance Weiler and Kickstarter Co-Founder Yancey Strickler
http://workbookproject.com/blog/2009/10/08/kickstarter/

Read this Q&A on Gregory Bayne’s campaign for his film Jens Pulver / Driven
http://blog.kickstarter.com/post/367095749/success-story-jens-pulver-driven

Read these lessons directly from Gary King regarding his campaign for How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song
http://grking.com/blog/index.php/2010/06/11/lessons-learned-in-the-land-of-crowdfunding-2/

Quick Tips from Marinell Montales & John Trigonis from their CERISE campaign.
http://ventriloqui.posterous.com/q-tip-quick-tip-for-indie-filmmakers-crowdfun

Good, The Bad, The Ugly by Joey Daoud about his campaign for BOTS HIGH.
http://coffeeandcelluloid.com/2010/05/18/my-kickstarter-experience-the-good-bad-and-ugly/

Continue reading the rest of this blog. : )

PART 2) What have you done prior to your campaign to build and nurture your audience? I believe this aspect cannot be underestimated. In my case, I have been working on building a support system for many years now. I wasn’t solely relying on a crowd-funding campaign to find my audience. (It was certainly interesting to see who in my network supported the project. I was surprised by some folks who did not contribute. But that was made up for and overshadowed by those who actually did contribute.)

Those who have put the time in and have nurtured their roots are the ones who going to make bearing fruit look painless. People may look at what I have done and say, I can do that. Let me assure you, I have put a lot of work in the preceded the launch of our Kickstarter campaign. On a surface level, I may have made it look easy. It was not, it took tremendous effort from a large group of people for us to reach our goal.

4) Personal Incentives and Combatting Piracy. If you read nothing else of what I write here, don’t leave before you read this section.

Personal incentives are the future. This is what makes crowd-funding great. These crowd-funding campaigns have forced us to personalize & incentivize our work and it is powerful! More and more content is being shoved into the marketplace everyday. And everyday people are craving more than content. They are craving personal interaction.

PERSONAL is vital to crowd-funding. Personal is what makes it go. If your campaign is slowing down... if you are having trouble finding new backers. The answer is to push personal interaction and conversation.

Most people have not caught onto this concept. They know it is the most effective way to achieve results, but they are not willing to put in the work. This is why there are NO short-cuts. You are going to have to get into one-on-one conversations. You are going to have to thank people individually. As I write this, Filmmaker Gary King who just successfully raised $30,000 for his film ‘How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song’ just personally thanked me on the Schermann Facebook page. He has 239 people to thank all together. It is no accident that Gary succeeded at his campaign.

The more personal you can make your incentives, the better off you will be in your campaign. I know making it too personal can be time consuming. You have to plan and measure out what you know you can handle. I had a lot of people saying they really wanted one of my apple pies and that I should set the incentive price lower. But I know it takes me a few hours to make my pies from scratch. The more time it takes you to fulfill your reward, the higher up the incentive ladder it goes.

On a bit of a tangent, when I think of personal incentives and crowd-funding, it leads me to thinking about piracy. Fears are rampant about piracy and bit-torrenting. Part of the solution the way I see it is that personal incentives can off-set piracy. Not on the mass level, but certainly on the micro-budget level. It is easy to rip-off content. But there is no way you can pirate personal incentives and personal experience. When I send backer Paul Borgonia a personal video message, that experience cannot be pirated.

With crowd-funding not only are you offering personal interaction, you are receiving money before your content has been created. You cannot beat getting money up front for your project. Half the battle for indie filmmakers is to simply get their films paid for. With the system flooded with shady distribution deals and crooked middle men, going right to your fans is a step in the right direction.

5) Your campaign is more than your campaign video. First and foremost, do not launch a campaign if you do not have a campaign video to go with it. That is a general rule. Of course some projects may succeed without a campaign video but it will not be the norm.

Your video may be so dynamic that it fuels a successful campaign. Once again, I believe that will be rare happenstance. It is going to take more work than your video alone. I cannot tell you how campaigns I come across where all the effort has gone into the campaign video and nothing else. That’s not going to cut it.

6) Set an obtainable goal within a proper timeframe. $10,000 is a whole heck of a lot of money to crowd-fund. In most cases you are going to need 100+ backers to reach that amount. It is no easy task. In my case, I believed we could raise $15,000. I knew it was going to take 200+ backers and I was up to the challenge. Half-way through our campaign, despite all the work we were putting in, I realized we were in way over our heads.

Here are my general guidelines.

$5000 or less. 30-45 Days.

Between $5000 and $10,000. 35-55 Days.

Between $10,000 and $20,000. 45-75 Days.

$20,000+ 75-120 Days.

Everyone has different circumstances and I understand that. I would recommend being a little conservative in the amount you are trying to raise. We could have used a little more money, but I honestly assessed the audience that I thought we had and set what I thought was a fair amount.

One thing to keep in mind, on Kickstarter if you do not raise all of the money, you will not see any of the money you raised. I do not think this should be feared, I believe in the power of all or nothing which is why I went with Kickstarter.

What I want to add to that is that once you reach you goal, if time remains you can continue to raise money. So although you may need more money that your goal, something to take into consideration is to set a lower amount then work your campaign hard to drive it above and beyond the goal amount. I have seen campaigns reach as high as 390% funding. Just because your goal is $5000, doesn’t mean you cannot raise $10,000.

**I am not as familiar with IndieGogo. I know they have now instituted a deadline. From what I understand, every contribution that comes in goes to the artist whether they reach their goal or not. If that is the case, what can work here is to aim higher. Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you will end up among the stars philosophy. There is less risk because you keep whatever money you are able to raise. For the right people with the right projects, a higher goal on IndieGogo may prove to be the way to go. Just remember, there are no short-cuts. You will have quite a workload on your hands.

7) Begin your campaign on a Monday, End it on a Friday (via Karen). Most people are on their computers from Monday through Friday and less so on the weekends. You can get the most bang for your buck by beginning your campaign on a Monday. You will reach more people at the beginning of the week. This can help you build momentum at the start of your campaign. Something Karen noticed with our campaign is that we would see a good number of backers on Fridays. Why is that? Because Friday is payday. End your campaign on payday. Also, keep in mind less folks will be on their computers over the weekend.

8) Varying your Message, Use your creativity. In a Crowd-Funding campaign, it becomes very difficult to avoid, “Hey, give me money.” I can’t lie, often that’s exactly what your message will be. This isn’t a bad thing, being direct can help you draw in new backers.

Though we certainly did our share of that, we also worked hard to draw people to our campaign in other ways. This is where creativity and your love for your project rise to the surface. In our case, before we launched our campaign, I knew another way to draw people into our campaign was with video interviews with the cast and crew. Instead of saying, “give me money” it was “take a look at this interview with a cast member or crew member.”

Each project is unique and that makes each campaign unique. I believe when you are in your Pre-Campaign phase is when you should be identifying the various ways you are going to reach your audience.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to find new backers is to go overboard thanking your previous backers. That is a win-win. Your backers feel appreciated and new backers will be attracted by your personal touch. Be sincere and do not overdo it.

The key is to continually hit people in new ways. When I think of creativity I think of the campaign put together for ‘Cerise’ by John T. Trigonis and Marinell Montales. They enticed their backers to supply them photos holding signs that say ‘I support Cerise.’ Check out this photo gallery http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=18181&id=111843642159327 One of the Cerise incentives was a personal poem from John where he ‘immortalized your name in verse.’ Here is the one he did for us.



You can see why John and Marinell lead a successful campaign on IndieGogo. These personal touches and creativity provide you different ways to vary your message. They are tools you can use to draw people into your campaign and build your audience.

9) Audience Builder. Middle-men beware! Crowd-funding puts you in direct contact with your audience. I had written about the advantages of Kickstarter in this blog back on February 2nd. http://filmcourage.blogspot.com/2010/02/kickstarter-is-game-changer.html This was before we had launched our campaign.

What can I add now in the aftermath of our campaign? One of the first thoughts that comes to mind... Is there really a better way to build an audience than through a Crowd-Funding campaign? If there are ways, there are not many.

A good number of indie filmmakers are learning that marketing your film begins when you are in pre-production. Basically, as soon as you are 100% committed to making and delivering your film, you should begin marketing it.

With that in mind, it is really tough to beat building pre-buzz for your film while raising money for it AT THE SAME TIME. An analogy I hate to use but comes to mind is when someone wages money on a sports team. Whether they are a fan or not, the fact that money is involved means that person is now invested in the outcome. If you get your audience to back your film before it’s completed, they are going to stick with you all the way to the end.

Another lesson I learned from our campaign is that a Crowd-Funding campaign is much more of an audience builder than I believed it could be going in. In our case, we attracted 227 backers but our reach was much larger than that. Our campaign reached thousands upon thousands of people. This leads me to the next topic.

10) The exposure from your campaign is more valuable than the amount of money you raise. - We raised over $16,000 as you know. But I believe we created more than $16,000 worth of exposure and marketing with our campaign. How can you put a price tag on the amount of buzz we have been able to generate? We were featured on Wayne Clingman's Indy Film Wisconsin, Danny Lacey’s The Filmmaker’s Journey, Officially Plugged In, an upcoming online magazine, and Student Filmmaker Magazine. We also have more interviews forthcoming.



But I believe what is more powerful than this press is the amount of Facebook posting, Tweets, Emails, etc. that we received. What would it have cost us to manifest the overall buzz that we have created?

The focus of running a crowd-funding campaign is on each individual backer. Now that I am able to step away from that a little, I can see the impact beyond our 227 backers. I am being contacted by folks all over the world.

I have also been contacted by a few production companies who have touched base with me. Sort of a meet and greet. They want to know more about me and my upcoming projects.

11) TWITTER - For months I hated Twitter. I did not understand how to use it and I had no clue to it’s power. Then Karen and I did an interview on the Film Snobbery LIVE show with Nic Baisley and Jerry Cavallaro. After our interview we spent another couple of hours chatting away with these two film fanatics. In that conversation, Nic mentioned that he really hadn’t spent any money marketing his site and that almost all of his audience was built through Twitter. When I heard Nic share that information, I realized I needed to learn how to use this tool.

In the months since, I have learned how to use Twitter effectively. Thank God! A good number of our contributions came directly because of Twitter. I would estimate out of 227 backers that 50+ were because of Twitter. In our last two nights of our campaign, we got 14 backers through Twitter courtesy of ‘Sleep Strikes’ initiated by Gary King, Phil Holbrook, Jerry Cavallaro, Marinell Montales, Lord Pancreas, John Paul Rice, Brian Durkin and others.

In my mind, if you are going to begin a crowd-funding campaign, you should be up and running on twitter 1-3 months ahead of time. You are being stubborn and foolish if you continue to ignore the power of this tool. There is a ton of information online that you can search that can help you understand the Twitterverse and how you can use it. Get on it.

12) The Kickstarter Effect - With 6 Days left in our campaign we were barely past 50% funding. We had raised $7935 supported by 129 backers. We still needed $7065 to reach our end goal. Time was dwindling fast. I was already receiving a steady stream of concerned emails at that point. “I am concerned you are not going to make it,” “What is your back-up plan? Do you have a back-up plan?” A couple of weeks before that, when things were stagnant I remember getting into a conversation with Gregor. A lot of people we knew had already contributed to our campaign and we weren’t sure where the upcoming pledges were going to come from. And he asked me directly, “Who else is going to back this project?” My answer didn’t do much to reassure him. I said, “I do not know.... but it is going to happen.”

We ended up raising $8270 in those last 6 days to reach 108% funding. This doesn’t happen automatically. You have to work extremely hard throughout your campaign and especially in those closing days to experience the magic of the Kickstarter Effect. You see, I had studied Kickstarter before I launched my campaign. I was aware of the U-shape support the majority of campaigns will receive. That means there is typically strong support at the launch of your campaign, then it quiets down in the middle, before a flurry of support at the end.

Another important tidbit regarding Kickstarter is that campaigns that reach 25% funding have a 90% chance of success. I believe there are several factors that contribute to that statistic. One is that if you show enough determination to see your project through that far, you are going to put in the effort to carry it all the way. Another reason is that typically you gain enough supporters and key influencers to help you reach more people. It can be looked at as a tipping point or critical mass. One last reason I will share is that it puts you in a position for a key backer/investor with a large sum of money to come to the rescue if need be.

What I noticed with our campaign is that the first 50 to 60% of our backers, for the most part were directly tied to someone in our film. It was in the last 40 to 50% where strangers were jumping on board. That’s where it became much tougher to track where the pledge was coming from. I was correct when I said, “I do not know... but it is going to happen.” It is still hard to believe.

14) Your work doesn’t end when your campaign ends. I am already hearing murmurs of disgruntled backers from other Crowd-Funding campaigns. “I contributed a lot of money and I didn’t even get one thank you.” Every amount you receive from each of your backers is a lot of money to them. We give in the proportion of money that we have. The fact that someone put their money into your project means something and it means something to them. I do not take this lightly and I do not take it for granted. My mindset is to do my best to give back more than what is promised in our incentives. That way, in some sense, each of our backers will feel like they got more than their money’s worth.

This digs me in the hole in regards to my time. But I believe that is part of the trade-off in a Crowd-Funding situation and it is a deal I am willing to make. It is my mission to follow up with each of our 227 backers in as many ways as I can. It is my mission to deliver on our incentives in a reasonable period of time. There is no way around it. It’s a lot of work. But it is work that is fun and it is rewarding. Since our campaign has ended, I have begun emailing backers individually and thanking them. I have begun a reverse countdown on our Facebook Page where I thank each backer one by one. Gregor and I are recording personal video thank yous and have been emailing them. Karen and I have been thanking backers on our Film Courage radio show. I am excited to make my first two apple pies which will be delivered this weekend.

I am not looking at this crowd-funding campaign as a short-term solution. “Hey, thanks everybody for your money” and then disappear. I am looking at this for the long-term. Someone who contributed $1 to this campaign may end up buying the DVD when it is ready or maybe they contribute $100 if I do another campaign. If you are looking at your fan base / supporters for the long-term then you can see how every dollar really does matter.

I am overjoyed with everyone who contributed to our campaign to help make it happen. My only regret is that I am not able to get back to all of our backers fast enough.

BONUS INSIGHTS for my faithful readers

A) Is it too late to Crowd-Fund? No. In my opinion, this is just getting started. I believe we will see a number of campaigns come up short, and people will panic. We all have a different network. Your audience is not my audience. We may have audience members who overlap but your fans are your fans. For this reason, I believe there is room for success for everyone. It’s not going to happen magically. I believe you need to take to heart what I am writing about in this blog.

Something to keep in mind. The general public doesn’t really understand Kickstarter, IndieGogo and other crowd-funding sites. In our case, not only were we trying to raise money, we were also educating the people we were reaching. A lot of effort went into not just raising money, but explaining to folks how Kickstarter works, answering questions, etc.

As we see more success stories which help to build the crowd-funding communities, you will have less leg work to put in. Doesn’t mean it is going to be any easier for you to reach you goal... okay maybe just a tad bit easier.

The idea of crowd-funding is here to stay. Fueled by the power of incentives and interaction with your fan base. We crave to share in these experiences. And as mentioned above, this becomes one of the best ways to combat piracy. I believe we will see more and more folks showing the courage to launch their own campaigns. Something I haven’t really touched on yet is that crowd-funding allows you to help and support other artists directly. It allows artists to give directly to you. Giving is a spiritual principle. It is rewarding and empowering.

B) The Power of 7. It is going to take TEAM FUNDING in order to CROWD-FUND. The present and future of crowd-funding is to have a team of people behind your campaign. I worked hard within my team of people to get 7 of us really behind the campaign. It came in spurts, but it never really manifested. Thankfully we attracted a number of influential folks who helped push us over the top in reaching our goal.

If I do crowd-fund again, it will be with a team of 7 or more dedicated people behind it. The power of 7 committed and dedicated team members can achieve extraordinary results. There is more I would like to write about this subject, but really it carries me into another blog.

C) Two ideas that I didn’t implement with my campaign that I would love to do. I didn’t get a chance to do these two ideas but I believe they can be effective.

1) Host a LIVE event. Whether it be a launch party for the launch of your campaign or whether it comes in the middle. I believe a LIVE event with a theme tied into your project is a way to really generate further excitement around your campaign. Have a computer or laptop ready to receive contributions. There is a lot you can do with this.

2) Telethon. Not my idea, but makes total sense. This one from filmmaker Danny Lacey (http://dannylaceyfilm.blogspot.com/2010/04/i-must-be-mad-another-crazy-fund.html) who is crowd-funding for his film ‘Love Like Hers.’


I hope this blog assists you in your Crowd-Funding efforts. I would love to hear your comments, insights and reactions. Please share.

If these tips help you reach your Crowd-Funding goal, I hope that you will take the time to email me at filmcourage@gmail.com to share your success story.

Now I must get back to my backers and to making movies. : )