Young filmmaker Jack Marchetti’s Kickstarter project for his feature-length film, 4 of a Kind, met with an unfortunate conclusion to a historic crowdfunding campaign. Despite its massive support from the indie film community and beyond, the campaign fell short of its $100,000 goal, and with Kickstarter, the stakes are high: all or nothing.
As a supporter and backer of the campaign, I had high hopes that Jack’s campaign would raise the $100,000 goal and make crowdfunding history, especially because his own story is so compelling –– a young filmmaker who’s slowly going blind because of Cone Rod Dystrophy wants only to see his dream of making a feature-length film come to light. But amid a countless number of Tweets, Facebook updates and Google Plus events, what 4 of a Kind’s campaign did achieve was a banding together of a massive support system for Jack’s next crowdfunding campaign for his passion project.
So what can we as indie filmmakers and crowdfunders take away from the ups and downs of Jack’s campaign? Plenty! There’s no denying that Jack ran a stellar campaign: he brought the entire indie film community together; he offered a few unique, personal, and relevant perks; and he updated his backers and everyone else like a rock star. But crowdfunding success often starts before the launch, and below are three bits of advice that all crowdfunders can benefit from.
Build your campaign two stories tall. There are two stories you should tell –– your film’s and your own. When trying to raise amounts exceeding $30,000, selling the audience on your film’s synopsis or logline may not be enough. And while it’s true that not all of us have a personal story as compelling as Jack’s, which was the main reason I jumped on board as a backer, each of us has a story. What’s yours? Sell people on the power of you; after all, people give to people, not to projects.
Be realistic with your goal. One thing we should do as crowdfunders is to set our goals at the minimum amount of money needed to make the film we want to make. In Jack’s case, that minimum was $100,000 to make the movie exactly as he envisioned, but what’s your number? Chances are, if you build enough buzz, as Jack had certainly done, you’ll position yourself to rake in over your initial goal. But, especially in the case of all-or-nothing crowdfunding, if your target amount isn’t right because it’s too high and/or if you’re not willing or able to bring in your own “anonymous backer,” (i.e. your own credit card to cover the balance) at the last minute, you may be running too great a risk to come out of your campaign on top. Do the research, make an informed decision, and pick the right goal amount.
Choose your platform wisely. Kickstarter is almost synonymous with crowdfunding for indie film, but we still have to look at the pros and the cons of Kickstarter and other platforms like IndieGoGo to make a more informed decision on which platform to choose. Jack’s target amount was the minimum amount of money he felt he needed to make his film, and he committed to getting it all or getting nothing. Not everyone is so adventurous, and for those who think getting close to the goal would be better than nothing, they should consider IndieGoGo instead; Kickstarter’s direct competitor offers both fixed (all or nothing) and flexible (keep what you raise) funding options. After all, there’s a lot one could do with the $64,515 in pledges Jack’s campaign raised, if you should be so fortunate, and still make a quality indie film.
As I mentioned above, success often begins in preproduction, whether making a movie or running a campaign. But true success is seldom measured by the amount of money that’s earned at the end of the one to three months of crowdfunding. No, real success is also determined by a campaign’s level of engagement, its ability to bring together and inspire backers and non-backers alike. In Jack’s case, he created the kind of synergy that most crowdfunders can only wish for, and this would sustain itself through 4 of a Kind’s campaign and beyond. That’s the most important lesson we should all learn from this experience: Engage your community, and they’ll never forget you for it.
John T. Trigonis is a published poet, writer, and storyteller, DIY filmmaker, freelance professor, and author of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign, available from Michael Wiese Productions in March, 2013. Learn more at http://johntrigonis.com.
1Editorial Note: Kickstarter and Amazon DO NOT allow one to fund their own project, anonymously, as mentioned above, or otherwise. From the Kickstarter FAQ:
“Warning! Credit card rules forbid project creators from paying themselves. Any pledges made by a project creator to themselves may cause Amazon to cancel a project creator’s Amazon account, making it impossible to receive or remove funds.
While Kickstarter prevents project creators from backing their own projects from the same Kickstarter account, Amazon will detect if the project creator uses a new Kickstarter account and/or a new Amazon account to make the pledge. Amazon looks for the credit card info as well as other primary information to determine if a party is attempting to pay itself. This is not an Amazon-specific policy — this type of transaction is considered an attempt to create a “cash advance” and is forbidden by all credit card companies.
Please note that Amazon may not detect this action until a project succeeds and they attempt to collect funds. While the project will appear to succeed on Kickstarter, Amazon will later suspend any Amazon Payments accounts controlled by the project creator, making it impossible to receive/remove funds.”