When a Project Feels Like Coming Home: Us Among the Stones

Us Among the Stones

After assisting on the pre-production crowdfunding campaign for Us Among the Stones (which was then titled This Family), Sprites is back working with writer/director D.R. Hood and the Likely Story team for their post-production crowdfunding campaign, which launches at the end of this week. Returning to the project feels like coming home. Rather fitting, considering the film is centred around a dutiful son (played by Laurence Fox) in thrall of his dying mother (played by Anna Calder-Marshall) who visits his childhood home during one weekend. Recently separated from his partner, he ends up in the middle of his colourful extended family as they descend on the family home.

Us Among the Stones is a film that has been 20 years in the making, sparked by the story of D.R. Hood’s sister’s visit to a big house as an architecture student. This house had an ancient wine cellar, pre-medieval origins and was presided over by a hippy laird. The story would end up being the foundation (no pun intended) for what would become Us Among the Stones as it is today.

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Ungraded still of Owen (Laurence Fox) and Marianne (Anna Calder-Marshall) in Us Among the Stones

You may also be familiar with D.R. Hood’s first film, Wreckers, starring recent Emmy® Award-winner Claire Foy, Emmy® nominee Benedict Cumberbatch, and Shaun Evans. Wreckers won Best Film of the Perspectives Competition at the 2012 Moscow International Film Festival. D.R. Hood was also a nominee for Best British Newcomer at the 2012 London Film Festival and New Voices/New Visions Grand Jury Prize nominee at the 2012 Palm Springs International Film Festival. Us Among The Stones also reunites Hood with Wreckers creative collaborators Annemarie Lean-Vercoe (as DoP), Claire Pringle (as editor) and Wreckers actress Sinead Matthews starring as ‘Anna’.

D.R. Hood says: “my hope for the film is that people feel they can relate to the characters and story even if very different…at the heart the film is about a man who comes home stuck and leaves liberated, and it explores what ties home and family can have for us, even long after we have apparently ‘grown up’. It is also about time- the time we live in, and the deep time we come from, and an uncertain future. What does family mean? Family is not always just the people you are related to.”

Us Among the Stones is taking over the Twitter and Facebook accounts of Likely Story, so be sure to follow them, and use the hashtag #UsAmongTheStones. The crowdfunding campaign is launching very soon.

Handy Crowdfunding Resources for Indie Filmmakers

Handy Crowdfunding Resources for Indie Filmmakers

I can say with complete sincerity that it’s been a complete blast bringing you our Crowdfunding for Filmmakers month! There’s been lots of great feedback and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable to bring to you hints, tips and advice on crowdfunding of your indie film or webseries. There have been people who have said: “well, what about my (insert non-film project here)?” No problem! All of the hints and tips we’ve provided here are easily adaptable to any campaign for any project- the reason for a filmmaking focus is, well, we work with filmmakers!

This post is going to be a little different from the previous crowdfunding posts, because I wanted to bring you a really useful toolbox of resources that can assist you with your crowdfunding, regardless of budget or size of project. Some of these resources are ones I personally use for the work we do at Film Sprites PR, some are really handy resources that will inspire and add to your crowdfunding resource and knowledge base. Plus, we’ve got a little freebie we’ve been hinting about via our social media as well! So, here’s some resources I hope you’ll find genuinely useful:

TED Talks and Other Must-Sees

I have previously talked about how Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk about ‘The Art of Asking‘ was vital in the creation of Film Sprites PR, and it really is powerful. It’s something I recommend every artist watches at least once before they think about undertaking a crowdfunding campaign. Why? It’s so hard to ask for anything in life because it can be such a vulnerable act, but when you remember the importance of human connection and of being seen it can put asking in a new light. If you’re really amped up after watching this, you can follow it up with Amanda’s Google talk as well. I also thoroughly recommend reading her book of the same name, because the sections about artists and crowdfunding that are interspersed throughout the book will give you insight on the process from an artistic perspective, something which is so very valuable.

Another talk (this time at TEDxJerseyCity), is John T. Trigonis’ talk ‘Crowdfunding Today, Tomorrow, Together‘. John knows his stuff, because he’s not only run his own successful crowdfunding campaigns for his films and graphic novels, he’s also a film strategist for IndieGoGo. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again- John knows his stuff. I also highly recommend the second edition of his book ‘Crowdfunding for Filmmakers‘. It’s an enjoyable read with lots of no-nonsense examples and advice, and it’s definitely well worth your time. It’s the one book I recommend to every filmmaker.

And if you’re super-keen, grab a cup of your favourite hot beverage and a notepad and pen and get immersed in Emily Best of Seed & Spark’s videos on crowdfunding for Film Courage.

Posts From Our Vault:

During this month we’ve given you a wealth of information about crowdfunding for filmmakers, but we have also posted blog posts about aspects of crowdfunding in the past as well! We give you ways to look after yourself during your crowdfunding campaign to avoid burnout, how to harness Twitter for your crowdfunding campaign, and how to maintain that ever-important connection with your contributors post-campaign.

Social Media Scheduling Tools:

While you should aim for around a 90/10 ratio for organic posts/automated posts, there are some great scheduling tools which can assist you in scheduling and posting across your social media platforms simultaneously instead of having to do it manually for each platform. Hootsuite is arguably the first platform which comes to mind, but I actually like Tweetdeck when it comes to automation and scheduling on Twitter also.

Design Software and Apps:

Confession: I love design apps, not just for their ability to assist me in designing things quickly and cleanly for social media, but because with many design apps they will help you to crop pictures to fit the proportions of various social media platforms. Images are exceptionally useful when it comes to promoting your crowdfunding campaign on social media and sharing things behind-the-scenes of your film, and design apps can really assist you, even if you have absolutely no clue about how to use design software like Photoshop. Here are the software/apps I particularly like:

  • Canva: I can honestly say that I use Canva almost every day in some capacity because it’s very easy-to-use. One benefit of Canva is that it will give you alignment guidelines so you can make sure everything is aligned and looking good. For every design size there are also templates available with different design mock-ups. The basic (and generously extensive) software is free to use and you don’t have to download it if you’re using it on a home computer.
  • Pixlr: here’s another one I use regularly, and have used often during crowdfunding campaigns and for social media posts. In fact, if you’ve seen social media posts for the 2018 Raindance crowdfunding campaign that we’ve been posting on our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook posts, you might have seen collages which show multiple images (like the picture below). These were created via Pixlr. Pixlr is useful for multi image collages, but it also has things like filters, special effects and photo editing which can be useful for touching up images you want to use. The Pixlr app is particularly useful for editing on the run!
Raindance FF Past Screeners

Image created in Pixlr to show films which had previous screened at Raindance Film Festival, to be posted on Twitter.

  • Another app I like is Promo Republic. One of the benefits of Promo Republic is that it gives you a calendar which shows you when international events are coming up (like awards ceremonies, holidays or quirky national days), and there are often templates to match. This can be useful if you’re looking for content to post which matches the theme or vibe of your film.

And now, as promised…we have a freebie for everyone! Click HERE to gain access to our booklet, Crowdfunding Hints and Tips for Filmmakers. It contains two of our most popular (and most useful!) posts about crowdfunding for filmmakers. There’s no catch- no purchase necessary, no opt-in, just click and download. Simple!

Film Sprites PR Crowdfunding Hints and Tips for Filmmakers

Hopefully this has been a really useful month of posts about crowdfunding for you. If you’d like to know more about what we do at Film Sprites PR in terms of publicity and digital marketing of independent films and webseries, you can find out more HERE. Alternately, get in touch with us! Use our contact page, or drop us an email at: filmspritespr[at]gmail[dot]com.

Great Aunt Gladys Wants to Pay By Check and Other Unusual Things That Can Happen When Crowdfunding

Unusual Things That Happen On Crowdfunding Campaigns

99% of the time, crowdfunding campaigns run relatively smoothly. You plan, prepare and launch your campaign, the contributions start to roll in, and things go according to plan. But there are times when things go “off script”. It doesn’t happen very often, and for the most part they’re things you may not have to worry about, but I think they’re worth mentioning in case they do arise in your campaign.

All of these examples are things which I have seen happen in campaigns over the past 4 years of assisting with crowdfunding through Film Sprites PR‘s publicity and social media marketing services. They’re atypical, but knowledge is power- if things like this happen, at least you’ll know what to do about them:

Great Aunt Gladys wants to pay by check: in the digital age, we’re so comfortable with hopping online and submitting a payment to a crowdfunding campaign that we forget that some people aren’t comfortable with that method of payment (for whatever reason). Occasionally, you may get someone who wants to contribute to your campaign via check or cash. That’s completely doable! You have two choices- bank the funds in the account you’re using for your film funding, or, if you have an all-or-nothing crowdfunding campaign where every cent is vital in order to receive your campaign funds, you can bank the funds in your film funding account and then put those cash or check contributions into the campaign and up on the page. Either way, don’t forget to thank your contributor, and be sure to ask them if they would like a perk.

This is something to bear in mind if you decide to have a pre-launch fundraising event as well. You can upload those cash or check contributions on the first day of your campaign.

unusual things that happen on crowdfunding campaigns 2

Caught by the FB police: now this has only ever happened once in the 4 years I’ve been working on crowdfunding campaigns, so again it’s atypical but definitely worth noting. It’s the final week of a crowdfunding campaign, so things are amping up. The team who are assisting on the campaign (which included the director, several of the actors, and some really passionate fans who went above and beyond) are ramping up their posts, sharing more progress about how the percentages are creeping ever closer to 100%, etcetera. Everything’s going absolutely tickety boo for the first three days…and then ALL of the Facebook and Instagram posts were flagged as spam or offensive content. Yes, caught wrongly by the Facebook Fuzz and Insta Police. Even promoted posts had been flagged! After submitting reports on each of the flagged posts, pointing out it wasn’t spam, the posts were released from posting purgatory, but by that time it ceased to matter- we had no time to lose and then concentrated our social media efforts collectively on Twitter.

The algorithm at FB and Instagram had gone “danger, Will Robinson!” over the upswing in posts for the campaign and flagged it as spam (which it wasn’t). It doesn’t happen often (it’s only happened once in the time I’ve been doing crowdfunding), but if it does happen via social media platforms then it’s time to think about how to work with this sort of obstacle. In our case, we decided to forego Instagram and FB posts to concentrate on our Twitter audiences…and it worked. People were not only contributing, someone was making the most amazing .gifs using pictures of the cast and started helping to spread the word, and people were asking the people involved about the film (and of course we gleefully answered their questions).

If something happens in a campaign which throws up a bit of a barrier, take a deep breath and think: “how can we get around this or work this to our advantage?”

Your all-or-nothing campaign was unsuccessful: all-or-nothing campaigns have their pluses and minuses, and one of the minuses happens when a campaign is unsuccessful. You haven’t received the funds you wanted, but it’s not a waste of time by any means! For one, you’ve gained valuable insight into things like your audience and their demographics, you’ve secured awareness of your film and probably also increased your following on social media, and you have seen how much individuals were willing to pledge.

If there are a few individuals in particular who were willing to pledge a significant amount to your campaign (over $1000), it would be worth reaching out to them post-campaign to see if they would still be interested in investing in the film in some capacity. This could be via an equity arrangement, or in exchange for a credit as a funding producer, etcetera. This is something I have seen happen in the past, and it can make a significant difference when funding your film.

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Your all-or-nothing campaign has an hour to go…and you’re 95% funded: this can happen, but there’s one solution to consider that will not only ensure you get over the line, but that you secure the funds that your amazing contributors have pledged: you contribute yourself. That’s right- if you’ve got that 5% available, contribute it! There is absolutely no law which states you can’t contribute to your campaign yourself. Otherwise, if you have a team member, family member or close friend who is willing to come in and contribute that 5%, that can be a life-saver as well.

As I stated earlier, these are not things to stress out about, but they’re worth being mindful of. They’re aspects that should never hinder your ability or enthusiasm to go out and crowdfund for your film. Happy filmmaking….and happy crowdfunding!

 

What Part Should Publicity Play In Your Crowdfunding Campaign?

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This month on the blog, we’ve focused on crowdfunding for filmmakers, covering subjects like aspects you need to consider prior to running a crowdfunding campaign for your webseries or film, common mistakes to avoid in your crowdfunding campaign, and the benefits of crowdfunding beyond the financial. In this post, I want to discuss a subject that is very close to my heart, which is publicity. Specifically, I want to discuss the role that publicity tends to play in crowdfunding campaigns.

Now, if you’ve worked with Film Sprites PR before, or have followed the blog, you’ll know that I’m a straight-shooter who believes in transparency. I’m not going to suggest you take on one of our PR or digital marketing services if I don’t think it’s going to be beneficial in the long-term, and I’m incredibly honest on the blog because I believe that people can learn from the pitfalls and mistakes I have gone through in the almost 4 years that Film Sprites PR has been operating. One pitfall for me was in regards to the role that publicity plays in a crowdfunding campaign.

Being that I was passionate about being a publicist in the film industry, I thought that when it came to crowdfunding campaigns, publicity was the be-all end-all. Get a feature about the campaign in front of indie film-loving fans and watch the dollars roll in!

*record scratch*

Errrr….not quite.

Don’t get me wrong, publicity for your crowdfunding campaign is fantastic- not only does it create awareness around the campaign, it also helps to bring your film/webseries to the attention of your potential audience. Both of these are very good things. But do they translate into dollars for your crowdfunding campaign? Not always. Bear in mind the fact that statistically 90% of contributions to your crowdfunding campaign will come from your existing networks. You might experience a higher percentage of contributions from film fans and your potential audience if you have well-known actors, but again that’s no guarantee.

Am I trying to pee in your cornflakes and tell you not to pursue publicity for your crowdfunding campaign? Heavens, no! But if (like Publicist Me of 2013) you are placing more weight and expectation on securing funds as the result of media placements, you might have to re-think that.

newspaper on table with latte and cellphone

You might recall the Who’s In Your Network? infographic I shared in a previous post. Publicity falls into the ‘other’ category on that infographic, right at the tip of the triangle and with the least amount of weight compared to your personal network and your film’s network. Depending on whether your film or webseries has an actor or actors who have considerable followings, publicity can sit between ‘other’ and ‘film’s network’, but that’s an instance when you can put more more importance on media outreach.

A rule of thumb? Focus on your personal and film’s networks and how you can connect with and secure contributions from them first and foremost. Publicity is a useful tool in your arsenal, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you rely on. Crowdfunding campaign strategy is less a straight line and more a web of interconnected parts that function as a whole.

So if you’re keen to source publicity during your crowdfunding campaign, here’s some hints and tips to help you:

  • If you’re approaching bloggers and film websites, be sure to read their ‘about’ and ‘contact’ pages to make sure they’re a good fit. Some bloggers and websites have a strict policy whereby they don’t accept press release submissions from films in crowdfunding campaign mode because they get inundated with them. Respect their wishes and don’t send them an unsolicited press release because you think your campaign may be the one that changes their mind. After all, you can always come back to them when your film or webseries has been released and/or requires reviews.
  • Don’t just copy and paste the same pitch to every outlet. An editor wants to know why your crowdfunding campaign is newsworthy, and why their audience would be interested in it. Of course you may want to outsource this particular task to someone who does publicity for a living, as they know exactly how to pitch and which media outlets would be most suitable to pitch to.
  • You’re going to be exceptionally busy with your campaign, so if you have pitched to media it’s worth setting up a Google alert (or two) for your phone and inbox, that way you can keep track of any published features. It’s incredibly useful post-campaign as well because you can continue to track not just features from outlets you’ve pitched to, but any organic earned media that comes up. This happened a few weeks ago with a client of mine. We had sent out review requests in November 2017 and an outlet discovered the film in 2018 and reviewed it, and that outlet was not part of our media list for that film at the time.
  • There are varying schools of thought as to whether you should attach a PDF of your press release, copy and paste it to the e-mail, etc. I tend to favour creating a Dropbox folder which includes the PDF of your press release, any video clips you’d like an outlet to potentially use, as well as high-resolution images that are clearly named (no random numbers!). That way you can pitch to media and give them the Dropbox link without potentially getting caught in their spam folder because you’ve sent an attachment.

Publicity is a useful tool to have in your crowdfunding toolkit, but it should be used in conjunction with other methods of connecting with contributors to assist with your success.

5 Reasons You Should Contribute to the Raindance Film Festival Crowdfunding Campaign

5 Reasons You Should Contribute to the Raindance Film Festival Crowdfunding Campaign

As you may know, this month we’ve been doing a focus on crowdfunding for filmmakers, and in a moment of synchronicity the IndieGoGo campaign for the 2018 Raindance Film Festival has begun! I don’t know about you, but I’m passionate about film festivals. Festivals are a celebration of cinema and a showcase of some of the best films around, and Raindance is no different.

So, why should you dig into your wallet and contribute to the crowdfunding campaign for this year’s Raindance Film Festival? Here’s 5 very good reasons:

1. It’s the UK’s oldest and largest film festival

Film festivals may come and go, but Raindance has some serious chops, celebrating its 25th festival last year. Not only that, it’s been run independently for those 25 years. In addition, past festivals have screened some seriously excellent and very well-known films like Pulp Fiction, The Blair Witch Project, Once, Oldboy, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Ghost World and Memento; proof that the Raindance Film Festival has always had its finger firmly on the pulse of independent cinema.

Raindance FF Past Screeners

2. The Raindance Film Festival keeps current with technological changes in the film industry

As well as having an eye for the hottest independent films and bringing them to you every festival, Raindance keeps abreast of technological changes which arise in the film industry, like Virtual Reality (VR). This year with the help of your contribution they are looking to develop a cutting-edge festival app. This has two benefits: firstly, it’s convenient. As someone who has used similar apps for conferences and festivals, it’s much easier to whip out your phone and check information or a schedule than rummage around in your bag for a paper copy. Secondly, it cuts down on paper waste. In an era where we’re more conscious of sustainable practices, Raindance is making the effort to embrace sustainability.

Raindance Film Festival VR Suite-min

Speaking of sustainability….

3. Raindance has environmental and sustainability goals for the 2018 festival

In addition to the app mentioned above, for film buffs who love to collect the commemorative catalogues Raindance wants to print the 2018 catalogue on eco-friendly paper (which is more expensive), whilst also keeping the catalogue free. That’s quite an undertaking financially, but it’s one of the lengths Raindance wants to go to in order to be a more environmentally conscious festival and keep costs down for audiences at the same time. Just think- your contribution to the campaign will help make that a reality…makes you want to re-think today’s latte order and give that money to the campaign, doesn’t it?

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4. Raindance wants to continue to make independent cinema accessible

Independent cinema should be for everyone, and this year Raindance has some goals to ensure that it remains that way. Firstly, they want to keep tickets discounted for under 25s, students, senior citizens, claimants, first responders and carers. They also want to support filmmakers from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the Festival via the 25×25 project in collaboration with the Independent Film Trust. They also want to ensure that there are no barriers for audiences with hearing and/or visual disabilities to attend festival screenings and seminars. How great is that?

Raindance Film Festival Podium-min

If these reasons alone haven’t sold you on contributing, then there’s one more reason:

5. The perks are EPIC!

There’s some serious swag at every perk level; from shout-outs to some seriously stylish Raindance branded gear (T-shirts, tote bags, badges). There’s also some unique perks that would defintely suit businesses or individuals looking to make their mark and be seen, like the ‘Adopt A Film’ perk where your logo will be put next to your selected film in the catalogue plus additional perks. Plus there’s festival passes, VIP tickets to the Independent Filmmakers Ball and much more!

If you’re as passionate about independent cinema as I am, this is a truly worthy campaign to contribute to. Make your mark and contribute HERE. Can’t contribute right now? Spread the word! On the campaign page the Raindance team have put together a selection of pre-made Tweets that are super-easy to copy and Tweet out to your followers.

Help Raindance meet their goals for this year’s festival, and help keep the festival in the beating heart of London and accessible to all.