David Fine on "More Thoughts On Crowdfunding Campaigns"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Adam Chapnick, IndieGoGo

RIDING THE INDIEGOGO TRAIN STRAIGHT TO SXSW WITH HAPPY NEW YEAR

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

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

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

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

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

Here were the milestones:

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

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

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

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

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

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

HAPPY NEW YEAR - www.happynewyearsfilm.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LA Film Fest

1. An Ordinary Family

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

3. Salaam Dunk

Cannes

4. Cerise

HotDocs

5. You've Been Trumped

Tribeca

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

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

8. Love Hate Love - Tribeca Travel

SXSW

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

10. 8 (Award winner)

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

12. HAPPY NEW YEAR

Sundance

13. The High Level Bridge

14. The Rocket Boy

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

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

Adam Chapnick IndieGoGo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This example speaks a thousand words.

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

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

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

Most Read HopeForFilm Posts Of 2010

I wasn't sure what to call this post. "Top Posts"? "Most Popular"? They are not necessarily the most engaging, as they don't always correspond with the "most commented" -- if that qualifies for engaging that is... But I thought it would make some sense to see what was the most viewed.  I thought I would learn from it.

One of the things that I am proud of regarding this blog is the fact that it has become a community forum.  I learn from the comments people post.  I have made new friends from such comments (and identified a few I hope to avoid!).  It's been really great how much people contribute, and I love that almost half the most popular posts are from folks other than myself.

So, what were HopeForFilm/TrulyFreeFilm's most read post of the past year?  Surprisingly, they are all quite recent.

38 More Ways The Film Industry Is Failing Today - With over 10,000 views this clearly hit a nerve.  Everyone likes lists, but I like to think  so many folks went to this for a dose of preventive medicine.  We are going to conquer this right?

Ten Things To Do Before You Submit A Script - Getting your script read by the right people will always be a challenge.  As will making the best film you are capable of.  We all need advice, and I probably can come up with a few more posts like this.  You certainly want it.  I have listened.  I hope the advice was helpful!

The Hard Truth: Filmnaking Is Not A Job - I aim to be 100% truthful about what I do.  I want to demystify what producers do.  I think the readers of this blog and the community around it that you have built wants us all to say like it is.  I must confess that occasionally I let the struggle of getting movies made and seen, get me down.  Fortunately I get great support from my wife and friends, yet nonetheless sometimes I produce posts like this one!

The Good Machine No Budget Commandments- Oldies can be Goodies.  I always got a lot of demands for this list that I drew up for a NYU Grad screenwriting class.  It's nice to see people still use it!

Brave Thinkers Of Indie Film, 2010 Edition - clearly this is going to have to be an annual tradition now.   It looks like the community needed something that pointed more to ideas than just to the work at hand.

Miao Wang On The Secret Of Her Kickstarter Success-  This was the year that crowdfunding really came of age, and everyone wants to know how to do it well.  We will only learn the answers by all of us sharing, and people responded well to the lessons Miao learned.

Filmmakers vs. Aggregators: Distribber Speaks Of A Win,Win! - Adam Chapnick contributed this post on the dawn of Distribber being acquired by IndieGoGo, and outlined the problems facing all filmmakers in placing their work online.

Jon Reiss on Proper Prior Planning Prevent Perplexing Problems - The most commented post ever!  It's surprising that it remains a question how much filmmakers should focus on the distribution and marketing of their films, but it something that people love to talk about it, and Jon is one of the best at it out there.

Thoughts On The New Festival Model -  Film festivals are evolving, and when Tribeca announced their VOD initiative, people took notice.  I wasn't alone in my commenting for sure.  And there is still a lot more to say on the subject. I expect more big moves in 2011.  As a post format, I enjoy this kind of "thinking out loud" pieces, and wonder if this is a vote for more of them...

Children Of Invention: Why They Turned Down 8 Distribution Offers- Mynette & Tze were some of the Brave Thinkers of 2009 and it is precisely due to posts and actions like what they share here.

There were also a couple of old posts from the prior year that were viewed enough times in 2010 to place them in the top ten.

The 21 Brave Thinkers Of Truly Free Film 2009 - The prequel to this year's #4 hit -- all of them worth noting as much for what they did in 2010 as the year before.

38 American Independent Film Problems/Concerns - This was the prequel to this year's most popular post.  I guess I am going to have to dig up another 38 for 2011 to keep the tradition going.

Well, it is a new year.  Let me know what you want to discuss.

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 www.FilmSpecific.com as a Virtual Training hub for Producers seeking to get their films made, seen, & distributed worldwide.


Recipe For Happiness: Focus On The Future & Embrace Experimentation

Yesterday, I ranted a bit about the apparent silence in the film community regarding our collective need for forward thinking experimentation (and support thereof).  The need for such action is reinforced in a recent WSJ article by Clay Shirky promoting his new book:

This issue isn't whether there's lots of dumb stuff online—there is, just as there is lots of dumb stuff in bookstores. The issue is whether there are any ideas so good today that they will survive into the future. Several early uses of our cognitive surplus, like open source software, look like they will pass that test.

The past was not as golden, nor is the present as tawdry, as the pessimists suggest, but the only thing really worth arguing about is the future. It is our misfortune, as a historical generation, to live through the largest expansion in expressive capability in human history, a misfortune because abundance breaks more things than scarcity. We are now witnessing the rapid stress of older institutions accompanied by the slow and fitful development of cultural alternatives. Just as required education was a response to print, using the Internet well will require new cultural institutions as well, not just new technologies.

Yes, we are overwhelmed.  There are too many choices.  But solutions are being found.  And the tools have never been better.  How can you not be moved by stories of discovery like this.

Even more so, the benefits of such future focus is underscored by this great video based on Philip Zimabardo's lecture that my wife, Vanessa, turned me on to:

The whole RSA Animate series on YouTube is pretty great, and well worth your time.

Filmmakers vs. Aggregators: Distribber speaks of Win, Win!

Today's guest post is from Distribber founder Adam Chapnick responding to the question of just what IS Distribber and how can it make the world safer for filmmakers. Distribber was recently acquired by IndieGoGo, and in the wake of the publicity surrounding the announcement, we received a tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm and interest in Distribber's service.  As is inevitable, there's been some confusion around what Distribber does and doesn't do.  

Distribber was created to help rights holders maximize the payback from their work and investment.

More specifically, Distribber was conceived as a solution to several persistent complaints from filmmakers and other creative rights holders about distributors in general and aggregators in particular.  ("Aggregator" is the term used for a company that acts as a gatekeeper between a rights holder and a retail platform, such as iTunes, Netflix, Hulu or Cable VOD operators like Comcast, Time Warner, etc.)  

The complaints surrounded 3 specific pain points: 

Complaint #1.  Eternal revenue-share for finite service
Aggregators (other than Distribber) work on a revenue-share basis, meaning that they make money by keeping between 15% and 50% of your revenue that they collect from the retail platforms on your behalf.  They take this portion of revenue for the entire term of your deal with them.  The complaint from filmmakers was that while aggregators take this money "forever," they didn't seem to be working forever.  To many, it seemed that aggregators placed their film on the platforms and then moved on. 

This situation was even more frustrating for larger rights holders -- production companies, sales reps, etc. -- who controlled the rights to several (often dozens) of titles, and who engaged in significant marketing and grassroots outreach but lacked access to iTunes, except through revenue share entities.  The shared-revenue structure has continued to frustrate these larger companies as they have been the core demand-drivers.

Now, in defense of aggregators, encoding a film, ushering it through Quality Control "QC" and having the access to place it on iTunes or Netflix or Hulu or Cable VOD or anywhere else is indeed a valuable service -- and often a time-consuming one.  

However, it seemed that one could put a fair price on that service that accounted for the work and value of relationships, and offer it to filmmakers cleanly, without the burden of a revenue-share.  This would enable a filmmaker, production company or other rights holder to know their cash outflow in advance, and enjoy 100% of the benefit of their film's success.  So, Distribber adopted a flat-fee-for-service model.

Complaint #2.  Large deducted expenses, often including fees for marketing services that seemed unhelpful or nonexistent
Filmmakers complained that distributors and aggregators deducted expenses that seemed unreasonable, like $1500 for encoding, or an array of costs for marketing services that the filmmaker wasn't sure had actually been done.  

Here, the opportunity was again to charge a fair price, once.  So, Distribber adopted a fair price.  The $1295 one-time fee for iTunes placement was less than some rev-share companies charged for the encoding alone, and after only 185 sales at $9.99 on iTunes, rights holders have been entirely in profit.

Without putting too fine a point on it, it bears emphasizing:  after 185 iTunes sales at $9.99, a rights holder is in profit for the rest of the film's life on iTunes. Going forward, Distribber charges $79 per year for account access, collection and sales stats.  

The best evidence that we were on the right track came when the Age of Stupid production team chose to use Distribber -- they have been incredibly successful trailblazers in the hybrid distribution movement, and their endorsement told us that our service is providing its intended benefits for its ideal users.

To compare Distribber's model with revenue-share models, consider the illustration below.  At 1000 iTunes sales (retail price $9.99), rights holders give up 174% more money under a 15% rev-share than they pay to Distribber ($3,550 compared to $1295).  Under a 25% rev-share, rights holders pay 228% more ($4,250).  At 10,000 sales, Distribber's one-time fee doesn't change, but a 15% rev-share deal now costs ten times the Distribber fee ($13,000), while a 25% rev-share deal costs over fifteen times more ($20,000).  Obviously, at 20,000 sales, the disparity only increases.

Looking at revenue, with Distribber's flat fee, at 1000 iTunes sales, rights holders are paid 65% more than they would be with a 15% rev-share deal ($5,705 vs. $3,450), and they're paid more than twice what they'd get from a 25% deal ($5,626 vs. $2,750).  At 10,000 sales, Distribber clients keep $11,705 more than they would under a 15% rev-share, and  $18,705 more than they would under a 25% rev-share.  And again, at 20,000 sales, a rights holder does even better.


What A Filmmaker Is Charged, With:                     What A Filmmaker Keeps, With:

Distribber 15% Rev-Share 25% Rev-Share Distribber 15% Rev-Share 25% Rev-Share
At 1000 iTunes sales -$1,295 -$3,550 -$4,250 $5,705 $3,450 $2,750
At 10000 iTunes sales -$1,295 -$13,000 -$20,000 $68,705 $57,000 $50,000
At 20000 iTunes sales -$1,295 -$23,500 -$37,500 $138,705 $116,500 $102,500

(The chart assumes Rev-share companies deduct from filmmaker's revenue $2500 for encoding and/or marketing.)

And now, with Distribber's addition of Amazon VOD and Netflix's streaming service, we decided that as a limited-time promotion, for the same $1295, Distribber clients could have our Amazon and Netflix service for free. This of course only makes the above comparison even more lopsided in Distribber clients' favor, since it adds revenue without adding any expense.

Complaint #3.  Late payments, and sometimes no payment

Filmmakers complained that even after resigning themselves to a rev-share deal, and agreeing to the small payout left after expenses and revenue share deductions, they had to chase distributors and aggregators for reports and checks, and sometimes with none being sent at all.

So, Distribber has decided to do away with reports and checks, and instead employ a user account system, whereby clients login with a username and password.  Here they gain access to collection stats by platform, and see their collected funds balance.  Clients withdraw their own money on demand, with the click of a button.  Having all sales stats and collection in one account removed a major, time-consuming headache from our clients lives for $79 a year.

Next: More Pain, More Answers

Even a casual follower of the distribution business knows that there are plenty of areas it can be improved, and in plenty of ways.  Distribber is continuing to actively developing new methods and models to serve rights holders across a variety of platforms, from internet to cable to mobile. 

With the proliferation of tools like Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter and all the plugins and apps that support those services, it's more possible than ever for innovative companies, teams -- or even individuals -- to disrupt old marketing models and connect with audiences.  Filmmaker/marketers like Gary Hustwit, Lance Weiler, Tiffany Shlain and others have shown the way to create demand via their own efforts and investment. Peter Broderick is shepherding rights holders through a hybrid strategy that teaches careful allocation of specific rights to companies that are highly specialized, with the goal of maximizing the revenue a filmmaker keeps.

The key thing to understand about Distribber is that it's a powerful tool to help enterprising rights holders keep the most of their own money.  The more skilled you are at connecting with audience, the more buzz that you've built, the better Distribber's deal works for you.  

ADAM CHAPNICK is CEO of Distribber.com, an IndieGoGo company that places film and TV content on digital sales platforms such as iTunes, Netflix and Amazon for a flat fee while allowing filmmakers to keep 100% of their revenue. Adam can be reached at adam@distribber.com .

IndieGoGo Acquires Distribber: Filmmakers Win!

We just got this press release from IndieGoGo and it sounds like a great thing.  Users will now have access to the iTunes, Amazon, and Netflix distribution platform.  Exciting development indeed.

The acquisition enables a full range of project execution tools for IndieGoGo members.

Berkeley, California, March 15, 2009 – IndieGoGo (www.indiegogo.com), a fundraising platform, announced its acquisition of Distribber (www.distribber.com), a digital distribution service. This acquisition enables IndieGoGo to offer clients a full range of tools for project execution - from funding to distribution.

IndieGoGo was co-founded in 2008 by Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin, and Eric Schell. In 2009 IndieGoGo became the largest online film funding platform. In 2010 IndieGoGo extended its fundraising tools to any project raising up to $100,000 - including writing, music, social cause, technology, events, venture, and political ideas. Based on the concept of DIWO (Do It With Others), IndieGoGo offers all the tools needed to promote and fund projects via the masses. IndieGoGo encourages projects to offer VIP perks in exchange for contributions, allowing thousands of project owners to involve their fans in funding and creative efforts.

“Since 2008, IndieGoGo has powered fundraising campaigns for over 3,000 customers in 94 countries,” said Rubin, Chief of Strategy and Marketing of IndieGoGo. “Now our creative clients will have an opportunity to distribute their completed works. By adding distribution to the suite of tools that IndieGoGo offers, clients can stay with one company and receive consistency in execution and service.”

Distribber was founded in 2009 by Adam Chapnick as a digital distribution service. The innovative company currently empowers independent filmmakers with distribution opportunities, without loss of rights or back-end revenue. Distribber enables access to iTunes, and today announced new distribution partnerships with Netflix and Amazon.“IndieGoGo is known for stellar technology, outstanding service, and wide reach,” says Chapnick, founder of Distribber. “I'm incredibly excited to provide Distribber's clients access to IndieGoGo’s tools, and to give the IndieGoGo membership another way to monetize their projects.”

Distribber will continue to be based in the Los Angeles area.

If you have any questions about this acquisition, or how it may benefit your project on IndieGoGo please contact info@indiegogo.com.

About Distribber

Distribber enables media creators to distribute content on platforms including iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon. Distribber clients collect 100% of their revenue and have ongoing access to their sales and revenue statistics. Distribber is an IndieGoGo company. To learn more, visit http://www.distribber.com. The company is located in Los Angeles CA.

About IndieGoGo

IndieGoGo is a funding platform - a collaborative way to fund ideas. Anyone can join IndieGoGo, share a project idea, and raise the funds needed to execute. Since its launch in 2008, IndieGoGo's members, from over 90 countries, have successfully funded projects ranging from books to movies and events to charities. To learn more, visit http://www.indiegogo.com. The company is located in Berkeley CA and New York, NY.