Common Sense Crowd Sourcing for Filmmakers…or…a KickStarter campaign that Actually Works! – Part 2

MAKE A GREAT PITCH VIDEO

If you’re a filmmaker your pitch video had better damn well knock my socks off.  If it looks like crap, guess what, I’ll assume your film will as well.  If the sound is bad, I can only assume the sound on your feature will suck.  If it’s badly edited…well, you get the idea.

Show us why we should back your project.  Show us some brilliance.  Show us something that makes us laugh or breaks our heart.  If you’re uncomfortable in front of the camera, give us a trailer, or be self-deprecating and make fun of your nervousness.   Entertain us.

And show us your passion.  Why does this film need to be made?  Why are you the person to make it?  In a good pitch video you’re selling yourself as much as you are selling the idea.  They go hand-in-hand.  Your personality, your passion, your talent, your film.

If this is your second go at crowdsourcing, after a failed first campaign, perhaps make fun of your horrible first pitch video.  Laughs go a long way and the writing of your pitch video should represent the writing in your film.

Likewise the way its shot.  All you need is a window, sunlight, and a DSLR to get a gorgeous image.  I’ve done it countless times.  If you can’t, you shouldn’t be making a film.  Again, show us why you should be.  Show us an image that takes our breath away.

If you decide to go with a trailer, don’t give us a collection of title cards.  Tease us, again with brilliance.  You’re asking us to support your film, so you need to prove to us why we should.  There are hundreds of other films right now on KickStarter, why should yours get my hard earned support dollars?

And to my musician friends, I don’t want to watch your pitch video, hear you talk for four minutes, and then…nothing.  You’re a musician, stop talking, start playing.  I want to hear the music I’ll be backing.  Sure tell me why you need to make this record, but then give me a taste.

Search out the most funded campaigns and examine their videos.  See the passion and the talent on display.  Then look at film campaigns that raised little or even no backing (yes, there are some out there with not one backer), see everything wrong.  DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

This should all be a no brainer, but you’d be shocked at how many horrible pitch videos there are our there.

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Common Sense Crowd Sourcing for Filmmakers…or…a KickStarter campaign that Actually Works! – Part 1

The world of independent filmmaking has changed.  No longer can a Sundance hopeful raise a few hundred thousand dollars from family, friends, their dentist, shoot for eighteen days with a crew of twenty, and hope to actually pay everyone back and actually see a check on the back end.  Those days are over.  DVD sales are down.  And the chance of your film receiving a theatrical release is about as good as you winning PowerBall.  Add to that the fact that almost everyone with a DSLR suddenly thinks they are filmmakers.  And it truly seems hopeless.

Unfortunately most of those DSLR-packing Spielberg-wannabes lack the skills involved to actually tell a story with that expensive Canon, let alone make it look good.  And most of the films that do get made will never be seen beyond a small circle of family, friends, students of their video production class, and of course the cast and crew involved.

The new model of independent filmmaking calls for much lower budgets and much smaller crews.  What used to cost $250 thousand should now be made for one tenth that budget.  The crew of twenty, cut down to four or five, or less.  A great film can still be made.  But it’s a lot more work.

And the fundraising.  Back when I began making films in the 80s, indie filmmakers would look for angel investors.  Supporters of the arts who had the cash to spare, and were looking more to help create something special, instead of for that quick profit.  Not our angels are online.  They are mostly strangers who believe in our ability, our story, or perhaps they just like our smile.  It doesn’t matter.  And instead of writing checks with five or six zeros to the left of the decimal point, they’re pitching in $25 or $50 at a shot through the various crowd-sourcing sites, KickStarter, IndieGoGo, or one of the upstarts.  They will provide you with the thousands needed to turn that story idea into reality.  And aside from their chosen rewards, a DVD, digital download, signed poster, producer credit in the film, you won’t ever have to pay them pack. And what profits you now make from selling your film will actually go into your pocket.

What a concept.  Making money off independent filmmaking.  It can be done, if you have the talent, the perseverance, and the personality.  And if you actually create a smart crowdsourcing campaign.

www.EveryEverything.com
http://www.EveryEverything.com

I’ve run twenty-five successful campaigns on KickStarter…so far.  Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to post some helpful hints on how I do it.  And I’ll begin today with tip #1.

GOOD KARMA:

I check for new film projects on KickStarter every couple of days.  I want to not only know what the competition is, but see if there are any films I personally want to back.  Right off the bat, the biggest turn off, and one that will now stop me in my tracks from backing a project, is that the creator of the campaign has backed no other KickStarter campaigns.  Basically they want you to give them your money, but they are above having ever helped any other people in the same position.  It’s a case of spoiled-teenager gimme-gimme-gimme.  And they give nothing in return.  HUGE turnoff.  Makes you look like a jerk.  So, before you set up your campaign, learn everything about the site, study other campaigns, and give some love to a few that strike a chord in your filmmaking heart.  It’s good karma.  And good karma is something every filmmaker can never get enough of.

More in a few days…

To crowdfund or not crowdfund, that is the question…

Are you passionate? Are there subjects for which you feel the need to speak up about?  Subjects which make you want to step up?  Do something?  Then read on…

One of the hardest aspects of making a film has always been raising the necessary funds to do so.  But all of that changed a few years back when first IndieGoGo, and then KickStarter gave filmmakers a way to connect with their fans and other like-minded people.  For filmmakers who know how to keep costs to a minimum (i.e. not spending a million dollars to make a film), KickStarter and IndieGoGo, known as CrownFunding or CrownSourcing sites, have opened up a world to us that we never even imaged existed.

I’m going to use “Color Me Obsessed,” my documentary on The Replacements, as an example.  For CMO we ran nine successful KickStarter campaigns, from the first which allowed us to get the ball rolling, to the last which gave us funds for film festival submission fees, and everything in between from the need to travel for more interviews to a sound mix.

These sites allowed us, the filmmakers behind CMO, the ability to connect with other fans of the band.  To offer them “rewards” in exchange for backing to help get the film made.  These rewards ranged from a simple “Thank you” in the film’s end credits, to what is obviously the most popular reward, a copy of the finished film on DVD, to other more grand perks like your name appearing in the credits, on the poster, and on IMDB.com (a data-base of all film credits, take a peek at the list of producers on the CMO page) as an executive producer of the film. The rewards typically ranged from $1 (for a thank you) to $25 for a DVD, and upwards to $2,000 or more for that executive producer package, with a dozen or so other possibilities in between.

If you are passionate about a subject, as the CMO backers were about The Replacements, if gives you a chance to help a film get made.  A film that might not otherwise ever be made.  And it allows you to wear your passion on your sleeve.  Let’s face it, even a “thank you” in the end credits is cool.  Especially if it’s in a film about a subject you are passionate about.  Plus, you are most likely to see the film before anyone else.  People who backed at the DVD level for CMO received their DVDs during August 2011.  The commercial DVD was not available in places like Amazon and Best Buy until November 2012.  A full fifteen months later.  So think about that, not only did these backers help get a film about their favorite band made, they got to see it first, and then were able to open up the eyes of others when the film received national distribution and coverage in media outlets the world over.  A new generation of music fans discovered The Replacements, and it was all because of the passion of a few.

And yes, it also makes you a backer of the arts.  But in this case, you get to choose the art projects which gets your hard-earned cash.  You back one project at a time.  You know exactly what you get in return.  Consider it a form of preordering something you want about something you care about.

In the case of our newest film, “A Dog Named Gucci,” we are reaching out to animal lovers, people who want to see an end to animal abuse.  People who want laws toughened, so that those who do abuse receive felony convictions and actually serve jail time instead of getting a simple slap on the wrist. So, if these are your passions, by backing “A Dog Named Gucci” you are backing a film aimed at raising awareness and opening the public’s eyes.

None of the crowd funding goes into the filmmaker’s pockets.  We use these fund to travel to get the needed interviews, to purchase hard drives for editing, for sound mixing, for festival fees.  Your backing goes directly into the film.  It’s up on the screen, as is your passion.  A passion we share.  A passion which will reach the widest audience imaginable.  Opening the eyes of a nation to the abuse that occurs on a daily basis in this country.

So if you share this passion, this love of animals, please consider backing “A Dog Named Gucci.”  Preorder the DVD, or a poster.  Or donate a dollar or two just for a “thank you” in the end credits.  Everything helps.  If you have a group of animal lovers in your town, or want some local politicans to see the finished film, choose the private screening reward.  There’s something for everyone.  All you need is the passion to help stop abuse.  That’s why we’re making this film.  Please help us get it made.

The Black & White Rules of Indie Filmmaking – part 5

5. No investors = no investors to pay back!

If you think the SAG paperwork is suffocating, wait until you see investor agreements, prospectuses, disclosures, etc., and so on, ad nauseum.

Here’s what it comes down to, you have no more of a chance of selling your film (having it distributed) if you spend $25K or $250K. None. You can’t afford name actors either way. All you’ll be doing with the larger figure is paying those 20 crew members your now over-priced Line Producer hired, and numerous unknown SAG actors. And you will never see a dime. And your investors will never make all of their money back. That unfortunately is just the way it is.

If you have a way of raising between $2 million and $10 million, ok, you’ll have names, and you’ll at least get paid. You’ll get attention and some sort of distribution. And certainly those names will give you a much better shot at the bigger film festivals. But still, all the names in the world won’t guarantee that. You could still be offered $50K for American rights. Which won’t make any of your investors happy. And won’t do much for your career. Unless you want to be known as the director who had names and still lost his investors $10 million. But with $25K, give or take — specially if it’s raised through a crowd sourcing sites like the amazing KickStarter, or IndieGoGo (new ones keep popping up almost weekly) – you have no investors to pay back, only rewards to dish out.

I just raised almost $34K through KickStarter for a rock documentary. Take a look at my rewards. Most of what I offered (posters, DVD screeners, t-shirts) were items I’d need when the film played the festival circuit anyway. And notice I offered them in every combination: poster with DVD, poster with T-shirt, DVD with T-shirt, all three together. Then take a look at the off-beat rewards: a day as PA, a day in the editing room. Be creative. The more you offer the better your chances of being funded are.

I mentioned IndieGoGo as well because they were first on the scene. But really, I’m not a fan. Stick with KickStarter. They took the model and ran with it. They are the kings. No one else is even close. You’ll need to decide what your goal is. We did $20K for EVERY EVERYTHING, and far surpassed it. But that was my biggest raise. For my documentary on The Replacements, I did nine separate KickStarter campaigns. Here is one. I broke them up into the different phases of production, knowing that fans of the band would be slow to find out about the film, and that so many would miss the initial campaign. Overall we raised around $32K for the film through KickStarter. I was confident going into the EVERY EVERYTHING campaign that we had built a strong network of fans. Plus COLOR ME OBSESSED received and continues to receive rave reviews. That certainly helped our cause. But be reasonable. Look at what other campaigns have raised. And work that damn campaign every day. We tweeted, posted on Facebook, on indie rock blogs, any where we could, to get attention for the EVERY EVERYTHING campaign. The money is not going to just come. You have to work it. (And trust me, if you were trying to raise $250K through investors it would be twenty times the work.)

OK…so you raise the necessary funs through KickStarter. You complete your film, and take in let’s say $50K over it’s DVD/VOD/streaming run. That’s profit that can go into your pocket, and the pockets of those who helped make the film. As I explained in the last section on backend, as director I try and keep a hefty share, at least 25%, and split the rest based on the jobs cast and crew members performed. Extras do not need backend. But your two leads who drove the film do. And even if they each have 5%, when they end up making $2500 for their two week shoot, they will be ecstatic. They actually got paid for doing something they loved. Now you’re thinking $12,500 doesn’t seem like a lot of money for all the work you did. Think of it as a starting point (and hell, if your film has buzz, it could be more). You’re going to make at least two of these films a year. (This is a full time job, not play time, which is one thing they never seem to teach people in film school.) And your core audience will grow with every film, as long as you stay true to who you are as a filmmaker, and as an artist.

Next up: Who is your audience?

My filmography.

The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 9

My main issue with IndieGoGo.com (aside from how it’s now copied everything great about KickStarter) honestly stems from seeing one of its founders speak at a conference a while back in NYC. He was speaking about selling dvds, and why would anyone want to go with a distributor where sure you might sell 10,000 copies, but only receive $1 per unit, when you could sell them yourself, perhaps sell only 1,000 copies, but receive $10 per unit? To him it was still a profit of $10K, but you only had to move 1,000 units to get there.

I argued from the audience that his notion was idiotic. As an artist you wanted to build an audience, and it was certainly better to have 10,000 people buy your dvd as opposed to one tenth that number. NO MATTER THE PROFIT. That no one making an indie film was getting rich, but that we were hopefully developing a fan base. And certainly 10,000 fans was better than 1,000 fans. A number of people in the audience got it. He didn’t.

If you got into this business to make money, please leave now. There are enough whores in the entertainment industry. But if you’re here because you believe you have a story to tell, a story you have to tell, you will find your audience (or your audience will find you), and perhaps a fan base and career will eventually grow out of your passion.

(I once had an argument with another writer who explained he was livid whenever he found one of his books in a used book store, to which I replied, I loved seeing my books in used book stores, that it was certainly better than the original owner tossing it, and it might turn someone new into a fan, someone who might not be able to buy books at full price. He didn’t understand. All he cared about was the royalty he would not be receiving.)

This is art, not product. And the moment you become more concerned with the profits you make on each unit sold versus reaching out and touching someone new, well then, yes, you have become another entertainment industry whore.