Dispelling Popular Crowdfunding Myths

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Before I started Film Sprites PR in 2014 I started to test the waters of social media and publicity for film by assisting with promotion of crowdfunding campaigns. It was 2013, I was fresh from studying, and crowdfunding was a new and exciting world to me, and to filmmakers who wanted to cut out the middle man when it came to funding their films.

Fast forward to 2020 and every man and their dog knows what crowdfunding is. Thousands of shorts and features have had crowdfunding campaigns on platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Seed & Spark and Go Fund Me (and that’s for starters!). Thousands of dollars have been raised in campaign funds, and films have gone ahead.

Since my initial dive into the world of crowdfunding, I’ve been involved in successful campaigns for films like Us Among the Stones, which debuted at the BFI London Film Festival last year, WW II film Magpie, and finishing funds for RAIN: A Fan Film About Storm. And then, as luck would have it, I took up a position at Boosted, the crowdfunding platform of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand and gave artists crowdfunding advice that assisted them in creating amazing things like the short film Memory Foam, the outrageously funny webseries These Two, and the feature documentary Peter Peryer: The Art of Seeing, which debuted at the New Zealand International Film Festival in 2019. I even had the great privilege of presenting a session on crowdfunding for filmmakers with a Boosted colleague for theNew Zealand Film Commission‘s Fresh Shorts Intensive Weekend.

I’ve seen what works with crowdfunding, and what doesn’t.

I’ve also seen crowdfunding myths pop up time and again; things that don’t seem to go away. They’re things which seem reasonable enough, but are counter-intuitive to successful crowdfunding. Today, I’m going to let you in on those myths, AND give you alternatives that will help you reach your target.

Myth 1: You Have to Have a Really High Target to Be Successful

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If someone has a crowdfunding campaign for upwards of $100,000 I’m going to ask why.

Perhaps if you’re an A-List director and hiring well-known actors, have loads of location shoots, a multitude of crew and have a massive VFX budget, then that figure might be correct. But if you’re a director who is directing their first short on a shoestring and only need around $10,000 then chances are you’re not going to need that much.

There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, however when it comes to crowdfunding you have to think very pragmatically (especially since crowdfunding is like having another full time job in and of itself). When people tell me they want a really high target for their crowdfunding campaign, their logic tends to be along the lines of: “if we have a really high target, people will think we’ve got a huge production and that will make them more likely to contribute to the campaign.”

There’s a few problems with this:

1. If you’re on an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform and your campaign is unsuccessful, the risk of not reaching your target increases the higher your target is.

2. If you have a campaign with a really high target and it’s unsuccessful, it looks less impressive than a campaign that has reached (or exceeded) its target. A smaller target that is tracking well percentage-wise during a campaign makes people more likely to contribute to the campaign than a large target that is not tracking well.

So, what’s a more practical target? Here’s the formula I give people:

  • First, work out exactly how much you need to make your film/webseries. If you’re crowdfunding in pre-production, you’ll need to work out how much it’s going to cost for everything you need, e.g. equipment hire, catering, paying your cast and crew, etc. In post, work out what you need to finish the film and how much that’s going to cost (e.g. sound, colouring, reshoots).
  • Look at the percentage the crowdfunding platform will take in fees and add that percentage onto your total (e.g. if the platform charges 10%, add 10% to your figure)

That’s what your total should be. The benefit of this is that if you achieve your target prior to the close of your campaign, you can then continue promoting your campaign on social media and go for a ‘stretch goal’ of some type.

One thing to also keep in mind is whether or not you’re offering physical perks during your campaign, because that will impact on the total amount as well. Some campaigns with perks ask contributors to add an additional amount (around $10-$15) onto their contribution to cover postage and packaging costs. It’s entirely up to you as to whether or not you do this.

Myth 2: Long Campaign Durations Are Best

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One of the myths that seems to come up time and again is the idea that if you run a long campaign (two months or more), that it will be more successful because it gives people more time to contribute. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way!

Crowdfunding campaigns tend to have a pattern: the first week of campaign you’ll see a flurry of contributions, then contributions will tend to slow down in the following 1-2 weeks, with momentum picking up again in the last 7 days.

So, why do I recommend not having a long campaign duration?

  1. Crowdfunding is a time-consuming process. Successful campaigns mean a LOT of sweat equity. A 30 day campaign can be exhausting, but if you stretch it out to 60-90 days it means you’re going to have to keep going. How is that going to impact on your personal life, your professional life, and your filmmaking?
  2. Another issue is that if your campaign is not going well, you might be tempted to give up on it altogether. And I don’t want to see that happening with anyone!

A good campaign duration is 30 days. The reason for this is that it keeps to a concise, manageable timeframe, and you are able to receive contributions from people with varying pay cycles (e.g. fortnightly, weekly). It also means that your own personal momentum is maintained, and trust me- enthusiasm is infectious!

Myth 3: If People Are Cinephiles, They’ll Contribute

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Here’s the thinking behind this common myth: people love movies, so they’re going to support my campaign because of this.

If only this were true!

The reality is that the majority of your crowdfunding contributions (around 90%) will come from your immediate network (friends, family, work groups, industry groups, your mailing list and your social media following) as opposed to people unconnected to your immediate network. That doesn’t mean you can’t get those contributions, it’s just prudent to make sure they’re not the focus of your contribution hopes. You can find out more about how to prep your crowdfunding campaign (and identify your network for your campaign) HERE.

Myth 4: A Crowdfunding Campaign Doesn’t Require Any Effort

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Crowdfunding: it’s easy money, right? Your campaign page goes live, and the money starts rolling in.

Errrr…not quite.

A crowdfunding campaign is like having another full-time job. Between writing the copy for your page, getting a pitch video ready and reaching out to your networks via social media and/or e-mail, it takes time.

Think of it this way: if you were doing investor relations face-to-face with someone, you’d have things like a pitch deck, a treatment, and you’d be able to break down your film budget. Crowdfunding is very much like investor relations, but online.

Crowdfunding is not a magic ATM machine. The more time you put into prepping and promoting your campaign, the easier it will be the next time you need to do face-to-face investor relations, because the skills overlap somewhat.

If you’re looking for ‘easy money’, crowdfunding is probably not for you.

If you are just crowdfunding because you think it will bring awareness to your project or that you’ll go viral, crowdfunding is probably not for you.

If you don’t have the time to plan a campaign, keep your contributors updated and promote your campaign on social media throughout the funding duration, crowdfunding is probably not for you.

And if it’s not for you, that’s okay too! I’ve spoken with people who, after weighing up the pros and cons, have decided not to run a campaign and have successfully gained the funds they needed for their projects through other means. Crowdfunding is another option in the arts funding landscape, not the be-all end-all. You can always apply for grants and scholarships, do investor relations face-to-face with private investors, or look for angel equity.

So there you have it- some of the most common crowdfunding myths dispelled.

There’s much more about crowdfunding available on the blog. If you’re interested, check out these posts:

It’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint: Looking After Yourself During a Crowdfunding Campaign

How to Harness Twitter for Your Film’s Crowdfunding Campaign

What Part Should Publicity Play in Your Crowdfunding Campaign?

Crowdfunding and the Benefits for Indie Filmmakers

 

What Did the 2010s Bring Indie Filmmakers?

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Happy New Year to you…and Happy New Decade! I decided to leave this post until after New Year’s so it didn’t get lost in the sea of lists that tend to come out at the end of each decade.

For me, the 2010s hold a particularly important place in my heart, because not only was it the decade I began my career in the film industry, it was also the decade I launched Film Sprites PR. Throughout the 2010s I kept a close eye on what was happening in the film industry, and how things were changing. The indie filmmaking landscape I was welcomed into in the 2010s is a genuinely remarkable one: there have been technologies and changes that have paved the way for filmmakers to create on their own terms, often cutting out ‘the middle man’. What a decade to work in indie film!

Check out some of the changes in our society (and the industry) which changed the way filmmakers can fund, create, promote and distribute their films:

Crowdfunding Changes the Film Funding Landscape

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Before I founded Sprites, I started my career by helping to publicize crowdfunding campaigns for films. Over the years, I have continued to do so, as well as working at Boosted, the crowdfunding platform of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand. Who knew that this wonderful world of funding opportunity would exist in the 2010s? Crowdfunding has given filmmakers the opportunity to secure funding in a timely fashion, while also helping to build an audience for their films. While there are various other funding opportunities for filmmakers available, crowdfunding has been a successful way for filmmakers to secure their finance, whether in pre-production, post-production, or to pay for things like trips to festivals or post-production colour grading and/or ADR. Well-known successfully crowdfunded films include Lazer Team by Rooster Teeth, The Veronica Mars Movie Project, and Zach Braff’s Wish I Was Here.

Crowdsourcing of Cinema Screenings Becomes a Reality

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Similar to crowdfunding, crowdsourcing became a great option for filmmakers when it came to various aspects of filmmaking. One particular crowdsourcing option that materialized in the 2010s was the crowdsourcing of cinema screenings of films.

Platforms like Tugg meant filmmakers could screen their films at selected cinemas provided the required amount of tickets were sold. This is a great way for filmmakers to provide the big screen experience. It’s a system which has proven particularly successful for niche films; like films with environmental themes. Demand.Film also provides a selection of films which can be screened, including films from Australia and New Zealand and films with niche audiences. This is particularly beneficial for community groups or interest groups who want to bring a film to the big screen.

Social Media Gets Serious

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Social media started to sprout in the late 2000s. Remember Tom from MySpace? In the 2010s social media platforms exploded onto the scene, giving us many ways to share our daily happenings and memes. And as social media began to grow, so too did the opportunities for filmmakers to share their message and grow an audience for their films or webseries. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have been joined by the likes of TikTok and Snapchat to provide many options for spreading your message. Before the advent of social media, radio, print and television were primarily the ways of gaining awareness for your filmmaking and growing your audience. Now you can connect with your audience (and potential audience) right through their smartphone.

Streaming Services Rule Screens

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Hop onto your Facebook feed and I can guarantee you’ll see at least one of your friends talking about something they watched via a streaming service. Netflix, which was founded in 1997, expanded into offering streaming services, as did other platforms like Prime Video. The new world of streaming offers filmmakers another route for distribution of their films. Filmmakers can also offer downloads or streaming of their films via their own website. Gone are the days when hopes hung on a cinematic release; now indie filmmakers can reach audiences in their own homes and open them to a world of new ideas and concepts far beyond the traditional Hollywood blockbuster.

What will the 2020s offer? Only time can tell…

 

It’s CROWDFUNDING WEEK at Film Sprites PR!

Crowdfunding for Filmmakers

The film funding landscape has changed over the past 10 years. With the advent of crowdfunding, the ability to secure funds for films and webseries has been put into the hands of filmmakers across the globe. It’s a very exciting time to be involved in film, because crowdfunding gives you the ability to manage your funding on your terms. It also has the added benefit of growing and maintaining an audience for your film or webseries.

So…what’s my background with crowdfunding, you may ask? I started my career in film publicity and social media marketing through assisting with crowdfunding campaigns. Initially, this was just by amplifying the signal via social media. When Film Sprites PR was established, this extended to securing publicity for filmmakers and their crowdfunding campaigns and actively assisting with the creation of campaign strategy. I’ve assisted with the successful campaigns for Magpie, Arcadia Bay, Vampire Mob Graphic Novel Issue 1 and RAIN: A Fan Film About Storm as well as the Kickstarter for the award-winning short film Hello World. Most recently, a film I assisted with post-production crowdfunding, Us Among the Stones debuted at the 2019 BFI London Film Festival.

In addition, I also worked at Boosted, the crowdfunding platform of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand as Projects and Operations Assistant, specializing in film crowdfunding. Including 5 years under the Sprites mantle, I’ve had around 7 years of crowdfunding experience across various platforms, including Kickstarter, Social Screen and IndieGoGo. I’ve seen the good and bad of crowdfunding, the pitfalls, the triumphs, the things that people don’t necessarily think about when they set out to crowdfund their film or webseries. Crowdfunding can be exciting…but in order for a campaign to be successful it also requires a lot of planning.

This week on the blog and on our social media we’ll be looking at various aspects of crowdfunding; from planning to some of the unusual things that may crop up in your campaign. If you’re not following Sprites on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, make sure you follow so you don’t miss a second. PLUS- there’s going to be some great FREEBIES headed your way too!

 

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!
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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.

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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.

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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.

Avoid These Common Crowdfunding Mistakes!

Avoid These Common Crowdfunding Mistakes!

Now that we’ve looked at getting you ready for your campaign, it’s time to talk about some common mistakes people make with crowdfunding campaigns.

Back in 2013 when I started getting to know the world of crowdfunding for independent film, I saw a lot of things that looked like best practice. But as I began to learn more, and as crowdfunding and social media began to evolve, I saw that these things were not only a misuse of energy, but could also be costing filmmakers opportunities to have people contributing to their crowdfunding campaigns.

The mistakes outlined below come from my observation and experience, from my time working at Boosted (the crowdfunding platform of the Arts Foundation of New Zealand), and from assisting filmmakers with their crowdfunding campaigns. Avoid these mistakes at your peril!

Spamming people with your crowdfunding link: this is something I’ve talked about in previous posts, but it’s well worth repeating, and so I’ve been a bit cheeky and copied and pasted the next part. I think it’s the best analogy I can come up with for spamming everyone with the link to your campaign:

Imagine you’re sitting in a hotel room by yourself, and you hear a knock on the door. Upon answering it, someone is standing in front of you and says: “help make it happen for….” and then promptly leaves. As you close the door, you hear the same person knocking on every other motel room door and saying the same thing. This is what it’s like when you tweet everyone the link to your film or campaign individually. Not only is it time consuming, it means that your followers can see each tweet you send out with the link to every other follower! At best they will mute you from their timeline, at worst they will block you, so for the sake of sending out the same cut and paste tweet to each individual follower, you’ve lost people.What can amp the annoyance factor up even more is if you tweet your link randomly to someone you’re not even following! I have lost count the amount of times people who are not following Sprites on Twitter have tweeted a link at us (along with a bunch of other people they’re not following, in the hopes of a re-tweet).

Crowdfunding is very much like having a full-time job, so why would you work harder when you could work smarter? Another thing to avoid is tweeting the link to your campaign to celebrities. You think it’s an inspired idea, but imagine how many people have thought the same idea about their campaign and tweeted at the same celebrity? It’s the same as trying to get a well-known director to read your screenplay via Twitter. You are much better off (and will be more successful) focusing on a)your audience and network and b)providing interesting, engaging content that makes people want to contribute to your campaign.

Not being fully prepared for your campaign: I’ve covered the steps you should consider before undertaking a crowdfunding campaign recently, because there are so many factors you need to consider before starting a campaign. There’s a misconception that you can put up a pitch video, written info and perks information on your chosen crowdfunding platform and just leave it, and that somehow contributions will mysteriously grow without any input from the campaign owner and their team. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it!

I say this to you from the bottom of my heart- don’t consider a crowdfunding campaign unless you’re fully prepared and armed with the knowledge you need. That preparation includes knowing the terms and conditions of your chosen platform, identifying your networks (statistically 90% of funding will come from people you know already), and understanding how things like platform fees and credit card fees will impact on the amount you receive.

successful crowdfunding

Film Sprites PR assisted with the successful crowdfunding campaign for US AMONG THE STONES which recently debuted at BFI London Film Festival 2019

Not taking responsibility for your campaign: a few years ago, I met a lovely man who was very polite, calling me “m’am” in correspondence. I said that Sprites could provide publicity outreach and additional social media marketing for his campaign, an agreement was made and once I had agreed to come on board….I never heard from him again, despite e-mailing repeatedly.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zip.

Zilch.

He had believed mistakenly that I was going to be responsible for the entire campaign, and that he didn’t have to do anything. The fact of the matter is that your campaign is your campaign. You may have additional team members to assist with various tasks during the campaign (like social media and publicity outreach), but if it’s your campaign and you’re requiring funds for your film then you need to take responsibility for overseeing it. Nobody knows your film and your goals more intimately and in-depth than you do. If you’re not keen to do the social media side of things (or don’t have a huge following), by all means have someone else doing it for you, but they need to know the complete ins and outs of your film and your objectives for the campaign.

Having too ambitious a campaign target: there’s nothing wrong with being ambitious. After all, filmmaking is one of the most ambitious endeavours out there! However, when it comes to your campaign target, it pays to be conservative.

The benefits of a conservative campaign target:

  1. You are more likely to achieve your campaign target
  2. You may achieve your campaign target in a short time frame with more days in the campaign available, which then means you can set ‘stretch goals’ to help secure even more funds and keep momentum going
  3. A smaller target that is tracking well percentage-wise during a campaign makes people more likely to contribute to the campaign than a large target that is not tracking well

So how do you work out your campaign target? What are you crowdfunding in order to fund? Is your campaign solely to fund post-production sound and ADR? Colouring? Is it a campaign to assist you to attend a certain festival where your film is screening? Work out how much that costs, and that is your basic campaign target. Then, look at the percentage the crowdfunding platform will take from your funds and add that percentage on top of your campaign target so you don’t get caught short. If you have chosen to have physical perks for the campaign, you’ll also need to consider how much that will cost you in terms of postage and packaging (some campaigns choose to add postage and packaging to their campaign perk tier so that it’s automatically covered by the contributor). That’s your campaign target! It’s especially important to have a realistic campaign target if you are crowdfunding on an all-or-nothing platform. Every dollar on an all-or-nothing platform is vital to get you to 100%, so being conservative will help you reach your target.

Having too long a campaign: most crowdfunding platforms have a minimum amount of days a campaign must run, and there are some platforms where you can crowdfund for as long as you want. 30 days is a good minimum, 60 isn’t bad…but anything after that and people will tune out. A better option? If your crowdfunding campaign target is larger than $10,000 you might want to think about having multiple crowdfunding campaigns, but well spaced so as not to exhaust your networks and their ability to donate.

Feeling pressured to run a crowdfunding campaign: a friend or colleague has told you that they raised an easy $10K on Kickstarter for their project…but you’re not keen. Perhaps you don’t have time in your schedule that you could carve out to make a crowdfunding campaign a success, or perhaps it’s just not a route that you want to go down. That’s okay! For many independent films crowdfunding is just one piece of the financial pie, and not the be-all, end-all. There are grants, pitch competitions, private/angel investors and equity investment. You don’t have to settle on crowdfunding just because everyone else is doing it. It’s a great way to raise funds while growing your audience and awareness around your project, but if you’re uncomfortable doing it, don’t.

Most importantly- have fun! Crowdfunding shouldn’t be a chore. You can celebrate each milestone, enjoy connecting with your audience and get to know new audience members in the process. Happy crowdfunding!