POWER TO THE PEOPLE
“Jake Stetler captured this panel at Flyway Film Festival – The State of Indie Crowd Funding , with Lucas McNelly (A Year Without Rent), Jeremy Wilker (Death to Prom) and Paul Rachman (Co-Founder of Slamdance)”
Researching the area of crowdfunding is truly a rabbit-hole of subjective opinions, there is a rough formula for a successful fundraising campaign but everyone feels they know best. A talk I found from 2012, at Flyway Film Festival southwestern Wisconsin, gave forth some impassioned debate.
Listening to this highly informative talk on crowd funding techniques, ‘lessons learned the hard way’ and frank campaign strategies, I found my pen barely left my note book! There are many pitfalls in running a crowd sourced film budget, major successes are few and far between today, as a result of the exposure of KickStarter and IndieGoGo. The ones that make it are well thought out and considered services to the audience.
I will attempt here to string my notes back together and elaborate on the points raised.
The main lesson I learned from this talk is the importance of research in achieving a successful crowd funding campaign. Before you launch all outcomes must be considered and a good understanding of who your audience is. The idea that “if you build it they will come” is the quickest route to not achieving a target amount of money and letting down the few investors you will have gained. With all honesty, an attempt to predict where pledges will be coming from must be made, also having a proactive strategy to reach them. In addition to this, committing to a realistic reward system and being prepared to dedicate full time focus for the duration of the campaign, a standard for this 30 days.
Before launching a campaign Pre-Production must take place, the setting up of social media channels; a Facebook group, a twitter feed, as well as press communication such as genre related blogs, print and broadcast. The wider the word is spread more opportunity for your online audience to pledge or share again. Having a clear understanding of your message and the passions that are driving you forward with your project, this is what your audience will tune into and want to support. Have a mass of media items at the ready to drip feed during the course of the campaign period, to add to any that you may generate along the way; photographs, crew testimonials, behind the scenes video and links to other supporters or press copy. The more evidence of your project you have the more you can begin to tell the story around it and essentially entertain your intended audience, constantly cluing them into the progress you are making, with their support and attention.
The speakers at Flyway Film Festival seem in agreement that you need at least 2 people putting in full time work into communications (some voices stated up to 15 hours a day!), any development is then re-communicated at every possible occasion, reaching out to cross promotions with other campaigns can double sharing and present a solidarity for the audience. Appearing active is the key. Having a campaign office is advised, here you can centralise efforts hold meetings and interview contributors. If on the move, the emphasis will be on mobile technology to keep the tweets flowing, photographs and video should be captured where possible on phones for a quick post. The campaign should have the feel of a live event, starting on a Monday or Friday sets it in the working week and is a good time for your audience to tune in.
6 Degrees of Separation
“In a world of 6.6 billion people, it does seem hard to believe. The theory of six degrees of separation contends that, because we are all linked by chains of acquaintance, you are just six introductions away from any other person on the planet.
But yesterday researchers announced the theory was right – nearly. By studying billions of electronic messages, they worked out that any two strangers are, on average, distanced by precisely 6.6 degrees of separation.”
Valuing you local audience is important, these are your closest potential supporters and will be interested in something happening in their area. Friends and family will be the dedicated support that will launch the campaign, it is also advised to have a pledge investor “in the back pocket”, to provide a boost when things lag on the total-o-meter. The the reports, of the recorded talk at Flyway Film Festival, stated the most beneficial pledge is the £1 mark, not to say larger £10/£15 or above are not welcome, but it is these low donations mean there is more chance that person will pledge again. Along with this, you may state that if even the low amount isn’t something this person willing to part with, an appeal to re-share and spread the word would be appreciated A peak will be seen at the start of any campaign, sustain for the first week, then drop dramatically in the middle period and steeply rise in the last 24 hours. Up to 70% of your target amount can be raised in this last day. To sustain positivity and movement in your fund raising, having an investor “in the back pocket” for the debilitating middle dip, will keep the project profile up and boost more in your team. In this period an awareness event will get people talking again and provide more media to publish. There are mixed opinions on whether fund raising should happen at an event like this, implying to your audience, their pocket change will suffice as a one-off contribution. However there is scope for a live twitter feed, projecting participant tweets, this being another example of audience reward and engagement, their voice projected and making them feel valued.
We all appreciate reward, whether this is a warm sense of well being from doing a good thing, or to gain something that will improve our life. Either way, when asking for donations/investment in a crowd funding campaign, the constant feedback to your audience is imperative and the first point of their reward. Beyond this you may want to put in place prizes, gifts or experiences that will entice your public to pledge, however make sure you can deliver them! Often merchandise relating to the funded project is created, at expense of the fund raising total, this is obviously a dangerous path should you not achieve you target, to redeem these promises you will be out of pocket. Appropriate prizes should involve things that you already possess and can be replaced, such as non key props or costume, or experience based rewards that just require you time. Inviting your top pledgers to an on set experience, VIP treatment at an event or a tour of your city’s vintage clothes markets. Something that is personal yet free to you.
The speakers at Flyway Film Festival urged, to consider carefully what it is you are offering your audience with their experience of your campaign. What are they getting out of it? Why is your project going to make their lives more fun, easier or otherwise better? A sense of involvement is the main reward. Consider the person stuck behind a desk in a job they detest, while at college they took part in a play that made them dream of silver screen stardom, as life progresses their dreams hit the back burner and the working world saw them crunching numbers for the fat cats. Just an example. It is exactly this person that will gain a deep sense of association with your project, feeling personally involved in a creative world, that the doors of which seem closed forever. Regular updates and the chance to be on set, ‘behind the scenes’ of your innovative, highly visible project, will be exhilarating. And why not, it’s why we all love doing it. Make their day! Outside of this is the creative community, well versed in supporting their fellow entrepreneurs but also struggling to make ends meat and the ever loyal family and friends…they too want to feel special, let them in on the passion. Many KickStarter crowd funding campaigns give away credits and in some cases will have 200 Executive Producers, this is strongly discouraged, in the event of any form of legal proceeding associated with the project, these are the official titles gunned for. Not so nice for Chad in Boston or Len in Cheltenham, who just thought they’d give a bit of dough to a cool project! A more appropriate title discussed is KickStarter Producer or Crowd Fund Producer, providing you’re desperate to give away credit. The main lesson is to carefully consider your rewards, don’t let them burden your production and always deliver what you promise. It’s always good practice to under-promise and over-deliver.
For the successful delivery of a crowd funding campaign, KickStarter, Sponsoon and IndieGoGo platforms have extensive guidelines and Q&A info. For the surest of footings to launch a campaign, make sure the boxes are ticked and each stage is foreseen and evaluated.
But mainly….make it fun!