Filmmakers, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where Your Jobs Act Is? Part 3

Written by Michael R. Barnard

FILMMAKERS, IT’S 2013. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR JOBS ACT IS?
Part 3 of 3 parts.
 
Yesterday, in Part 2, we learned that cash is available and that the JOBS Act is going to give filmmakers an opportunity to more easily access that cash for investment to make movies and rebuild the independent film industry.

The Internet enlarged the playing field for securities offerings, whether valid or not, and for potential investors, whether knowledgeable or not.

How do you legally and ethically access that hoarded cash and encourage its investment in your well-developed movie project so you can hire people and make your movie?

 

Easier access to that cash is the promise of the JOBS Act, which was the biggest bi-partisan effort of the past several years of hyper-partisanship. Support for the JOBS Act spanned both parties.

 

America needs good jobs, and some of those jobs need to come from the independent film industry. Joblessness and low-wage jobs have crippled the survival and prosperity of millions of Americans, and are a drag on our entire economy.

 

For you, the significance of the JOBS Act is not only the production of your movie, but also its potential to rebuild the infrastructure of the American independent film industry by structuring movie projects to show business as well as artistic realities.

 

The ability to reach out to investors means you will have to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your movie project, plan its production and distribution, and calculate reasonable possible returns. Your stronger, compelling plans and successful investor strategy will allow you to pay better wages, attract superior cast and crew, rent and purchase proper equipment, engage legal counsel and insurance, and make stronger efforts to engage audiences and deliver your movie to them. By opening access to that hoarded cash and other cash from investors, the JOBS Act can provide filmmakers with increased production quality and increased likelihood of a return on investment, which can increase the stability of the independent film industry in America. The process can increase the potential to deliver higher-quality movies to larger audiences.

 

There are two parts of the JOBS Act specifically attractive to independent filmmakers. They are Title II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS, commonly referred to as “the General Solicitation Rule,” and Title III—CROWDFUND. These offer the promise to improve filmmakers’ ability to raise money for development, production, marketing, and distribution of their movies.

 

Some filmmakers are lucky enough to raise money for their movies through family and friends, angel investors, venture capitalists, or other ways of private funding. Most filmmakers are not so fortunate.

 

Many filmmakers turn to crowdfunding, whether perks-based donor crowdfunding or the forthcoming Equity Crowdfunding. That’s a good path for filmmakers whose social circle is pretty normal, and you will benefit from Title III—CROWDFUND of the JOBS Act.

 

Are you fortunate enough to have millionaires in your social circle? The change to the fundraising process, opening it up for general solicitation, will be the benefit for you from TITLE II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS of the JOBS Act.

 

TITLE II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS

 

TITLE II is popularly referred to as the “General Solicitation” rule. It will change some of the exemptions from the most strenuous rules; these exemptions, which are still very strict, are commonly referred to by investment professionals as “Sec. 506, Reg. D”. The rules that allow exemptions from some of the harshest regulations still include prohibitions against you, or any person acting on your behalf, offering or selling securities through any form of “general solicitation or general advertising.”

 

Most of those posts long ago on Friendster and MySpace and those ads printed in magazines and newspapers by filmmakers telling people to invest in their films and promising the investors profits have always been illegal. Examples of general solicitation include advertisements published in newspapers and magazines, communications broadcast over television and radio, and seminars whose attendees have been invited by general solicitation, as well as other uses of publicly available media, such as unrestricted websites and social media.

 

The big news is that TITLE II is going to let you promote your movie project to everybody you can reach. The only restrictions will be, simply, that you can only sell your securities to Accredited Investors – but you can now find those Accredited Investors by publicly announcing your movie project.
The JOBS Act instructs the SEC to make rules to stop the prohibition against general solicitation and to give you reasonable steps to verify that those who invest in your movie are truly Accredited Investors as defined by law.

 

You will not be able accept investment money from anyone who can’t prove they are Accredited Investors. The Act says you will not be subject to requirements to be a registered broker or dealer because of maintaining and advertising online or on other platforms your offer, sale, or negotiation of an investment in your movie. Under the general solicitation rules for your Sec. 506 of Reg. D offering, there might be no other reporting requirements other than, probably, the basic Form D now required by such offerings (see http://www.sec.gov/answers/formd.htm). It is likely the SEC will modify the Form D only to acknowledge that your offering is being made under TITLE II of the JOBS Act.

 

The JOBS Act established a deadline of Wednesday, July 4, 2012, for the SEC to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of TITLE II—ACCESS TO CAPITAL FOR JOB CREATORS. The SEC missed that deadline. The agency did publish proposed rules for TITLE II on August 29, 2012 (see http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2012/2012-170.htm) but has not implemented them. Although the SEC has missed the deadline required by the Act, and used a process a little bit out of the ordinary regarding its usual schedule of receiving public comments and publishing proposals, the SEC believes they are working prudently within the complex requirements of implementing the JOBS Act. There is not yet an anticipated date for finalizing the rules for Title II of the JOBS Act. It continues to accept public comments regarding TITLE II.

 

TITLE III—CROWDFUND

 

Title III—CROWDFUND of the JOBS Act, twisted into an acronym of that tortured construct, “Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure,” relieves filmmakers of many of the burdens of raising equity investment for movie projects. The goals of the Act appear to allow a filmmaker (or any entrepreneur) to offer securities to any American for up to a maximum of $1 million in any 12-month period for all of the entities controlled by the filmmaker using the process similar to perks-based donor crowdfunding

 

It appears the filmmaker’s offering of securities must be made only through a registered securities broker or through a newly-described “Funding Portal” registered with the SEC. Funding Portals are intermediaries that might be similar to the existing crowdfunding sites, and will be responsible for educating the public about investing, protecting the public from fraud, vetting the people offering the securities, distributing to the SEC and potential investors any information about the securities, and holding in escrow all proceeds prior to reaching the offering amount. Funding Portals will also protect the privacy of investors and cannot purchase from any finders or brokers any personal information about potential investors. Filmmakers will not be allowed to be officers, partners, or directors in the Funding Portal servicing their projects.

 

In order to offer equity shares in their project, it appears filmmakers will need to provide some form of a Business Plan and Financial Projection, which was common before the collapse of the independent film industry, that includes the purpose for the offering and the target offering amount and its deadline, as well as the description of the ownership and capital structure of the issuer. The Business Plan and Financial Projection will likely include the name, legal status, physical address, and website address of the issuer; the names of the directors and officers and anyone with more than 20 percent of the shares of the issuer. A description of the financial condition of the issuer including all other offerings of the issuer within the preceding 12-month period is also required. The filmmaker will need to make regular updates about progress meeting the target offering amount. There will be rules about describing the price, value, terms and class of the securities offered. Annual reports will be required.

 

WHO CAN INVEST, AND HOW MUCH?

 

Once the new SEC regulations are in place, you likely will be allowed to approach anyone via any method of communication, describing your well-developed movie project, as long as you only send them to the Funding Portal or broker handling your movie project. If you pay someone to bring people to your project at your broker or Funding Portal, you will be required to declare publicly that you pay the person to do so.

 

It appears there will be no limit to the Americans you can approach, but their participation will have limits. Expect that those potential investors whose annual income or net worth is less than $100,000 will be allowed to invest up to 5 percent of their annual income or net worth, capped at a maximum of $2,000. Anyone with an annual income or net worth of more than $100,000 will be allowed to invest up to 10 percent of their annual income or net worth, capped at a maximum of $100,000. These maximums will apply to all of the investments made by the individual to all issuers – not just you – in any 12-month period.

 

It is attractive to filmmakers to be able to raise up to $1 million per year in equity investment. This fits into a common timetable for making movies; the first year’s fundraising could support development, production, and post-production, and the second year’s fundraising could support marketing and distribution, effectively allowing filmmakers to raise up to $2 million for your movie.

 

The investment securities in your movie will be barely, if at all, liquid. Your investors will likely not be allowed to resell their securities for a period of 12 months except to people such as accredited investors and family members, or through a complex registered public offering in the unlikely case that you were to develop one.

 

The issue of Funding Portals has become very complex. It originally appeared that the JOBS Act would allow a proliferation of new businesses to serve as Funding Portals. However, complex and contradictory parts of the Act now appear to make it illegal for Funding Portals to earn a profit unless they are functions of registered Broker-Dealers. The possibility of non-profit organizations setting up Funding Portals has not yet been addressed by the SEC. The process of becoming a registered Broker-Dealer could take probably more than six months and cost probably more than $25,000. For the SEC’s information about the process, see http://www.sec.gov/divisions/marketreg/bdguide.htm

 

“You’re dealing with other people’s money, there is an obligation of financial and fiduciary duty to the investors,” says Bob Thibodeau of Crowdfund Capital Markets (see www.linkedin.com/pub/bob-thibodeau/3/849/b4a), a service company providing backend and clearinghouse functions for equity crowdfunding operations.

 

“Orderly, transparent, liquid markets are good for everybody,” continues Thibodeau. “The processes, the technology, the understanding of regulatory environments is much more conducive to orderly markets than everybody learning something all at once, which is chaos, which is where crowdfunding is right now.”

 

The SEC is working with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) (see http://finra.org), the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States, on rules for funding portals, and FINRA has a voluntary Interim Form for prospective Funding Portals. Once the SEC and FINRA have adopted funding portal rules, they then need to promulgate the rules that will apply to those who need to use Equity Crowdfunding to fund their businesses.

 

“Investors soon can expect to be inundated with crowdfunding pitches, legitimate or otherwise,” said Heath Abshure, President of North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) (see http://www.nasaa.org/about-us/nasaa-board-of-directors/), the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection.

 

An analysis of Internet domain names found nearly 8,800 domains with “crowdfunding” in their name at the end of the year, up from less than 900 at the beginning of the year.

 

Fraud concerns run high in certain circles of the professional investment community. However, the openness and transparency of the Internet, according to crowdfunding experts, serves to thwart fraud.

 

Slava Rubin of popular perks-based donor crowdfunding site Indiegogo (see www.linkedin.com/in/indieslava/), and very active in the process of crafting the Equity Crowdfunding part of the JOBS ACT, says “Indiegogo’s 5,000 campaigns are proven case studies to predict that there is no significant worry about fraud. The fraud rate in our case studies has been about 1 percent.” He notes that when e-commerce was new on the Internet, people also predicted huge increases in fraud. However, eBay and Amazon proved that online fraud risk is no greater than every other risk we face every day.

 

According to the report “How the Crowd Detects Fraud” (see http://www.crowdfundcapitaladvisors.com/resources/26-resources/120-crowd-detects-fraud.html ), “This is the new crowdsourced diligence paradigm.” The crowd itself effectively polices against fraud.

 

PERKS-BASED DONOR CROWDFUNDING AND EQUITY CROWDFUNDING WILL CO-EXIST. 

 

Perks-based donor crowdfunding and Equity Crowdfunding each has its own process and participants. It is likely perks-based donor crowdfunding will be more focused on funding for personal, artistic movies, while Equity Crowdfunding will be focused on movies with commercial appeal.

 

Kickstarter is not going to get involved in Equity Crowdfunding because its mission was never profit-oriented over artist-oriented. It launched in 2009 after an original idea in 2001 to fund creative projects that would probably not be profitable, but that were good ideas that people want to see come to life.
For instance, last year Charlie Kaufman, Dan Harmon, Ira Sachs, David Fincher, Bret Easton Ellis and Paul Schrader all turned to Kickstarter to invite fans to participate in their personal creations.

 

Equity Crowdfunding will be a different experience, and for different backers, than perks-based donor crowdfunding.

 

The JOBS Act established a deadline of Monday, December 31, 2012 for the SEC to promulgate rules and regulations for the implementation of TITLE III—CROWDFUND. The SEC missed the deadline, and has no anticipated date for the rulemaking to implement TITLE III. The SEC has not published any proposed rules for TITLE III and continues to accept public comments regarding TITLE III.

 

When the SEC is engaged in rulemaking, they typically want to hear from the public and will say very little beyond what is proposed.

 

Part of the reason for delays in rulemaking may be the change in leadership at the SEC. On December 14, 2012, Chairman Mary Schapiro left the agency, and President Obama appointed Elisse Walter as her successor. See http://www.sec.gov/news/press/2012/2012-240.htm and http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/11/26/statement-president-obama-departure-sec-chairman-mary-schapiro

 

Although the SEC has made few announcements about the JOBS Act and its rulemaking, former Chairman Schapiro spoke about it in her opening remarks at the SEC Open Meeting on August 29,2012 (see http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2012/spch082912mls.htm) and current Chairman Walter gave her “Opening Remarks Regarding the Proposal of Rules Eliminating the Prohibition against General Solicitation and General Advertising in Rule 506 and Rule 144A Offerings” at that same meeting (see http://www.sec.gov/news/speech/2012/spch082912ebw.htm)

 

When it wends its way through the SEC rulemaking processes, the JOBS Act will be a powerful tool that will give filmmakers something they have desired for decades: easier access to investors for their movies.

You face the opportunity to have a significant impact on the future of America’s independent film industry.

 
You can immediately participate in the process to make sure the JOBS Act supports the needs of America’s independent film industry. The SEC wants to hear from you at http://www.sec.gov/spotlight/jobsactcomments.shtml
 
As a filmmaker, you can tell the SEC that it’s important to you to be able to have access to investment capital in order to make your movies and to rebuild the independent film industry.
 

Michael R. Barnard is a writer and filmmaker who has been researching the American JOBS Act since it was first proposed. Barnard is currently working on creating an independent feature film, A FATHER AND SON (http://AFatherAndSon.wordpress.com). Barnard lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of the historical novel NATE AND KELLY. You can reach Barnard on Twitter at @mrbarnard1 and on Facebook at michael.barnard.

 

This article is an overview and observation, not legal advice.

Filmmakers, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where Your Jobs Act Is? Part 2

Written by Michael R. Barnard FILMMAKERS, IT’S 2013. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR JOBS ACT IS?

Part 2 of 3 parts.

Yesterday, in Part 1, we looked at the general state of affairs for raising money from investors for your movie, and introduced the JOBS Act for its potential to help rebuild the independent film industry in America.
Offering securities for your film is tightly restricted and regulated by the SEC. For every rule of the SEC that you ignore, your disgruntled investor’s attorneys will accuse you of fraud and deception and other wrongdoing. They will win, and collect good sums of money for their clients.
“If somebody loses their money in a film investment,” says Jeff Steele of Film Closings, “Nine out of ten times, they’re going to sue the producer. That’s how the world works. The difference between being sued by ma and pa investors or Accredited Investors is that Accredited Investors have better lawyers.”

For the definition of “Accredited Investors,” see http://www.sec.gov/info/smallbus/secg/accredited-investor-net-worth-standard-secg.htm

In simple terms – explanations that are more complex require attorneys – the process to raise money for your movie by legally offering securities is referred to generally as a “Private Placement Memorandum,” which usually costs about $15,000 or more in time and fees.

When you have your expensive PPM, what can you do with it?

Under Rule 506 of Regulation D, you can only show your expensive PPM to, simply put, millionaires. This audience, legally known as “Accredited Investors,” is allowed because of the presumption that people with lots of money can’t get destroyed by a single bad investment, and are smart enough to properly evaluate the realistic potential for any investment.

 

According to attorney Dan DeWolf, attorney with the New York law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo (see http://www.martindale.com/Daniel-I-DeWolf/499422-lawyer.htm), “As a matter of public policy, the courts really do not want to get involved in investments with someone where, if it was disclosed it was a risky investment, and they are wealthy, and they can afford good counsel. If they have a million dollars net worth and they’re making these types of investments, they can afford to pay counsel or their accountant to look this up. The courts really don’t want to interfere in this type of capital formation.”

 

The definition of “Accredited Investor” is very specific, and was updated in 2011 to exclude the value of one’s home because of the destructive volatility of the mortgage crisis. It includes those with a net worth, or joint net worth with the person’s spouse, that exceeds $1 million at the time of the purchase, excluding the value of their primary residence, or those with income exceeding $200,000, or $300,000 with the spouse, in each of the past two years and the reasonable expectation of the same income level in the current year. (See the description of Accredited Investor here: http://www.sec.gov/info/smallbus/secg/accredited-investor-net-worth-standard-secg.htm)

 

“What the courts don’t want, and the SEC doesn’t want,” continues DeWolf, “is people preying on widows, orphans, and others where these types of high-risk investments are totally inappropriate. That is why they limit it to only Accredited Investors, because they can bear the risk.”

 

It’s a closed community. Only after you find an Accredited Investor can you then pitch your expensive PPM. Generally speaking, you cannot legally let anyone other than Accredited Investors have access to your project for evaluation (there is an allowance for those with prior relationships, but that is not in the scope of Title II of the JOBS Act), nor can you allow anyone other than accredited investors to invest in your project.

 

These facts commonly frustrate new filmmakers.

 

Of course, the spirit of artistry and story-telling still burned under the collapse caused by the Great Recession. Filmmaking never died. Even in the worst times of the Great Recession, when distributors, hedge funds, foreign presales, and bank credit started to disappear, filmmaking found support. Even with the tremendous downward pressure on budgets for production and distribution, filmmakers continued to strive to make movies.

 

At the same time, audiences clamored to help the arts of filmmaking. The spark of creativity was nurtured by a new process of perks-based donor crowdfunding to fund filmmaking.

 

The process is like an egalitarian version of the ages-old concept of “patron of the arts,” when wealthy benefactors provided money to support their favorite artists for the sake of the art.

 

With today’s perks-based donor crowdfunding, filmmakers, instead of seeking equity investment in their movie project from a few people in exchange for profit participation, simply ask everyone for outright contributions, usually offering perquisites as a return gift. There is no equity participation; this means that none of the donors will receive any ownership in the movie project. Supporters give money to filmmakers solely for the sake of helping get the movie made. They cannot receive any possible profit. They usually cannot even receive a tax deduction, since perks-based donor crowdfunding is rarely set up for qualified donations to registered non-profit organizations, such as 501c3 entities.

 

It works.

 

“Any resource that allows artist and audience to link directly and strategically is a great thing,” said Sean McManus (see http://www.filmindependent.org/sean-mcmanus/)about crowdfunding. McManus is co-president of Film Independent, the largest organization serving independent filmmakers in America. He added, “They crowdfund pre-production, production, post-production, and even festival runs and distribution.”

 

“Crowdfunding also enables filmmakers to develop direct contact with potential viewers once the film is available,” added Josh Welsh (see http://www.filmindependent.org/josh-welsh-co-president/), also co-president of Film Independent.

 

Perks-based donor crowdfunding is probably just as hit-or-miss as seeking equity investment. Many projects launched on crowdfunding sites fail to reach their goals. However, Kickstarter, the biggest player in the field of crowdfunding sites, rightfully brags about some fascinating and exciting results on their blog at http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/100-million-pledged-to-independent-film. Kickstarter alone has brought together nearly 900,000 people who supported independent filmmakers, pledging more than $100 million to features, documentaries, shorts, web-series, and other film and video projects over the past three years. Rentrak, which tracks such things, reports that almost one hundred Kickstarter-funded films were in more than 1,500 North American theaters, and another dozen or more have theatrical premieres slated for 2013.

 

There are many crowdfunding sites; another popular crowdfunding site for filmmakers is Indiegogo and a newer one is CrowdZu.

 

The term “crowdfunding” refers to a subset of the term “crowdsourcing,” a recent term to describe the use of social media, primarily, to obtain information and maybe even consensus from the crowd of people accessible by one’s online and offline social circles (see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crowdsourcing). “Crowdfunding” is the process of using crowdsourcing for the specific purpose of raising funds. Curiously, the most popular crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, does not use the term “crowdfunding.” It calls itself, simply, an online funding platform. Considering the U.S. Government’s definition in Title III of the JOBS Act of “CROWDFUND” as an acronym of the contorted “Capital Raising Online While Deterring Fraud and Unethical Non-Disclosure,” it’s easy to side with Kickstarter’s dislike of the term.

 

Some investment professionals are only aware of the term in the context of the forthcoming Equity Crowdfunding, which is not yet legal, as well as some closed-to-the-public investing sites that now exist, and they might express confusion or concern when people talk about “crowdfunding” as it is popularly used today.

 

This confusion is likely to grow when perks-based donor crowdfunding and Equity Crowdfunding both become fundraising tools for filmmakers and other entrepreneurs.

 

Perks-based donor crowdfunding has been legal and immensely popular. Public use of “Equity Crowdfunding” under the JOBS Act has not yet been implemented and is still illegal. Existing closed-to-the-public equity investing sites are limited to only Accredited Investors.

 

DOWNWARD PRESSURE ON BUDGETS

 

The perks-based donor crowdfunding efforts that are successful commonly provide only a bare minimum amount of funding for making a movie. In an industry where ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ and being ingenious in cheap ways to create movie magic has always been the lifeblood of making movies, there is now a new lower threshold as many crowdfunded projects raise barely enough money to pay for extremely reduced expenses. Although it’s now the assumed reality for our new generation of filmmakers, this new lower threshold often results in shorter production schedules, lower or non-existent wages, fewer cast and crew, no rental of equipment to increase production value, avoidance of location fees and even insurance, presuming ‘word-of-mouth’ instead of crafting a marketing budget, and other critically minimized expenses. The Great Recession’s downward pressure on budgets that had already been small has hindered the infrastructure of the independent film industry in America, making competitive production value, consistency, opportunity and livelihood difficult. This is particularly unusual, given the tremendous growth in the quantity of independent movies being made. For instance, more than 2,000 feature films made in America were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival 2013.

 

“There is now a strata of filmmaking where they get their fifty grand and do whatever they can possibly do with it,” says Richard Abramowitz of Abramorama.

 

In the modern independent film industry in America, Ted Hope of the San Francisco Film Society considers three levels of independent feature film budgets: about $20 to $25 million, which might be considered as Oscar-worthy films; about $3 million for independent films that attract a lead actor who had a significant role in prior feature films grossing in the range of $100 million; or, otherwise, budgets of about $500,000 or less.

 

“That breakdown is a simplification made for the sake of clarity,” says Hope.

 

Several industry experts agree that a filmmaker can now craft a feature-length movie for a production budget under $1 million that is competitive in theatrical production values.

 

“Absolutely,” says Abramowitz.

 

“1,000 percent agree,” says Hope, and adds, “It’s been a long time since we had a ‘Napoleon Dynamite.’ On the other hand, Oscar-nominated ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ is only marginally above that $1 million figure and is nothing short on the theatrical production value, and well-positioned in the marketing, too.”

 

Regarding the downward pressure on production budgets, Steele adds, “I would say a $15 million film from a few years ago is now the $3 to $5 million film. The crunch brought the budgets down to where they should be.”

 

Stacey Parks of Film Specific (see http://www.filmspecific.com/public/department86.cfm), which works with filmmakers to properly package their film projects, frequently advises her clients to reduce their original budgets. “If you have started with a $5 million budget,” says Parks, “You’re really only going to make your film for probably no more than $2.5 million.”

 

There are new opportunities because of the ‘correction’ in filmmaking budgets. More can be done with less. The trick will be to rise out of poverty and rebuild the infrastructure of the independent film industry.

 

The new generation of filmmakers, and those filmmakers who can quickly adapt, face exciting opportunities for funding their movies.

 

THE MONEY IS OUT THERE. 

Yes, there is cash available for investing. Lots of cash.

 

Cash is being hoarded by the very wealthy and by your friends and family. The notorious mindset of “stuff the money in the mattress” eight decades ago, borne from the fears of the Great Depression and the fear of banks collapsing, returned again in the Great Recession.

 

Individual Americans have missed almost $200 billion of stock gains by hoarding cash rather than investing it (see Bloomberg’s “Americans Miss $200 Billion Abandoning Stocks” at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-12-24/americans-miss-200-billion-abandoning-stocks.html).

 

Corporations and institutions have done the same; trillions of dollars have been sitting idle instead of creating jobs and building business infrastructure (see NPR’s “Companies Sit On Cash; Reluctant To Invest, Hire” at http://www.npr.org/2011/08/17/139703989/companies-sit-on-cash-reluctant-to-invest-hire, Forbes’ “Super Rich Hide $21 Trillion Offshore, Study Says” at http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2012/07/23/super-rich-hide-21-trillion-offshore-study-says/, and PolitiFacts.com’s “Obama says companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets” at http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2011/feb/10/barack-obama/obama-says-companies-have-nearly-2-trillion-sittin/).

 

The FINANCIAL TIMES reports that equity funds have seen the strongest inflows in more than five years because of boosted investor confidence. Net inflows into equity funds monitored by EPFR, the data provider, hit $22.2 billion in the week of January 9, 2013 – the highest since September 2007 and the second highest since comparable data began in 1996. (See http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/195ed762-5bd7-11e2-bf31-00144feab49a.html)

 

“Access to capital is essential for success,” says Salute.

 

Tomorrow, in Part 3, we look at the JOBS Act’s provisions for specific opportunities to access that capital.

 

Michael R. Barnard is a writer and filmmaker who has been researching the American JOBS Act since it was first proposed. Barnard is currently working on creating an independent feature film, A FATHER AND SON (http://AFatherAndSon.wordpress.com). Barnard lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of the historical novel NATE AND KELLYYou can reach Barnard on Twitter at @mrbarnard1 and on Facebook at michael.barnard.

 

This article is an overview and observation, not legal advice.

Filmmakers, It’s 2013. Do You Know Where Your Jobs Act Is? Part 1

Written by Michael R. Barnard
FILMMAKERS, IT’S 2013. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR JOBS ACT IS?
PART 1 of 3 parts
Young filmmakers today – those of you in your early to mid-twenties – entered filmmaking after the Great Recession and complications of rapid technological developments began to cripple the independent filmmaking industry in America. You entered the field just as the then-new perks-based donor crowdfunding function blossomed in the debris of crushed distribution companies, shrunken Minimum Guarantees, destroyed bank credit, and disappearance of most equity investment by hedge funds, institutions, and high-net-worth individuals. Those of us who are older are still smarting from the destruction, still aware of the way things had been.
The independent film industry in America shows signs of poverty, with many independent filmmakers living lives of ‘the starving artist,’ and jobs within the industry seem to be rare. Rarer still are consistent jobs that pay a living wage.
President Obama signed into law the American JOBS Act last spring. Called the “Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act,” its purpose is to help Americans who have good, sound business projects to attract cash from investors more easily. Businesses create jobs and hire people, and America needs that. The independent film industry in America needs that.
President Obama said, “We are a nation of doers. We think big. We take risks. This is a country that’s always been on the cutting edge. The reason is, America has always had the most daring entrepreneurs. When their businesses take off, more people get employed.”
By amending the Securities Act of 1933, the JOBS Act should make it easier for indie filmmakers to raise money so they can create jobs and help rebuild the American economy. It can have a profound impact on the independent filmmaking industry.
The biggest bi-partisan effort of the past several years of hyper-partisanship was the creation of the American JOBS Act. Support for the JOBS Act spanned both parties, the President, and even anti-tax organizations known for being at odds with the President. It is designed to turn hoarded cash into investment in companies so they can create paid jobs and build infrastructure. Read the JOBS Act here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-112hr3606enr/pdf/BILLS-112hr3606enr.pdf and for the summary, see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:HR03606:@@@L&summ2=m&
Filmmakers, here are details of why we need the JOBS Act, how it will help filmmakers, and the status of the JOBS Act today.
THE WAY THINGS USED TO BE
Earlier generations of young filmmakers were often surprised to discover that their public pleas for money to make their movies ran afoul of federal SEC regulations that control offerings of securities, rules that demand rigorous registration under equity investment laws.
“Securities? Equity? Registration? SEC? What are those things,” asked the new filmmakers from previous generations. “I just want to make a movie.”
The young filmmakers who came before you were shocked to discover they could not just tell everybody on Friendster and MySpace, or through ads in printed newspapers and magazines, that they wanted investors to pour money into their movie project in return for great profits later.
This was the first thing filmmakers learned after they finished writing their script: raising money can be very illegal.
Here’s why:
THE GREAT DEPRESSION
Eight decades prior to the Great Recession, we faced the Great Depression, which started in 1929. Times were worse because there were few protections or “safety nets” for citizens. When huge numbers of American citizens lost all their money after the crash of crazy, outrageous investment schemes and scams, they really lost everything, ending up on the street, eating in charity soup kitchens, and begging.
The economic destruction to America was so great that the country created severe, restrictive rules to prevent it from ever happening again. Those rules included the Securities Act of 1933 and the Exchange Act of 1934 to protect citizens from shrewd, myopic, or criminal people who had persuasive high-power pitches for getting citizens to invest money in their projects, whether real or imaginary.
America needs investment; that’s what made this country great. It does not need more economic destruction from poorly thought out or deliberately deceptive projects.
The rules and regulations still control investment in America.
They are implemented and overseen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). All of the SEC laws, rules, forms and regulations associated with the Securities Act of 1933 and Exchange Act of 1934 are on the SEC’s site at http://www.SEC.gov/divisions/corpfin/cfrules.shtml The big news from last year was the American JOBS Act, signed into law by President Obama on April 5, 2012, which offers some changes to ease this process of investing in America. The goal is to create jobs.
“This is what is going to be the solution for job creation in this country,” says Richard Salute of Cohn Reznick Accounting in New York (see http://www.cohnreznick.com/richard-j-salute), “And, that’s what will keep us in the forefront of developed nations. Access to capital is essential for success.”
The JOBS Act provides filmmakers with tools to rebuild the independent filmmaking industry in America (see “President Obama Signs JOBS ACT; Its Equity Crowdfunding May Rebuild Indie Film Biz” at https://michaelrbarnard.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/presdient-obama-signs-jobs-act-its-equity-crowdfunding-may-rebuild-indie-film-biz/)
THE GREAT RECESSION
The economic destruction of the Great Recession that struck in 2008, just as our new generation of filmmakers came on the scene, affected the independent film industry in America as harshly as other industries, maybe even more harshly than many industries.
“The industry kind of imploded five or six years ago when Fine Line, New Line, Paramount Classics and a few other smaller companies disappeared,” says Richard Abramowitz of consulting firm Abramorama (see http://pro.imdb.com/name/nm0009150/), which specializes in production, marketing, distribution and representation of indie movies. “There was certainly a dip there when the economy tanked.”
“There has definitely been a hit. We’ve seen a downward trend, especially in New York City,” says Mike Nichols, East Coast Rental Manager of AbelCine (see http://abelcine.com), a long-established national equipment rental house. “In 2008, I was bidding on equipment packages for about three dozen indie films. In 2009, that dropped to less than a dozen.”
“I think the independent filmmaking biz got was coming to it, it got corrected, just like housing,” says Jeff Steele of Film Closings (see http://filmclosings.com/), a strategic advisor and film finance veteran specializing in structured-financing for film. “It had attracted a ridiculous amount of hedge fund money out of Wall Street in 2006 to 2008 when I worked for a $300 million fund where we had done thirty films in two years. It was a time when finance plans were looking for films, rather than the other way around. Then the credit crunch hit in 2008, and all of the foreign buyers had their credit lines dry up, so they couldn’t acquire any more films. There was suddenly a surplus of films, films made for $10, $20, $30, even $40 million independent films ended up going straight to video because they had nowhere else to go. It forced filmmakers to drastically reduce their budgets.”
According to prolific indie producer Ted Hope, with more than five dozen prominent indie films across the history of the current independent film culture to his credit, “The real issue right now is the artists and the people that support them are not benefiting from their work, and it just can’t be done. I’ve watched six years of my own personal earnings keep going down each year. I’m not making a living producing the movies. And the system as it’s set up right now does not benefit artists or those that support them.”
Almost to prove his point, Hope has stepped away from producing and is now the Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society in California.
“I produced close to 70 films, and I know in my heart that movies like The Ice Storm, 21 Grams, American Splendor, Happiness, or In The Bedroom would not get made today,” says Hope.
THIS IS EQUITY
New filmmakers are often surprised to find out (usually from friends, but sometimes more harshly from Federal authorities) that it is illegal to randomly offer securities to the public to raise money to make their movies. Their first reaction is to try to find a way around the term “securities,” only to learn that a security is pretty much any offer of a potential return in the future for any cash investment made now. See “security” at http://www.investorwords.com/4446/security.html
Young filmmakers often argue that the SEC could not possibly be interested in pursuing and prosecuting their own small, insignificant movie project.
Correct. Sort of.
Your worry is not the SEC; your worry is your investor. While the SEC may never notice your movie project, the people who invest in your movie are paying a lot of attention to it, and America is full of investors who become disillusioned and disgruntled about the difference between what they feel they were promised, and what they feel they really ended up with. Those are the people who will sue you, and they win by relying on the rules and regulations of the SEC that you ignored.
Offering securities for your film is tightly restricted and regulated. Even under what are known as “Reg. D exemptions,” there are still many expensive regulations to keep you from investors’ money.
Those problems often boil down to enthusiastic, over-confident filmmakers overstating the potential of their movies. You need to be confident to get a movie made, but when you pitch investors, you must include the realities of the risks. Not only is that the ethical course to take, it is also the course that will help you protect yourself.
Tomorrow, in Part 2, we will look into the legal ways to raise money for your movie.
Michael R. Barnard is a writer and filmmaker who has been researching the American JOBS Act since it was first proposed. Barnard is currently working on creating an independent feature film, A FATHER AND SON (http://AFatherAndSon.wordpress.com). Barnard lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of the historical novel NATE AND KELLYYou can reach Barnard on Twitter at @mrbarnard1 and on Facebook at michael.barnard.

This article is an overview and observation, not legal advice.

STAY TUNED FOR TOMORROW'S INSTALLMENT ON THIS CRITICAL ISSUE!

The Really Good Things In The Indie Film Biz 2012

Last year I wrote out 15 really good things about the indie film biz (2011). My first instincts at looking at the list, are that the 15 from last year are still in process this year. Maybe I was a bit ahead of the curve.  Maybe I should hold this post until 2013.  But I don't think so -- we have much to celebrate this year too.

So what are the new developments that are now taking hold?  Unfortunately, my mind hasn't found the answers as quickly as others have (and here too) even if I do consider myself quite the optimist.  Okay, make that a pessmistic optimist, but an optimist nonetheless.  I have struggled to hit the same number as last year, but I did it, and even exceeded it -- and hopefully you'll continue to fill in the list with what I forgot.

  1. Direct distribution is really working.  We did it on DARK HORSE.  They are also doing it on I AM NOT A HIPSTER (opening January 15 nationwide). The list on the doc side is pretty huge: Stacy Perata and team did it on BONES BRIGADE.  Jeff Orlowski is doing it on CHASING ICE. As INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE: THE CASE STUDY ( http://bit.ly/105pigj) shows, they did it there too.  Add Eugene Jarecki and THE HOUSE I LIVE IN team to the list too.
  2. Hollywood is taking more creative risks.  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/25/movies/films-dispense-with-storytelling-conventions.html  As Ben Affleck noted about this year in film, ", “movies that involve taking risks by the filmmakers and the financiers have been successful."
  3. The film industry is moving towards proportional gender representation in front of and behind the camera.  The NY Times did a good job of pointing the work women are doing done in front of the camera, and that Hollywood is doing producing tales of female heroines.  Additionally, Indieland -- the traditional leader of the cultural space -- has for the first time, shown some balance behind the camera too.  Sundance has an equal number of female directors as men in the narrative competition.  That shouldn't be a surprise, but it has taken us a long time to get here, and we do need to address why there are not more women in power in the entertainment business.
  4. There is an appetite for acquisition from the distributors.  73 titles were acquired at Sundance in 2012. The question of whether they were acquired for a fair price may not unfortunately be part of the general discussion, but at least there was the option of licensing your work again this year.  And I will bring up the lack of a fair price in my upcoming "The Things That Really Sucked In The Indie Film Biz 2012".  Stay tuned...
  5. Worldwide, the industry is asking questions if there is a better way.  Just recently I was invited to Paris and Austin to discuss different perspectives on how we can serve audiences better and improve the business.  This is not the same as launching initiatives, but it is a start.  Last year, I mentioned that the conversation on the Future Of Film took off, but this year it seems to be on a global basis.
  6. Technology is confronting the problem of our transition from an entertainment economy based on scarcity and control of content, to one recognizing the abundance of, total access to, and full distraction from that content.  We have launched an app that does this well.  And we have a good number of competitors in the space.  Readers of this blog have been following the weekly peek into the start-up KinoNation that Roger Jackson has been chronicling -- another example of technology coming to the rescue (hopefully).  And we have media innovation incubator/accelerators starting to blossom.
  7. There has never been a better time to both preserve and advance the film culture I dearly love.  That's why I chose to change my life and focus not on project producing but on producing infrastructure and change.  I am not going to be able to do it alone, but working with the support of the organization that launched the oldest running film festival, should hopefully prove far more fruitful than from proclaiming on high from my private soap box.
  8. New financing options are both here and on the horizon for independent & documentary film.  We've witnessed the launch of Slated and seen films get funded as a result.  Britdoc's impressive GoodPitch funding forum has funneled and support to doc projects and inspired many in the process.  How awesome is that?  Further, we now are seeing other evidence of a second generation of funding mechanisms, as entities like Seed & Spark are combining crowdfunding elements with distribution, marketing, and audience aggregation aspects.  If that was not enough for you, additionally the JOBS Act was passed in the USA, allowing for equity-based crowdfunding for films of under $1M.  We now can give people backend on the films they fund.  There remains a lot to work out on the legal side, but here's hoping that it is used both well and for good.
  9. Transactional VOD Players hit the flashpoint.  VHX.tv, Vimeo PPV, Dynamo player, and many more.  Whether you want an aggregator or prefer to sell on your own, it is easy and painless to do now.  Just ask Louis C.K.
  10. We have our first VOD Superstar. You want big numbers on VOD?  Just cast Kirsten Dunst.  Bachelorette.  Melancholia.  All Good Things.  She's beautiful.  She's a good actor.  She's fascinating to watch.  She's funny.  She's scary.  And she doesn't have too many letters in her name, but just enough to stand out.  Hell, if Elizabethtown premiered on Ultra VOD today, it would set records.  Okay, this isn't really the GOOD thing but just an aspect of a Good Thing.  The Good Thing is that VOD is becoming more marketable and people are not treating as a lesser product.  Once all media outlets start covering VOD premieres that will be an Awesome thing.
  11. Tech and film are talking to each other.  Soon they may even speak the same language.  Film Independent held a hackathon.  Marc Schiller did on the same day on the opposite coast. BAVC Producer University put filmmakers together with tech folks, and in less than a week new apps were born. And not only are they talking, they are getting in bed together -- okay maybe not film yet but media & tech are sleeping together.
  12. The dominance of the feature film form is starting to wain.  Whether it is great webisodes, a tremendous number of wonderful shorts, transmedia experiments, or just cross-platform experiments,  cinema is evolving beyond it's historic constraints.Okay, I did say this one last year, but I still feel it starting to happen.  I can put things on this list two years in a row can't I?  And then I will put it on the negative on the 3rd year, if it hasn't happened yet.
  13. The two films that I helped produce this year, DARK HORSE and STARLET got great reviews in the New York Times.  They also got great reviews many other places too. I can only state this here as a personal positive though.  Stay tuned, as this exact same fact will also be on my "What sucked in 2012" list too.
  14. While I am on that double list tip, here's another that will repeat on tomorrows list of the big and the bad.  To quote A.O. Scott of the NY Times: "By the end of this year, The New York Times will have reviewed more than 800 movies, establishing 2012, at least by one measure, as a new benchmark in the annals of cinematic abundance."  From the point of view of the audience, right now this is a beautiful thing.  Conceptually speaking, we should be able to match audiences with the film that is most right for them.  Audiences don't have to compromise.  There are more better movies than ever before.  Unfortunately, we have to build an infrastructure to support this, but that is a rant for another day (like tomorrow).
  15. There is a lot of real & meaningful support for indie writers, directors, and producers working in the genres & realms traditionally supported by indie film support organizations.  When I look at the various labs that are run by Sundance, IFP, Film Independent, & Tribeca, or the the financial & other support provided by the San Francisco Film Society (ahem...), Cinereach, Austin Film Society and other entities I am very impressed.  Granted there is a specific type of movie that seems to most appeal to this sort of thing, but I am impressed at how many programs they are and the good work that they do.  It ain't easy and our culture -- at least a very specific part of it -- really depends on it.  I hope all of you support the organizations that support the culture you love.  Vote with your dollars for the culture you want.
  16. The online community that supports the effort to advance a sustainable culture where the artist & their supportors benefit by the work they create, works to both preserve and advance the vibrant & diverse work that ambitiously reaches further, is committed to transparency, openness, opportunity, & our communal well-being, and knows that it is a team that builds the future and thus gives back in so many ways including posting, commenting, pointing, liking, and financial contributions.  I know this as I am experiencing it daily.  Thank you.

Stay tuned for next week: The Really Bad Things In Indie Film 2012

Addition: I added to this list with a subsequent post.  If you want more reasons to celebrate, check this out.

Creating Newsletters For Your Film Project

By Laura Hammer

As PMD on Leah Meyerhoff’s I Believe In Unicorns, part of my job was to send newsletter updates to our base of supporters.  Newsletters are not just for announcing screenings! They are an integral part of audience engagement and get people involved in your project as early as development stages.  Your subscribers email boxes are flooded with newsletter campaigns from companies and projects and they will barely have time for yours.  Do not bother them with something hideous (lacking design effort) and difficult to read (text too small or the length of an encyclopedia).

Newsletter layouts have four essential components: Header, Body, *Sidebar, and Footer.   *Depending on the layout you pick you may have no sidebar, one, or multiple sidebars! If choosing multiple sidebars, I would advise picking a layout where these columns are below the main body text and above the footer.   Choose wisely and investigate your own email box for designs that stand out.

Be creative and consistent. Design choices should match the aesthetics of the film.  Keep the same color scheme, layout, and visual elements throughout your campaign.  Use a minimum amount of graphics as several email clients block images by default.

Declare yourself.  Ensure your readers know who you are and why they are receiving this newsletter.  Try adding the words “movie” or “film” to your sender name.  The “email subject line” should be short and attention grabbing as it serves the same purpose as a logline. This “subject line” should highlight the main topic of your newsletter.

Make sure your (A) HEADER links back to your main website and includes the film’s title as well as the director or key cast members names. Recipients will click mostly on links in the top of your newsletter and most will only view your email in the preview pane.  For the (B) BODY of your newsletter stick with one main topic or idea you are trying to convey.

Choose an eye catching main photo and make sure it links back to your main website or site you most want your readers to visit.

Get Social (1, 5, 9) Prominently display social media profile logo links and your official site url.  Tweet your campaign after sending.

Keep it short! Use short subtitles to break up topics or long sections of text, these can also become navigation links in the (2) table of contents. The main body text can include links back to blog posts that have more detail.  
Highlight recent news. We use the subtitle “More Great News” to highlight the recent accomplishments of our cast and crew.   Next to each blurb is a thumbnail photo that links back to the related press article or the related film’s Facebook page.   We usually include a text link back to a blog post on our blog congratulating them and providing more detail and additional related outgoing links.  This builds community and drives traffic and new fans to your film.

Express gratitude by linking back to any organizations helping your film and include their logos.  Thank cast, crew, and supporters when production goals are reached and let them know how their contribution is bringing the project closer to the finish line.

While optional, the (C) SIDEBAR of a newsletter can be most helpful during development and production stages of a project.   Once a film is completed, sidebars can be utilized to list screening and release dates.

Crowdfund. If you are asking for donations, (3) make the link large and feature a logo if you have a fiscal sponsor or crowdfunding platform.

Get help!  (4) Our “Join” button allows people to sign up for a separate segmented list letting us know they are willing to go the extra mile for Unicorns.  Subscribers have donated their time, equipment and lent other items for our production. This is our go-to list for last minute needs.

Hire people!  (6) You can use your newsletter to find cast and crew. Add a job notice for positions available on your project. We found many of our team this way and saved lots of resumes for future reference.

Change the world. (7) Our project has a social justice issue, so we use a “Stop Domestic Violence” purple ribbon logo to link back to our advocacy blog on Tumblr.

Your (D) FOOTER must include (8) a closing, (10) your company contact information, a (11) “You are receiving this message because...” one line explanation, and an (12)  “Unsubscribe” opt-out.

“Let my people go!” There should be a link for subscribers to update their preferences – in addition to “Unsubscribe” – as subscribers may change their email address but still want to receive your updates.

Codecheck Repeated edits and saves can cause the code behind your newsletter to become broken.  If you don’t know HTML and CSS, find someone who does to double check your code before sending.  Otherwise it may not arrive in recipients mailboxes looking like it did in preview mode.

Spellcheck Proper spelling is fundamental. Cross-reference IMDB for names.   Always check with partners, sponsors, publications and institutions as to how they would like to be credited.

Create a schedule for blasts and set goals.  Once a film is complete, your focus should move from growing support to get the film made to motivating that cultivated audience into the seats at the theater, renting, and/or purchasing your film as it becomes available.

Grow your Subscriber Lists.  You should be always cultivating your contacts and growing subscriber lists. Add a signup form to your website and your Facebook page.  Organize and segment these lists for easy reference.  Make sure you have the individuals’ permission to email them - its the law!

There are many services available for sending newsletters and you should comparison shop for one that best suits your needs. We chose Mail Chimp because it has a great analytics feature, social sharing, and a free plan!  You can view our newsletter in your browser.  Please share our campaign with your friends - http://eepurl.com/ojPc5 - and sign up to join the magic of I Believe In Unicorns.

Laura is a Producer and SAG-AFTRA Actor with a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts. Enamored with the art and business of 21st Century storytelling, Laura is taking on a new role in independent film as a Producer of Marketing and Distribution. http://laurahammer.com/

Can Indie Film Achieve a Network Effect?

By Chris Dorr

In a recent post entitled Networks And The Enterprise, Fred Wilson explains how his firm Union Square Ventures invests in networks. He included this line.

My uber goal of writing this post is to explain that the wired and mobile internet is a global network and it powers all sorts of smaller networks to get built on top of it.

These networks connect people with each other.  Each network gains value as more users join and as each user contributes value to the network which in turn becomes available to every other user. As he points out with respect to one of their investments,

Every time a new participant in the ecosystem joins the Return Path data network, their systems and tools get smarter, making the service more valuable for everyone. That’s a classic network effect and it is very powerful.

Achieving a network effect is the holy grail within the world of technology.  The network grows in size, power and value.  Kickstarter, one of the companies funded by Union Square Ventures, is approaching this holy grail.

James Cooper has just published an ebook entitled Kickstarter for Filmmakers: Prepare and Execute Your Next Crowd Funding Campaign. (Excerpted on HopeForFilm here, and here).

Every filmmaker who has thought even briefly about using Kickstarter or other crowd funding platforms to raise money for a film should spend the $1.99 and read it immediately.

Cooper provides an overview of the state of crowd funding for film and then uses the crowd funding campaign from his own short film Elijah the Prophet to provide examples of what worked.  He also takes the reader through the various stages of a crowd funding campaign and highlights keys to success.

What I find most remarkable is the level of detail he provides on his own campaign.  He tells us which team member brought in how many dollars through their efforts and the number of people who contributed that no one on the team knew and how much these strangers contributed. In other words, he provides complete transparency into what his team did and how they did it.

It is worth noting that Cooper has done something that is really quite unusual within the film industry.

He actually provides real numbers.  There are no approximations and no spin. He simply says here is the data and here are my conclusions from that data. And by doing so, he provides real value to all independent filmmakers.

Now I ask you to imagine, what if there was really a network of independent filmmakers who did exactly what Cooper did and then did it repeatedly over all their projects? 

I mean the kind of network that Fred Wilson suggests in his blog post.  One where every participant provides knowledge to the network that every other participant can access.

This is a model from the  technology world that needs to borrowed by the indie film world and used to transform the way indie film is created, financed, distributed and marketed.  I would also argue further that it even needs to transform the way indie film is discussed.

Primarily indie film is viewed as if it is a disparate group of individuals who battle all odds and surmount great obstacles to finally get a shot at the brass ring.  Each filmmaker is seen as the lone auteur who has climbed the mountain.  At festivals each spin their tale of triumph as they court audiences.  It makes for great copy (and is often true) but does it help move independent film forward?  I am not sure. To me, it is not sufficient. Something more needs to be done.

Independent film needs a new metaphor.

Instead of a group of disparate individual,  indie film has to be seen as a network. One which is powered by the wired and mobile Internet.  A network with participants who add value for each other participant.  To paraphrase Fred Wilson, each participant in the ecosystem needs to help the services get smarter and therefore make it more valuable for everyone who is part of the ecosystem.

This requires transparency and the sharing of real details–by everyone.

James Cooper has created a model of how to begin.  Others need to follow his example.

Then indie film might begin to achieve a very powerful network effect.

And every independent filmmaker will benefit.

This post was originally published Aug 30th on Chris' blog DigitalDorr here.

About Chris Dorr

Chris Dorr consults with media and consumer electronic companies on digital media strategy and business development. Clients include Samsung, MTV Networks, Tribeca Film Festival, Shaw Media, Accedo Broadband, Beyond Oblivion and A3 Media Networks. Chris created the Future of Film blog for Tribeca. Mr. Dorr has worked in the movie business for Disney Studios, Universal Pictures, Scott Free and in the digital media business for Intertainer, Sony and Nokia. Contact Chris at chris@digitaldorr.com or follow him at @chrisdorr

Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- The Campaign Site

This is our final excerpt from  James Cooper's eBook www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com. Today James offers suggestions on how to structure your personal Kickstarter page. by James Cooper

Campaign Body

The body text of your campaign page is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, and should receive your full attention to detail when deciding what information to put in, and how to present it. This is where you pitch people on your film and sell them on why they want to be a part of it.

What is it about?

This is where knowing how to pitch comes in handy. You remember pitching, don’t you? The practice of distilling your story down to one or two sentences so you can quickly tell people what your film is about? I know you hate it, but it’s an essential skill, and one you’re going to have to put to good use here. For the purpose of your crowd funding campaign, a good pitch should read like the back of a DVD case, or like the description that comes up when you’re flipping through films On Demand. What’s most important is that the characters and story of the film are clear and easy to understand, as well as the genre. You’re selling your film to people who haven’t seen it yet, so you’d better be able to hook them!

Who is involved?

I don’t know why this aspect gets looked over so often, but it does, and it’s one of the most common problems I’ve found with many campaigns: usually, the only person you know is involved in the film is the person pitching it to you. They passionately tell you about the film they want to make and how great it will be and why you should love it as much as they will, but they almost always fail to quantify that to-be greatness with any proof. Who is on board with this film that will ensure its greatness?

To this point, don’t be afraid to boast a little. If your previous efforts have garnered any award nominations (or wins), or have played any noteworthy festivals, tell us! I know people are always saying that no one likes a bragger, but this is one of those rare instances where it’s perfectly okay to boast about your accomplishments. Likewise, do the same for any of your cast or crew that have done noteworthy things. If you want to go a step further (of course you do), linking to everyone’s IMDB page is a great, easy way for people to get some information.

What is the money for?

This might seem obvious to you: “It’s to make the movie! Duh!” but don’t take for granted that this is always the case. A quick glance at Kickstarter will show you that there are various stages at which filmmakers are pursuing crowd funding: the majority are for production costs to actually make the film, but there are also instances of campaigns raising money for finishing funds for a film that has already been shot and just needs a little extra to finish it off, or you also often see filmmakers crowd funding their festival submission fees. All are equally legitimate reasons to seek crowd funding, but make sure your audience knows where the money is going!Some campaigns go so far as actually breaking down where the money is being allocated, and while the extra layer of transparency is nice, it’s not usually a make-or- break addition.

What if you raise more than your goal?

I know, I know. You’re stressing out enough over actually hitting your goal, and I want you to think about what will happen if you surpass it? It sounds strange, but this is one of the big questions many backers have, so you should make sure you have an answer in place. It doesn’t have to be revelatory, it could be as simple as adding to the film’s production value, or putting money into your eventual festival run.

How Kickstarter (or whatever platform you’re on) works

This might sound redundant, but it’s a good idea to include the ins and outs of your platform of choice in the body of your campaign. Why? Most people are still unfamiliar with how crowd funding works, and you want to make things as easy for your would-be backers as possible. It doesn’t have to be a thorough analysis of the platform, but a paragraph explaining how it works will clear up any confusion people may have about what you’re doing.

FAQ

Some platforms have a section at the bottom of your page to add a FAQ section, should you realize you’re getting similar questions from people and want to address them in one fell swoop. If your platform of choice doesn’t have this as an option, it doesn’t hurt to just make one yourself and amend it throughout the campaign.

What else?

As with the rewards, don’t be afraid to get creative here. Some campaigns include photos of their actors in their campaign body, or their film’s poster. Don’t be afraid to try something a little different. Anything you can do to make your campaign more personal and unique, the better. Perhaps interviews with people involved in the production? Concept art or storyboards? Maybe that great joke you heard at a bar that one time? Actually, better skip that one.

Dropping out after a short stint at Toronto Film School in 2008, James pursued more pragmatic methods for developing his style and expanding his understanding of film language: making films. 
 
After successfully funding his short film Elijah the Prophet through popular crowd funding website Kickstarter, James began compiling his experience into Kickstarter for Filmmakers, an inexpensive ebook guide to assist his peers in planning campaigns of their own. Find him on Twitter: @cooper_jim and online at www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com

Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- Campaigning and Rewards

Here's another excerpt from  James Cooper's eBook www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com. This time James' has some advice about how to manage your crowdfunding campaign and the rewards to offer. by James Cooper

 

Campaigning as a Team

Up until this point, we’ve been under the assumption that you’re acting as a one person band for your film’s campaign, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Assuming you’re not the Writer/Producer/Director/Director of Photography/Editor/Actor, there should be others involved in the making of the film that have a vested interest in seeing the project come to life, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be combining your efforts to maximize the odds of success.

Successfully running a crowd funding campaign can become the equivalent of a second job, and spreading the responsibility around to multiple members of your team can take some of the weight and pressure off you to be on your game 24/7. You’ll all have to do your own social media posting, but alternate outreach can be divided up to help maximize efficiency and give you a few minutes to breath, which is a welcome opportunity when you’re in the trenches of a campaign.

The other great thing about campaigning as a team is that you have others to bounce ideas off. Films aren’t created in a vacuum, so there’s no reason your crowd funding campaign should be. Everyone will have their own opinion on a strategy to take or a way to execute a plan that you hadn’t considered before. Two heads are better than one, they say, and that applies here as well.

If you have to shoulder the whole campaign on your own, fear not. Others have done it successfully, and you will be able to as well, as long as you plan accordingly and keep your head above water as the pressure sets in.

This brings me to a crucial piece of advice: do not, by any circumstances, launch a crowd funding campaign while you are the only person attached to the project. In the same way you cannot walk into an investor’s office with no cast or crew and expect them to hand money over to you, you should respect your audience enough not to expect them to do so.

Always keep in mind that it is your job in building the campaign to instill a sense of trust in your potential backers; trust that you will be able to deliver the high quality film you’re promising them in your pitch. Who is involved in the project that will help you deliver on that promise? If it’s just you and a script, there really isn’t much for your audience to be sold on.

This is not to say that every crew position must be filled and every character cast, but you should be able to give your audience a reason to believe in your project outside of your sole enthusiasm for it. The added benefit, as we’ve just discussed, is that it means more people to push the campaign out into the world, and more people to share the excitement with.

Rewards

A crucial part of any crowd funding campaign is the rewards offered. As I mentioned earlier, crowd funding campaigns work by people pledging money to the project in exchange for an incentive or reward of some kind. Being able to identify what, if anything, you can offer is key in planning your campaign. If the answer is ‘nothing’, then you’re probably not well suited to launching a crowd funding campaign. In fact, Kickstarter requires that you offer something in exchange for the pledges received as part of their policy.

They key word to remember when brainstorming this portion of your campaign is ‘incentive’. In other words, what incentive does someone have to pledge $50 instead of $25? Remember, it’s easier for someone to say no than to say yes to $25, so it’s easier for them to say yes to $25 than to $50. Your job in building your campaign is to give them a reason (see: incentive) to put in that extra little bit. How do you do that? You’re a filmmaker, get creative.

The great thing about rewards is that they’re limited only by your imagination (and Kickstarter’s policies, which prevent you from offering any cash back rewards or giving away personal belongings with no connection to the project). The more novel and interesting you make your incentives, the better the odds that someone will take a liking to one of them, and pledge for it.

Obvious reward ideas range from things like DVDs or downloads of the film, access to special behind-the-scenes footage through a private blog (again, keeping them feeling like part of the process), set visits, scripts, etc. These are the types of perks almost all film projects offer, and are unlikely to turn any heads. If you really want to excite people into pledging, you need to dig deep into your pockets (metaphorically speaking) and come up with some ideas for things no one else can offer, but that people would actually be interested in. Just as one would hope you’re thinking of your audience when you’re crafting the film, the audience should also be at the forefront of your mind while creating your rewards list.

Not to be overlooked is the cost of creating these rewards. Something like a download of the film won’t cost you any money, but if you’re offering, say, DVDs: those will cost you, both to make it, and then to ship it to the backer. Make sure you factor this into the budget of your film, and account for it in your campaign goal. If you eat up 25% of your goal fulfilling rewards, you’re going to be that much shorter on your shooting budget.

Lastly, be reasonable with the cost of your rewards. In short, this means don’t ask for $150 for a t-shirt. Some common sense comes into play here. Because people tend to understand that they're making a glorified donation to your project, you can get away with asking for more than what would be considered store value, but try to make sure people are getting their money worth.

Dropping out after a short stint at Toronto Film School in 2008, James pursued more pragmatic methods for developing his style and expanding his understanding of film language: making films. 
 
After successfully funding his short film Elijah the Prophet through popular crowd funding website Kickstarter, James began compiling his experience into Kickstarter for Filmmakers, an inexpensive ebook guide to assist his peers in planning campaigns of their own. Find him on Twitter: @cooper_jim and online at www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com

Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- Is Crowdfunding Right For You?

James Cooper has written an eBook all about Kickstarter, compiling what he learned over the course of his own project. He's kindly letting us reproduce some of it here for you. Look out for two more excerpts next week, and check out his book at www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com  

Kickstarter For Filmmakers 

by James Cooper

 

Is crowd funding right for me and this project?

Seems simple, and probably a little obvious, but you’d be surprised by the number of campaigns that are launched without ever taking this into consideration. As I said before, crowd funding is not free money, and success isn’t made possible through the simple act of having a campaign. There are several questions to ask that will lead you to determine if you should be pursuing a crowd funding campaign or not:

Is the film interesting to people who aren’t working on it?

This is possibly the toughest question to ask, because people don’t like to consider the idea that they have a project that doesn’t really have an audience. Many filmmakers, are guilty of making films for themselves. This works when you’re footing the bill yourself, but when you’re looking for money from outside sources, you’re going to need elements that hook your potential audience. This may be a killer story, a unique way of making the film (stop motion, green screen, etc.), or noteworthy cast/crew (or anything else you can think of that makes your project stand out), etc. Preferably, you'll have a combination of things.

The key here is to make sure you have a project that will catch not only the eyes of family and friends, but also their friends, people who follow you on Twitter, and complete strangers that may happen by your campaign by any of a hundred different ways. The longer crowd funding is around, the more widespread its usage becomes, and the easier it is to become lost in the shuffle. It hearkens back to the early 90’s independent film boom: when there were less people out there doing it, it was easier to get attention, but with the advent of digital technology and the numerous DIY solutions, there are so many filmmakers making low budget indies that it requires more and more to stand out. This is quickly becoming the case with crowd funding as well.

The significance of this question grows with your financial goals. As we saw in the statistics, the number of successful campaigns drops significantly every couple thousand dollars you climb, so you really have to take stock of your film as honestly as possible. If you must, ask friends who aren’t afraid to tell you what they really think: “If you didn’t know this was my project, would you be interested enough to put in a few bucks?”

Do I have a network/fan base capable of raising a majority of the funds required to hit my goal?

Assuming you answered the previous question with ‘yes’, now comes the next tricky question. You might have 1000 friends on Facebook and twice that in Twitter followers, but that isn’t necessarily what it takes to win the crowd funding war. As the old adage goes: it’s quality, not quantity. What that means in regards to your campaign is: yes, you might have 2000 Twitter followers, but how many are people you regularly interact with/ interact with you? How many are following what you do with an active interest? Additionally, the half of the question that’s even harder to accurately determine: how many of those are interested enough that they would toss a few bucks into a project you had? This goes back to “Is the film interesting to people who aren’t working on it?”

According to Kickstarter, they have a platform-wide success rate of 46%, which means you really need to be able to gauge the practicality of your campaign. This brings us to:

Is my goal realistic?

This is another tough one. Now you’ve determined you have a film people are interested in, and there are enough people interested in it that you think you can make an honest go of a crowd funding venture, but now you have to determine how much you think you can realistically raise.The higher your goal, the higher the risk you take that you may not hit it. In 2011, there were 1084 successful short film productions funded on Kickstarter, collectively representing $4,802,336 in pledges. Here's a look at how they break down financially:

(these numbers strictly represent campaigns funding the film's production costs)

The way these numbers break down is pretty interesting. We see that the $1,000 - $2,999 budget range easily dominates with 371 (34%) of the take, which is good news for anyone with a small(ish) budget short.

There's a 46% drop between the number of successful projects in the $1,000 - $2,999 range and the $3,000 - $4,999 range, marking a distinct rise in difficulty of reaching success after only a couple thousand dollars more in the goal. This is definitely something you want to pay attention to if you're unsure of if you want to go for that extra thousand or two. It might be a safer bet to aim lower and hope to over fund or search for the remaining funds elsewhere.Additionally, the drop when going from the $3,000 - $4,999 range to the $5,000 - $6,999 one is smaller: 27%. We take a steep 43% drop heading into the $7,000 - $9,999 range.

Now we enter the big money and the big risk. The percentage drops here are smaller than between earlier goal ranges, but only because the numbers we're working with now are drastically smaller. If you're gutsy enough to go after the five figures, here's how they break down:

When you jump from $10k - $14.9k to the $15k - $19.9k bracket, there's a drop of 68%. Then, when we jump from there to $20k-$24.9k there's a 73% drop, with only 11 campaigns succeeding in this range.

Only three campaigns succeeded in the $25k-$29.9k bracket, with five managing to raise over $30,000. The most successful short film campaign in 2011 by a mile raised $82,000 of a $45,000 goal.

Dropping out after a short stint at Toronto Film School in 2008, James pursued more pragmatic methods for developing his style and expanding his understanding of film language: making films. 
 
After successfully funding his short film Elijah the Prophet through popular crowd funding website Kickstarter, James began compiling his experience into Kickstarter for Filmmakers, an inexpensive ebook guide to assist his peers in planning campaigns of their own. Find him on Twitter: @cooper_jim and online at www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com

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.

Kickstarting for Theatrical Distribution: Pro’s & Con’s

by Sara Kiener

One day we’ll say “I remember the film industry before crowdfudning existed,” and newcomers will drop their jaws in disbelief. Kickstarter has made a quick and lasting impression on the industry, opening doors for filmmakers who have reached the end of their fundraising and grant writing ropes. Countless movies have been made that wouldn’t have been made without Kickstarter - many of which have left a significant mark in the festival circuit, in theaters and in our homes. One of the more recent trends that I’m intrigued by is the bevy of films Kickstarting to raise funds for theatrical distribution. Urbanized, My Reincarnation, Tchoupitoulas, Detropia and, more recently, Taiwan Oyster, Starlet and The Waiting Room (the latter 3 are currently active) have been green-lighting their own theatrical releases. With their success, I'm sure many more filmmakers will follow suit in the coming months.
Whether you’re raising funds for a portion of your budget or you're trying to get your movie seen on the big screen following a robust festival reception, here are some factors to consider before you launch:Kickstarting to MAKE a movie:

  • Pro's
    • The obvious pro here is that you get money to make your film.
    • You also get to connect with your audience before your film even exists.
    • If you run a tremendously successful campaign, you’ll be noticed by festival programmers, producers, talent and distribution companies.
    • Through the process of your campaigning, you get to weed out you “good” outreach ideas from your “bad” outreach ideas, and you can use this data to inform your outreach and marketing efforts later on in your films’ release. Crowdsourcing is your chance to try anything and everything, and learn how to connect and engage with your audience so come screening time, you’ll have a slew of email addresses and Facebook fans to tell about your exciting news, in a tried and true engaging way.

  • Con’s
    • You HAVE to connect with your audience BEFORE your film exists. You have nothing (or very little) to show to your fans. If you do get backers, it’ll be months and months before you can show them a completed project and, by then, they may have lost interest in your project.
    • If you run a mediocre or not very successful campaign, you won’t be noticed by festival programmers, producers, talent and distribution companies. If they do stumble upon your less-than-awesome campaign, you may look disorganized or as if there is no built-in audience for your project down the line.
    • If and when the time comes that you need more money to finish your film/distribute your film/travel with your film/create key art for your film and so on, you may have already tapped out all your favors and asks via Kickstarter.

Kickstarting to DISTRIBUTE a movie:

  • Pro’s
    • The obvious pro here is that you get money to distribute your film and hold on to your theatrical rights.
    • You also get to connect with your fans RIGHT before you unleash your film onto the universe. If you’re lucky and smart, you’ll Kickstart with a theatrical plan in mind so that you can announce theatrical details throughout your campaign.
    • You get to SELL a finished product to your fans. Digital downloads, DVDs, tickets and community screenings (what people want!) are just a click.
    • If you run a tremendously successful campaign, you’ll be noticed by exhibitors across the country. Once upon a time, regional theaters looked to New York opening weekend grosses to decide if they would book a film. What if they looked at your Kickstarter grosses instead?
    • You get to weed out you “good” outreach ideas from your “bad” outreach ideas, as you gear up for your theatrical outreach. So by the time you’re 2 months out from your opening date, you already have a slew of partners waiting and ready to pounce on your promotions.

  • Con’s
    • Somehow you have to finance your film to completion without Kickstarter. Good luck!
    • If you’re Kickstarting to raise funds in order to hire a team to distribute a film (bookers, designers, publicists, grassroots outreach, etc.), you have to WAIT until you have the money in place before you can hire them. It can be a tremendously stressful situation to be in.
    • If you blow your film industry coverage and buzz on your festival circuit and your Kickstarter campaign, who will you turn to in order to create buzz for theatrical? Be mindful of the delicate balance - on the one hand, you need some industry press talking about your kickstarter campaign so that you can hit your goal and release the film. On the other hand, you need some industry press talking about your film right before theatrical, to help get butts in seats when the day comes.

Of course, there’s no right or wrong time to crowdfund. It just depends on what you want to get out of the experience, besides money. As you prepare for your crowdfunding campaign, be mindful of how the above factors may impact your films’ long term trajectory. And then hold your breath and hit the "launch" button!

Sara Kiener is the co-founder and marketing director of Film Presence which has implemented grassroots outreach and social media campaigns for over 30 films as they've prepare for their theatrical, DVD, broadcast, festival premieres and Kickstarter launches. Film Presence places an emphasis on organizational partnerships and community building. Highlights include the 2011 Oscar Nominated WASTE LAND and 2011 Oscar Nominated HELL AND BACK AGAIN. Twitter: @SaraKiener @FilmPresence

"7 Reasons To Release Your Film For Free"

guest post by Todd Sklar

A few weeks ago, my good friend Dean Peterson emailed me about releasing his film Incredibly Small for free on the internet. In full disclosure; he was emailing me not because I know a great deal about releasing movies on the interner (I don't), but because I was a producer on the film, and had been assisting with the film's release over the past year.

Flashing forward for a second; we went through with it, and thanks to the kind folks at Vimeo, you can now watch Incredibly Small on-line for free at the following link -- www.vimeo.com/40112752 -- As of this posting, the film has been viewed by over 31,000 people in less than a week. And at no cost to them, as well as no cost to us.

Back to Dean's original email -- my initial response was "YES! Let's definitely put it on the internet for free", which was quickly followed by; "But once we do that, it's like, on the Internet and shit, so we should make sure that's what you really wanna do. Cause that's essentially putting the curtains down so to speak on any other release plans we might have."

He said that it was, and my final email said; "I love it. Let's do it. But just for posterity's sake, gimme one good reason as to why we're doing this. So that we have something to put on the epitaph if for no other reason."

This was his reply;

You want one good reason? How 'bout 7...

1. I'm supremely bored by most of the traditional routes people have taken when distributing smaller movies. I'm really not interested in selling the rights to the movie to somebody for no money and then at best, getting a bullshit release, but more than likely, not getting one at all. We set out to make an interesting movie because we were excited about making movies, and I think we should take the same approach in the release and do it in an interesting way that we're excited about. Let's rattle the cage a bit even if it means we don't make back quite as much money.The opportunity to shake things up is worth whatever the shortfall is. That's the cost of doing it the right way -- you taught me that on the first Range Life tour, and just like with those films, creating exposure and getting the movie to a wider audience is our only priority right now. What better way to accomplish that than making it free and making it accessible to literally anyone with an internet connection.

2. Speaking of the internet, it's awesome. I spend most of my time on the internet and it's where I learned much of what I know about filmmaking, and I know for a fact that's even truer of you, and it's where both of us have connected with the majority of our audiences.It's where we both live, and I think that's true of a lot of people, especially ones that will like this film. You took your movie to college campuses because that was your wheelhouse and that's where your target audience was. Same goes for this one and the internet. Quite simply, this is where my movie belongs, we just took a roundabout way of getting here.

3. And if we agree that it should be on-line, then I know we both agree it should be free. Cause that's what the internet is all about. And I think the fact that this movie didn't cost us a ton to make puts us in a unique position that we have a bit more freedom to be adventurous when rolling this out. We've made back enough of the money that even if we don't make another dollar on it and none of the people who watch it on-line buy a DVD, or make a donation, or give us their money in some other way, it won't be much of a loss.

4. This movie is the product of the crowd sourced, internet 2.0, 'other buzz word' culture of the internet through and through. We raised money on Kickstarter, garnered an audience and fan base on Tumblr and Reddit connected with fans on tour through Twitter and Facebook, and if Google+ made any sense, I'm sure we'd find a way to utilize that too. Now it seems fitting to stay true to that spirit and bring it all back full circle and put this motherfucker on Vimeo or YouTube right?

5. One of the other major benefits of putting it online is that we can reach people all over as opposed to a traditional release of a smaller film like this, which would in a best case scenario play 3-5 markets? If that? We probably wouldn't do any screenings in Scottsdale, AZ but the residents there are crying out to see this movie (Maybe)(Probably not)(THEY COULD BE THOUGH). And even if we continued touring, how many colleges can we hit before it's not worth the work anymore? Let's buck the trend and not just focus on major cities. OR college campuses. OR both. Let's get EVERYONE

6. We can have the option for people to donate money if they so feel inclined. We can't do that at Target, or on Comcast, or at the multiplex. I know we're both big fans of bands that have done this and I don't see why it's not more prevalent in film. It should be as unobtrusive and nag-free as possible, just a button somewhere below the video that's quietly sitting there. I really think that if we give the movie away for free that people will respond to it and if they like the movie maybe they'll chip in a few bucks or whatever they feel it's worth. Did you read the Chris Anderson book "Free" that I told you about? He outlines pretty eloquently how in the past when artists have given their product away for free that it's worked out fantastically.

7. Torrents. Piracy is viewed as a huge problem in the film industry but what if we turn it into a boon? If you go on Pirate Bay there are over 10,000 people who are currently downloading The Hunger Games, who I'm sure the studios view as villains but we should view them as potential audience members. They're our friends! This is a huge untapped group that I think it would be a mistake to ignore. They're going to download movies no matter what we do, so we should at least provide them with OUR movie to download and watch versus one of the other ones. Let's put a super hi res version of the movie on torrent sites and try to get something from them. An email address, a donation, a DVD sale or them blogging or tweeting about it or using that X-Box headset thingy to tell their Halo friends about it. That's better than nothing.

That's all I got for now.I don't think nearly enough filmmakers have explored this option and it would be exciting to try it out. Let's talk about it more at the batting cages.

P.S. Let's start going to the batting cages.

Please watch Incredibly Small for free on Vimeo

And please share it with other is if you enjoy it.

And please help us find some batting cages.

INCREDIBLY SMALL - Free Independent Feature Film from Dean Peterson on Vimeo.


Dean Peterson grew up in Minneapolis, MN and has studied film in New York, Paris, and Chicago, where he received his BA from Columbia College. He was an official participant at the Berlinale Talent Campus as well as the Adobe Reel Ideas Studio at the Cannes Film Festival. His short films have played in festivals around the U.S as well as in France. His interests include but are not limited to: black coffee, Siberian Huskies and twirling pens on his finger. Incredibly Small is his first feature.

Todd Sklar loves coffee. In 1994, Sklar won Best Blocked Shots in his youth basketball league. In 2007, he wrote & directed his feature length debut, BOX ELDER, which developed a cult following after Sklar & his comrades toured the film across the country throughout 2008 & 2009. Afterwards, Sklar founded Range Life Entertainment, a privately held marketing company that tours independent films to college campuses on a quarterly basis. His latest short film, '92 SKYBOX ALONZO MOURNING ROOKIE CARD premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and serves as a prologue to the upcoming feature, AWFUL NICE, which recently finished filming.

Things All Filmmakers Should Know About the "JOBS Act"

Karen Robson and Steve Goodman of Pryor Cashman LLP have kindly provided us with a copy of an analysis they've written about the recent changes in securities laws because of the JOBS Act. It contains vital information about crowdfunding and how it relates to film -- and is an important read for all filmmakers. JOBS ACT TO HELP FILMMAKERS RAISE CAPITAL By: Stephen M. Goodman, Karen M. Robson and David E. Parsly May 2012

NOTE: This is a general analysis of the statute and should not be considered legal advice.

On April 5, 2012, President Obama signed into law the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (the “JOBS Act”). The JOBS Act encompasses a series of proposals that emerged in Congress over the past year, and that were ultimately brought together in a single piece of legislation receiving substantial bipartisan support. The stated purpose of the JOBS Act is to stimulate job growth and capital formation by removing and/or reducing certain costs and regulatory burdens applicable to smaller companies.

Specifically of interest to independent filmmakers, the JOBS Act introduces reforms to a certain widely, used private offering rule to remove the prohibition on “general solicitation” and creates a new exemption for “crowdfunding”, which, when rules mandated by the JOBS Act are finally adopted by the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) in approximately nine months, will offer the potential to raise money through small investments from a larger number of investors.1 Since rulemaking related to the elimination of the general solicitation rules in private offerings must be completed within 90 days, this exemption will have a more immediate impact than crowdfunding on capital formation for filmmakers.

ELIMINATION OF “GENERAL SOLICITATION” RESTRICTIONS ON RULE 506 OFFERINGS

Private securities offerings under Regulation D promulgated under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended (the “Securities Act”), are frequently used by filmmakers to raise capital through the issuance of equity or debt securities. Regulation D offerings are exempt from registration under the Securities Act, which eliminates the substantial burdens and expenses associated with public registration and reporting. The most popular exemption used for domestic private placements is Rule 506 under Regulation D, because the amount that can be raised under Rule 506 is virtually unlimited and, so long as the offering is made only to “accredited investors” (i.e. generally investors that meet certain minimum annual income or net worth requirements), the number of investors is likewise (at least theoretically) unlimited.

However, issuers relying on Rule 506 have been prohibited from engaging in any form of “general solicitation or advertising” to attract investors. The SEC has never precisely specified what constitutes a “general solicitation,” but the SEC has cautioned in no, action letters that to avoid a general solicitation an issuer must approach only investors with whom the issuer has a “pre,existing substantive relationship.”2 Over the last several years, many commentators have noted the deleterious effects on issuer’s capital raising created both by this “general solicitation” limitation and by the vagueness and apparent internal contradiction in its interpretation.

Title II of the JOBS Act amends the Securities Act to specifically permit general solicitation or general advertising in connection with a Rule 506 private placement, so long as everyone who eventually makes an investment is an “accredited investor”. The intended result is to permit issuers, such as companies formed to finance and produce films, to reach a broader pool of potential investors, regardless of whether they have a pre,existing relationship with the issuer.

It is important to remember, however, that the ultimate investors must be “accredited investors”, and here the rules have changed slightly. The JOBS Act mandates that issuers relying on Rule 506 must now take “reasonable steps” to verify that each investor constitutes an “accredited investor” as defined in the Securities Act. At the least, this means that an issuer will no longer be able to rely on an unsupported representation by the purchaser that the purchaser is an accredited investor. Therefore, while the JOBS Act provides filmmakers the ability to cast a wider net and attract any accredited investor by means of a general solicitation, it will likely also place additional burden and expense on filmmakers to conduct some level of diligence on their investors to prove that they are accredited. The changes to the law also leave unanswered what methods or content the SEC will permit (or require) to be used in connection with a “general solicitation” and how activities conducted in connection with general solicitations may affect other fundraising efforts by issuers.

Despite these uncertainties, the removal of the general solicitation prohibition may provide filmmakers the ability to seek direct access to potential investors. Depending on SEC rulemaking regarding general solicitation, it may in some cases mitigate the need for filmmakers to rely on intermediaries such as brokers, placement agents and finders to introduce investors and to bear the financing fees associated therewith.

CROWDFUNDING

In recent years, films and other art and charitable projects have used Internet “crowdsourcing” donations to raise revenue. Instead of donations, “crowdfunding” would permit companies to take in small amounts of money as investments from numerous individuals. Websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have previously acted as crowdsourcing portals based on a donation model. The JOBS Act responds to a growing belief among many politicians and business people that entrepreneurs should be able to use this model in an investment context.

Title III of the JOBS Act adds a new “crowdfunding” offering exemption to the Securities Act. The exemption is available to film producers and other issuers if the aggregate amount of all securities sold to investors by the production entity and its affiliates during the 12,month period prior to the latest transaction (including but not limited to any crowdfunding securities) does not exceed $1,000,000. The crowdfunding exemption restricts the aggregate amount that may be sold to any investor by the issuer during this 12,month period to either $2,000 or five percent of the investor’s annual income or net worth (if his or her annual income or net worth is less than $100,000) or ten percent of the investor’s annual income or net worth (if his or her annual income or net worth is $100,000 or more). In the latter case, the maximum aggregate amount that can be sold to the investor during the 12,month period is $100,000.

Both the overall limitation on the aggregate amount of securities that can be offered in the 12 months prior to the offering date and the caps expressed in the limitations on individual investors include not only securities sold pursuant to the crowdfunding exemption during those 12 months but also any other securities of the issuer purchased by that investor without regard to the 12,month period. This means, for example, that if a producer has raised $500,000 in a Rule 506 private placement, then for the next 12 months it cannot raise more than $500,000 in a crowdfunding offering.

However a filmmaker seeking to rely on the new crowdfunding exemption will not be able to simply post its offering on a website and accept offered cash. Rather, there will be a significant number of requirements on the manner of offering the securities and the types of information that must be made available to investors, the SEC and state regulators, as well as requirements for updating the information during the offering and after the offering is completed.

Perhaps most significantly, the JOBS Act requires that any crowdfunding offer be conducted through a registered broker or “funding portal”3, not directly by the production entity itself. To satisfy the JOBS Act’s requirements that the broker take responsibility for the crowdfunding offering, the broker is required to:

• provide various disclosures, including disclosures relating to risks, and other investor education materials (to be prescribed by SEC rule);

• ensure that each investor (a) reviews these disclosures and materials (in accordance with standards to be established by the SEC), (b) affirms that the investor understands the risk of potential loss of the entire investment and that the investor can bear the loss and (c) answers questions demonstrating that the investor understands the risks of start,up investing, illiquidity of the investment and “such other matters as the SEC determines by rule”;

• take measures (to be established by the SEC) to reduce the risk of fraud, including obtaining a background check and securities enforcement history on each officer and director of the production entity and each person holding more than 20 percent of that entity’s securities;

• make certain information required to be provided by the production entity (see below) available to the SEC and to potential investors at least 21 days prior to the first sale of securities;

• ensure that proceeds are only released to the production entity after a target offering amount is reached and allow for investors to cancel their commitments (as determined by SEC rule);

• verify (to the extent deemed necessary by the SEC) that no investor has exceeded the limits on aggregate investment in the production entity required by the exemption (see below);

• protect the privacy of information collected from investors (to the extent determined by SEC rule);

• not compensate any finder, promoter or others for providing “personal identifying information” of any potential investor;

• prohibit its own directors, officers orpartners from having any financial interest in the production entity; and

• meet such other requirements as the SEC may deem appropriate for the protection of investors.

To rely on the new crowdfunding exemption, the production entity must also comply with a number of disclosure and offering requirements. In particular, the production entity must:

• file extensive disclosure with the SEC and provide to the investors and the relevant broker or funding portal information regarding (1) its name, address and website address; (2) the names of its directors and officers and each person holding more than 20 percent of its shares; (3) its business and its anticipated business plan; (4) its financial condition4; (5) the stated purpose and intended use of the proceeds of the offering; (6) the target offering amount, the deadline to reach the target amount and “regular updates” on the progress of the offering; (7) the price (or the method for determining the price) of the securities offered and a reasonable opportunity to rescind the purchase commitment if the final price is not determined at the time the commitment is made; (8) a description of the ownership and capital structure of the production entity and the terms of the offered securities (including how the offered securities have been valued and the risks of being a minority owner); and (9) such other information as the SEC may require;

• not advertise the terms of the offering, other than to direct investors to the funding portal or broker;

• not compensate anyone to promote the offering unless the person clearly discloses the receipt of compensation in connection with any such promotional communication (pursuant to rules to be adopted by the SEC);

• file at least annually with the SEC (and provide to investors) reports of the results of operations and financial statements (as specified by SEC rule); and

• comply with such other requirements as the SEC may prescribe.

The SEC has been given 270 days to promulgate rules and regulations clarifying the crowdfunding exemption.

The information required to be made available by the issuer as described above is also to be made available to any state securities agency. Securities issued in a crowdfunding offer are exempt from certain state “blue sky” requirements except that notice filings may be required in the state where the principal place of business is located or where purchasers of 50% or more of the offering are residents. The production entity accepting the investment remains liable for material misstatements and omissions in information provided in a crowdfunding offer. Securities purchased in a crowdfunding transaction may not be transferred by the purchaser for one year following the date of purchase except to the production entity itself, to an accredited investor, as part of a resale registration statement filed with the SEC, to a “member of the family of the purchaser or the equivalent” or, in the discretion of the SEC, in connection with the death or divorce or other similar circumstance affecting the purchaser. Finally, the JOBS Act provides that purchasers who acquire securities in a crowdfunding transaction will not be included in calculating the number of record holders that an issuer may have before it is required to make public disclosures under the federal securities laws.

Due to the 270 day period for the SEC to implement crowdfunding rules, filmmakers will be forced to take a wait and see approach on what the impact of crowdfunding will be on the film financing industry. The costs associated with engaging a funding portal remain unknown, as well as the full extent of legal and other professional assistance that will be required. In light of the $1 million cap on the amount of crowdfunding offerings permitted per year and the recordkeeping and other potential burdens associated with having a large number of micro investors, it is possible that crowdfunding may be less popular than some anticipate. Still, as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have proven in the context of donations, there are masses of previously untapped investors out there that the JOBS Act may now allow filmmakers to access.

If you have any questions or would like any further information about the JOBS Act or how Pryor Cashman can serve your legal needs, please contact the authors of this Legal Update or the Pryor Cashman attorney with whom you work.

1 On April 23, 2012, the SEC issued a notice reminding issuers that until the SEC adopts implementing rules any offers or sales of securities purporting to rely on the crowdfunding exemption would be unlawful under the federal securities laws.

2 See, e.g., Bateman, Eichler, Hill Richards, Inc. (pub. avail. Dec. 3, 1985); Lamp Technologies (pub. avail. May 29, 1997).

3 A funding portal is defined by a new Section 3(a)(80) of the Exchange Act as an intermediary involved specifically in the offer or sale of securities pursuant to Section 4(6) that does not (1) offer investment advice, (2) engage in solicitation of transactions in the offered securities, (3) compensate anyone for such solicitations or on the basis of sales of such securities, (4) handle investor funds or securities or (5) engage in any other activities that the SEC deems inappropriate. A funding portal is to be exempt from registration as a broker or dealer, but will nevertheless have to register with the SEC as well as with “any applicable self,regulatory organization”. It remains, however, subject to the examination, enforcement and other rulemaking activity of the SEC and such other requirements of the Exchange Act as the SEC deems appropriate and it must be a member of a national securities association registered under Section 15A of the Exchange Act (although the national securities association can only enforce rules adopted specifically for such portals).

4 Specifically, issuers using the exemption must provide the following financial information, depending upon the size of the offering: (a) income tax returns and financial statements certified as true and complete by the principal executive officer (if the aggregate offering amounts within the previous 12 months is $100,000 or less), (b) financial statements reviewed by an independent public accountant (if the aggregate offering amounts are between $100,000 and $500,000) or (c) audited financial statements (if the aggregate offering amounts are more than $500,000 (or such other amount as the SEC may establish)).

***

Copyright © 2012 by Pryor Cashman LLP. This Legal Update is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or the creation of an attorney-client relationship. While all efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the contents, Pryor Cashman LLP does not guarantee such accuracy and cannot be held responsible for any errors in or reliance upon this information. This material may constitute attorney advertising.

STEPHEN M. GOODMAN Partner

Stephen M. Goodman is co-head of the Mergers and Acquisitions Practice at Pryor Cashman LLP. He has extensive experience representing companies in public offerings, private placements, and other complex financing and acquisition arrangements.

Mr. Goodman has also written on topics ranging from raising seed capital for entrepreneurial companies to the SEC’s whistleblower rules to the Supreme Court’s decision regarding material nondisclosure in Matrixx Initiatives, Inc. v. Siracusano, and has lectured on various aspects of capital formation at Columbia University, the City University of New York and the New York Academy of Sciences. His most recent article is “Still Room for Finders? Courts Question SEC View of Broker Activity” (BNA Securities Regulation & Law Report, November 14, 2011).

Mr. Goodman is a 1977 graduate of New York University School of Law, where he was Order of the Coif and Articles Editor of the Annual Survey of American Law.

KAREN M. ROBSON Partner

Karen Robson has worked primarily in the Film Finance and Production practice of the Entertainment Group since 1986 and heads the Los Angeles office of Pryor Cashman LLP. Karen represents a variety of financiers, banks, equity investors, high,profile independent producers and production companies for which she structures film finance transactions and also provides production legal representation. She also represents individual writers, directors and producers in the motion picture and television areas. For over twenty years, Karen has handled financing on multiple picture deals and single pictures, television mini,series and major documentaries. In recent years, Karen has represented both producers and lenders with respect to film financings which include senior and mezzanine debt and/or equity; international co,productions and U.S. tax incentivized financings.

Karen is also experienced in representing properties in the film, video, television and merchandising areas including properties in the family entertainment arena, including The Berenstain Bears, I Spy, a children’s television series featuring music artist Dan Zanes, and theatrical feature films based on a series of major children's television and merchandising properties.

Prior to her career as an attorney, Karen had a brief career as a film actress in Australia, including a major role in Peter Weir’s cult favorite, Picnic at Hanging Rock.

DAVID E. PARSLY Associate

David Parsly is an associate in the Corporate Group and represents public and private companies in a variety of general corporate matters, including corporate formation and governance, mergers and acquisitions, corporate finance, and securities issuance and compliance.

David is a 2007 graduate of the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 2004. While in law school, David served as a judicial intern for the Honorable Richard B. Lowe III in the Commercial Division of the New York State Supreme Court, New York County.

www.pyorcashman.com

Crowdfunding a Collaborative Film

By Audrey Ewell

2012 is going to be the year of truly free filmmaker experimentation. 2012 is going to be the year of cross-platform collaboration. And 2012 is going to be the year of filmmaker to filmmaker collaboration. I don't know how much of this will be true, but I know I wish all of it will be, and so far, there is no clearer indicator that all will be true than The 99% Film. We've heard from Audrey Ewell, one of the film's collaborators, and we know she always has progressive and provocative ideas, so why should this time be any different. Today Audrey shares with other some of the new ways she and her team are making use of some of the plethora of options that are out there to enable us to truly build it better together.

Crowdfunding a Collaborative Film: Repurposing a Distribution Platform into A New Fundraising Tool.

99% - The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film began as a spontaneous project, and thus it began with no funding at all. While it might seem like a poster-child for crowdfunding opportunity, this film actually has some unique obstacles: for starters, many people who support us also support the Occupy Movement, and their spare dollars go straight to them. Our film is not part of OWS; although some of our 75+ filmmakers identify as part of it, we are a separate, independent project, and we receive no Occupy funding.

Additionally, donations to OWS itself dropped off markedly after the first heady days (when it seemed as though time had stopped at the moment in Sidney Lumet’s 1976 film Network when Peter Finch’s Howard Beale led the city in a chorus of “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!” only to resume in reality 35 years later at Zuccotti Park). Plus, with the otherwise lovely Christmas season turning potential funding into slippers and iPads, crowdfunding has been no picnic. We now emerge from the holidays with about two weeks left to hit our goal of $17,500. Two critical weeks, because make no mistake: we need those funds to keep going.

Before I get to the new tool we’re test-driving, let me back up for a second to talk about our overall strategy. First, we put together an outreach team: Stephen Dotson and Kari Collins on Twitter, Laura Alexander on Facebook, Annie Riordan doing direct outreach to influencers and organizations who might help spread the word, Ginger Liu on newswires, blog and social (non fb & twitter) outreach, and me on press releases, blog outreach, and traditional press.

But really, nobody wants to write about your damn Kickstarter campaign, so you have to find ways to make it newsworthy. I set this up as a five-week campaign (with the expected week of Christmas drop-off in the middle). Week one outreach was about the film itself; the collaborative nature and the way our process mirrors OWS got us some press that might be difficult for a more standard doc to achieve.

For week two, Billy Miller (one of our filmmakers, also a curator) gathered our first round of rewards: artworks by 12 contemporary artists. We contacted and posted to hundreds of art blogs. Then we added a fresh round of artists/works (a lot had already been nabbed) and let that slide over Christmas into week 3: when Aaron Aites, my film partner and also the main man behind the band Iran, worked with Kyp Malone (of Iran, TV on the Radio, and Rain Machine) to put together a slew of music rewards. Signed records and artworks from Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees), Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) and many more fueled a new round of targeted outreach, but still, so much ground to cover by Jan 13th!

So when Darcy at Constellation got in touch to propose a new venture, combining their social screening platform with our Kickstarter campaign, I had to wonder if this might be a peanut butter and chocolate crowdfunding moment. I’d checked out Constellation when they launched; they mix classics (Grey Gardens, Rashomon) with newer and noteworthy indie films (Food Fight, Trouble The Water, Marwencol) and there’s a social element to the screenings: pre-set times to make it a group experience, Q & A’s with filmmakers, and chats with the audience. In their words:

“Constellation is your online movie theater. Just like a traditional theater, users purchase tickets to attend scheduled showtimes of films, or create their own showtimes. However unlike other online platforms, watching movies on Constellation is a social experience. Users can invite friends to showtimes they’re attending and watch together. Many movies are presented by VIP hosts, such as the films’ directors, actors, or other notables, who appear live in the online theater to answer questions from the audience during and after the film. “

So Constellation’s interested in working with Kickstarter (and presumably other crowdfunding sites) projects, and we’re interested in reaching our goal; we agreed to be the first to try it out. Although reluctant to divert our attention while in the thick of making the film, we think there’s a place for this in our fundraising strategy.

So this January 7th at 7:30 pm EST we’re holding a screening of 45 minutes of footage that’s been shot for our film, on Constellation.TV. It’s not a work-in-progress, and Constellation have been respectful of our need to not use that language, but it is a chance for our backers and others to see some of the material we’re working with, and to talk to us as we’re shaping the film. (They also let us lower the ticket price, and gave us half-off codes for our Kickstarter backers, plus free codes so all 75 of our filmmakers can be present – woo-hoo!) It’s a chance for us to get some feedback, build our audience, and possibly even meet new backers.

I don’t know how well this platform is working for finished films, but that also depends on each filmmaker’s goal with it (as with any distribution outlet). But it’s good to know that Constellation is open to this sort of fundraising event. I learned, while theatrically distributing my last film, Until The Light Takes Us, that event-izing really helps. So if you’re interested, this is the direct link to the screening: www.constellation.tv/99percent. Or if you need a reminder like I do, here is the Facebook invite. (Oh! And proceeds go toward our Kickstarter campaign!)

If this is successful, it could be a new tool in the indie filmmaker’s funding kit. So wish us luck; better yet, check out the screening, ask questions, and by all means, please invite a friend.

Audrey Ewell is a filmmaker living in Brooklyn, NY with her film partner Aaron Aites. They recently made the award-winning film Until The Light Takes Us, and they’re now working on a thriller called Dark Places. The 99% Kickstarter page is here.

Maximizing Distribution Through Crowdfunding

By Peter Broderick

HopeForFilm has had the pleasure of hosting several of Peter Broderick's prior newsletters, but today's is extra-special, working as a continuation of Jennifer Fox's illuminating posts on MY REINCARNATION crowdfunding campaign. My filmmakers mistakenly think of the crowdfunding platforms for financial purposes, but as Peter points out, it works to build community, involve audiences, and generate publicity and a true sense of ownership.

MY REINCARNATION shows how a well-executed crowdfunding campaign can be used to maximize distribution. In addition to enabling the funding of the theatrical rollout, the campaign increased awareness among core audiences, generated substantial press coverage, and facilitated partnerships.

I've known and admired the film's director Jennifer Fox for many years, and consulted with her on the distribution of her remarkable series, FLYING: CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN. As tenacious as she is talented, Jennifer has learned, during more than 30 years of independent filmmaking, that it's "change or die." After exhausting every familiar fundraising route from grants to pre-sales for MY REINCARNATION, she tried crowdfunding as a last resort.

Filmed over twenty years, MY REINCARNATION is a documentary about her teacher, the Tibetan-trained Buddhist master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and "his Italian born son who refuses to accept the destiny he inherited from birth." Although the film was technically completed and being shown at international festivals, Jennifer still needed $100,000 to pay the bills she'd amassed finishing the film after a producer defaulted on that amount.

MY REINCARNATION became a crowdfunding milestone. Through a 90-day campaign, Jennifer and her team raised $150,456, three times the official goal of $50,000. 518 backers gave an average donation of $290, more than any film had ever averaged on her crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. The average was so high for two reasons. The film attracted two associate producers at $10,000 each (one of which was a group of 50 people living in China). The campaign also offered valuable one-of-a-kind rewards, such as a hand-painted Tibetan chest and a unique statue of the deity Vajrapan, which were available to contributors who gave between $2,500 and $7,500. Contributions were received from 32 countries and more than two-thirds of the money came from abroad.

There is much to be learned from this crowdfunding success. Jennifer contributed seven articles to Ted Hope's Indiewire blog detailing her 42 crowdfunding tips. They should be required reading for anyone planning a serious crowdfunding campaign. Here are two of the essential lessons:

==> Build a strong team that can put in the necessary time and effort. While filmmakers should be centrally involved in a crowdfunding campaign, they need a substantial amount of help to maximize the effort. Jennifer spent 50% of her time on the 90-day campaign. She had three teammates - a staff member who spent 50% of her time on the effort and two part-time women (compensated by a percentage of the money raised). They handled key tasks including adding fresh content to the website, managing outreach to organizations, and expanding the mailing list.

==> Make a detailed budget for the campaign. This should include the site fee (Kickstarter charges 5% if you meet your goal, IndieGoGo charges 4% if you meet your goal and 9% if you don't); the payment processing fee (3-5%); the cost of creating, acquiring, and shipping rewards; and any staffing fees. There are also likely to be some defaults in contributors' payments (Jennifer's were 2%). If you use a fiscal sponsor, which allows donations to be tax-deductible, there will be an additional fee of 5-7% (IndieGoGo waives its fee if you use one of its partner fiscal sponsors). Jennifer estimates that the total costs of her campaign will be between 20 and 25% of the money raised. It would have been higher if she had been compensated for the enormous amount of time she devoted to the campaign.

MY REINCARNATION is now playing in theaters around the U.S. It opened theatrically in New York City in October, five months after the crowdfunding campaign concluded in late May. It has already been shown or booked in 40 theaters, and was in its seventh week in New York when this went to press. It will surely play 60-70 cities through next April and Jennifer is hoping to reach 100. Erin Owens of Long Shot Factory is booking the film theatrically.

The crowdfunding campaign of MY REINCARNATION facilitated its distribution in ten key ways. The campaign enabled Jennifer's team to:

==> 1- BUILD AWARENESS AMONG CORE AUDIENCES. Jennifer believes the key to Kickstarter success is a strong, reachable core audience. MY REINCARNATION has two sets of core audiences. One is centered on Namkhai Norbu's 8,000+ students around the world (they are connected via a listserv and many also meet in local groups). This audience also includes other Buddhists, as well as spiritual, new age, and yoga groups. The second core audience is centered on Jennifer's fans and supporters, who she has nurtured over many years and films. This audience also includes documentary lovers and independent filmmakers.

==> 2 - GROW A NETWORK OF SUPPORT. This network consisted of all of the contributors to the Kickstarter campaign plus people who were unable to help financially but contributed their time and effort. These supporters helped by blogging and eblasting. The most active ones were recognized online on the Donors Wall and onscreen in the film's end credits.

==> 3 - ACCELERATE EFFORTS TO BUILD PARTNERSHIPS. Jennifer explained that the crowdfunding campaign "got us into outreach mode early." Her team made a major effort to develop partnerships with organizations, including Tibet House and the Tibet Fund.

==> 4 - GENERATE SIGNIFICANT PRESS COVERAGE. During the campaign Jennifer shared her crowdfunding tips in her seven-part series. When the campaign ended with such spectacular results, she and her teammates widely distributed a press release and got significant coverage. Jennifer also wrote an article for The Huffington Post.

==> 5 - EXPAND AND REFINE THEIR MAILING LIST. Over the years Jennifer had developed a personal mailing list of 6000 names. Her team worked hard to expand this list of individuals and organizations, starting with California and New York and then moving on to other states. Jennifer's list has now grown to almost 10,000 names.

==> 6 - IMPROVE THE FILM'S ONLINE PRESENCE. The team started with a solid website which they expanded with fresh content and videos, including outtakes of the film. They utilized user-contributed content through the website's "share your story" section. They also made excellent use of the film's Facebook page, which attracted many people from around the world.

==> 7 - RELEASE THE FILM THEATRICALLY. $15,000 from the crowdfunding revenues seeded the theatrical rollout. Jennifer harnessed the excitement created by the Kickstarter results to find the additional money needed for theatrical from a combination of donors and loans.

==> 8 - BOOST INTEREST AMONG DISTRIBUTORS. Erin from Long Shot Factory explained that many of the exhibitors she approached were already aware of the film. She cited the Kickstarter results to show that there was already an audience for the film. The crowdfunding success also helped get the attention of festival programmers.

==> 9 - STIMULATE SEMI-THEATRICAL AND EDUCATIONAL DISTRIBUTION. Following theatrical, MY REINCARNATION will have a strong semi-theatrical release during which nonprofits and universities will arrange special event screenings. Jennifer is also perfectly positioned to do her own educational sales based on the relationships her team has built with groups and organizations.

==> 10 - FACILITATE TELEVISION, DVD, AND DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION. The increased awareness of the film will foster DVD and digital sales, as well as boost the viewership for its POV televisions premiere. The DVD, which is not yet available, is already viewed as a collectible.

As MY REINCARNATION makes clear, a successful crowdfunding effort can jumpstart a film's distribution. It accelerates everything that will eventually be done to foster distribution, including making a trailer, reaching out to possible partners, building a network of support, generating press awareness, and refining the mailing lists and web presence. Instead of waiting until the film is nearly done and trying to do all of this in the weeks or months before its release, crowdfunding can give filmmakers a year or two head start.

A crowdfunding campaign can also provide invaluable information and feedback, enabling filmmakers to better define their core audiences, determine the best avenues to reach them, and refine the positioning of their films.

When MY REINCARNATION'S Kickstarter campaign reached a tipping point, things began to snowball. They raised $60,000 during the final five days of the campaign. Jennifer's team has been able to maintain the momentum from the campaign into the theatrical release and should be able to continue it through the next stages of distribution.

Filmmakers should design their crowdfunding campaigns to power their distribution. While their short-term goal is to raise money, their ultimate goal should be to create a long and vibrant life for their film.

© 2011 Peter Broderick

Peter Broderick is a Distribution Strategist who helps design and implement customized plans to maximize revenues for independent films. He is also a leading advocate of crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, championing them in keynotes and presentations around the world. You can read his articles at www.peterbroderick.com

Koo On "Your Audience is Worth More Than $"

Film may be 110 years old, the Film Industry a century, Amer-Indie, as a semi-organized infrastructure and process, 30 years, but as a creative community we are only a few years, at best, in. Sure the guilds have been here longer, but as an open & transparent, group, activity sharing information and aspirations, it's taken the rise of blogging culture to bring us together.

As much as we are coming together on a general basis, indie film communities come together now around specific voices. Nonetheless, other than Kevin Smith there are very few folks who have truly built and served their audiences to such an extent that that audience is in fact a community that can be depended on to support a film to the extent necessary to move it through production and release. Or rather, until recently. Crowdfunding, more than just a money raising tool, allows us to measure how communities can truly make movies happen. Koo, who has built the much loved and very useful blog No Film School, now is making a film, and as he shares below, he couldn't have gotten so far with the support from the community he has so loyally served.

My crowdfunding campaign to make a youth basketball feature film Man-child has made it most of the way to raising its $115,000 goal (!). I've been working tirelessly since launching the campaign on August 16th, and you can bet I won't be sleeping much until it ends September 23rd (this Friday). I don't know if we're going to make it all the way, but in coming this far, I've learned a lot -- and that's what I'm here to share. This post is also the story of how as a community we got 11-time NBA champion coach Phil Jackson -- arguably the greatest living basketball coach, and someone I've never met in person -- to back my Kickstarter film.

You have at least two audiences

I run the indie filmmaking website NoFilmSchool, and the site's readers comprise my primary audience for the campaign. But even if you don't run a website, you still have a primary audience -- your friends, your family, your high school and/or college, and any other networks that you might belong to. This is your obvious first stop in a crowdfunding campaign.

Whatever kind of movie you're making, your film has a topic. That topic has an audience. In the case of Man-child the topic is basketball, and so in addition to my web site's followers, there exists another community that is potentially interested in my film: basketball fans. This is your second stop: people who are interested in your topic. But I think when you go after the second audience is important, because there's a difference between the people who know you personally and the people who don't. The former are willing to lend a hand because it's you. The second group needs a bit more convincing.

Credibility first

People have mentioned in the past a notorious dead time in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign. Without the excitement of the launch or the urgency of a deadline, crowdfunding campaigns begin to resemble a 2-liter of RC Cola with the cap off (they go flat). This is a great time to try to reach out to a new audience, because if you did your job in the first half of the campaign (and didn't annoy your followers on Twitter) -- you'll have more credibility than you did when the ticker read "$0 pledged." Once the campaign was able to demonstrate social proof thanks a number of backers on board -- but only then -- did I try to reach out to the second audience.

Audiences are like venn diagrams

There isn't a lot of overlap between my following of independent filmmakers and the basketball community at large. They're like venn diagrams: two circles that overlap but for the most part exist separately. If your friends and family are in the smaller circle, the point is to reach the people in the larger circle who have no idea who you are. This is how your audience is valuable in a way that has nothing to do with what's in their wallet.

Internet is plentiful, money is not

I launched NoFilmSchool by living out of a suitcase for 10 months. I know what it's like to be short on funds. But during those 11 months when money was nonexistent, what did I have plenty of? Internet. Wi-Fi on a friend's couch. A free connection at Starbucks. 3G. Even people on the other side of the planet who might not ever have a chance to see your indie film in the theater have a 'net connection (and many countries are way ahead of the U.S. when it comes to broadband speeds). So when running a fundraising campaign, think of your fans friends and followers as more than financial contributors. They're your allies in morphing the two circles of a venn diagram into one.

Strength in numbers

In the case of Man-child, as soon as we hit the halfway mark of the campaign (time-wise; we were not yet to 50% funded), I wrote a post asking for help from NoFilmSchool readers. Not financial help, but social media help. Along with an instructional video, I included links to lists of NBA players, media members, and bloggers on Twitter. Dozens of us began reaching out on Twitter collectively, asking ball players and journalists to check out or at least retweet the Man-child Kickstarter campaign. Personally, I was totally ineffective. Promoting your own campaign/product/service seems more like spam than someone asking on behalf of a friend, and there is strength in numbers: public figures have tens if not hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter, and getting their attention is a crapshoot. They get mentioned so often that you need luck on your side to be in the right place at the right time; the more of you there are, the better your odds.

One success story is worth the effort

Despite my own lack of success, thanks to the efforts of others, several NBA players -- including two-time all-star Stephon Marbury -- retweeted the Man-child campaign. More importantly, Executive VP of the Los Angeles Lakers Jeanie Buss watched my pitch video and became a backer -- along with legendary NBA coach Phil Jackson. I saw a jump in the campaign's progress and didn't know where it came from, so I went to look at the backer list, and there was Jeanie Buss. I hadn't reached her, but someone else had. I thanked her on Twitter and we started direct messaging. She told me Phil had matched her pledge. My head exploded.

Your campaign is like a film

Films are better when they have an arc; the same goes for a crowdfunding campaign. In the past, I'd seen crowdfunders issue a press release at the outset of their campaign, but I didn't feel launching a campaign was enough of a story by itself to get picked up by anyone. 10,000 people have run Kickstarter campaigns, after all -- and that's just the successful ones. More than double that number have launched campaigns. But I did think this social media success story -- and the name recognition of having Phil and Jeanie on board -- was a story. So I wrote a press release designed to get the campaign in the hands of the basketball world.

The jury's still out

As I write this, the jury's still out as to whether this press release has successfully brought in more of the basketball world. As a one man band running this campaign all on my own, it took me longer to get the press release out than I would've liked -- even working around the clock -- and I haven't given media outlets much time to write up a story before this Friday's deadline.

When it comes down to it, though, whether or not the Man-child campaign is picked up by a large sports web site, the social media outreach effort was a success -- the story told in that press release has become an integral part of not only the story of the campaign, but the story of the film. And Phil Jackson, are you kidding me?!?

Your audience is worth more than $$$

More people have internet access than have credit cards. In the past month I've gotten a lot of messages from people who don't own a credit card but want to help the campaign somehow. These aren't messages they're sending via snail mail or smoke signals -- they're through Kickstarter, they're over Twitter, they're via email. They're online and they want to help. My personal friends (who aren't very active on Twitter) logged on and had fun seeing if they could get a big name to retweet it. Give your audience something to do other than cut checks!

The "dead" midpoint of a campaign is a great time to start asking for help to reach a second audience. In fact, if my own experiences are any lesson, I would go out with this initiative prior to the midpoint, because you want to give yourself enough time before your campaign ends for your collective efforts to have an impact.

Speaking of which -- my campaign for Man-child ends this Friday, September 23rd, at 11:59pm Eastern. If we don't make it, I will certainly have learned a lot in the process, but I'd love to learn a lot more by actually making the movie! So if you feel like getting some great rewards in exchange for your support, check out my campaign -- a download of the full film is just $10, a DVD is $24, plus you'll be sent the unique frames of the film that you made possible (details in my pitch video below). Best of luck with your own crowdfunding campaign, keep that second audience in mind, and thanks for reading!

David Fine on "More Thoughts On Crowdfunding Campaigns"

This past week, we've had a lot of input from filmmakers who have used the IndieGoGo crowdfunding platform. Filmmakers have been sharing techniques and best practices on what made their campaigns a success. It's a practice we hope will continue for all filmmakers, across all platforms, utilizing a wide range of tools. Let's figure this out, together. Today is no exception. Although a lot has already been said on the subject, there is still more that can be added about how to make crowdfunding really work for your film.

A FEW MORE THOUGHTS FROM DAVID FINE, OF SALAAM DUNK (Los Angeles Film Fest)

Make sure the trailer for your film is strong We waited to put up our Indiegogo page until we were all really happy with the trailer. For many it was the first thing they saw of a project that they had been hearing about from us for quite some time. I think asking for small donations from friends in the same breath as showing them the first thing they've seen of your project will create more donations.

Don’t worry about setting your goal low We were worried that people would see we got to our goal and stop giving. But they didn't. It's better for your $ and your morale to set a goal you think you can reach. That's how we left this experience feeling anyhow.

Make your crowdfunding efforts a way to boost team morale Keep full control of our project through crowd funding has been a blessing. But honestly, a big part of the boost that we got from IndieGoGo was morale. I had been cutting the film for 9 months and we were not yet in a festival. Having people respond so positively to our trailer, so positively in some instances that they donated money, that felt great and really re-energized me at a time when I was running out of gas.

K Lorrel Manning & Michael Cuomo on "Riding The CrowdFunding Train To SXSW"

We all one know how to do more with the very little we have. This is the year the indie film world turned to each other for help. And people responded. It is so exciting that we are working together to get the work done. Indie / Truly Free Film has never been more of a community!

In just the first half of this year, eleven films that raised money on IndieGoGo appeared in the world’s leading film festivals. From Tribeca to Sundance, intrepid filmmakers learned the ropes about what it takes to make a splash in these festivals. This is the first in a series of posts are from the teams behind some of these films.

--Adam Chapnick, IndieGoGo

RIDING THE INDIEGOGO TRAIN STRAIGHT TO SXSW WITH HAPPY NEW YEAR

by Happy New Year Writer/Director K. Lorrel Manning & Actor/Producer Michael Cuomo

In January of this year, we received a call from the great Janet Pierson (Head Honcho of Film for SXSW) informing us that our film Happy New Year had been accepted into the Narrative Competition at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival.

Based on the critically-acclaimed Off-Broadway play, then an award-winning short film of the same name, Happy New Year tells the story of Sgt. Cole Lewis, a wartorn Marine who returns home after four tours of Iraq and Afghanistan to face his fiercest battle yet - the one against himself. The film is an entertaining yet hard-hitting look at the perils of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

We reviewed our budget and quickly surmised that we needed about $25K to not just make a decent splash at SXSW but have the additional funds to attend upcoming festivals as part of continued promotions. Though the news of our acceptance was huge, we were forbidden to publicly announce it for nearly 6 weeks. We had a group of investors but how in the hell were we going to raise $25,000 and not share our biggest news? Many stepped forward stating that they were not in the position to invest but wanted to help out in any way that they could. IndieGogo became the answer.

After studied several studying other campaigns on the IndieGoGo website and bombarding, Slava Rubin (one of the Founders), with dozens of questions, we began to plan our campaign.

Here were the milestones:

Shoot short behind-the-scenes pitch videos By involving different cast members talking about his/her real life connection to the material we created a human element to the campaign. These scenes were interspersed with some scenes featuring them from the movie.

Announce the video roll out via email, Facebook and Twitter We posted these videos every two weeks, an idea that proved to be extremely effective. It was a way to excite and inform our fans .

Turned our entire team into evangelists Everyone from management to each of the featured actors became spokespeople for our campaign, each one going out of his/her way to spread the word. This won the project more support and created an in-built audience for the film.

Identified tactics for our last days of funding We timed our last video to be posted an hour after the SXSW Festival announced the 2011 competition lineup. In hindsight, saving the biggest news for the final push actually turned out to be our best move.

We decided to parody Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" video by shooting our SXSW announcement in the midst of a snowstorm in a discreet NYC alleyway. This was a more celebratory video in comparison to our more serious videos and it turned out to be a game-changer. The shift in tone worked perfectly – we raised $26,390!

Our decision to join forces with IndieGogo was invaluable. The campaign forced us to become more aggressive and savvy in the area of social media. The pitch videos allowed us to exercise the creative sides of our brains that were often stymied with the challenges of post-production and festival strategy. And we were able to see that with a lot of hard work and faith, anything is possible. Would we do it again? Definitely!

HAPPY NEW YEAR - www.happynewyearsfilm.com

Adam Chapnick on "IndieGoGo Films Showcased at World-Class Festivals in 2011"

Google became a verb several years ago. In the Indie / Truly Free Film space we are close to verb-izing another company. But just like all tissues are not Kleenex, there are many crowdfunding platforms out there, and it is worth not forgetting that. Find the platform that works best for your film, as there are plusses and minuses on everything.

Today Adam Chanpick speaks of the films (and some of the benefits) of crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo.
14 IndieGoGo Films Showcased at World-Class Festivals in 2011

IndieGoGo filmmakers have been rocking the world stage in 2011. In the first six months, no fewer than fifteen films that successfully campaigned on IndieGoGo appeared in the world's leading film fests, including Sundance, SXSW, Cannes, Tribeca Film Fest, HotDocs, and LA Film Fest. These films have gone on to win top awards (Tribeca Audience Award) and get picked up by top distributors (The Weinstein Company).

In my responsibilities at IndieGoGo and Distribber, I'm regularly asked for advice and help with all facets of film finance and distribution. After answering so many of these one-off questions with the words, "lots of IndieGoGo campaigners have already figured that out," it's clear the filmmaker community would benefit from an update from IndieGoGo filmmakers who have had success.

As background, since 2008, the independent film community has been a central part of the IndieGoGo family; thousands of films have raised money for production, distribution, festival travel, promotion, marketing and for many other film funding needs.

IndieGoGo is partnered with leading organizations like Fractured Atlas and the San Francisco Film Society to offer filmmakers fiscal sponsorship services (Fractured Atlas campaigns recently passed $1,000,000. Sheffield Doc/Fest, one of the world's leading documentary events, also has been an active and innovative partner.

Below is are links to all the amazing films, grouped by the festival in which they appeared. I encourage you to check out each campaign to learn more about pitch videos and copy, updates and perk selections, and how to engage an audience.

LA Film Fest

1. An Ordinary Family

2. Wish Me Away (1) Wish Me Away (2)

3. Salaam Dunk

Cannes

4. Cerise

HotDocs

5. You've Been Trumped

Tribeca

6. Give Up Tomorrow (Won the audience award!)

7. The Bully Project Film (Was picked up by Weinstein Co.)

8. Love Hate Love - Tribeca Travel

SXSW

9. My Sucky Teen Romance (1) My Sucky Teen Romance (2)

10. 8 (Award winner)

11. Sound It Out (1) Sound It Out (2) Sound It Out (3)

12. HAPPY NEW YEAR

Sundance

13. The High Level Bridge

14. The Rocket Boy

All of these campaigns succeeded on many levels, but there are three key areas that they nailed: They each had a great pitch, a proactive team, and each found the audience that cares about their passion and interacted with them consistently and creatively.

Over the next four days you'll hear from four of the filmmakers behind these success stories, who'll share key takeaways, tips, and tricks about their journey from funding to festival. I hope their learning helps your film become the next success story.

Adam Chapnick IndieGoGo

John T Trigonis on "The Tao of Crowdfunding: Twitter Tips for Crowdfunders"

I think you know how enthusiastic I am about all the tools and services out there to get our work done and share it with the community. We have moved from the Era of How to one of How To Do It Well. It is time to truly develop best practices.

Luckily this blog has become a bit of a platform for the community to share what we've learned. We are recognizing that we can build something better together. Today, filmmaker John T. Trigonis shares what he's learned marrying Twitter to his IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign. Perhaps the most time-consuming part of any crowdfunding campaign is getting the word out about your project. Fortunately, we’re lucky to live during a time that’s made promotion as easy as sending an email or updating your Facebook status.

Twitter, in particular, has become a powerful force in the universe of marketing your campaign because of its real time nature. The challenge, however, is to keep from succumbing to the dark side of promotion––Spamotion.

Here are a few tips that I’ve learned through my own experiences crowdfunding my short film Cerise and by keeping a keen eye on other IndieGoGo campaigns.

Twitter Tip #1: Be a Prologue Before a Petition IndieGoGo co-founder Slava Rubin says it best: “The world is shifting from a world of transactions to a world of relationships.” That said, it’s probably not the best idea to jump into promoting your campaign on Twitter if you don’t already have a strong following.

I joined Twitter on May 4th, 2009. I began crowdfunding for Cerise on February 2nd, 2010, nine months after I had birthed a modest following. The first people I followed were friends, of course. Then I started searching hashtags (#film and #filmmaking, for example) and following handles like @grking and @kingisafink––people who shared similar interests. Before long, I was engaging in meaningful 140-character conversations about obscure directors like Jodorowsky and sharing my insights on filmmaking with those who followed my tweets.

It would later be these same followers who would make up my core of initial funders for Cerise. But had I not given myself ample time to genuinely get to know them, to forge actual relationships instead of networks, I would have come across as a spam artist once my campaign had begun.

Twitter Tip #2: Creativity is King It’s important to be creative when phrasing your tweets. It takes a little more time, but your followers will appreciate it since they’ll see that you’re not a @CampaignBot but an actual person who painstakingly crafts each and every promotional tweet as a affirmation of the passion he or she feels for it.

This is a pretty standard, run-of-the-mill tweet.

This tweet, however, shows a bit more pizazz and character!

But even a fun, quirky tweet like @Tearsinrain78 and @grahaminman’s will lose its charm if you see it three times in a row. Linking your personal Twitter account with your project’s can be detrimental to your crowdfunding efforts. Chances are the majority of your followers are also following your project, so if your accounts are linked, your tweets will quickly become redundant. Put in that extra effort and make every tweet from every account something special and worth reading.

Twitter Tip #3: Always Include Your (Shortened) Link When tweeting about your campaign, always include a link to its home page so that the first thing a potential funder sees after they click the link is your pitch video.

And because every letter and space is precious on Twitter, you should always use a link shortener like Bit.ly or Ow.ly. I use Bit.ly the most because aside from its tracking capabilities, the site also allows users to customize their links, so your link could read bit.ly/TaoCF, which will bring you to my first Tao of Crowdfunding post “Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign.” This way, it’s easy to remember while on the go and when using a mobile Twitter client.

Another favorite of mine is Hootsuite’s Hootlet, which allows users to shrink and share a link from a page they’re currently viewing. The Google Chrome-based web browser RockMelt has similar features for maximizing your social media output, though for now it’s a close third for me since it’s still in its most primitive beta stages.

Twitter Tip #4: #Hashtag #Everything #Relevant to your #Project In every tweet you send, be sure to hashtag words and phrases related to your project and campaign. This makes it easy for random people to find your project on Twitter or through a Google search.

One thing you’ll want to do is find out what words or phrases bring specific communities together on Twitter. They’re sort of like little galaxies in a vast cosmos. For instance, if you’re making a movie, I’ve found that #film, #indiefilm and #filmmaking are popular hashtags for connecting to these communities.

Right away I know that this is a romantically comedic film based in Oregon.

If you’re working on a #vampire #film that’s got elements of #filmnoir and #comedy, then you’re quadrupling your outreach into the seemingly endless depths of the Twitterverse.

Twitter Tip #5: Remember––Don’t Solicit, Elicit I introduced this nifty slogan in my previous blog post “A Practical Guide to Crowdfunder Etiquette” and it’s here as well because it’s doubly true when using Twitter.

Asking people to visit your IndieGoGo page will only get you so far in your campaign, but if your aim is to raise upwards of $15,000, you’ll need to expand your network and start eliciting responses from potential funders and supporters.

So what’s the difference between soliciting and eliciting? Well, here’s an example of a tweet that solicits, or asks, for help:

Now there’s nothing wrong with a tweet like this, of course; it’s very similar to the “Make it happen for (fill in your campaign here)” tweet we saw at earlier. But look at this example of a tweet that elicits, or evokes a response:

Obviously, this tweet for finishing funds for the film Jenny is meant to intrigue and make you want to click the link to see just what this campaign is all about.

Twitter Tip #6: People Need Their Space Some people (myself included) still prefer to append their own messages before an “RT” and as much of your original message as possible. However, if by the time you click “Send” your character count is at zero, you risk possibly losing a personalized retweet that could elicit funds from other people’s followers.

The retweet button can seem a bit cold a way of spreading the word about your campaign, especially if the person doing the retweeting feels strongly about your project. A well-crafted tweet is no accident, but remember to keep it short and simple and leave at least 15 characters available for that super passionate backer to RT with ease.

Twitter Tip #7: @Everybody Whenever you thank a contributor, be sure to mention (@) that person on Twitter. If you’re not sure if they have a Twitter account or don’t know that person’s handle, do a quick Google search of that person’s name and “on Twitter” and you’ll find him or her fairly easy.

The crowdfunders behind Jenny are thanking by name and by Twitter handle.

Even if they don’t use Twitter much or if their little pastel egg of a profile picture hasn’t hatched into the person you know and follow, show your appreciation anyway so it’s on the record, transparent and in plain site of everyone.

Bonus Tip: Avoid “The Flood” at All Costs! Charlie Chaplin said it best in his famous speech at the end of The Great Dictator: “You are not machines, you are men” (and women!) That said, do not flood your feed with tweets exclusively about your campaign.

This example speaks a thousand words.

While crowdfunding is a full-time job and you should maintain a steady presence on Twitter while you’re campaigning, you should still be interacting with your followers in ways unrelated to your #Project. Remember, people give to people, not @bots. Once you nurture and maintain those relationships as a person more than a campaigner, you build a network that will walk beside a person they’ll forever be proud to know and support.

At the end of the day, it’s really all about personalization. That’s the most important thing to walk away from after reading this Tao of Crowdfunding blog post aside from a handful of helpful Twitter tips that will make your campaign a bit more approachable and more likely to reach its IndieGoGoal.