Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- The Campaign Site

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

Campaign Body

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

What is it about?

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

Who is involved?

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

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

What is the money for?

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

What if you raise more than your goal?

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

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

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

FAQ

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

What else?

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

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

Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- Campaigning and Rewards

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

 

Campaigning as a Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rewards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- Is Crowdfunding Right For You?

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

Kickstarter For Filmmakers 

by James Cooper

 

Is crowd funding right for me and this project?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is my goal realistic?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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