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By John T. Trigonis | August 30, 2012

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)[1] 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

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.”


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  1. Mark Bell says:

    The section that appears to be causing so much issue for you, Lucas, is:

    “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.”

    Your interpretation is that John is saying that, had Jack used IGG, he’d have $64K in his pocket. My interpretation is that John is saying, had someone been so fortunate as to raise that amount of money on IGG, it could be used to make a quality film. Jack decided he needed at least $100k, but I don’t think this statement is about Jack’s decision, it’s, again, about someone else, about to do a campaign, trying to figure out what they can do. Jack’s campaign is just an example they can look at it of how someone makes that decision. I don’t see “Jack would’ve raised this amount on IGG, and therefore he did it wrong” in the above, which is what you seem to be grabbing onto.

    On a philosophical level, though, if we are to ponder it, I think your continued belief that the crowd doesn’t show up for Jack on IGG is pretty insulting to not just those who did pledge, but Jack’s campaign itself. I think the perspective framing the campaign would’ve been different on IGG due to the circumstances surrounding Jack’s campaign, and it could’ve yielded different results than can be cynically calculated ahead of time. But, again, speculation. And I’m an optimist. Not saying you’re wrong, but not saying the possibility of you being wrong doesn’t exist too.

    “It’s misleading and irresponsible and creates a false impression of what is and is not possible in crowdfunding, which does no one any favors, least of all the people trying to learn about this stuff.”

    I’m sorry, so you know exactly how much money every campaign will raise anywhere on every platform? Should people not take a chance? Maybe everyone should just give up before they start? And if you’re going to say, “well, no, I’m only talking about Jack’s campaign,” again, I think you’re arguing a point no one is arguing against right now.

    The point of John’s 3rd takeway is to choose your platform wisely. It says that KS is good for some things, IGG is good for some things. If someone raised $64K on IGG, they might be able to make something with it. I don’t see all the other nefarious things you’re reading into it. I don’t see it as a hit against Jack, or the campaign or even an argument that you’re right or wrong about how much he could’ve earned had he gone with IGG instead.

    I feel like, instead of seeing this as general advice for a newbie to crowdfunding, you’re seeing this as a personal attack on you, as someone who did work on Jack’s campaign. I don’t think it’s the case and, save for the issue with the comment out of line with KS and Amazon’s ToS, I do see the entire thing as just one person’s opinion of what one could take away from the campaign. I think if the points had been the same, but the focus was on a campaign you had nothing to do with, you wouldn’t be over here arguing against them, save, appropriately enough, perhaps the KS ToS.

    But I could be wrong. Anyway, I think my stance on all this is out there now, so I’m done.

  2. Lucas McNelly says:

    I wasn’t aware the “Kickstarter effect” was still up for debate. I was under the impression that argument had been settled.

    I don’t mean that sarcastically.

    I came up with a pretty basic model on the back of an envelope that basically takes Kicktraq’s projection model (or at least the concept behind it) and tweaks it to project what the campaign would have done without the All-Or-Nothing model, while still allowing for a last minute bump for people who are procrastinating. It came up with $25,833. For someone who worked on the campaign, that feels about right, if a little high.

    I’m telling you, there’s no alternate universe where Jack now has $64,515 in his bank account (minus fees, of course), simply because he chose a different format. None.

    We can argue that he should have used IGG and make the film with the money he would have ended up with, and that’s a legitimate discussion, but let’s not pretend that dollar amount is anywhere near where the Kickstarter campaign ended. It’s misleading and irresponsible and creates a false impression of what is and is not possible in crowdfunding, which does no one any favors, least of all the people trying to learn about this stuff.

  3. Mark Bell says:

    I’m going to hop in here for a second…

    “It’s not a differing opinion. He couldn’t have raised the $64K without the ticking clock of the all-or-nothing model. There’s absolutely zero question about that.”

    If anyone has a question about it, then “absolutely zero question about that” doesn’t seem right either, nor does the word “couldn’t.” There’s no way of knowing because he didn’t go that route; it’s all speculation. While I think that the all-or-nothing nature of KS did help drive the funds, I think Jack’s personal story, and the ticking clock of his going blind, was a more determining factor than which platform he decided to go with. If the crowd he built up, that was pushing for him the whole time, was dependent upon the platform, then that’s very disappointing to me. I think his project, and the circumstances surrounding it, were the main factor, and folks would’ve come out in support regardless. If they’d have pledged less, knowing they’d have to pay regardless… that says more about those that pledged than the campaign, and I wouldn’t be happy giving them the benefits of appearances just because they never had to pledge anything.

    To what final financial figure, who can say? Is anything better than nothing? Also depends on who you ask; if Jack was always going to move forward with his film regardless of what was raised, I’d think IGG could’ve worked (not would’ve, could’ve; I don’t think it can just be dismissed). If the campaign was going to be the determining factor one way or another, then KS makes the most sense, to me at least. But the decision was made, and it is what it is. But I think folks who are about to make similar decisions have to weigh all factors, and this post is a step in that direction.

    The thing with crowdfunding is that it is still relatively new, and since everyone got a similar starting line, what they’ve seen work or not work has become the basis for self-made experts on the fundraising technique. There’s eBooks, regular books, blogs, consultants… experts are everywhere. And while I think, on a case-by-case basis, crowdfunding can be boiled down to key points and lessons learned, the consistent usage of absolute language bothers me, because it’s not that definite. If there was an absolute set of guidelines for how to raise money via crowdfunding that always worked, then every crowdfunding project would be a success.

    I guess what I’m getting at here is that, until these absolutes truly exist (and how often does that happen), so much of advice on or tips about crowdfunding will come down to personal experience or opinion, hopefully eventually backed up with research. Is John wrong about anonymously self-funding on KS? Yes, there’s a policy pointing that out. Do I think folks find ways to do that anyway, via surrogate funders or other credit cards? Yes I do. Is that what he was getting at? I don’t know, he didn’t write it, either way it had to be clarified in light of the policy.

    Do I think the rest of his points are wrong? No, because they’re just his opinion on what to take away from the campaign. Even the assumed question about Jack funding via IGG instead, it doesn’t actually say that in the piece above, it says that had someone been as fortunate as to raise that amount of money too, perhaps they’d be able to use it moreso than Jack would’ve been able to, given his minimum goals. But that was my interpretation of what he was getting at. Jack made his decision for his reasons, but maybe a person in a similar situation would choose differently.

    Lucas also has a significant amount of experience with crowdfunding, as does Don, Jack, John and even me. I think we’ll all agree on some things and disagree on others. I do think we can keep the conversation healthy and respectful, however, and the value of the above blog post has grown that much more by the discussion that has followed. Which is how it should be, in my opinion. The conversation was started, now folks can learn from even more than just the bullet points and assumed absolutes.

  4. Lucas McNelly says:

    It’s not a differing opinion. He couldn’t have raised the $64K without the ticking clock of the all-or-nothing model. There’s absolutely zero question about that.

    Either John knows that and is ignoring it or doesn’t realize it. I’m not sure which is worse, but they’re both pretty egregious.

    To give you an example. It’s like a baseball analyst not realizing that a pitcher’s wins are largely fueled by the offense of the team they play for. Sure, your average fan in the stands doesn’t *need* to understand that, but if the color guy on TV doesn’t, that should probably disqualify him from getting paid to analyze baseball. Unless his name is Joe Morgan, I guess. But he’s in the HOF.

  5. Don R. Lewis says:

    Eh, I dunno. I think John has a point of view and you have a differing one. For the life of me I don’t know why you haven’t done what John has- ie; write a book about crowdfunding. There’s clearly room at the table for your differing point of view. You could be halfway done with it with all the time and energy you’ve spent trying to dispel John’s points.

    As a person who has ran a campaign, I again, can see the benefits of both sites and what they offer. While I agree that the idea of “without $100,000 I cannot make my film,” I’m also able and more willing to say “Yes, $100,000 is my goal but I will not let something like money deter me from my dream project.” I think John is totally right that Jack Marchetti would have been better off with the $62,000+ he raised rather than the $0.00 he now has from this campaign.

    Also- as a follower of you and Jack on twitter, I pray you don’t run another campaign for the film. That s**t got annoying, especially the last 48 hours of it. No offense, just saying.

  6. Lucas McNelly says:

    I actually kind of see the reverse of that.

    But isn’t that kind of the point? A lot of people don’t realize the difference, so it’s imperative in an article like this that the author be aware of it.

  7. Don R. Lewis says:

    what percentage of everyday funders, ie; people who aren’t “in the know” or who constantly contribute to crowdfunding campaigns compromise the “majority” of funders as opposed to the funders each individual fundee (?) who may know them from their day job?

    I don’t think a friend/dentist/neighbor/Aunt May type who’s never seen crowdfunding done before, let alone been a part of a campaign, understands the difference between the whole “you get whatever you get” at Indie GoGo -vs- “we get it all or nothing” at Kickstarter. I think you may be alluding to the fact that Kickstarter carries an air of seriousness while Indie Go Go might be for a person who needs whatever they can get.

    In other words….I can see both sides. Kickstarter strikes me as crowdfunding for the group that shares the same $25 around and pretends like there’s a movement happening towards crowdfunding whereas Indie Go Go strikes me as a realists way to get some money to bring their vision to life.

  8. Lucas McNelly says:

    That’s a pretty big error, don’t you think?

    You’re pretty clearly implying that one can and should violate Kickstarter’s T&C, which puts the entire Kickstarter campaign in jeopardy, not to mention your Amazon Payments account.

    Also, the statement that “there’s a lot one could do with the $64,515 in pledges Jack’s campaign raised” lacks a fundamental understanding of what drove a rather large chunk of that number. It’s, at minimum, naive and incredibly misleading to suggest that had Jack gone with IndieGoGo he’d now have $64K in his bank account. I know you worked at IndieGoGo for a bit, so there’s an obvious affinity, but there’s zero chance Jack raises $64K on IGG. It’s the sort of thing that someone who fancies themselves an expert in crowdfunding should instantly recognize as being flat-out wrong.

  9. John Trigonis says:

    Like I mentioned in my Tweet, Lucas, this is not the case with other crowdfunding platforms. Rest assured, my book is filled with sound bits of crowdfunding tactics that have been proven effective by all the campaigns I reference in it.

  10. John Trigonis says:

    Angel investors as back up is certainly a good thing to have, Jack. Honest is definitely one word I’d use to describe your campaign, but not negative. Interesting.

    And thanks again for the solid information about Kickstarter. I also recently stumbled on your blog post about the “empty restaurant.” I’ll be keeping it handy, for sure.

  11. Lucas McNelly says:

    As terrible as the “use your own credit card” advice is, it’s hardly the only bad advice here.

    John, you should know better. Is the whole book like this?

  12. Jack Marchetti says:

    Oh I hope people learn from it. I wrote a post everyday at trying to be as honest as I could about what was working and what wasn’t even though some people complained it was way too negative, which it kinda was, but it was honest.

    That’s all I’m saying is that you shouldn’t give people the false assumption they can magically swoop in at the end with their own credit card and fund the campaign. Believe me if that were the case, I woulda spend the $35,000 to get the $65,000

    It is a good idea to have angels lined up though just in case.

  13. John Trigonis says:

    Glad you appreciate my words, Jack. Like I said, I think you did a really awesome job with the campaign, and future crowdfunders can learn a great deal from it. Maybe it’s all those mafia movies I watched as a kid, but where there’s a will there’s a way, especially when the best intentions are in mind, and making a movie’s one of the best intentions I can think of 🙂

  14. Jack Marchetti says:

    Thank you for the kind words. Just as a side note, you can’t back your own project with your own credit card. considers this illegal and will cancel your amazon payments account, and thus you won’t get any of the money if you succeed.

    Also in case someone reads this and says “just create a different Kickstarter/Amazon” account to do this -Amazon’s fraud detection will find you and they will cancel your account.

    Don’t do it.

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