The Costs Of Crowdfunding

Filmmakers speak of crowdfunding as if it is free money. It isn't. In some instances it isn't even close to being so. In Indie Film, where filmmakers are routinely asked to take blood from a stone, you'd think the costs would leap from everyone's tongue.

So what platform, puts the most money into your pocket? Well, the answer ain't so easy.

As this is now the era of the six figure crowdfund raise, the answer is a combination of low fees and high user base. How many campaigns truly open up beyond the friends and family base?

The hard facts are a little easier to come by. Costs, in ascending order:

Kapipal • Currently no fee + PayPal processing fee (~2-4%), (must use PayPal, Italian) IndieGoGo • 4% fee if you make your goal, 9% otherwise, +3% credit card processing fee Kickstarter • 5% fee, +3-5% credit card fee (only funded if you make your goal) Eppela • 5% fee + PayPal processing fee (~2-4%), (must use PayPal, only funded if you make your goal, Italian) RocketHub • 4% fee if you make your goal, 8% otherwise, +3-5% credit card fee SoKap • 5% fee, 10% fee on product sold via their marketplace, +3% credit card fee United States Artists • 15% fee + 4% credit card fee

Lynette Howell on "Producing Is Supporting New Talent Through More Than Just Production"

If you are a regular reader of this blog, or follower of mine on Twitter, I think you know that for me a Producer only deserves that credit when they truly commit to support the project from beginning to end. You also probably know how challenging I find the calling of producing these days, when we are required to do more and more, and are rewarded, at least financially, less and less. It is always inspiring for me, when a Producer steps forward, embraces the full demand of the role, and does with a great attitude and recognition of the benefits that come from the commitment. Lynette Howell has not been producing that long, but she has learned a great deal, as we all can from her generosity of a guest post today.

ON THE ICE – Supporting new talent through more than just production:

The kind of exploration into distribution that I find myself doing on my film ON THE ICE is new for me… uncharted territory and truthfully out of my comfort zone, but one that I find myself glad I am being somewhat forced into not only embracing, but championing.

As an independent Producer, I started my company with the mandate of supporting new talent. At first, this was a necessity. I didn't have any relationships with established Directors when I entered the business. Therefore the only way to begin a career producing meant that I had to find projects that other more established producers didn't want to take on - either because they were too challenging to make, or too small for a Producer to earn a living on. This necessity quickly turned into my true passion for discovering new voices and this passion then turned into an understanding of how crucial this kind of support is to the continued growth and evolution of the independent industry.

Since my first movie almost 7 years ago (Ryan Flecks HALF NELSON) I have produced many movies of all sizes and genres, ranging from Derek Cianfrance’s BLUE VALENTINE to David Ellis’s SHARK NIGHT 3D. But it is not the size, scope or scale that draws me towards putting my energy into a project -- it is about finding stories that speak to me, and they continue to often come from new filmmakers.

As an Advisor to the Sundance Creative Producing Initiative, I continue to be a huge supporter in any way that I can of up and coming filmmakers. In 2009 I met Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, the Writer and Director of the short film SIKUMI that was the winner of the Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking at Sundance the prior year. He was at the Directors Lab with a script for his feature film ON THE ICE along with his producing partner Cara Marcous who was also a Lab fellow.

The script for ON THE ICE had so many built in challenges to it -- 1. LOCATION -- Set in Barrow, Alaska -- which is the Northern-most point in the United States, deep in the Arctic Circle. The only way in or out during the winter months is by plane. 2. WEATHER -- Temperatures can drop to 40 below with wind chill. All gear has to be winterized prior to shooting. And for some scenes crew cannot have any skin exposed because of the high risk of frostbite. 3. CASTING NON ACTORS -- The script featured an all Inuit cast and Andrew felt it was crucial to work with local non-actors. 4. BUDGET -- Making a movie in these extreme conditions does have a cost and so raising money for this would be extremely challenging. 5. SHOOTING SCHEDULE -- The ONLY month we could shoot in Barrow was April because of weather and light issues (Barrow has 24 hours of darkness in the winter, and 24 hours of sunlight in the summer). Therefore we had a very short window to put this movie together!

But it was such a fresh script, setting and structure for a movie that I simply had to get involved despite all the obstacles

Through 5 different equity investors, a post-production deal, numerous grants, a tax credit and tons of support in kind, Cara and I managed to raise the money necessary to make the movie.

Production was such a challenge because of the above-mentioned issues (and some I didn’t forsee, such as using a bucket for a toilet everyday on the frozen tundra). But we managed to make a very special film that feels unlike anything I have seen before. The movie premiered at Sundance in competition earlier this year and went on to win two awards at the Berlinale Film Festival (the Crystal Bear and Best First Feature Film). The awards validation proved that there was an audience for this film, but we all knew that it was going to take a creative way to reach them.

All the incredible effort from so many people pushing this unbelievably challenging movie from a short film all the way to a critically acclaimed feature film found itself with an uncertain distribution future.

Given the technological advances and through social media, there is an opportunity for my support, your support and the support of many others towards new filmmakers to now transition into distribution in a meaningful way.

I have made movies that went to festivals before and weren’t able to find a distributor willing to pay a MG, or give the movie a wide, or even aggressive platform release. I have been left selling a film for a very small amount of money and then having it released in five to ten cities and ultimately no one really hearing about it or seeing it due to lack of marketing dollars or the same level of passion and commitment from the distributor that came from the filmmaking team who struggled to make the movie. Filmmakers traditionally feel more comfortable with the idea of a “real” distributor releasing a movie, even without a viable plan to release their film because there is a stigma associated with not having this branding. I believe this stigma is potentially short sighted and want to support the idea of alternative methods of distribution, especially for movies like ON THE ICE which don’t fall into the obviously commercial slam dunk scenarios for most distributors, no matter the size – but that clearly have an audience.

Through the new Sundance Initiative and Kickstarter, we are exploring a different approach to distribution for ON THE ICE. We are trying to raise $80k which will allow us to take the movie to a much broader audience than would be possible had we gone down the traditional path of a somewhat cosmetic theatrical release or a non-theatrical route. I want this movie to be SEEN by as many people as possible. The work that our team has been doing is staggering – more care and attention to detail in how to approach this audience and really use the money raised to reach a much broader number of people is incredible. It takes a lot of effort and determination. But I want to prove it can work, so that we can continue to ensure that the new voices of tomorrow’s filmmakers have a home for their movies.

If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are involved in independent film or independent art of some kind. So, you may not be in a position to pledge much money, but I hope that you will consider passing our Kickstarter link on to the friends and colleagues in your life who might be interested in what we’re trying to do. The act of forwarding this on is incredibly powerful for us and it could mean we can release our film.

To support ON THE ICE go to our kickstarter page:

Lynette Howell Silverwood Films

How Would You Use All 27 New Platforms Available For Direct (aka DIY/DIWO) Distribution?

UPDATED 8/31 730A (Now 30 Platforms & Services!)Thanks for the recommendations in the comments and elsewhere! UPDATED 9/1 630A (Now 31 Platforms & Services!) UPDATED 9/1 830A, UPDATED 9/8 8A (32!), UPDATED 9/15 6A, 9/23 UPDATED 5/15/2012 (Now 33 Platforms & Services!)

We are awash in wonderful opportunities. Distribution has long been said to be one of the top concerns of Truly Free / Indie filmmakers. Ditto on the marketing side. We've been neglectful to address the equally important social side, but that's changing. Financing is always a challenge, but even there we have new help and hope. The great news is that never before have we had so many opportunities in all these areas.

Now comes the time to develop some best practices. How do we use all of these wonderful opportunities? How do we prepare for them? How do we access them? Here's a list of the 27 platforms & tools I know of; I am sure you know some more to add to the list. Let's get this new model started!

How about everyone pick a platform (ideally one they used) and write up some recommendations on how to use it well, and we run them as posts on this blog?


How do you think we should utilize all of these great tools and platforms? We are not going to figure it out one by one on our own. The truth will only be revealed through collective endeavor (and a little good fortune). I would love to hear some advice from all the budding and experienced PMDs out there... not to mention filmmakers who have utilized or plan on utilizing any of these.

I am having a bit of a hard time coming up with the proper discriptions for the tools and services. This is very much a Work In Progress. If you have a better definition, please let me know. Several services show up in different categories. There are definitely suppliers that I have forgotten or neglected to mention (my apologies, but this is a public service and not my job job).

1. Artist Direct Distribution / Platforms: FilmDIY (promo video), MubiGarage, Ooyala, Viddler,

2. Artist Direct Distribution / Platforms - non-specialized: These are places filmmakers can "sell" their work, but are not filmcentric. Craigslist, Etsy,

3. Artist Direct Distribution / TVOD Players: Distrify, Dynamo Player (Review), EggUp (review), (still in Beta) , FlickLaunch, Groupee, OpenFilm,

4. Artist Direct Distribution / Service Facilitators: Sundance's Artist Services,

5. Audience Aggregation, Analytics, & Commerce: FanBridge, TopspinMedia

6. Audience Participation: LiveFanChat, Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, Social Guide, SoKap, Watchitoo

7. CrowdFunding/Audience Participation:      IndieGoGo • 4% fee if you make your goal, 9% otherwise, +3% credit card processing fee      Kickstarter • 5% fee, +3-5% credit card fee (only funded if you make your goal)      RocketHub • 4% fee if you make your goal, 8% otherwise, +3-5% credit card fee      SoKap • 5% fee, 10% fee on product sold via their marketplace, +3% credit card fee      United States Artists • 15% fee + 4% credit card fee      Eppela • 5% fee + PayPal processing fee (~2-4%), (must use PayPal, only funded if you make your goal, Italian)      Kapipal • Currently no fee + PayPal processing fee (~2-4%), (must use PayPal, Italian)      And 10 others listed here

8. Digital Delivery Facilitators: Veedios (article)

9.Digital Distribution Access Providers: Brainstorm, Distribber (analysis), GoDigital, Gravitas, Inception Digital Services, IndieBlitz ,Might Entertainment, New Video, Premiere Digital,

10. Digital Download & Streaming Aggregators: Amazon,, CinemaNow (aka BestBuy), FilmDIY, iTunes, Vudu, XFinityTV (aka Comcast),YouTube

11. Digital Limited Run US Theatrical Exhibition: Cinedigm, FathomEvents, Screenvision

12. Digital Streaming Aggregators FREE (AVOD): Crackle, Snag (Owners of IndieWIre, host of my blog), Vimeo, YouTube

13. E-commerce: E-Junkie (shopping cart)

14. Educational Market: An Overview, Educational Market Streaming

15. Exhibition/Four Wall Services (i.e. self booking): QuadCinemaFourWall

16. Exhibition/New Model: Emerging's Digital Repertory Program, Specticast

17. Free Peer to Peer: VoDo, BitTorrent

18. Fulfillment: Amazon Services, Amplifier, theConneXtion, CreateSpace, FilmBaby, IndieBlitz,Kufala Recordings, Paid, Transit Media, I got a lot more when I did a search but I don't know one from the other.

19. Influencer / Social Media Analytics: Klout, PeerIndex, Topsy, Traackr, Twitalyzer,

20. Markets / Online On Demand For Territorial Licensing (B2B): Cinando, Festival Scope,

21. Mobile Phone & Tablet Film App Builders: Mopix (see demo here) Stonehenge

22. Mobile Video Sharing: Thwapr,

23. Platforms: Facebook, Playstation, Roku, RoxioNow, XBox

24. Search (for SEO): Ask, Bing, Google, Yahoo

25. Social Discovery Platforms ( Online TVOD): PreScreen

26. Social Networks: Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Weibo

27. Stream To View Transactional VOD (Pay): Constellation, Prescreen (review)

28. Streaming Subscription (SVOD): Amazon,, Fandor, Hulu, LoveFilm, Mubi, Netflix

29. Trailer Distribution / Online Internet Video Archive

30. Video Conferencing / Multi-party (for Fan Engagement & Remote Appearances): Watchitoo

31. VOD Aggregation:,

32. VOD Channels: Multichannel Video Programmers (note: not all offer VOD), FilmBuff

33. Facebook Video Players/Channels:Cinecliq, Milyoni

Joke and Biagio on "How to Build an Emotional Connection with Your Audience"

Posts about how to use crowdfunding effectively have become a bit of mainstay in the indie film blogosphere. But that doesn't make them any less crucial. Crowdfunding has become the most-talked about new tool in a filmmaker's arsenal for getting your movie financed. It's an intimidating commitment, particularly if you want to do it well. Luckily we all have a community to turn to, a community that has been very generous with their shared knowledge. Joke and Biagio, a husband & wife filmmaking team, collected their favorite & most helpful crowdfunding posts recently -- and having included a post from this site SPRANG to my attention. They not only found posts that were useful, but also were then able to recognize what was missing. Today they guest post and fill in one of those gaps: the emotional connection between your crowdfunding campaign and your audience. Thanks guys!

The internet’s a crowded place. Everyone’s promoting something. A product, a cause, a film…

Make your movie stand out from the crowd by connecting with people on an emotional level.

How the Heck Do I Do That?

Below are some best-guess tips from our experience making and promoting Dying to do Letterman, our feature documentary which will qualify for Academy Award® consideration at DocuWeeks™ 2011.

So far, the audience response has been emotional -- and beyond our wildest dreams. In looking back, here's what we've learned.

1. Start With a Project that Makes You Emotional.

Oodles of filmmakers miss the mark on this point.

If the mere thought of the film you’re planning doesn’t make you laugh out loud, bring tears to your eyes, keep you up late at night and bounce you out of bed early in the morning, make another movie that does.

You’ll never move an audience if the project doesn’t move you.

2. Connect To Others With Your Film's “Story”

We’re not talking about “plot” or “script” here.

What’s the story of your film?

Why are you making it?

What extraordinary circumstances in your own life gave you no choice BUT to make this movie?

From the dawn of time great stories have bonded people, creating a shared human experience. Today those stories are told around campfires, water coolers, and dinner tables.

No one’s going to retell your elevator pitch to their friends, but they will relate an amazing story about a filmmaker they met.

When it came to our story, we were “lucky” (as filmmakers, anyway) to have an emotional behind-the-scenes story.

Before sharing this example, we acknowledge you might not have such built-in emotional circumstances. That's okay. Find your story that connects with people on a gut level--a story they want to retell to others--whether funny, horrific, inspiring, or unbelievable.

Ours went something like this:

“One of our best friends is a stand-up comedian and he’s always wanted to perform on Letterman. We just found out he has cancer and might only have five years to live. When we called to see if we could help in any way, he told us he’s dedicating what’s left of life to chasing his dream, and asked us to film it. It was a hard decision, but we’re throwing in our life savings and seeing the movie through to the end.”

That story moved us. It moved the people we told. They told others.

Find your story.

3. “Social” without the “media” part...

Social media will be a huge part of promoting your film, but nothing can recreate the emotional connection made between two real people.

In person.

No computer in the middle.

Find any excuse to personally introduce yourself to your potential audience.

In our case, during the filming of the documentary, we went out of our way to shake every person’s hand, learn their name, and thank them for their involvement...even if they were just casual passers-by.

At every film festival screening we walk through the line before the film starts, introduce ourselves as the filmmakers, and sincerely thank people for coming to our movie.

We now know many of them by name, and they actively keep in touch on Facebook and Twitter, as well as our blog and the official site — the perfect time for “social media” to step in and help out.

4. Share Your Emotions On Video

Allow your potential audience access to your life by posting regular video updates on your filmmaking journey. (This is something we started far too late.)

Be real. No one wants to support a “too cool for school” filmmaker. People support those they can relate to. Show you're as vulnerable as the people you’re reaching out to every day (as long as you’re genuine.)

It’s probably no coincidence that the day this video went up we raised about $10,000 for our Kickstarter campaign. We almost didn’t put it up because it was a little embarrassing.

Clearly, that would’ve been a costly mistake.

5. Swag vs Mementos

Noun: An object kept as a reminder or souvenir of a person, place or event.

swag /swag/
Noun: Not a memento.

How many film festivals have you been to where you’ve been hit with buttons, mugs, pens, tee-shirts--you name it?

Some swag is clever. Some isn’t. Most you'd never give a second thought.

Rather than spend big money on swag, spend mucho time coming up with a creative, inexpensive item your potential audience might actually hold on to — even cherish — in the years to come.

It’s not easy.

In our case, after weeks of brainstorming, Steve Mazan (subject of Dying to do Letterman) said, “You know, I was dying to do Letterman, I wonder what everyone else is dying to do?”

He then came up with our “I’m Dying To…” buttons.

They’re blank in the middle, and Steve personally writes people’s dreams on them with a sharpie. We street team days before the movie plays (and by we, we mean the two of us, Steve, and whoever else we can con into it) and give people their "dream buttons" along with a flyer listing our screening times.

People wear the buttons, strike up conversations with complete strangers about their buttons, all the while connecting their own dreams back to our movie.

We credit those buttons with our numerous sell out crowds, standing ovations, and a more amazing launch to our Kickstarter campaign
We’re Not Psychologists

We’re just indie filmmakers who want others to be as passionate about our movie as we are every day.

Over the years we’ve been lucky to work on many different types of film and TV projects, but we’ve never had such enthusiastic audience response and participation until now.

The difference?

People are connecting to our film emotionally.

Work hard to achieve that, and your film may be one of the lucky ones that breaks out.

We’re hoping Dying to do Letterman proves to be one of those films.

We get emotional just thinking about it.

About Joke and Biagio:

Wife and husband team Joke and Biagio are best known in the unscripted world for executive producing "Scream Queens" on VH1, "Commercial Kings with Rhett and Link" on IFC (currently airing Friday Nights at 10pm/9 central) and the upcoming documentary series "Caged" on MTV. Other credits include "Beauty and the Geek" and "Oh Baby, Now What?" The duo earned their documentary wings under acclaimed filmmaker R.J. Cutler ("The War Room," "The September Issue") and honed their reality TV skills working with luminaries like Mark Burnett. Their company, Joke Productions, Inc., is growing fast. They blog and tweet about making film and TV at and @JokeAndBiagio.

About Steve Mazan:

In the decade since starting in the great San Francisco comedy scene, Steve Mazan has played clubs, colleges and corporate events across America. In addition, to reaching his dream of performing on David Letterman's show, he's been a repeat guest on Craig Ferguson, Byron Allen and the Bob & Tom Show.

But of all the shows Steve has done, he remains most proud of the many trips he's made to the Mid-East to perform for our troops. As a former Navy Submariner, Steve knows how much those men and women sacrifice for our country, and how much they need our support, and someone to laugh at.

Alex & Andrew Smith on "Crowdfunding = Barnraising: We All Have To Do Some Heavy Lifting"

It's kind of hard to find the appropriate analogy for what we do, particularly these days. Often I am tempted to think it is running full speed against a brick wall without any protective headgear on, hoping that a door may open the moment before impact. But those are on my down days. Usually I can see us all working together, building bridges, fusing connections, doing the labor that will lift the culture in many ways. It shouldn't be so hard to describe that, but I still struggle.

Which is one of the reasons I was so pleased to reconnect with Alex and Andrew Smith, twin brothers, whose go to it attitude and willingness to reach high with their ambition has never been lagging. They look for the truth of it, and don't shy from the honesty of the hard work. Which is why the analogy they unearthed for crowdfunding for their guest blog today is so fitting.

Back in the 70’s, when we were little mop-haired twins, our parents would host ‘work parties” at our ranch in rural western Montana. They’d call up all their friends-- my father’s English Lit colleagues at the university, his graduate students, all their hippie, carpenter, writer, rancher, logger and bohemian buddies– and invite them up, first to do some ranch work, and then to have a party.

And we would all, together, gather stones spit up from the meadow and stack them on rockpiles; pile up old fence posts, rotten lumber, old rusty tractor parts and scrap metal; we would clear irrigation ditches and thin the larch stands.

And every spring we would take on some seriously ambitious, semi-crazy project—trying to turn the basement of an old burnt down farmhouse into a swimming pool, or fusing two old hand-hewn turn-of–the-century log cabins together, to form the “big house” – the house in which we grew up.

In short, a lot of good people would come together for a short period of time, and they’d get something epic done quickly. Then there’d be a softball game, and a feast— chili and salad and beer— and a bonfire with guitars, stories and singing. We still have the Super-8 movies to prove it.

Those mid-1970’s community gatherings, in their “Whole Earth Catalogue” funky, post-psychedelic form, were a reiteration of a much earlier homesteader model— the old fashioned ‘barn-raising’. (Cue the clip of Harrison Ford in suspenders in “Witness.”) The family who needed the barn would do all the heavy preparations. The mapping and measuring. The gathering of tools, the cutting of lumber, the cooking– and they’d get everyone to come over– and they would all, together, raise that barn. And in the next season, this family would pitch in to raise some else’s barn.

And, so, too, now, creative project-makers find themselves returning to that reliable, roll-up-your-sleeves, grass-roots, reciprocal “gather”— and its corresponding “glean”—salvaging the fine apples that the industrial machines left behind-- to get our crops in (the literal ‘roots of grass’), and our barns built, be they actual buildings, or specifically, in this context, the sturdy, scrappy, home-made architecture of indie films. We’re not talking DIY, but rather, DIO—‘Do It Ourselves’. This joint effort spirit is what gives crowd-financing platforms their energy, power, and, indeed-- joy.

Our own father is gone now– he’s been gone a long time. Not all of his projects turned out exactly the way he thought they would: few things do. But on those golden ‘Days of Heaven’-like gathers, magic happened. Serious work happened. It was a truly communal effort: work hard; play hard. Later there’d be dancing— and even some howling at the moon. Almost forty years later, the result of those efforts still bear fruit.

And that’s what we are trying to do with the Kickstarter {Barnraiser} campaign for our film, Winter in the Blood: gathering, gleaning, raising load-bearing beams. Digital uploads and Mail Chimp-generated email lists have replaced Whole Earth catalogue instructions, but the communal work— and the sharing of strategies of ways to best get to our goals— remains the same. “You help us with our project—and we’ll honor your contribution. And help you with yours.”

We’ve been brainstorming and barnstorming for over four years on our film project. We’ve drawn the maps, measured the clearing, cut the timber, smithed the spikes. We’ve stewed the meat, iced the beers, set stumps around the fire, and invited a bunch of good people to join us. The script is written, the cast is cast, the crew is lined up, and we are—90% financed.

Now we just need a little help– to hoist our movie up onto its feet. To anchor it to the ground.

To raise this barn of a film.

Thank you for reading, and thank you Ted for articulating (and being) Hope.

--Alex & Andrew Smith

Alex and Andrew Smith directed the feature film THE SLAUGHTER RULE which premiered at Sundance in 2002 (and starred the incredible David Morse, and the then unknown Ryan Gosling & Amy Adams). They are now crowdfunding for their next feature and the campaign ends July 6th. Please contribute. I did

Due to popular demand to get to know a bit more about the film, the WinterInTheBlood team have provide these additional links to media that they created for Winter in the Blood.

Our presentation about the film-

Alex, Andrew & Ken on writing the film-

Susan Kirr talks about Producing-

A How-To video for Kickstarter-

A word from one of the interns that will be joining us from Long House Media-

David Morse talks about the project-

Chaske Spencer talks about the project-

Guest Post: Jennifer Fox “PART 4: How MY REINCARNATION Broke All Kickstarter Records”

Two weeks ago Jennifer Fox shared with us some of the lessons she learned crowdfunding (1st six here, next 14 here, next 9 here). Since then, she has gone down in the record books for both the number of donations and the amount thereof. If they gave records for quality as well as quantity she probably would have gotten those too.

Jennifer continues her path of profound generosity with another wave of the demystification wand to show how it was done. It is not magic; it's hard work -- but it can be done, and learned from.

Hard to believe, but true: Here are the very last 6 Tips that I learned from our Kickstarter campaign. (Then again, you never know when I might suddenly get more Kickstarter inspiration…)

37. The Advantages of Fundraising for a Finished Film: A New Model?

As I’ve mentioned often, I was terrified of fundraising for a finished film. It seemed to break every rule imaginable. So it was strange to discover is that there are actually advantages to fundraising for a film that is completed. It turned out that the very thing we wrote on our Kickstarter site to sell the idea of donating to our film to prospective patrons is true: Donating to a finished film is a low risk proposition. Why?

• Most films go over budget, take much longer than planned (Oh like 20 years) and God forbid I should put this in print, never get finished. While I am not sure the general population knows all these facts, I think they can smell the “risk” in the ether.

• With a finished film and especially one that is beginning to get noticed and play known festivals like MY REINCARNATION was doing, people can enjoy giving to something that is a sure bet. It is already successful.

• For the fundraising filmmaker, an obvious benefit is the ease at creating “New News” (previous Tip #34): We could film endless additional video updates from the various events the film was showing at and also make “Sneak Preview Fundraising Screenings” to show them the goods and create buzz. Because MY REINCARNATION was playing at festivals, there was plenty of news, but still the film’s potential of widespread commercial release could not be achieved without further financial help. So there was evidence of success, yet with a clear obstacle to distribution that begged for people’s support.

I am wary to suggest this as a new fundraising model for obvious reasons. The amount of risk to the filmmaker is extremely high: I mean what if you can’t make the costs in this late game effort? Who knows how many years the anxiety about paying off the film’s cost took off my life?

But dreaming into the future, could people “vote” with their pocketbook for the films they want to see once they are made in the same way they vote by buying a ticket to a movie theater. Of course, this is asking them to vote at a higher level then going to a matinee, but for niche films on rarely seen subjects, maybe people are willing to pay $100 or $200 for the price of admission. Just a thought…

On another level, the question is can you translate some of the advantages we had on our campaign to a film that is not yet finished? And like all fundraising efforts, how do you have the manpower or womanpower to launch a campaign of this magnitude while simultaneously finishing your film?

38. Create ‘Events’:

There are many ways you can create “Events” even if your film is not finished. Any way you can generate new compelling video that is under 5 minutes (and even better around 2-3 minutes) and can be uploaded onto YouTube, your website, your Facebook page, and your Kickstarter page, helps your campaign. Here are a few ideas that came to my mind (you will surely think of more):

• Just like we had “Sneak Preview Fundraising Screenings” of MY REINCARNATION during our Kickstarter campaign, you can have “Sneak Preview Excerpt Fundraising Screenings” or “Fundraising Soirées” in a host’s home. You can also show the trailer or scenes from the film to an invited group of potential contributors or just interested souls. The key is to videotape the event and then get people’s reaction to the clips they have seen on camera to create a new video post. If possible, another hook might be to ask the film’s subjects to appear at the event with you to talk about the film (depending on the subject matter).

• Honestly, neither of our Sneak Preview Fundraising Screenings generated much money. However, the video we created for the website – of me talking, the protagonist talking, and people’s reactions to what they saw – helped the Kickstarter campaign have life and credibility. From our analytics, we saw immediately that contributions rose when we posted these videos. Remember the Lemming Theory in Tip #30? People will be more likely to join your project and make a contribution if they hear others singing its praises. Any way you can get these video testimonies is worthwhile…

• You can also videotape discussions about the film in the edit room with your editor and yourself and post them.

• You can bring people into the edit room to screen parts of the film and tape their responses. Or ask them discuss the film’s important topic and it’s meaning for the world.

• You can ask your film’s current partners, who are already on board the project, to talk to camera about what they love about the film and why they are supporting it. Then edit that into a string of testimonies for the web.

• If you do any mid-game interviews with press, make sure you tape them and post on your website, your Facebook, your Kickstarter page.

• Tiny Note: My experience is that when you ask a TV station or a print interviewer for a copy of the interview you just did, they always promise to give to you and often never send it to you. My solution is to bring a small Flip camera everywhere and ask an assistant or intern to conveniently film you being filmed. (Make sure they stand as close as possible for sound.) This way you have the video even if the sound is not so good. You can always subtitle the tape if necessary.

39. It’s Not Over Till It’s Over….

As our last week countdown continued we kept up the pressure. It didn’t matter that by the Day 4 of the countdown we had achieved our second goal of $100,000. We had a third goal in the back of our minds since the very beginning: To raise monies for the films theatrical rollout in the USA, which would be another $40,000 - $70,000. So we kept going.

Part of our campaign plan was that in the last week we would post a written update every day. This took a lot of work, but we actually sat together as a team and outlined what topic I would write about each day in the last 5 days of the campaign. Again we had the idea that these letters had to be real pieces of writing and not just a reiteration of the financial appeal. For ideas we tried to draw on things that related to the film topic, Tibetan Buddhism, and to the film’s subjects, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and his son. This outline was really helpful. We followed the same procedure as with all my posts. I drafted the letter and then they were passed to Katherine and Lisa to edit and then to Stefanie to do the layout and artwork and post on all sites, It was intense, but it worked, even while midweek I had to hop on a plane to the Krakow International Film Festival where the film was having it’s Polish premiere.

The last couple days we even posted several times a day on Facebook with the hour countdown, mimicking what was on our Kickstarter site. Meanwhile, other people around the world started posting the countdown as well. Pretty cool when you realize others are following the ball dropping on your campaign and urging people to join during the last minutes! I myself kept reaching out to people on Facebook from Krakow until the “0 Seconds Left” appeared on our site.

In fact, there was so much energy at the end of our campaign that people turned to our website to make donations when the Kickstarter site closed down. We got several contributions in the days that followed May 28th.

It’s a good thing for me, because now that we have raised our completion funds and made a dent into our next goal, our theatrical release, I plan to keep continuing the fundraising – off Kickstarter – to raise the remaining costs for our theatrical release starting this October in the USA. In fact, Stefanie just put up a new "Store" (which we will conintue to build) and "Donation" page on our site. But due to Kickstarter, we were able to hire our theatrical booker with the funds we have so far and have started to chart the campaign, including having booked the film’s theatrical opening in NYC. More details to follow. (You can continue to hear about all things related to MY REINCARNATION by signing up on our Mailing List for constant updates and to find out when the film will be at a theater near you.)

40. The “Tipping Point”:

For months I fantasized about that illusive thing called the “Tipping Point”. I wondered how to make it happen. Clearly all the things we did and all the waves that our work generated around the world inside of other people took hold in the last 4 days of the campaign and created a small Tsunami that blew the MY REINCARNATION campaign off the charts. In those last days we more than doubled what we had raised previously in 86 days of work.

Afterwards, people wrote me things like: “Watching the last days of the campaign was better than a good soap opera”; or “I couldn’t stop checking the numbers all day to see how much they rose by”; or “I kept meaning to donate earlier, but somehow I kept forgetting till now”; and “I didn’t plan to give that much, but I just did!” (Said by the woman who bought my beloved Tibetan chest for $7,000 on the last day of the campaign with 6 hours left to go.)

I’d like to tell you it was all the result of our careful engineering and planning, but that would be a lie. Having been making films for 30 years, I know that you can work just as hard as we did and create a carefully constructed campaign, with a lot of good press, and plod along fairly well, but never hit that illusive “tipping point”.

So, I have to go back to my old dad for wisdom on this one. He always told me that 60% of success in life is hard work, 10% is talent, and the rest is luck. I think he is right. After all is said and done, I think we had some of that luck on our side this time.

41. From Kickstarter to outreach and distribution…

One of the things that became very clear to me doing this campaign is that Kickstarter is a preparation for your basic outreach and distribution campaign in America.

• We now had 518 additional people invested in the film and in it’s success in the world.
• We had reinvigorated our previous partners through the campaign’s success.
• We had built our mailing list, adding new individual names and new related organizations across the country and the world.
• We had built up our facebook and twitter presence.
• We had gotten people hungry for the film’s release in their local.
• We had identified and begun to build partnerships with key organizations related to the film that we could draw on for the theatrical release.
• We had raised the name recognition of the film on the web and in the world through the campaign and through selective press.

The biggest thing is that going through this experience has built our own “chops” on how to run a campaign for this film and gotten us in fighting shape for the theatrical to come.

42. Delivery…

Ah delivery, the most unglamorous part of the campaign but the aspect that requires as much or more care. We have not actually delivered to our patrons yet, so there is a lot we still don’t know (perhaps another Kickstarter Update in a few months!). But there are a few things that we have thought about that you might want to consider:

First, just make sure you calculate the cost of Kickstarter, Amazon, the time of the people helping you and the costs and postage of delivering items properly. In my mind, I have made this to be about 15 - 20% of what you raise. In our case between, $22,500 – 30,000 out of the $150,000 we made towards the film. So what we will take away is somewhere around $125,000. Thinking about this ahead of time will help you set the right number goal for your project. But I think it is also important to let you backers know how much is the exact take-away from the campaign, so they understand what you might still need to raise, or why you may have to come back to them in the future. I haven’t yet figured out exactly how to “frame” this to contributors, but I am working on it now.

I think it is important to keep in touch with your patrons after the campaign ends, giving them updates on next steps and how the Incentives will be delivered and the future of the film. These people are your best friends in the march towards completion and getting the film into the world properly. They are your new expanded team, or, as I like to think of them, “Soldiers” for the film in the world. They have a vested interest in your film’s future, because it is now, in part, their film.

* * * * *

Kickstarter is an amazing process to go through. I highly recommend it for its potential monetary rewards, how it expands your network, and challenges your inner conceptions. I would do it again immediately with the right film project.

I do however, have to say one thing: All of us agonize about how to fund our films, and indeed it is a challenge. But sometimes it is easy to forget that the really difficult thing is not fundraising but making good films. Nothing compares to the challenge and the complexity of this unique art. With funding so scarce in America, it is easy to loose sight of this fact. Kickstarter is nothing compared with the task of making a well-crafted, surprising, valuable, enjoyable, emotional, eye-opening visual work that has the power to change the way people see themselves and the world. Let us all keep our eye on the ball as we journey forward!

Coming in the next weeks is a special post from the MY REINCARNATION team – Stefanie Diaz, Lisa Duva and Katherine Nolfi – filled with new wisdoms and perspectives on climbing the Kickstarter Mountain!

Jennifer Fox is an award-winning filmmaker and educator known for her ground-breaking features and series, including BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, FLYING: CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN and MY REINCARNATION. She recently co-wrote the half hour television pilot, THE GOOD EGG and is developing the feature script, THE HORSE'S TALE. She has executive produced many films, including LOVE & DIANE and ON THE ROPES. Fox is the film subject in: TO HECK WITH HOLLYWOOD!, CINEMA VERTE: DEFINING THE MOMENT and CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY.

Guest Post: Jennifer Fox "PART 3: How MY REINCARNATION Broke All Kickstarter Records"

Yesterday, the profoundly generous Jennifer Fox shared with us four more of the lessons she learned crowdfunding. This after a run two week's earlier where she shared a host of other (1st six here, next 14 here, next 9 here). Since then, she has gone down in the record books for both the number of donations and the amount thereof. Jennifer continues her path of profound generosity with another wave of the demystification wand to show how it was done. It is not magic; it's hard work -- but it can be done, and learned from. Read the next four today.

Here are the next 4 Tips of Kickstarter wisdom I learned along the MY REINCARNCATION crowd-funding path….

33. How Many Times Does It Take? The Rule of Three (at least):

For many years I heard distributors say that you have to hear the name of a film three times before you will go to see it in the movie theater (the same applies for purchasing any new product). I am not sure why this is the case, but the idea is that you have to have a new idea reinforced several times and several ways before you will take decisive action.

This is something I noticed over and over during the MY REINCARNATION campaign. People did not act the first time we sent them an announcement but somewhere down the line – email blast or Facebook Post number 3, 4, 5 or 6 (that they actually read) – they decided to become a patron. Of course this it totally different for those who have heard of the project before – like your long-suffering family and friends – who have been listening to you talk about your dear film ad nausea and make a donation if for no other reason than to have some peace and quiet.

But for strangers and for those who don’t have an emotional attachment to you, the key is to give reasons to keep reading, watching and considering the project so they can hear about it several times and pass their individual saturation point or “tipping point” to make a contribution. But to keep them engaged till they make their decision to become a patron, takes some work…

34. “If You Give, You Shall Receive”:

During the course of our Kickstarter campaign, I became so fired up with crowd-funding that I found myself really sympathetic to email appeals I received to help complete other films on both IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. I found myself making small (I am broke after all) $10 to $25 donations to other film projects I liked. What happened was surprising. Inevitably when I gave a donation to someone they made a donation back to our project. While we didn’t exactly make huge sums from this, it expanded the awareness of the project and they became part of the film’s community (see previous Tip #25). I found this very interesting.

It made me realize that another thing my Mother told me was true. When I was grown up, my Mom made a post motherhood career change to become a professional fundraiser for deafness research and created a foundation called NOHR (The National Organization for Hearing Research). She always said that it is important that she make donations to all her local charities and go to their events if she wants people to give to her foundation. I always found this idea strange, until I saw it happen on Kickstarter.

35. ‘New News’:

Previously I spoke about the idea that our team approached our Kickstarter campaign with the idea that there would be a “rollout” (see previous Tip #3), many people asked me what I meant by this.

A “rollout” means that you have to constantly create new reasons for people to keep checking your site and read your email blasts. This may not be so true on a shorter campaign but on a longer campaign like ours, which lasted 90 days, it becomes absolutely evident. So the question becomes: what new incentives are you giving your audience to continue their involvement or begin their involvement? I have already said in the previous post that fundraising is not a passive act (previous Tip #26); you must grab that potential patron’s attention.

Once you launch your Kickstarter campaign, the excitement of what you are offering – the new video appeal, all those new wonderful incentives – only lasts a certain while. I would give it about 10-days and then all that “newness” becomes old hat. After that you have to start adding “new news” to give people reasons to check your site and read your emails.

Of course one of the things you are giving people are your exciting written updates, that tell people about the film’s progress, campaign updates, and your life following the film’s development (which I have spoken intensively about in previous posts see Tip #14).

But I would say as a campaign goes on, you have to keep upping the ante, which means adding something new, every two weeks, then every week, then every day – until D-day. For our campaign the first thing we thought of is that we have to keep adding new video to our website and Facebook page regularly and point everyone to this video in every eblast we did on our own list as well as on the list serves of other organizations. These videos were created from every screening the film had at film festivals; a video series we created called O.F.F.’s (Outtakes from the Film), where we released various short clips (1.5 – 4 minutes) from the 1,000 hours of unused footage; two sneak preview screenings, one with protagonist Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in Melbourne, Australia, and another with the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City; photos from MY REINCARNATION events as I traveled around the world; and more video and audio interviews with me or the protagonists Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and Khyentse Yeshe.

Late in our Kickstarter campaign, when we were searching for “new news”, we started to add new incentives to the original list. Posting photos and descriptions of these new beautiful, precious items day by day gave people a reason to keep checking our site. See the next Tip #35:

36. Late Game Discoveries –What We Wish We Knew 90 Days Earlier:

There are many things we learned in the last days of our campaign – approximately 6 days till D-Day – when desperation set in and we kicked into even higher gear. Some of the things are due to it being our first time out with such a high priced campaign, others are just about breaking those inner taboos that keep you from going all the way to exposing your financial need (and therefore vulnerability) to your friends, family and the world.

• Towards the end of the campaign, with 6 days to go, I realized we needed more medium priced incentives on the site. The lower priced incentives were selling, but some of the higher priced incentives remained and didn’t seem like they would go. I decided to try something new as I discussed in the previous tip. So I raided my house once again and brought out more Buddhist artwork – at lower price points – to add in several installments as new incentives to offer people to buy. The next day Stefanie took pictures and posted the photos, updated our Kickstarter incentive lists, and sent out my new email announcing these objects and suddenly the contributions rose again.

• Silly at it may seem, I was uncomfortable reaching out to the film’s protagonists Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and Khyentse Yeshe for support. In fact, it was something I considered taboo for the duration of the Kickstarter campaign till the last days. There are many needs in a Buddhist community, and I didn’t want to ask for more help with something so superficial as a film fundraising campaign. I remember having a light bulb go off the same Sunday I raided my home. We were only at around $65,000 and I was wracking my brain how to move the campaign forward. I was nervous, but before going to bed, I wrote both Rinpoche, and Yeshi, who were both busy with heavy teaching schedules in Russia. I didn’t know if they would see the emails I sent them or even respond. The next morning I awoke to an email from Yeshi – donating a fantastic Buddhist statue – and then Rinpoche responded two days later offering a personal diamond ring to sell. We immediately posted pictures of the objects everywhere (in fact you can see the second one still up on our Kickstarter page now). These objects sent a clear message that the protagonist’s supported the film to the worldwide Buddhist communities that caused the contributions to go flying. Why people needed this sign, after the protagonists’ had given so many others – including letting me film them for 20 years and after the film was finished doing Q & A’s at screenings with me in different parts of the world – I don’t really know. It is one of the mysteries of human psychology. But certainly one of the many lessons is that people need constant evidence to keep donating to a long campaign like ours. In retrospect, I could have made this request sooner. But it also opened the idea of other contributions…

• In retrospect, I could have canvassed many people in the community and backers and asked them to donate personal items to the Kickstarter campaign. This would have allowed us to keep adding incentives and also to enroll more people in the effort without only asking for money.

• It wasn’t till the last week of our campaign that we realized that you could keep adding photos and video to our actual Kickstarter page. We always posted the visuals on Facebook and our website, but not on Kickstarter. Adding new visuals to the Kickstarter page each day in the last 5 day countdown made people come back to see what was “new” and they ended up contributing more.

• It’s amazing in the last days to realize the people you haven’t contacted about your Kickstarter campaign. One of my realizations came from yet another phone conversation with my mother, who was always trying to come up with new ideas to help me. She asked, “What about your high school? Have you announced the campaign to them?” No I hadn’t and I wish I had. I know it would have paid off. Same with your college class (I never graduated college so that was moot for me.) Any groups or organizations you have been part of – anytime during you entire life – are good candidates to tell about your film, since many still think filmmaking is glamorous and may very well enjoy being part of a film effort.

• The last day of the campaign I started to post individual messages on friends’ Facebook pages. This had enormous success and people contributed with hours to go. If I had to do it over again, I would have done this much sooner and more widespread. In fact, I would have slowly posted on all 3,500+ facebook friends I have built from the campaign of my last film. I wouldn’t make the posts obnoxious, just personal with a link to the MY REINCARNATION Kickstarter page.

• Beyond Facebook, I think I would have reached out to more individuals on our email lists and asked them personally for help in passing the word. We did a lot of mass mailings but the personal emails were harder to write. Yet often they are the most fruitful.

* * * * *
Next up is the last blog post with my remaining 6 Kick-Tips…

Jennifer Fox is an award-winning filmmaker and educator known for her ground-breaking features and series, including BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, FLYING: CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN and MY REINCARNATION. She recently co-wrote the half hour television pilot, THE GOOD EGG and is developing the feature script, THE HORSE'S TALE. She has executive produced many films, including LOVE & DIANE and ON THE ROPES. Fox is the film subject in: TO HECK WITH HOLLYWOOD!, CINEMA VERTE: DEFINING THE MOMENT and CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY.

Guest Post: Jennifer Fox “PART 2: How MY REINCARNATION Broke All Kickstarter Records"

Two weeks ago Jennifer Fox shared with us some of the lessons she learned crowdfunding (1st six here, next 14 here, next 9 here). Since then, she has gone down in the record books for both the number of donations and the amount thereof. Jennifer continues her path of profound generosity with another wave of the demystification wand to show how it was done. It is not magic; it's hard work -- but it can be done, and learned from.

OK, so I promised one last Blog Post and this one has already morphed into three posts. But I swear that these last three posts are my last words of wisdom about Kickstarter for a while (the final words of a self avowed Kickstarter addict).

Before I take a break and move onto other subjects, I want to let you know that there is a fourth post coming down the pipeline from the MY REINCARNATION team – Stefanie, Katherine and Lisa – who are working on another article filled with their words of wisdom and perceptions of what they learned doing our campaign.

As you can see, the short form is not my strong suit. I am a serial storyteller, not one for getting it all down in one neat punch. To me, the dramatic structure of life is episodic, which is why I have always loved the serial form and have made two documentary series and am now preparing a fiction television series. Even the new feature I am writing is told in episodic chapters.

Crowd funding is the same. It is a series of small dramatic arcs climaxing in small successes (after those failures I mentioned in the previous post). It would be misleading to talk about a Kickstarter campaign like it was one big Hollywood blockbuster. So here are the next 4 Tips, with 9 more coming, consisting of a lot of small dramas:

30. “The Lemming theory” Meets “The Power Of One”:

Everything I know about fundraising and distribution comes from my not so original, “Lemming Theory”. Human beings want to follow. So if the campaign is doing badly, people stay away but if those numbers are rising, people want to jump on the boat. Before people choose to support you they want to know the crowd is already voting for your project. No one except your mother or your father – and perhaps but not for sure, your lover/wife/husband – will back you without evidence. The “Lemming Theory” means that most people don’t want to be the first one to take the lead.

So how does anything ever happen in the world, if no one wants to stand out? A crowd doesn’t magically form. Usually it takes one courageous person who is respected – in the community or communities that the film addresses – to stand up for your project. Then other people see that individual, figure things are “safe”, and start to join in. That means that you, as the campaign team, are always searching for “key people” to embrace your film or your campaign and lead the way. And usually, it is a series of “Ones’”, over the course of the campaign that will get the project funded.

In fact, when you get many key individuals standing up, that is when the crowd turns into a stampede. (That is what happened in the last days of our campaign when donations suddenly went crazy, but more on that in the coming post Tip #40). To be clear, these key individuals are not necessarily famous people, although they can be since they have a lot of that “respect factor”, it depends on the project. But they are people who are trusted in the community that you are reaching out to for funding. Sometimes too, when you cast a wide net, people unknown to you turn up and embrace your campaign and lead the charge…

31. Team Web – Spreading Your Reach through People and Press:

There are many reasons to build a Kickstarter team (see previous Post #1 and previous Tip #2). Besides handling the sheer volume of Kickstarter work, a team expands your idea base, and also your contact base. As I have mentioned earlier, our core MY REINCARNATION Kickstarter team consists of Stefanie, Katherine and Lisa – each bringing different skills and experience to the campaign.

At the beginning of setting up our campaign, Katherine, suggested we write down all our existing film partners and contact them to see if they would help in spreading the word about the campaign. It was a given that we would engage the Buddhist Community of the film protagonist, Choegyal Namkhai Norbu, and his son, Khyentse Yeshe, with whom I have good contact. (This is the key benefit to having a niche audience as I discussed in the previous Tip #22.) But we were also looking for some traction in a wider circle of people than the obvious ones we knew.

Our Executive Producers and Funders were the first people we contacted about our plan. Perhaps wrongly we did not engage our European film partners at this level, since crowd funding is still new in Europe. (In retrospect, why not? They might have made good outreach in their communities. Oh well, next time…)

Interestingly some of our partners and EP’s took no interest in our fundraising project. They adopted the attitude that they had helped the film enough already and my current financial crisis was my problem, which is fair enough. Others like Executive Producer, Dan Cogen, from IMPACT PARTNERS, became a real source of support, blasting news of our campaign, Sneak Preview Screenings, and answering email questions immediately no matter how busy. One of many examples of his help relates directly to this post.

In a late a game brainstorming session – after we had met our original goal of $50,000 but were trying to make $100,000 – our team was discussing strategies of how to push the campaign forward. Among the many ideas, Lisa suggested that we needed to get people writing about our campaign. We discussed trying to get someone to write about our campaign at the Huffington Post. Lisa loves the blog “Hope for Film” and thought we should contact Ted Hope, whom none of us knew except by reputation. She set about searching the web for his contact address, but came up with nothing. Then I found him on Facebook, wrote him, but no reply. On a lark, I emailed EP Dan to see if he knew Ted, and indeed he did and immediately wrote him, pitching the story of our campaign, which led to our first Blog Post on the site. What I didn’t know is that now Ted would also become a strong supporter of our efforts and keep publishing our story as it spread to three blog posts and now five.

Another example of how your team can help expand your contacts is the way we were able to connect with the Rubin Museum of Art and the programmer Tim McHenry. We were looking for a place to do a “Sneak Preview Fundraising Screening” in NYC but were afraid of the costs. The Rubin Museum came up but I knew no one there. I put the word out to the Buddhist community and one of our big community supporters in Massachusetts, named Anna, came to the rescue with a name, which she contacted for me and then passed to me. Once I reached out to the person at the Rubin, the ball was in play, and she passed us to Tim, who viewed the film quickly, loved it and offered to host the screening. The Rubin also has a press office that went to work for the event. There were several journalists who came to that screening, most agreed to hold their articles till the film would be released. But also at the screening was someone from the Religion Department of the Huffington Post, who afterwards expressed interest to Stefanie that I write a blog. I did so and it was published five days before the end of the campaign, called, “Buddhist Samaya and the Making of ‘MY REINCARNATION’”. So another idea of Lisa’s was realized.

This is how “Team Web” works, everyone on your team – from the current team to all those you have partnered with during all phases of the making of the film – if contacted and enrolled in the effort can spread your reach exponentially in ways that you never could have dreamed when you started. Every person on your team is like the center of the web with endless potential contacts.

32. Blanche Dubois & Depending On The Kindness of Strangers:

While the above stories are perfect examples of getting help from people you know, the Blanche Dubois axiom is about the unexpected support that can come your way. Many people along the campaign heard about the film and our need to complete the funding and took up the cause of raising funds as their own. This is where the web is truly a miraculous tool to reaching out and connecting with like-minded strangers.

One woman in Italy – named Frauke – who couldn’t afford to donate, emailed me that she wanted to help our cause. Then another person from Argentina – Raul – wrote me the same thing, asking if he could translate our Kickstarter page into Spanish. Both criticized some of our message, saying it was hard for people outside the US to understand what crowd funding was. They asked us to make it clearer and better. At first I was pissed off. I stalled them both. People wanting to help seemed just like more problems to me.

Quite honestly in the beginning I was afraid of these offers. I thought, “I don’t know this person, the Buddhist community is a bit tricky, what if he or she writes the wrong thing...?” I have always been quite protective of my projects, working by that old axiom, ‘too many cooks spoil the pudding’. But Kickstarter was busting all of my other notions, why not this one. I knew we needed more traction in the world, so I gave them rein. I did communicate with them about the importance of what was written about the fundraising. Sometimes I had to say no to some of their ideas. For example, Frauke asked me to get the film protagonist Chögyal Namkhai Norbu to write an endorsement of the film, but I didn’t want to bother him with this, which seemed too pushy, but we were able to quote something he said at the fundraising screening of the film in Melbourne, which seemed to work as well.

Suddenly everywhere on Facebook were posts from Frauke or Raul. It was strange but glorious, because we didn’t have to do the work. Our reach expanded and I loosened up a bit. Others offered help. A German woman, Christiana, wrote me, worried that the shipping of single DVD’s to Europe made them too costly (One of our incentives was a 2012 Commercial DVD pre-sale). She asked if she could collect monies for the Commercial DVDs and make one big donation, but then have one person bring them all to Europe. I said fine not thinking too much about it, when three weeks later she wrote that she had pre-sold DVD’s to the tune of $6,300, could she make one large donation to the site? I said yes, floored. When a $10,000 came on the last day – the donor wrote us that she represented 60 people in China who had pooled their monies to make one large contribution! Oh Blanche, it’s a shame you never knew about the web!

* * * * *

Stay Tuned for the Next Two Parts with 9 more Kick-Tips…

Jennifer Fox is an award-winning filmmaker and educator known for her ground-breaking features and series, including BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, FLYING: CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN and MY REINCARNATION. She recently co-wrote the half hour television pilot, THE GOOD EGG and is developing the feature script, THE HORSE'S TALE. She has executive produced many films, including LOVE & DIANE and ON THE ROPES. Fox is the film subject in: TO HECK WITH HOLLYWOOD!, CINEMA VERTE: DEFINING THE MOMENT and CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY.

Guest Post: Jennifer Fox "How MY REINCARNATION Broke All Kickstarter Records & Raised $150,000"

Two weeks ago Jennifer Fox shared with us some of the lessons she learned crowdfunding (1st six here, next 14 here). Since then, she has gone down in the record books for both the number of donations and the amount thereof. If they gave records for quality as well as quantity she probably would have gotten those too. Jennifer continues her path of profound generosity with another wave of the demystification wand to show how it was done. It is not magic; it's hard work -- but it can be done, and learned from. The best part is, this ain't all. There's still more coming next week! Thanks Jennifer.

It was only last week, but I have to admit: I have a bit of nostalgia for those heady last days of our Kickstarter campaign. Now when I open up my computer and press gmail, I stare at the few new emails despondently. I wonder if I will ever wake up again to hundreds of Kickstarter messages on my computer screen announcing donations. Even our supporters have written to say they miss the daily excitement of checking our site to see if – and by how much – the dollars rose.

I am reminded of something one of the protagonists of MY REINCARNATION and son of Namkhai Norbu, Khyentse Yeshe, said to me in an interview once:

“Whenever you try to do something difficult, you fail and fail and fail, until you succeed.”

When Yeshi first said this, I didn’t relate at all. The word “failure” is very un-American. In fact it is something almost extinct from the American business and political vocabulary. (Have you ever noticed that no American president has ever failed at anything?) But Yeshi is Italian and being so he is more comfortable with a wider spectrum of experience. The more I thought about what he was saying, the more I realized he was right. It is a very good description of our Kickstarter campaign: We failed and failed until we succeeded (at the first goal $50,000) and then we failed again and again until we succeeded and surpassed our second goal of $100,000. The main thing we did as a team was to take our failures as key pieces of information, pointing us towards what to work on next.

Midway through our campaign my cousin, Ken, sent me an article from Tech Crunch, spouting the success of the new crowd-funding platform, but also stating that 43% of the Kickstarter projects fail and never reach their goal. Reflecting on this together in our team helped us recognize some of the pitfalls when we hit them, and change course so we could ultimately succeed.

Now that the dust has settled, here are our 9 additional tips (13 more to come) that we learned doing our campaign to add to our previous 20 (from “Hope for Film” Post 1, Post 2, and Post 3):

21. Kickstarter Is Not For Sissies:

No one can prepare you for the amount of work a Kickstarter campaign involves. Don’t start your campaign until you make the time, mental space and have enough pressure on yourself (meaning financial need) to do so. No one fundraises because they have nothing else to do.

It is the same advice I give to young documentary filmmakers when they ask me should they make their new film idea?  I always say, “If you can walk away from an idea, do so immediately, because making films is too hard. Only make the film that you can’t walk away from…”

Same with Kickstarter, if you have any other means to raise money, do so, because it will be easier. Kickstarter is all encompassing. You have to be ready to make your campaign your J-O-B.

22. Not Every Film Is A Kickstarter:

One of the first questions a journalist asked me at the end of our campaign was: Is every film right for Kickstarter? The answer is absolutely not. But evaluating what will be successful on Kickstarter is probably very different from the way most broadcasters or distributors evaluate a potential film.

Kickstarter definitely works best when a clear-targeted audience can be identified for the project, classically called “niche audiences.” These audiences are perfect for web based projects because ostensibly you can identify and reach out to every person with similar interest around the world. Niche audiences tend to be very devoted to their subject and therefore passionate about wanting to see a film about their issue, subject, pastime, or obsession.

In our case, the film MY REINCARNATION works on two basic levels: First, it is a classic father-son story, that everyone can recognize, which is why many broadcasters have already signed on to air it. But this is too general for web-based fundraising; you can’t find that group and target it (because it’s everyone).  So in this case, the second storyline is crucial: Since the film is about a Tibetan Buddhist father and son, the Tibetan Buddhists were an obvious niche to target.

But unbeknownst to many outsiders, the Tibetan Buddhist community is not one entity. It is divided into little groups of supporters backing each school and teacher.  It is hard to get those not directly connected to a teacher or school to support a project outside of their frame.  We had to start shifting our campaign and write each sub-group differently to address this problem. We positioned the film as a film for all Buddhists, in any school, in fact, anyone interested in religion. Get to know the sub-groups within your niche and experiment with the language that best speaks to each group within the larger whole.

23. The Magic Number:

Our team agonized over how much we could succeed in raising for MY REINCARNATION. The fact that you don’t get your funds unless you make your goal loomed heavily. We knew that most people seemed to set their target between $3,000 and $15,000 on the site. But we had a huge deficit ($100,000) and this was our last ditch effort to reduce it. If we set the goal too low, it would only be a drop in the bucket. On the other hand, if we set the goal too high, we might not get any funding at all.  We estimated that we could comfortably raise $30,000, so we pushed up the tension and put our goal at $50,000.

Once we made the $50,000 goal in half the time (46 days out of 90) we felt safe, no matter what we would get the donations, but then we had another problem: How to reset the goal to keep going?  First thing we did was put new copy on the front page saying the new goal was $100,000.  But that raised a credibility issue.  Some who previously donated wrote to me and asked why we needed more? 

In reality, we had always written that we needed to raise $100,000, but were only going for half.  We even said that in a perfect world we needed to raise $140,000 to 170,000 to include US theatrical distribution.  But that didn’t register to many of the people donating.  It took a lot of emailing and Kickstarter Updates to clearly explain the situation. I would say the campaign lagged for a while as it turned this bend and we had to work very hard to reset people’s minds toward the project.

24. How Many"Web-Days" Is Right For Your Campaign?

Another nice fact I learned after we finished our campaign came from one of the Kickstarter staff members, asking me why we decided to set our time limit at 90 days. She wrote:

“90-day campaigns actually have the lowest success rate of all durations (with about 30 days typically being the most successful). How did you find that 90-day duration to work for you?”

This is a perfect example of naiveté working for us. Our team didn’t realize that shorter durations have higher success rates. We were still in the old model: More time is more opportunity. We thought that $50,000 is a lot of money to raise and we were afraid of the time pressure. Our longer campaign did give us time to reset the goal midway after achieving our stated amount of $50,00 to $100,000 and then to find a way to lead people to picking up the challenge a second time. But it was just that – almost like two campaigns.

What I learned (see previous Tip # 20) is that web time expands in a way I couldn’t have imagined. Ninety days could have been a year the way we lived it, how hard we worked, and the amount we accomplished.  To function a campaign has to keep momentum, which is why less time is easier to handle and stay strong.  Human beings want to follow.  If the campaign is doing badly, people stay away.  But if they see the numbers rising, they want to jump on the boat. Better to have a short fast-rising campaign than a long campaign that moves little.  The time limit pushes people to make a decision.  Push the people closest to you to act quickly and to help the ball rolling as soon as possible.

25. Define Your Real Goals – It’s Not Just About Money:

When we started this campaign, if you asked me what I wanted from potential supporters, I would have bristled and said, “Their money, stupid!” But I have to say as the campaign evolved, I realized I wanted and needed more than just money from contributors.

As I mentioned in a previous post, we developed the idea of a donor level called, Outreach Partner (previous Tip #15) for people who couldn’t give any more than $1. In the beginning we thought that many people who can’t give money, can get involved by blasting their friends.  Later, I realized we wanted everyone to do this, and in fact giving more money sometimes made people more invested in the project than those who couldn’t give much.  So now, in the aftermath of Kickstarter I would say I have different goals. I want contributors:

– To participate in the campaign in every way they feel they can.
– To feel they have a stake in the film achieving it’s fundraising goal.
– To take up the cause of the film and the message of the film as their own by passing the news about it onto their friends, relatives, co-workers, the world…
– To care enough about the film to donate more than once (if necessary to make the goal and they can afford to do so.)
– To become a soldier for the future of the film, so when the film goes into distribution, the person wants to help it get out in the world (see next post’s Tip #41).

26. Fundraising Is Not A Passive Act:

This might seem obvious but I have started to notice the number of organizations that have the button “Please Donate” on their website. It is sort of the “flypaper” approach: if someone passes by, they may get caught. In a modern world, where our attention is being competed for from everyone and everywhere, I doubt many people just happen to press that “donate” button. Do you?

Running a Kickstarter campaign has made me realize that fundraising only works if you actively go out to the potential donors and grab their attention by talking to them directly in a compelling way, whether virtually via email, facebook, twitter, by phone or Skype or god forbid, in person.

While doing MY REINCARNATION, I donated to a few other campaigns, but sometimes when I read their Kickstarter updates, I wanted to write back to them and ask: “Do you think that post makes me want to engage more? Does it make me donate a second time?” I remember reading one filmmaker’s update, announcing the campaign had made their goal, but that with 3 days left to spare, it was still possible to donate again. There was nothing in the letter about why I should give more: What would it buy the film? Why would it make me feel better than I did the first time I donated? I didn’t anti up nor did many others. If there is nothing for me to gain – either through what I will tangibly get, or as a Patron of the arts, in my desire to help get the film further, I will never give again.

27. Words Are Everything – What Is Your Message?:

In our team, we constantly evaluated our success and changed direction from each evaluation. One of the very simple things we did was evolve and adapt the way we wrote about the film in response to what we learned. We kept rewriting and rewriting our pitches to hone in on what worked. We also wrote different pitches for different audiences – Buddhist, Filmmakers, and General/Family population.  From years of watching political campaigns and my own experience with fundraising, I learned that words are everything.

In the middle of our campaign, I was at my brother’s Passover with my cousin Ken, a successful entrepreneur (the same one who afterwards sent me the Kickstarter business article mentioned earlier). I overheard him talking to my Uncle about this crazy new company that was making millions, getting people to give them money without any equity in the final product. He spoke about it like a Ponzi scheme. To my surprise, he was talking about Kickstarter. Of course, as an artist I never saw crowd-funding this way. Artists throughout history have survived through patrons; Kickstarter, and platforms like it, are modern, democratic forms of arts patronage where people donate money to get art made. But listening to the way my cousin saw it made me realize that one of the key hurdles of any crowd-funding campaign is to figure out how to frame the request.

I slowly began to realize that the word “donation” was the wrong word to use in a campaign like this. First we changed the word to “Support,” but even that was not far enough.  Finally, we changed it to “Participate.”

It must be clear that you are making an exchange with your supporters: they give you money and you give them back something of equal value. The question to consider is exactly what are you giving back?

28. Start With The SUBJECT of Your Email:

If your emails aren’t being read, you don’t have a prayer in hell of doing an Eblast, list-serve, based campaign. One of the things I started to think about is what gets me to open an email.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I only open mass mailings when I think I will receive something: perhaps a new idea, new video tidbit, new advice, new stories, etc.  I noticed the emails I don’t open are those that say “UPDATE” or “March News” or “Bulletin #23.”  The description in the SUBJECT of your mass email matters.  It had better be interesting; we all know how little time each of has to read our 6,482 emails per day.

What makes a sexy SUBJECT heading? That of course depends on your film and your target audience. But it is worth thinking about it with the same concern you think about your film’s title.  There are many ways to hook someone’s attention: A SUBJECT can be so strange that you want to open it up to see what’s behind it or it can promise something inside that the reader wants to read or see. The imagination is limitless.  Also beware that a good SUBJECT can be right for one target group and not another, so tailor as you go.

There’s a simple test to see how well your SUBJECT headings are doing. Most mass email services (we use Vertical Response) have an analytic report where you can see how many emails have been opened and which links have been pressed.  It’s good to get in the habit of using this as a way to get feedback so you can up your game.

29. So What Are People Really Getting From Participating in Your Campaign?:

I really believe success depends on reframing the campaign from “taking” to “giving.” First, you select and curate “incentives” which are gifts that correspond to each donation level and to the film itself. (See previous Tip #6). This of course gives the contributor the feeling that he will receive something concrete. However, this is only the tangible thing people “get” from your campaign – and I would argue less important. There are so many intangible things people receive from being part of your film’s Kickstarter Campaign. I think it is important to be aware of them, so you can build them in your offer:

– They become part of an artistic endeavor outside of their normal life. One German man wrote me that as a tax accountant he felt little creative excitement in his life.  Suddenly, participating in our film, he felt a lot of newfound creative joy. He became very active on our Kickstarter, donated three times, blasted his friends, sent out a mass email urging all who had previously given to double their donations, and came to a screening at the Munich Film Festival and met me.

– One of the things donors “get” is contact with the creator. I wrote personal mails to everyone, especially in the first three-quarters of the campaign. We corresponded often throughout the campaign. Since I was traveling I encouraged people to come to screenings in their territory and introduce themselves.

– In a world that is increasingly disenfranchised, supporters get to join a team or group that has similar values to them.  They become part of a community doing something good for the world.

– Supporters are able to get their political and social values out into the world in the form of the film. They no longer feel invisible and ineffective as many do in the modern experience.  If the film succeeds, they have succeeded too.

– Many talk about offering donors the chance to participate in the glitz of filmmaking by getting their name on a film, being invited to a screening, and meeting the filmmaker. The glitz seems less important than I would have thought, but nevertheless it is one of the incentives.

Giving something back is also the reason why I began to write longer, more serious posts. I tried to write stories that let people into the filmmaking, fundraising, distribution, and festival process. Little written gifts to thank people for participating in our journey.

Every project is different, but the key is to begin to identify what you are giving so that you can frame your campaign that way. No one wants to give without getting back. Too often in fundraising campaigns, we appeal to people’s selflessness, which rarely works. Even on a Buddhist film! What does work is appealing to their positive needs and positive desires.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Stayed tuned for the next – and I will try to make the last – 13 Tips for making a kick-ass Kickstarter Campaign!

-- Jennifer Fox

Jennifer Fox is an award-winning filmmaker and educator known for her ground-breaking features and series, including BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, FLYING: CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN and MY REINCARNATION. She recently co-wrote the half hour television pilot, THE GOOD EGG and is developing the feature script, THE HORSE'S TALE. She has executive produced many films, including LOVE & DIANE and ON THE ROPES. Fox is the film subject in: TO HECK WITH HOLLYWOOD!, CINEMA VERTE: DEFINING THE MOMENT and CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY.

Guest Post: Jennifer Fox "The Next 14 Things I Learned From Our Six-Figure Kickstarter Campaign"

Yesterday, Jennifer Fox shared with us six things she recommends doing BEFORE launching a Kickstarter campaign. Today she brings the list up to twenty. She's giving us a lot. She's got a few days left on her campaign. Perhaps you can give back?

The campaign continues and we keep marching forward. There’s nothing like this excitement as we approach our 90-day goal! Doing Kickstarter is not just about the work, but it’s also about creating that right frame of mind. Here are some more tips my team and I have gathered during the last 85 days campaign of Kickstarting:

7. Write, Write, And Write:

As you may have noticed, my writing style can be a bit longwinded. Early on in the process, I would send my eblasts to my team to edit. We thought one page max – so they cut and cut. Then we noticed that we were receiving the most donations following longer, more personal messages. They received overwhelmingly positive feedback. What at first seemed like a weakness, turned out to be one of our strongest tools. Writing became fun. As some of you may know, being on the road with a film can be the one of the most uncreative jobs one does over the course of film. But suddenly, writing these weekly Kickstarter updates and email blasts became a creative outlet for me. That leads us to #8:

8. Turn Your Negatives Into Positives:

I think the key to any creative producing is to turn your circumstances into strengths. In our case, we were really worried that the film was already screening on the festival circuit. I couldn’t change that, so I used it as an excuse to make regular video updates for our website, eblasts and pitches. The other thing I started to do, which I would have never thought appropriate, was talk about our fundraising campaign during every MY REINCARNATIONfestival screening. Here is an example of one video (Part 2 of 2) we posted from the film festival in Singapore. We made postcards with the Kickstarter pitch on one side and the film’s artwork on the other. I hand them out at every screening. I aso privately ask festival programmers to ask me a question on stage about financing during the Q & A, giving me an opportunity to talk about the campaign. I always try to have one of my postcards conveniently in my hand to wave at the audience to remind them! Most of you reading this will not have to raise funds for a completed film that is already touring. But wherever you are in the process, try to use that place to generate stories and images to support your campaign.

9. Evaluate Your Email List.

Thanks to Peter Broderick and many others, every filmmaker should know that you need to build a mailing list to survive as an independent in America. We already had a 7,000-person mailing list built during the theatrical campaign for my previous film, FLYING: CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN. The problem was that it was not exactly the right list for a Buddhist film! So we had to work hard to broaden that list.

10. Build your mailing list.

Everyone tells you to have people sign up for your mailing list on your website. But I have found that very few people do this. Most people prefer to get film updates from our Facebook page (which we post to frequently). However, many people are not on Facebook, especially the older generation. Building an email list requires active, ongoing work. We ask people to sign up on our website, get names from festivals goers, and as with the NYC Sneak Preview Screening, gather all ticket buyers’ emails addresses. (It is important when making deals with venues to try to get them to agree to this as the Rubin Museum of Art did prior to making a screening agreement.) In addition, we actively built our US mailing list by researching every Buddhist, spiritual, Tibetan, New Age, religious and family organization on the web. We are still building that email list now. When we have the time, we make phone calls to organizations to get them to personally connect with the film and share information about our Kickstarter site with their members.

11. Reach out to Appropriate Partners to Help Blast for your Campaign / Befriend the Tastemakers

The first tier we reached out to were listserves connected to the students of the film’s protagonist, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. Rinpoche has centers around the world, so we regularly write new, special updates to be blasted to their membership. These letters are less chatty than the ones I send to the general mailing list or post for our Kickstarter patrons. In these letters, we always try to have additional information – such as upcoming festivals or new video clips – so that it is not just another request to donate. We started a web series called OUTTAKES FROM THE FILM (O.F.F.) that we edit and post online and in our Buddhist eblasts to give those communities new video to enjoy and entice them to become more involved with the project. So far we have posted five O.F.F.’s. They have helped assuage Buddhist students around the world, who are anxiously waiting to see MY REINCARNATION and are not so happy that they have to wait for the distribution rollout. The other thing we did – but could only do with the Sneak Preview NYC Fundraising screening – was offer incentives to appropriate organizations to blast their membership on behalf of our campaign. We gave the heads of each organization a free ticket to the screening in exchange for sending out an announcement. And of course, this is laying the groundwork for establishing partners and building and audience for the film down the line.

12. Use Web 2.0: Facebook, Twitter, Bloggers…

This is absolutely obvious in today’s world, but we are posting updates on social networking sites many times a week. We work hard to build up our Facebook and Twitter pages daily. We also post on other organizations’ and individuals’ pages and walls – searching for related topics like “Buddhism,” “Tibet,” “Spirituality,” “Religion,” and “Yoga” – with information about the Kickstarter campaign, new videos, incentives and screenings.

13. Blast Often, Regularly, and Best at the Beginning of the Week

Get those eblasts out on Monday or Tuesday. Later in the week they get lost in people’s over-loaded inboxes. It’s important to keep up the pressure. It’s hard to know what the “tipping point” is for someone to make a donation. It can be the first letter or the twentieth letter that brings them over to the Kickstarter site.

14. Write Personal Letters and Ask Questions

When I write my patrons back on Kickstarter, thanking them for their donations, I ask them where they heard about the campaign. I often get answers back proving the wide reach of the campaign. By asking questions you engage your patrons’ participation. In a post to the entire group, I asked for advice on how to get the message out and I got several good solutions, one of which was to improve our web page and clarify some of the writing. Three of our patrons decided to make it their personal hobby to help get the word out and have been eblasting and working the web. One person wrote a letter on Kickstarter asking everyone to double their donations and several people responded by doing so. When I get an interesting letter, I often post it in an update. It takes a village and this is a community movement.

15. Widen Your Team:

Since many people in the Buddhist Community do not have much disposable income, we wanted to make one of our incentives non-monetary. We created the first level incentive – “Outreach Partner” – at a donation level of $1 for people who want to get involved by spreading the word about the campaign and the film. By spreading the word, they get their name on our “Donor’s Wall” on our website. In fact, every level of donation, large or small gets their name on our “Donor’s Wall,” giving an immediate level of gratification like having your name in the film’s credits.

16. Cultivate A Positive Attitude:

No one asked you to be an artist in the most expensive art form in history. Being a filmmaker is a privilege. Have perspective; some people have “real” jobs. Having to raise funds is a rite of passage. Try to find a way to frame the campaign as fun, playful, and joyous. This is where building a team (Tip #2) really helps. Laughter is key.

17. Stay Away From People Who Are Negative About Fundraising.

There are always people who think asking for money abhorrent and will find all sorts ways to pull you down. Don’t let them inside your head. They can still be friends or lovers, but it’s better to avoid the subject around them. But don’t forget about # 18:

18. Be Aware Of Cultural Differences.

Crowd funding is a very American way to raise money that may seem strange to many outside our borders (although it is slowly coming to Europe). Be ready to explain the system, and back off when your “go-get-em” attitude is too much. We were semi-blacklisted from one main international Buddhist listserve, because the manager felt I was asking for money too much. Rather than confront him and risk being kicked off that site forever, we broke up the territories and tried to get on individual country’s Buddhist listserves. Not as effective, but better than nothing. In certain countries – such as Singapore – donors prefer to give cash or checks than to donate on the Internet. So, we have also accepted some cash donations…

19. Go Beyond Your Limits

Every step of the way on this journey, I have had to go beyond my comfort zone to publicly ask for money: on the web, in emails, in person, on stage – over and over again. At every point, I have had to push through my reticence, fear and a general “I just don’t want to do it again!” attitude. Facing these inner demons is necessary if you are going do this type of campaign. Forgive me, but once again there is a Buddhist teaching in this! We all fear being the fool and being foolish. Believe me, crowd-funding certainly pushes those buttons, but it also requires you to let go and not listen to your ego so much…

My motto is, “Never say die!” Despite years of experience facing rejection, it can still be hard to pick yourself up each time. Somehow we have to find a way not to take rejection personally and move on. Of course, with some potential funders, you just have to give up, back off, and try somewhere else. But I am often reminded of something my Father said when I was making my first film, BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, “No is never no, it’s just maybe.” A person, who says no today, may still say yes tomorrow. If you give them new evidence to change their mind, they often do.

20. Be ready – to be absorbed. It is a full-time job.

I couldn’t have imagined how much work a Kickstarter campaign is. I have had many sleepless night thinking about how we could achieve our goal, but I have also felt enormous glee when a wave of donors contribute. It has been a huge learning experience that I suspect has changed me for the better. I’ve come to realize that time moves differently on the web. When we started, I thought 90 days would never be enough to achieve our goal. But then I noticed how many unique things could happen in 24 hours. Every day provided opportunities to reach out to people. Everyday people wrote us. Most days at least one person (and often more than one) joined the campaign from somewhere new. Even on Sundays. The campaign has shown me how a time limit can work for you. Today is day 84 in our campaign and it seems like I have been doing this for a lifetime.

* * * * * * * * *

In my next post, I’ll talk about how Kickstarter Campaigns create communities that dovetail into distribution and outreach campaigns. I’ll also share important information about the positive things people receive from participating in Kickstarter campaigns: a crucial thing to understand to properly craft a campaign.

Stay Tuned as we countdown towards D-Day… Our Campaign ends on May 28th and we are still hustling to get to those 6 figures!

-- Jennifer Fox

Jennifer Fox is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning Producer, Director, Camerawoman. She is known for her groundbreaking work on both documentary features and series, including BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, FLYING CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN, and now MY REINCARNATION. She is the subject of three films on filmmaking, TO HECK WITH HOLLYWOOD!, CINEMA VERTE: DEFINING THE MOMENT and CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY She has Executive Produced many award winning films, including LOVE & DIANE, ON THE ROPES and UPSTATE. She teaches and consults on directing and producing internationally at institutions such as New York University, the Binger Lab in Amsterdam, the University of Zurich and many others.

Guest Post: Jennifer Fox "The First 6 Tips For Launching A Six-Figure Kickstarter Campaign

Last week Jennifer Fox shared with us her 22 year process to getting her latest film made. Today, she share what she has learned about aiming for a six figure raise on Kickstarter. Will she make it? Well, it all starts with you.... Make it happen. I contributed. And now she's giving back to the community -- perhaps you can complete the karmic chain and give to her. There's less than five days left!

The first thing everyone will tell you about a Kickstarter campaign is Tip #1: Reach out to your family. I must say this is not news to me. I have been reaching out to my parents all my life, long before Kickstarter. The older I get, the more I wonder if I could have lived such a high-risk artist’s life without their support. To give you just one example: when I dropped out of NYU film school at age 21, after only one year, to shoot a film in the war in Lebanon, they didn’t blink an eye. When I made a six-hour series on my sex life (and the lives of other women including those in my family), instead of disowning me, they came to the Sundance Film Festival and did a Q & A with me on stage. My parents always had a unique vision: My mom was a professional musician who loved art, film and theater, who would only give me blank sheets of paper to draw on as a child (no coloring books) – so that I would develop my creativity. My dad, who was a homebuilder and businessman, regaled us with the joys of entrepreneurship at the dining room table each night, the way some fathers talk about baseball. They succeeded in instilling in me a profound belief in my own creative vision, something that is very hard to teach. I often wish I could rent my parents out to my film students. In retrospect, that I am a film Director/Producer is just a neat amalgam of their passions.

My Jewish parents have a very hardy approach to life – neither of them has a penchant for wallowing in emotions (like I do); they are big believers in “ good attitude”. This has rubbed off on me despite my own tendencies. From them, I have learned that attitude and passion are what sell. I often hear film directors say how much they hate fundraising. The problem is that someone who hates what he or she is doing moves no one. From my parents, I learned to check my attitude when setting out to do something and if it isn’t positive I try to reframe it. And if it slips, as it always does, I reframe it again. Granted this is a very American, Reganesque approach, but there are things to take from everywhere. If you are going to be a filmmaker – particularly in America – you’d better figure out how to find joy and creativity in raising funds. From my Mom, I love creating and directing films but from my Dad, I love the challenge of figuring out how to fund something that no one thinks they want – only to discover that it is what they need. Making films for so many years, I learned that you don’t have to ‘win’ all the time, only a percentage. Every film that I have ever made has a drawer full of rejections. Perhaps I am negatively motivated, but those rejections often spur me to prove the world wrong. And again perversely I find this kind of fun….

Our team is now on Day 85 of our 90 day Kickstarter Campaign. There is a lot we’ve discovered and are still discovering. Like all creative endeavors, fundraising is a “process” that evolves and develops as you do it. Here are 6 of our top 20 tips so far. Some of them are about the actual work and some are more about what I would call, “psychological warfare”, so necessary for the game:

1. Reach Out to Family and Friends:

Unlike what many will tell you, I must say that for me family (and friends) are more about getting emotional support than money, necessarily. It is very dicey to ask people you know and love to give you their hard earned funds. I had some friends tell me that they felt offended that I was emailing them about our campaign. Discussing this with them led to some very interesting insights about why I feel this is a democratic and legitimate way to support the arts. But I am not here to proselytize. I immediately backed off. In a way what they are saying is true: they don’t ask me to fund their passion, why should I ask them to fund mine? However, that’s not exactly how I see it: I believe that the film project, MY REINCARNATION, has a greater good for humanity and is a contribution to people’s lives. Hence, it must be seen and is worth funding…

2. Build a Team:

Filmmaking is a collaborative experience, but so is fundraising. It takes a lot of brainstorming and thinking out of the box. It takes multiple skills that one person rarely has all of. Without a team you just can’t get the traction and the reach into the world (see previous post). But also it helps with the fear factor. I don’t know about you, but this kind of public fundraising scares the shit out of me. My team keeps me from losing it. Having a team is also essential for Tip #3 (and Tip #16 in the next post):

3. Brainstorm the Campaign as a Rollout with Different Phases:

Our team, Katherine Nolfi, Lisa Duva, Stefanie Diaz and myself, discussed how the campaign would start – rather simply – and how we would keep rolling out new facets over time. We knew this had to be an international campaign since the film’s subjects are international and the Buddhism has an international reach. This meant that everything we did had to be done for the USA and abroad, often country by country. This included building email lists, adding new incentives, and creating regular new videos for our website, facebook and twitter that could be linked with our consistent updates on Kickstarter. We saw our campaign as having three initiatives: the web campaign; seeking out and approaching larger private donors to become Producers, and setting up “Sneak Preview Benefit Screenings” in key locations (so far we have held screenings in Melbourne and New York City). The screenings were part of our plan because we had a unique problem: we were fundraising for a film that was technically finished, but that no one had seen. We hypothesized that people might need to see the finished film to give it money. In the end, festivals also helped on this account (see the next post, Tip #8). But I also learned that the film's trailer was often enough for people as in point #4…

4. Make a Good Trailer:

Of course “make a great trailer” is common wisdom for any kind of film fundraising. However, MY REINCARNATION was such a difficult film that I didn’t edit a trailer during the fundraising process. When I looked for funds, I always showed edited scenes assembled in a half-hour or hour format. (Probably why we failed miserably much of the time.) We didn’t have a clear narrative for 18 years into the shooting, making it impossible to cut a trailer. One we finally cut the trailer, right before launching at festivals, it was rather easy to do because the story arc was so clear. Now I’ve been told by some people that they cry when they watch our trailer. It has helped many people to make a donation when they haven’t seen the film yet. As our Kickstarter campaign continued, we wanted to add an additional fundraising pitch to our trailer, perhaps on-camera, like so many directors have done. I filmed myself speaking to camera while at the Singapore Film festival, sent it back to NYC and Lisa edited it. But, we rejected it. Quite frankly, we have been showing my face too much in our effort to get moving images up on the web (posting a lot of Q & A Videos from festivals). I feel it’s the wrong message for a film project on a Buddhist theme, where I am beginning to look too much like a “Star.” So finally, Katherine came up with another approach using testimonies from our “NYC Sneak Preview Benefit Screening” last week. She edited them this weekend and the new video for our campaign will go up later today, with just 5 days left to our campaign (so check back on our Kickstarter site this afternoon to see the new video live).

5. Craft your Kickstarter Pitch Carefully:

Our team started by looking at the best-written pitches we could find on KICKSTARTER and basically mimicked their format. We liked the ones that explained everything, including how KICKSTARTER works. Since we were reaching out internationally and to an audience that was not in the arts, we felt this explanation necessary. Then we had to carefully frame why the film was still looking for money when it was technically finished. We made the explanation general, instead of giving a precise cause (which I am not sure was the right tactic in retrospect). Then we tried to turn a negative – that the film was finished – into a positive: this was a no risk venture because the film was already guaranteed distribution all over the world. We just had to find the last chunk of funds to pay for its costs before it could be delivered to television and other markets. This is very difficult to talk about simply because you are fighting people’s misconceptions about the film business and money, which come from Hollywood Blockbusters. They think films make big money – and get paid big money in distribution, which is not the case for documentaries (see my previous post).

6. Incentives:

Since you can't really put many images on your own Kickstarter page, Stefanie created a full brochure of pictures of the Kickstarter incentives on our MY REINCARNATION website so people could see what they were getting. She used the PBS pledge images as her model. We gathered a mixture of incentives, some Buddhist oriented and some film community oriented. One thing that we did very early on, even before the Kickstarter campaign began, was to offer a “Limited Special Edition Pre-Release DVD” for sale on our website at a very high price: $108. This DVD is a ‘vanilla version’ without extras or multiple language subtitles. We started to sell this a good six months before our Kickstarter campaign to help keep our office running during the festival release. When we put up the Kickstarter, we decided to offer the DVD in two ways: the Commercial DVD in 2012 at $25 and the Limited Special Edition Pre-Release DVD in September 2011 at $108. This has been our most successful incentive. For higher priced items, I raided anything I could find in my home: there are two of my own museum quality paintings by a very well known Buddhist Painter (one is sold and one still remains so far) and a beautiful antique Tibetan chest that my parents gave me (which I asked them first if I could sell, guess what they said?), still available. I even put up a limited edition watch I received from being on the Zurich Film Festival jury last year (gone). Basically nothing I own was off limits. It’s been a great Buddhist teaching to struggle with – and let go of – my attachment to my objects (that chest is one of my favorite possessions)!

What we learned for MY REINCARNATION is that the Buddhist incentives work much better than the film incentives. So far no one seems to care much about me or my career to purchase say a “Consultation with an Award–Winning Filmmaker". So much for my ego and 30 years of hard work!

-- Jennifer Fox

Jennifer Fox is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning Producer, Director, Camerawoman. She is known for her groundbreaking work on both documentary features and series, including BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, FLYING CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN, and now MY REINCARNATION. She is the subject of three films on filmmaking, TO HECK WITH HOLLYWOOD!, CINEMA VERTE: DEFINING THE MOMENT and CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY She has Executive Produced many award winning films, including LOVE & DIANE, ON THE ROPES and UPSTATE. She teaches and consults on directing and producing internationally at institutions such as New York University, the Binger Lab in Amsterdam, the University of Zurich and many others.

Guest Post by Jennifer Fox: "Change Or Die: How 22 Years On One Film Lead To Desperate Measures

I have been producing for about 25 years now. I have routines, methods, and even rituals that help me get done what I have to get done. But if there is one thing that is constant in the film/media biz it is change. If we don't remain eternal students, we don't evolve and grow. Both our art and our business requires that we sometimes abandon all we have learned and take new approaches. We have to learn new tricks and embrace them with the love of a true amateur. Not surprisingly, I am inspired by tales of filmmakers doing just that. It would be hard to find a story that captures this necessity more than Jennifer Fox's 22 year ordeal with her latest film. Thankfully it brought Jennifer both all the way through and too a point that we can all now join in and share in both the process and success. We can learn from her guest post today.

As a 30+ year documentary veteran, there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s “change or die.” And while I am spewing out truisms that I've collected, I’ll share another one, “survival is winning.” I love making films, I certainly don’t expect to get rich, but what I do hope for is to be able to wake up each morning and to do what I am so privileged to do: work on a film and every few years, make a new one. So far I’ve succeeded. But this current film threatened to sink my boat more than once.

I must say I always knew MY REINCARNATION was a difficult project. I walked away from it many times, saying it was impossible. But something always drew me back and after 22 years, we had a fantastic story that we were launching in the world. It seemed that my worries were for naught. The film had several European television stations onboard as co-production partners (more on this in my next post), had been sold to PBS’s premiere series POV, and was invited to top festivals around world. So, at the end of last year when I discovered that one of my European co-producers, through no fault of their own, had failed to raised their promised $100,000 towards the budget, the wind went out of my sails. As the main Producer, I was responsible. In fact I had already technically “spent” that money finishing the film, I just hadn’t paid the bills. My brain went into an exhausted tailspin.

(For those of you who may have fantasies about the money you make once a film is finished, I hope I don’t ruin your day. My experience is that the majority of funds have to be raised before the film is finished. There are very few films that make large sums of money in distribution. To give you one example: a country might pay $50,000 or higher to get involved in a television co-production, but once the film is finished, that same territory will only offer a fraction of that to buy the film outright. Meanwhile, all European film subsidies and US foundation grants are for development, production and post. No one gives money backwards.)

So there I was on New Years Eve 2011 with a big problem: How could I raise funds for a film that was technically completed?

Making MY REINCARNATION I had already been forced out of my fundraising comfort zone. In the past, my films were funded with television pre-sales and foundation and government grants; I didn't "believe" in documentary investors because I thought it was too hard to pay them back. Moreover, I had never figured out how to approach private donors. This time, trying to raise funds for a spiritual subject, I faced a whole new set of challenges. It took 12 years before the first trickle of funding came in and 18 years before any substantial monies. Throughout the production of the film, I was forced to think out of the box: I privately approached and successfully brought on several private donors in exchange for producing credits; I ran a lottery and auctioned off most of my valued personal possessions; I pre-sold DVDs; and then I took my first ”investment/loan” through a deal with IMPACT PARTNERS.

This year I faced a whole new problem. With the film already playing at festivals, I racked my brain, what to do? Ideally I would find one large patron to complete the production costs, but I had exhausted my contacts. When I delicately returned to the people who had previously donated monies to tell them my sad tale (which is what all the books tell you to do), everyone politely declined to pony up additional funds. I was running out of options.

There was only one straw left. I knew I had listen to my own mantra. (You know that one about “change/die”). Early last year, I was introduced to crowd funding when my singer/song writer friend, Ana Egge, emailed me to ask if I would donate to her KICKSTARTER campaign to record her new album. 'Who could turn down such a talent like Ana?' I said to myself. So, I gave her a small donation and really enjoyed the updates and the feeling of being part of her creation. I even gave her a second contribution mid-way through the campaign. I saw the democratic power of this new arts patronage. I was intrigued. 'But it's not for me...' I thought.

When it came to my own project, the idea of going public with my financial problems and holding out a hand to the world terrified me. To me, asking for money is something private to do behind closed doors one on one. I was embarrassed to tell people I had this funding challenge; what would the community think of me?

But desperation is a powerful motivator. I didn’t know if I could do a crowd funding campaign. However, one thing I knew for sure, I couldn’t do it alone. I was exhausted from the last 22 years of pushing the ball up hill on this film. Honestly, at my age the idea of a “web anything” can be a bit daunting. Moreover, I was already committed to a heavy festival tour with MY REINCARNATION as part of its outreach and distribution. How could I be on the road and running a campaign that would surely take so much work?

So I decided to look for help. I reached out to another girlfriend and filmmaker, Katherine Nullify, who had done a successful Kickstarter campaign for her first feature UPSTATE last year. She brought in another filmmaker friend, Lisa Duva, currently making her first feature CAT SCRATCH FEVER. We all worked together several years ago on the web 2.0 theatrical outreach for my previous film FLYING: CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN. These were women who could do anything and quite honestly I needed their juice. I wanted to enroll them to help me out.

My idea was to do a crowd funding campaign, but also to look for new larger donors to offer producing credits. I had the crazy idea that we could re-credit MY REINCARNATION in the territories that we hadn’t delivered the film yet – primarily the USA. I pitched the idea to Katherine and Lisa and they thought it would fly. Since I was broke, I offered them a percentage of the funds we would raise as payment. Thank god they accepted.

The third person of the team was already in place. Luckily for me, for the last year I had been working with a young, self avowed, web geek, Stefanie Diaz who had built our MY REINCARNATION web site and could do anything web. She loved the idea of a Kickstarter campaign – it was right up her alley.

The team was ready to go. The biggest question left was how much to aim for? We knew that most campaigns only try to raise between $5,000 – $15,000. But that would be a drop in the bucket. There was no way we could target the $100,000 we really needed, because it seemed impossible. So with knees shaking we launched our 90-day MY REINCARNATION Kickstarter campaign with a goal of $50,000.

I have never been so nervous in my life. 46 days and endless sleepless nights later, we hit $50,000. So with 44 days left we decided to keep going and try to make it to $100,000. How we got this far and what we came up with during those nights will be in my next blog post…. Meanwhile, with only 9 days left, I better get back to the web to write some Kickstarter thank you notes and beat the drum further…

-- Jennifer Fox

Jennifer Fox is an internationally acclaimed, award-winning Producer, Director, Camerawoman. She is known for her groundbreaking work on both documentary features and series, including BEIRUT: THE LAST HOME MOVIE, AN AMERICAN LOVE STORY, FLYING CONFESSIONS OF A FREE WOMAN, and now MY REINCARNATION. She is the subject of three films on filmmaking, TO HECK WITH HOLLYWOOD!, CINEMA VERTE DEFINING THE MOMENT and CAPTURING REALITY: THE ART OF DOCUMENTARY She has Executive Produced scores of films and teaches and consults on directing and producing internationally.

Guest Post: Peter Broderick "Crowdfunding Takes Off"

Today is a guest post from Hybrid Distribution Guru Peter Broderick, who kindly allowed us to reprint from his Distribution Bulletin. If you don't yet subscribe to his newsletter, better get on that, and quickly right that wrong, because otherwise your life-line for really knowing what options exist before you is growing thin! Peter has consistently sourced the truth of what can be done as an alternative to corporate supported & controlled filmmaking & distribution. The generosity he demonstrates sharing his knowledge is an example for us all. This time Peter demonstrates that Crowdfunding has entered a new SIX FIGURE stage of uber-major significance and you will want to get yourself some of that...

Crowdfunding has taken off. The most successful film projects are now raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, when not that long ago they were raising tens of thousands. The top three films in the Kickstarter Hall of Fame are BLUE LIKE JAZZ ($345,992), THE PRICE ($161,774), and I AM I ($111,965).

Unlike BLUE LIKE JAZZ and THE PRICE which are both based on material written by authors with large and loyal followings, I AM I is an excellent example of how to build support for an original script. After seeing my presentations on crowdfunding, writer-director Jocelyn Towne and her producers Cora Olson and Jen Dubin from Present Pictures (GOOD DICK) convinced an investor to match up to $100,000 in donations. They built a solid website, calibrated their reward levels, planned the stages of their campaign, and created a great video. Done in one long carefully choreographed take, viewer’s found this humorous video irresistible.

They began their 38-day effort on Kickstarter through their personal networks. Jocelyn spent the month before the campaign drafting individual emails to everyone she knew and saved them for launch day. On Twitter, 40,000 people were following her actor/husband Simon Helberg (featured in the hit TV show, THE BIG BANG THEORY) and 10,000 were following Jason Ritter (another popular I AM I cast member who is the star of NBC's THE EVENT) . The team also made good use of Facebook. Jocelyn worked tirelessly on the campaign, writing personal thank you notes to almost every donor.

Donations started strong ($17,000 in the first few days), slowed down over the Christmas holidays, and accelerated as they approached the finish line ($24,000 in the closing days). Their contributors included friends, family, colleagues, and a few studio executives. 80% of their 902 contributors were total strangers. Amazingly, 3 of these strangers made $10,000 donations, for which Jocelyn and Simon promised to come to their hometowns and do private screenings just for them. Overall, as is typical with Kickstarter projects, the majority of donations were at the $20 (32%) and $100 (26%) levels.

Their campaign was so successful that it gave I AM I the momentum needed to move into production. Even after their campaign ended, people were still asking to contribute. The I AM I team added a Donate button to their website and is offering rewards similar to those they gave on Kickstarter.

In addition to the $111,965 raised, their campaign created a large network of supporters. Producer Cora Olson observed, “our initial goal was to raise as much money as possible, but when we saw how many online impressions we were making, we realized that this awareness could ultimately be more valuable than cash when it’s time to launch the 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

Sundance Teams With KickStarter & Facebook For New Initiative To Connect Artists With Audiences

Official Press Release:

PARK CITY, UT -- Sundance Institute today announced a new program to connect its artists with audiences by offering access to top-tier creative funding and marketing backed by the Institute’s promotional support. These essential services will act as building blocks for future program components which aim to provide filmmakers access to a broad and open array of third-party digital distribution platforms. Adding to the nonprofit Institute’s acclaimed programs for Screenwriters, Directors, Film Composers, Producers and Theatre artists around the world, the new services were developed based on research and input from filmmakers, industry advisors, its Technology Committee and its Board of Directors, including President Robert Redford. The creative funding component was announced today with Kickstarter, the largest platform in the world for funding creative projects.

A new way to fund and follow creative projects, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars to projects on Kickstarter every month. In exchange for support, backers receive tangible rewards crafted and fulfilled by the project's creator. Support is neither investment, charity, nor lending, but rather a mix of commerce and patronage that allows artists to retain 100% ownership and creative control of their work while building a supportive community as they develop their projects.
“Technology now allows filmmakers to fund and make films in ways we could never have even conceived. Just as we did 30 years ago, the Institute is responding to a need, with a responsibility to help the individual artist,” Redford said.
“Today’s media landscape presents opportunities for audiences and artists to connect in new and exciting ways. This program is a natural and much-needed extension of our mission,” said Keri Putnam, Executive Director, Sundance Institute. “With unparalleled recognition worldwide, Sundance Institute is in the unique position as a nonprofit to bring together a wide range of services and lend invaluable promotional support.”

Creative Funding Support

Kickstarter has agreed to provide branding, educational, and promotional support to Sundance Institute alumni. More than 350,000 people have pledged over $30 million dollars to projects on Kickstarter since its launch in spring 2009.
To launch the collaboration, the first alumni workshops took place at the Sundance Film Festival this week, conducted by Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler and attended by a range of artists from first time filmmakers to seasoned veterans. Beginning this spring, the Institute will curate alumni projects at and drive alumni and fans to support projects in various stages of funding. In addition, will showcase projects and interviews with artists on a monthly basis for even further reach.

“We're excited to be working with the Sundance Institute and its esteemed community," said Kickstarter cofounder, Yancey Strickler. "Kickstarter has been an effective tool for artists of all stripes, and we're looking forward to the projects that this collaboration will bring to life."
Education and Resources

In the coming months, Sundance Institute will build an online hub of resources related to independent distribution options, funding strategies and other key issues. The goal is to provide for filmmakers a central location to explore case studies and best practices, in addition to live workshops and training opportunities with Institute staff, alumni, industry experts and key partners.

As the first of these partners bringing their expertise to the community, Facebook will offer Institute alumni advice, educational materials, and best-practices tips on how to build and engage audiences via the service. Earlier this week at the Sundance Film Festival, Facebook led the first in a series of hands-on workshops for Institute alumni. During these workshops, artists received unique training on free tools and apps for social engagement, education in the types of pages and profiles they can utilize, and insight into Facebook's advertising opportunities. Artists needing more direct assistance were able to share Pages while Facebook staff assisted them in making improvements and changing settings. Facebook and Sundance Institute have had a relationship for years and last year provided Page assistance for films including Waiting for Superman, A Small Act and Restrepo among 20 others.

All Sundance Institute artists from Sundance Film Festival, Labs and Grantees, will be the first to gain access to the programs. Further development will include access to a broad and open array of third-party digital distribution platforms backed by Sundance Institute promotional support. In the future, additional opportunities for theatrical exhibition will be explored in collaboration with organizations such as Sundance Cinemas, members of the national Art House Project, and others.

To execute the program, Sundance Institute has hired Christopher Horton as Associate Director of Filmmaker Services. Horton, who will relocate to Los Angeles after nearly a decade with Cinetic Media, will work closely with Joseph Beyer, Director of Digital Initiatives, Katie Kennedy, Associate Director of Development, Corporate along with the Institute’s Program Directors.

Legal Services for Sundance Institute have been graciously donated by O’Melveny & Myers LLP, headed by a team including Paul Iannicelli and Chris Brearton.

Kickstarter is the largest platform for funding creative projects in the world. Every month on Kickstarter, tens of thousands of people pledge millions of dollars and help bring creative projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields to life. The Kickstarter community features projects by Oscar winners, Grammy winners, TED Fellows, New York Times best- sellers, Pulitzer Prize finalists, and thousands of others. Kickstarter is open to creative projects big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and avant-garde.

Sundance Institute
Sundance Institute is a global nonprofit organization founded by Robert Redford in 1981. Through its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, composers and playwrights, the Institute seeks to discover and support independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to inform, inspire, and unite diverse populations around the globe. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Son of Babylon, Amreeka, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America.

To Crowdfund or Not to Crowdfund, that is the question for today’s filmmakers

Guest post by Thomas Mai

There are many advantages to Crowdfunding, but one of the less known is that you actually get to test if there is an audience for your film BEFORE you make it. We filmmakers are driven by passion (clearly not the money) and often we spend 2-4 years on making a film, just to find out that nobody really cares about it.

By Crowdfunding even smaller amounts you send a clear signal to potential investors/ film funds that you know who your audience is (and often where they live) this makes it so much easier for investors/film funds to believe in you because you have have proven that the audience believes in you.

In the traditional way of making films, audience was this magical thing that entered the life of the film once it was completed. Sure, we thought about the audience while making the film, but there was no direct audience participation. Yes, we could do test screenings and go back to the editing room but the film was ALREADY shot.

It has always been about the audience and it will always be about the audience, but we could never engage with our audience before the film was ready to be released. Social Media has changed the way we can communicate with a global audience instantly.

Ask and you shall receive

By engaging with the audience from the idea/script stage you can gather a large group of followers who want you to succeed if you ask them their opionion depending on the topic of your film. Ie what are the 3 best tango films in the world, and why? What is the best opening monlogue ever written for a film and why? Who is your favorite character that you “hate” or love and why?

Crowdfunding allows you to get great feed back on your project before you spend 4 “miserable” years trying to make it. I am not saying that you should lose your artistic touch with your film but I am simply saying that if you are making a film then (hopefully) you want audiences to go and see it. Why not engage with them now? The wisdom of crowds is often far better at judging your idea, than a script doctor, producer, sales agent or TV station. Plus if you do bring the audience then it is SO much easier to work with the script doctor, producer, sales agent or TV station.

Because it has always been about the audince, we as filmmakers had to rely on distributors and tv stations to get it “out there” because they “owned” the audience and that is why, traditionally speaking they had so much “control” over our films. By bringing your own audience to any producer, sales agent or distributor you have so much more bargaining power. It is time for us to own our own audience.

By not crowdfunding you are missing out on one of the best tools for any filmmakers these days. Then it is back to waiting in line with everyone else to go see the ever fewer “gatekeepers” that are still left in the game.

When I do seminars or coach my clients, many are so afraid about the changes in our industry and most say something in the following lines. I am already spending 100% of my time trying to get this film off the ground and now you also want me to build a website, crowdfund, distribute, build a fan database etc. There is not enough hours in the day….. Yes, the roles are changing but so is the world around us. How many distributors are still out there and what are they paying for film rights? It is all about building the right systems from the beginning. Imagine that you could keep making 1 film every year for the rest of your life and get it financed and distributed to the same group of fans that keeps growing every year. It is not impossible to have a direct relationship with 100.000 fans that can finance and buy your films again and again.

As filmmakers we have to start thinking about wearing many titles ie financier, producer and distributor. But we also get to keep the rights to our films for the rest of our lives. Social Media allows the entire film making process to be more democratic for everyone involved. What fun is there in making a film and then someone else gets the distribution rights to your film for the next 15 years and does nothing about it?

I personly believe this is the best time ever to be a filmmaker. All the tools (hardware and software) are getting cheaper and better, allowing everyone to profit from the previous closed foodchain.

Thomas Mai has been a sales agent for 15 years selling feature films like Cannes winner Lars von Trier’s “DANCER IN THE DARK”, Hollywood films starring Forest Whitaker and Julia Styles in “A LITTLE TRIP TO HEAVEN” to Berlinale winners to name a few among hundreds of feature films Thomas has sold worldwide. Thomas has sold films for some of the biggest directors in Scandinavia Lars von Trier, Lukas Moodysohn, Thomas Vinterberg, Susanne Bier, Baltasar Kormakur, Lone Scherfig, Josef Fares and many others

Today Thomas coaches film makers to thrive in a 2.0 connected world. Thomas also speaks and run workshops around the world. Find out more on

Film Finance Overwhelm (pt.2)

Stacey Parks returns with a guest post -- and a sequel.

Because Film Finance Overwhelm (Part 1) was such a popular post, I decided to do a Part 2. And because many of the comments and emails I got came in the form of questions, I decided to make the format of this post in Q+A form. I think seeing the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions will clear things up for many of you.

As a refresher, the 4 Film Financing components I talked about in Part 1 – the ones that are working in today’s market to independently finance films outside of the studio system are as follows:

1. Tax Incentives
2. Partnering With Production Companies
3. Pre-Sales
4. Crowd Funding

So let’s move on to Q+A…shall we?

Q: What are the benefits from both sides of partnering with a Production Company or more experienced Producer?

A: The obvious benefit to the new or less-experience Producer is pretty obvious – you get to leverage someone else’s track record to get your film made. But what about the benefit to the other Producer (the bigger one)? The benefit to them is that you are bringing them a killer concept and/or killer script that they didn’t have before. In my own pitching experience I find that every single one of the Producers I speak to says they are always looking for the next killer project – and they don’t really care where it comes from! Enter YOU. One of the keys to this approach is that hopefully you can bring more to the table than just a script, for example some kind of unique expertise. What areas of expertise do you have that you can contribute? Do you have existing relationships with foreign distributors for instance? How about marketing expertise? Are you a producer who can qualify for international co-production funds because you have a European or Australian or New Zealand passport? Think along those lines of some unique contribution you can bring to the partnership.

Q: What does it take to make a Pre-Sale when you don’t have the typical ‘package’?

A: It’s a fact that the majority of Pre-Sales these days are done on ‘packages’ – meaning a script with Director and Cast attachments. So what if you have an atypical package meaning not a name director or big international stars? Well I’ll tell you… I’ve seen this past year a few projects be successful at Pre-Sales by attaching the right Producer or Executive Producer. Yes, Producer and EP are also part of your package! Mind you these projects were also very commercial concepts, and not in the art-house/drama genre. Which brings up something else – sometimes, and I mean only sometimes, if your concept is so strong and commercial, you can mange a Pre-Sale or two ONLY based on that, even without having a big director or stars attached. In those cases what happens is who ever is buying from you, may insist on attaching an experienced ‘name’ themselves, so they can increase their level of trust and mitigate their risk.

Q: Aren’t the administrative costs extremely high when closing a tax finance deal?

A: Yes, actually they are. They can be anywhere from 15% to 25% of your budget by the time to take into account the discounting that banks do, legal, financing fees, interest, etc. For this reason, it usually only makes sense to take advantage of tax incentive deals when your budget is $2 million or more (and some say $5 million or more). Because tax deals can be expensive to administer many Producers prefer to finance with equity rather than tax incentives, but equity isn’t always available, and unless you are experienced with a track record, can be difficult to secure. Obviously the higher the budget of your film, the more tax incentives make sense for your production – for example when you start getting into the $5-$10 million budget range the numbers starting adding up even better. Having said that, I personally think it’s always worthwhile to look into the option of shooting in places that offer favorable tax incentives, and run the numbers to see how everything pencils out. I know Producers who have resisted this for a long time, and have finally given in because not taking advantage of 20%-40% in rebates is considered simply irresponsible at this point.

Q: What percentage of budget can you actually raise with Crowd Funding?

A: Certainly I’m seeing people raise 100% of their budgets doing crowd funding campaigns, especially with budgets of $200K and less. However in most cases, I think if you can raise 20%-25% of your budget with Crowd Funding then you can wrap a traditional financing structure around that. The thing to keep in mind with crowd funding is that you want to keep your campaign donation-based instead of investment-based, as anything investment-based can put you into legal grey area. Obviously sites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are terrific platforms for running your Crowd Funding campaigns and the thing that I like best about raising money through crowd funding is that it can be a great way to raise development funds in the beginning, when you need things like a website and other presentation materials to get the ball rolling. By contrast, I’ve also seen Producers use crowd funding very successfully to raise finishing funds, because by then you actually have sample footage to show people, and there can be an increased level of trust that your film will actually be completed.

Q: What are the downsides to raising International Co-Production financing as opposed to International Pre-Sale financing?

A: International Co-Production financing is second nature to most European producers because that’s their ‘traditional’ financing model. Nowadays however, even American producers are getting in on the action and the two biggest downsides I see with seeking International Co-Production financing are 1) The amount of red tape it takes to apply for government film funds, and 2) the amount of time it takes to get a project off the ground when you’re relying on international co-production funds. With so many new ways of financing your film these days, even European producers are looking outside their traditional model of ‘free government money’ because it’s simply just so much more efficient to cobble together the financing in other ways (using the 4 components I talked about above + private investors). And yes, most U.S tax rebate programs are much more efficient than the European government funds – quicker to get approval on and quicker to get cash-flowed.

So there you have it — I’d love to keep answering questions so please if you have any more, place them in the comments section below!

And if you want to delve deeper into Film Financing 101, check out the Virtual Intensive I’m putting on after Thanksgiving!

In the – Film Financing 2.0 Essential Training - I’ll be covering these 4 components of financing in-depth over the course of a few weeks. Take a look at the details of this small group program, and grab a seat before it sells out. Join the movement to get your film financed for 2011!

Film Finance Overwhelm

Guest post from Film Specific's Stacey Parks.

As I’m unwinding from AFM last week, it occurs to me that while many of you are experiencing Distribution Overwhelm, even more of you are experiencing Finance Overwhelm. Why? Because unless you have 100% cash in bank to make your film, what can you do to get your project off the ground?

The way I see it is we’ve entered a time where ‘cobbling together’ different forms of film financing is necessary to make the whole. Sure, private equity (or cash) still plays a role in this new model, but there’s also other methods that need to be explored and implemented to finance your film

Case in point – many filmmakers today are using private equity or cash for development funds, tax incentives and pre-sales for production funds, and crowd funding for finishing funds. Is that too many financing components? Let me put it to you this way….

Ignore a diversified approach to film financing at your peril!

So how and where do you begin on this journey then to cobble together financing for your film? Let’s forget the private equity or cash component for a moment b/c that’s usually the hardest piece of the puzzle, and let’s focus on financing components we actually have more control over in order to create some initial momentum with your project:

Tax incentives – you’ve probably heard this before but if you’re not investigating locations to shoot your film that offer tax rebates and credits, you’re simply being irresponsible. Research both U.S and international states, countries, and provinces which offer attractive tax incentives for you to shoot your film there. Use the individual Film Commission offices as your starting point and they’ll walk you though the process and procedure, which in my experience are shockingly simple. Get budgets drawn up for shooting in different locations so you can compare where you’re able to make your film in the most economic way possible.

Partnering With Production Companies – This may not seem like an obvious choice at first but let’s just say this – if you don’t have a track record yourself, if you’re a first or second time producer, writer, or director and you want to fast track your production, you should consider partnering with a more experienced Producer or Production Company and leverage their track record to get your project made. There are so many other benefits to this approach too – not least is the fact that if you manage to attract a bigger producer with a track record to your project to partner with you, you can ride their coat tails for this project, get introduced to their whole network of ‘relationships’, and be in a prime position for your next project to go it alone, using all the contacts you made. I’ve seen this happen many times, and it seems sometimes what holds people back in this scenario is their pride. Wouldn’t you rather swallow your pride and get your film made?

Pre-Sales – Here’s the facts: Pre-Sales are not dead. I don’t care what anyone says, Pre-Sales are alive and kicking for the right projects. And that’s the key here – the right projects. What does that mean? That means for projects with a killer concept, an experienced director attached, and great cast, pre-sales are in fact a reality. Now I know this might seem like a long shot for some of you but hear me out….If you are a first time director, focus on a killer concept and cast. If you are a first time producer, focus on attaching a ‘name’ director. You can in fact build a package that attracts pre-sales, it takes time, and often money (development funds) to pull things together but it’s possible.

Crowd Funding – Crowd Funding has actually been around for a while but only recently popularized by sites like Kickstarter & Indie Go Go. However, as many of you know, Robert Greenwald has been crowd funding his movies for years. His moves, being cause-related in nature, actually quite nicely lend themselves to being crowd funded (by people who are passionate about his causes). But what about if you have a narrative feature (as opposed to a cause-related doc)? The truth is, Crowd Funding can work for you too but the success of your campaign will be predicated on your ability to build an audience for your film while you’re still in the financing stage. No easy task but by leveraging the internet and social media, ti’s entirely possible provided you have a subject in your film, or are covering a topic or theme that people are actually interested in. Have you researched the concept of your film yet to determine if in fact there’s a potential audience for it that will be interested in seeing it? That’s the key to crowd funding right there.

These 4 components are what I see as the basic building blocks of a Film Financing plan in today’s market. And by building blocks I mean you should be using a combination of a few if not all of these to get the job done!

So what are your thoughts about Film Finance Overwhelm? Which of these methods have you used successfully, or not so successfully? And what questions do you have about any of them?

I’ll be kicking off one last Virtual Intensive for 2010 dedicated to Film Finance Overwhelm because I know that many of you are looking ahead at 2011 and you want to get your films made next year come hell or high water!

In my Virtual Intensive – Film Financing 2.0 Essential Training - I’ll be covering these 4 components of financing in-depth over the course of a few weeks. Take a look at the details of this small group program, and grab a seat before it sells out. Join the movement to get your film financed for 2011!

Stacey Parks is an expert in the area of Film Distribution, and the author of "Insiders Guide To Independent Film Distribution" (Focal Press). After several years as a foreign sales agent, in 2007 Stacey launched as a Virtual Training hub for Producers seeking to get their films made, seen, & distributed worldwide.

Embedded In Real Life: The Kickstarter Film Festival

Today's guest post is from Yancey Strickler, one of the founders of Kickstarter, the crowd funding site. Kickstarter, along with other crowdfunding sites, has brought some real change to the indie film landscape, bringing more power to the creator class to fund their work. But getting your work made, is just part of what it means to be an artist these days; you need to get your work seen (and that's not all). Luckily for us, Kickstarter is just getting started.

This Friday night on a Brooklyn rooftop, Kickstarter will host the first-ever Kickstarter Film Festival in conjunction with Rooftop Films. The night will feature 90-plus minutes of footage from a dozen filmmakers who successfully raised money on Kickstarter, among them documentaries, features, and shorts, as well as dance and experimental film. There will be music, plus delicious treats provided by Kickstarter food projects. If you'd like to join us, tickets are just $10.

Since Kickstarter launched 14 months ago, filmmakers have used the site to raise funds for post-production, shoots, crews, equipment, music licensing, locations, film festival prep, DVD production, color correction, and just about every other cost associated with making and distributing a film. They've found success: almost half of the film projects meet their funding goal. Overall $10 million has been pledged on the site -- $2 million of it to film projects.

Kickstarter allows filmmakers and other artists to operate in a space between commerce and patronage, where they can create their own economies from scratch. They declare what success is, they decide what's a commodity and what's not, they control the intellectual property and creative vision of their work, they determine what prices their audiences will pay. One of our core beliefs is that artists know their own audience and its needs far better than anyone -- us included.

The films selected for the festival used Kickstarter in a variety of ways. The Woods and Battle of Brooklyn raised funds for editing and post-production. Putty Hill -- which Roger Ebert gave four stars -- used Kickstarter to get to the Berlin Film Festival. Gregory Bayne funded his production costs in an impressive $25,000-in-twenty-days sprint that allowed him to follow the subject of his documentary. For each of these filmmakers, Kickstarter was simply a flexible tool that filled in the gaps.

In June I caught Ted Hope's talk at the LA Film Festival about the rise of the artist-entrepreneur. Ted's thesis was that an artist's job description must extend beyond concept and craft -- it includes things like audience-building, storytelling, participation, and some thirty other qualities that touch on every stage of a project's development. The gist of the talk was that artists should be excited about this chance -- when have they ever had the opportunity for so much control?

We agree. Our job is to build a product and community that can best connect artists and audiences, and help them to engage in a much deeper way. The twelve films we'll showcase on Friday have done amazing jobs at this. We couldn't be more excited to share their work and stories, and I hope to see you there.

yancey strickler |

Old Problems, New Solutions: Film Fest Rock & Blues

Today's guest post is by director Allison Anders (Mi Vida Loca, Grace Of My Heart), co-founder of the "Don't Knock The Rock" Film Festival" Seven years ago I was given one of the greatest opportunities of my opportunity-rich life -- a tenured post at UCSB as a distinguished professor in the Film And Media Department at UC Santa Barbara, where I remain on faculty, teaching one quarter each year. My first quarter I created a class on rock 'n' roll films since this had long been my private passion, and called the course "Don't Knock The Rock", named for the 1956 Alan Freed, Sam Arkoff, Columbia film of the same name. I loved the experience of sharing these music rich movies so much I didn't want it to end.

With the help of producer Elizabeth Stanley who was at that time at the DGA, and who connected me to festival producer Gianna Chacere (now with The Hamptons Film Festival) , I began to lay out plans for a festival in Los Angeles showcasing rock 'n' roll movies. My musician daughter Tiffany Anders was returning to Los Angeles, after living in Brooklyn for a good chunk of her 20s, so I immediately welcomed her home and enlisted her to curate live music for my hair-brained idea. The first year she delivered Sonic Youth, J Mascis, The Tyde, Dead Meadow, Wayne Kramer, and Ariel Pink before I even knew he had been born!

We are now launching our 6th annual (we took one year off) DKTR Fest July 8th and will run every Thursday of July and August at The Silent Movie Theater, Los Angeles. From our first Don't Knock The Rock Film And Music Festival, our agenda was, and remains, the same: to showcase music films and live music performances for die-hard fans and music nerds and to get the word out to them. We are dedicated to that agenda, even though the struggles of the niche film festival like ours are many, well actually, money; the struggle is always money.

We are blessed to have returning sponsors who have been supporting us every year since our beginning, BMI Music, Criterion Collection, Globe Shoes and more. But we are finding it harder to survive, and have watched well-heeled festivals disappear while we remain the little festival that could. This year, just when we wondered if we could go on, we discovered community funding as an option. In particular, Kickstarter! We weren't sure if we qualified since we have already been established but our project was accepted and we launched our pledge drive on Kickstarter to raise additional funds to bring filmmakers to us so they can see their film with a live audience (which for many filmmakers these days is becoming a rare experience) and to be able to compensate our musicians, who perform live for far below their quote, with a token of our appreciation for giving our audience a one-of-a kind experience.

The model for Kickstarter is brilliantly simple and effective: if everyone kicks in a donation to projects they'd like to support, these films, events, books, music, art will all see the light of day. And the even more beautiful part of it is that by donating to each other, we can help bring to life a culture we want to share. For every pledge to donate money to a Kickstarter project, you will get something tangible in return. We are loving our Kickstarter project and urge everyone to check it out cause we think we have some of the very coolest rewards ever from our awesome sponsors!

And we are very excited about our line-up this summer! Whenever possible we try to open our festival with a film which exemplifies an artist band or genre of music born right here in So Cal. "The Wrecking Crew", "Chicano Rock", "Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel" and "Ghost On The Highway: A Portrait Of Jeffrey Lee Pierce" have been a few of our LA-centric openers. This year we are so happy to launch DKTR 2010 with a beautiful film by Italian filmmaker/musician Cosimo Messeri, "The One Man Beatles: Something About Emitt Rhodes" Hawthorne's own son. In 1967 upon hearing and falling in love with the first 2 singles ("Live" and "You're A Very Lovely Woman") of Emitt's band The Merry-Go-Round, I ached for more till his long lost solo records were rediscovered in the late 80s and distributed on a collection by Rhino. These are melancholic yet accessible pop melodies that will stay with you, and a story that will move you as much as the music. Emitt Rhodes himself will be in attendance and we are thrilled to be able to celebrate his work in person with him. A tribute concert will follow the screening! Merry-Go Round/Emitt Rhodes expert Rhino's own Andrew Sandoval will DJ a brilliant set including never before heard Emitt Rhodes material.

From Australia we have a restored print of 1984's "Dogs In Space" with Inxs singer Michael Hutchence, a film not screened in LA in ages, along with the LA premiere of "We're Living On Dog Food" by director Richard Lowenstein on the vibrant Aussie punk and post punk scene of the early 80s, co-sponsored by "Part Time Punks" with DJ Michael Stock spinning tunes. We also have an amazing film of one man's quest to reunite the not-on-speaking-terms band The Kinks, in the film "Do It Again", and will follow up with a unique live Charles Beardlsey Kinks clips-mix from his private collection. And speaking of private collections of clips, Target Video pulls together a unique mix of Joe Rees video live performances late 70s early 80s "So Cal Uber Alles".

And following in a tradition of honoring our electronic music pioneers, to kick off the month of August we have the LA premiere of "Deconstructing Dad", a film by Stan Warnow about his father Raymond Scott with a special tribute to Scott's varied career followed by an incredible feast of WB Looney Tunes bearing the music of Raymond Scott curated by Jerry Beck, animation historian! Scott pal Skip Heller DJs! On Saturday afternoon Aug. 7, we will host as we do each year our ever popular BMI Music Roundtable Chat with pros in the music and film businesses discussing how to get your music into films, and for filmmakers how to find affordable music for projects. Aug 12, we have a full night Lee Hazlewood blow-out with 2 ultra rare titles "Cowboy In Sweden", "Nancy And Lee In Las Vegas" coming from the estate of Swedish filmmaker Tor Axelman.

And Also in August, an evening with legendary LA filmmaker and LA cultural historian Thom Andersen (LA Plays Itself) premiering his new film "Get Out Of The Car" and 2 rare music-filled LA pieces "--- -------" and "Olivia's Place" as well as other music-related films curated by Andersen who will be present for Q&A's and hangs! And closing night we will premiere a film by songwriter Mark Sebastian and filmmaker Todd Kwait "Vagabondo" a film about legendary Greenwich Village folk singer Vince Martin. Martin will also be present for a lively Q&A, and a tribute concert to his beautiful songs will follow the film.

In a world in flux in terms of film financing and distribution, festivals have changed too. Sales agents have become far more powerful and their budgets smaller. Unless you're a major festival where they can sell their movie, and recoup for the investors, they cannot be bothered to even answer an inquiry from a smaller niche festival (this happened to us repeatedly this year). It's a shame cause this means that the very audience who would care don't get to see the film, it means the filmmakers don't get to experience their film with as many audiences, and it means that when the film comes out, if ever, no one goes to see it, cause no one knows about it, and it perpetuates this idea that music films don't make money, so less of them get made. When in fact, people would come, if they knew about it and if they were targeted as the viable audience that they are.

This is clearly a dead model. I'm looking forward to new models. And community-based funding and supporting local venues for niche festivals are a step in the right direction ahead!

For the DKTR Kickstarter page go here:

For the complete DKTR 2010 line-up and to buy tickets go here: