Crowdfunding: Getting Beyond your Family and Friends

Crowdfunding: Getting Beyond your Family and Friends By Antonia Opiah

Recently, we at the Beneath the Earth Film Festival hosted a panel discussion on financing film through crowdfunding.  It was the first talk in our Film 2.0: the Digital (R)evolution” series, which takes a look at the Internet’s impact on the film industry.

With all of the filmmakers on the panel confirming that much of their pledges came from their family and friends, I wondered:  Does a successful Kickstarter campaign mean that a film has a built-in audience or just a really supportive network?

For our panelists it was a mixture of both but each was able to go beyond their family and friends.  Here are some of the ways they did so:

Start with Family and Friends

The phrase “everyone loves a winner” came up in the discussion, stemming from the observation that people are more likely to support a campaign if they see others supporting it.  Out of the gate, panelist Laura Naylor, creator of the film Duck Beach, asked everyone in her personal network to immediately pledge to her campaign so newcomers wouldn’t land on a seemingly unsupported page.  What’s more, across the board, the filmmakers on our panel saw a fair share of their pledges come in at the tail end of their campaigns when they were close to hitting their goals.

Spend a Little Money to Make Money

For his campaign, panelist and filmmaker David Murphy took out a small Facebook ad, $200 to be exact, to build up fans for his movie Street Soccer: New York .  The film initially started off with 500 fans and in about two weeks hit close to 3,000. The ads allowed him to precisely target people with interests related to the film.  He then promoted the Kickstarter campaign to his fans on Facebook.

Think Outside the States

Matching your film to the right audience is a universal crowdfunding truth.  Consequently, when defining and looking for your audience, don’t forget to look outside of your home town or country.  With his Facebook Ad, David Murphy found that the majority of his new likes came from South America.  A tool like Facebook Ads not only allows you to precisely target by interest but also by geographical region.

Get Written Up

Easier said than done but definitely worth a try.  During the discussion, panelist Bryce Renninger of IndieWire shared what he looks for when selecting projects to highlight on the site.  Besides having a strong idea that has loads of appeal, little things like using beautiful imagery on your campaign page helps to get noticed.  And if you don’t have a trailer, don’t sweat it.  Create a video that conveys the general themes of the movie and use that video as a proof of concept.

Net-net, truly successful crowdfunders are those who not only are able to rally their personal network around their idea, but can push past that network and galvanize a true audience for their film. As filmmakers craft their campaigns it’s important that they think about who they’re going to reach outside of the friends and family box.

Having looked at how to finance film online, we’ll next be looking at how to build an audience for a film once it’s been made.  Part 2 of our series, Building an Audience, will be held in NYC on August 8th, 2012 at 7pm.  For those in the area at the time, please join us for this free discussion.  Details can be viewed here.


Bio: Antonia Opiah is co-founder of the Beneath the Earth Film Festival, an online film festival that’s using the Internet and its grand jury of film reviewers to get filmmakers noticed.  The festival observed that many films come and go on the circuit without reaching their fullest potential of an audience.  To remedy this, BTEFF accepts films from as far back as 1990 onward with the hope of unsurfacing and resurfacing cinematic gems.