This month on the blog we’re focusing on crowdfunding for filmmakers! If you haven’t checked out the first post in the series, you can read it here.
Believe it or not, Film Sprites PR has its foundations in crowdfunding campaign promotion. Before Sprites began, I had spent the past 2 years networking with indie filmmakers and unofficially helping out by spreading the word about their crowdfunding campaigns. At the time crowdfunding was very much in the early adopter phase. Then, when Sprites started taking on clients, there was a lot of interest from filmmakers who were crowdfunding or were looking to start a crowdfunding campaign. It’s certainly not something I learned about during my PR certification, I can tell you! As a result, Film Sprites PR has assisted many filmmakers around the world with their crowdfunding campaigns (and in some cases with subsequent publicity and digital marketing post-campaign and into VOD release). I also began a position working at Boosted, the e-commerce venture of the Arts Foundation of NZ in February, assisting artists with their crowdfunding campaigns on the Boosted crowdfunding platform.
Over the past 4 years I have been able to see what works in a campaign, what doesn’t, and the commonalities that add up to crowdfunding success and failure. One thing that remains true for every single crowdfunding campaign is this: preparation is vital.
So, how do you need to prepare for your crowdfunding campaign? Check out the steps below:
Identify your financial goal: you want to secure funds for your filmmaking, but how much do you need? Depending on whether you’re running a campaign to secure funds for pre or post-production, your financial goal may vary. What exactly are the campaign funds going to pay for? It sounds like a no-brainer, but sometimes (especially if you’re new to filmmaking) campaign managers are not entirely sure of how much they really need. Don’t forget- if you’re crowdfunding via a platform where you can offer perks, you need to fit this into your financial projection if you have physical perks which require printing, manufacture and/or posting.
Another thing to take into consideration with your financial projections is whether or not you have other sources of funds available to you. Do you have an angel investor on board? Have you applied for (and been successful with securing) funding from creative arts organizations? If so, what’s your overall budget, and how much will these other sources of funding add to the pot? If they are make up a substantial percentage of your financial goal, it might be worth considering avenues for funding other than crowdfunding to top your funding up, or you may choose to continue but with a conservative crowdfunding target in mind.
Research crowdfunding campaign platforms: thankfully there are now a plethora of crowdfunding campaign platforms available to suit every need and every goal, but sometimes this in itself can be overwhelming! That’s why it’s vital to research crowdfunding campaign platforms…and I’m not just talking a quick skim over the Terms and Conditions! The two main styles of crowdfunding are all-or-nothing (where you have to hit your campaign target to receive funds raised minus the platform’s fee), or flexible (where you receive all funds raised minus the platform’s fee, regardless of whether you hit 100% or not). Find out how much the platform charges percentage-wise for their fee and how this will affect your overall campaign goal. Do they offer consultation sessions, and if so, would you take them up on this? How much project support (both advice and technical support) do they offer?
Another important thing to look at is how donations are handled on the site. Are they processed at point-of-sale (as in when the contributor makes a donation), or are transactions on hold until the completion of a successful campaign/refunded until the completion of an unsuccessful campaign? This can also impact on your final funds.
It’s also great to talk to other filmmakers who have crowdfunded about their experiences and why they chose the particular platform they used. They can give you some vital advice that can help inform your decision.
Identify your crowd: the most important factor in any crowdfunding campaign is your crowd…so who are they? There is a common misconception that a crowdfunding campaign is like Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come, ‘they’ being fans of indie filmmaking and people who are not in your immediate network. It’s estimated that 90% of contributors to a crowdfunding campaign will actually come from your network, so it’s vital that you work out who is in your network first and foremost.
So, who is in your crowd, and what does your crowd look like?:
Based on the infographic above, here’s what your network looks like:
Personal network: these are your friends, family, work groups, industry groups, your mailing list and your social media following. These are the people that will hopefully form the majority of your contributors.
Film’s network: the second rung of your network is the network for your film. This includes production companies, cast and crew, your film’s mailing list and social media accounts, as well as the fans of your actors and their networks, fans of your filmmaking and past films.
Other: the last rung of your network includes things like communities of interest (places where you’ve filmed or will be filming, interest groups for the subject of your film), fans of your film’s genre, as well as media connections like bloggers, news outlets and podcasters.
So, why identify your network?
- It helps you to gauge how many people you potentially have in your immediate personal network so you can contact them accordingly to assist with first day donations
- It can help you to prioritize when and how you approach potential contributors, especially with regards to publicity and social media
- You can get a sense of how much grassroots support there is for your campaign
As you know, I’m always honest about my own experiences with publicity, social media marketing and crowdfunding, and when I first started I didn’t understand just how important it was to get support from your personal network. After all, they’re your friends and family, etc, so it’s a given that they’ll support you….right? I put more emphasis on doing outreach to media and influencers because at the time I believed (wrongly!) that publicity was the key (cue angelic music). Publicity can help, certainly, but it’s all about that crowd.
Work out your ‘why’ and hone your pitch and message: once you’ve picked your platform, you’ll want to think about things like your ‘why’, your pitch to contributors and your message to your networks. This is something which I could wax lyrical about all day, so it will be covered in a subsequent post, but for now it’s something to be aware of in the process.
You may notice that I haven’t mentioned perk selection, and the reason for this is that it may be that you choose not to run a crowdfunding campaign with a platform which allows for perks, and why selecting your perks is something to be considered in your financial projections, it’s less important in the initial stages than aspects like identifying your networks and doing due diligence on crowdfunding platforms.
Crowdfunding campaigns take time, care and preparation. It’s worth taking the time to get prepared so that you can make the most of the campaign period and hopefully reach your campaign target faster.