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

Written by Michael R. Barnard

Part 3 of 3 parts.
Yesterday, in Part 2, we learned that cash is available and that the JOBS Act is going to give filmmakers an opportunity to more easily access that cash for investment to make movies and rebuild the independent film industry.

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


“You’re dealing with other people’s money, there is an obligation of financial and fiduciary duty to the investors,” says Bob Thibodeau of Crowdfund Capital Markets (see, a service company providing backend and clearinghouse functions for equity crowdfunding operations.


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


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


“Investors soon can expect to be inundated with crowdfunding pitches, legitimate or otherwise,” said Heath Abshure, President of North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) (see, the oldest international organization devoted to investor protection.


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


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


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


According to the report “How the Crowd Detects Fraud” (see ), “This is the new crowdsourced diligence paradigm.” The crowd itself effectively polices against fraud.




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


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


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


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


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


Part of the reason for delays in rulemaking may be the change in leadership at the SEC. On December 14, 2012, Chairman Mary Schapiro left the agency, and President Obama appointed Elisse Walter as her successor. See and


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Part 2 of 3 parts.

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

For the definition of “Accredited Investors,” see

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


These facts commonly frustrate new filmmakers.


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


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


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


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


It works.


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


“Crowdfunding also enables filmmakers to develop direct contact with potential viewers once the film is available,” added Josh Welsh (see, also co-president of Film Independent.


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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


“Absolutely,” says Abramowitz.


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


Individual Americans have missed almost $200 billion of stock gains by hoarding cash rather than investing it (see Bloomberg’s “Americans Miss $200 Billion Abandoning Stocks” at


Corporations and institutions have done the same; trillions of dollars have been sitting idle instead of creating jobs and building business infrastructure (see NPR’s “Companies Sit On Cash; Reluctant To Invest, Hire” at, Forbes’ “Super Rich Hide $21 Trillion Offshore, Study Says” at, and’s “Obama says companies have nearly $2 trillion sitting on their balance sheets” at


The FINANCIAL TIMES reports that equity funds have seen the strongest inflows in more than five years because of boosted investor confidence. Net inflows into equity funds monitored by EPFR, the data provider, hit $22.2 billion in the week of January 9, 2013 – the highest since September 2007 and the second highest since comparable data began in 1996. (See


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


Have Crowd. Will Collaborate.

by Angie Fielder Crowdfunding is definitely the social media flavour of the month as creative people connect with online audiences who want to help finance their dreams. On Kickstarter alone, nearly 3 million people have helped over 30,000 projects, generating more than $US300 million in pledges.

As producers of The Second Coming, a feature film that is currently seeking funds via crowdfunding site Pozible (, we recognise the need, in this fast-becoming-saturated crowdfunding environment, to think outside the box when it comes to incentivising people to pledge. Particularly if we want to go beyond our personal network of family and friends. That’s the real challenge with crowdfunding – engaging people outside of your own contacts, outside of your existing support networks.This extension of our networks will not only help us to raise money for our film but it will also, very importantly, mean that we start building an audience for the film NOW. When people pledge money to support a film, it gives them a vested interest in it and its success. That kind of audience dedication is extremely valuable.

We launched on September 10, 2012 and in the first two weeks of our campaign we have raised $20,000 of our $75,000 target. There’s still a ways to go however and in order to incentivise people to continue to pledge we have just released new packages that specifically target aspiring filmmakers and actors.

To develop the packages we gave a lot of thought to what WE had wanted as young filmmakers starting out in the industry. And the answer was – having the opportunity to be involved, and observe, the production process. There’s only so much you can learn at film school – the real learning comes from being amidst of all the action on a real project. That’s why we’re offering aspiring filmmakers the chance to observe and join in the production of The Second Coming. Our new packages include the opportunity to come into the rehearsals and on set, to join us at key creative times during the production such as the edit, the grade and the sound mix where we will invite the pledgers to provide their own creative feedback on the film as well as the opportunity for direct consultation with the film’s key creative team.

We are also keen to explore how we can involve a global audience at various stages of post production – VFX, titles design, music – there are loads of possibilities that we are yet to mine.

Writer/director of The Second Coming, David Barker, is a huge fan of the crowdfunding model: “We are in the midst of a filmmaking revolution. It's mind-blowing. Sites like Pozible are pipelines to a larger community that's evolving in completely new ways. Imagine where this could lead to? A massive creative community, more intimately connected to each other and their stories. This is not about charity, or wanting something for nothing, it's about growing a community where everyone gets rewarded for being part of a creative endeavour. "


It’s not just about crowd funding, but also crowd collaborating.


Pledging on Pozible is open to anyone in any country – all you need is a credit card or PayPal account. To pledge to the project or find out more go to:


Important Links:

Pledge at

LIKE the Facebook page:

JOIN the Facebook Group:

FOLLOW on Twitter: Hashtag: #2ndComingMovie

Subscribe/Follow on Vimeo:

Like/Subscribe on YouTube: (choose The Second Coming playlist)

Film website:

Director’s blog:

Director’s website:

Follow Aquarius Films on Twitter:

And Facebook:

Aquarius Films website:

Angie Fielder, of Aquarius Films, is an award-winning Australian producer whose short films have screened in Sundance, Venice, Berlin and Telluride. Her first feature, Wish You Were Here, starring Joel Edgerton, opened Sundance 2012 and will release in cinemas in the US in early 2013.

I Will Consult On Your Script Or Project

Here's the deal: you help the Flyaway Film Festival & I help you and your project.   Okay, it's not quite that simple, but it is still a great bargain.  I really enjoyed my time visiting the Flyaway Film Festival and I want it thrive.  They just had a very successful crowd funding campaign; it's nice to see my affection is matched  by many.  

To help them raise money, I donated a one hour consultation session.  I will also add in free the time it takes to read your script and make some notes.  This often goes for quite significant amounts.  Flyaway has it listed for bargain rates.

Check it out here:

Can Indie Film Achieve a Network Effect?

By Chris Dorr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independent film needs a new metaphor.

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

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

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

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

And every independent filmmaker will benefit.

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

About Chris Dorr

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

Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- The Campaign Site

This is our final excerpt from  James Cooper's eBook 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.


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

Kickstarter for Filmmakers -- Campaigning and Rewards

Here's another excerpt from  James Cooper's eBook 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.


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

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  

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

Crowdfunding: Getting Beyond your Family and Friends

Crowdfunding: Getting Beyond your Family and Friends By Antonia Opiah

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

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

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

Start with Family and Friends

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

Spend a Little Money to Make Money

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

Think Outside the States

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

Get Written Up

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

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

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


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

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

by Sara Kiener

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

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

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

Kickstarting to DISTRIBUTE a movie:

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

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

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

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

Five Lessons We Learned While Making STARLET

by Blake Ashman-Kipervaser (producer)

As a film producer I find that each production I work on has its own unique set of challenges and the process can feel a bit like a roller coaster ride at times. Yet somehow things always seem to work out, and hopefully after its done you feel you've learned something or become stronger at what you do. With STARLET undergoing finishing work and getting ready to be released later this year I've thought back on some of the recent close calls and other experiences we survived during the making of the film and how fortuitous many of them seem to be in hindsight.  Here are five examples which I hope will help other filmmakers in some shape or form. 

1. The right place at the right time 

While developing another project STARLET director Sean Baker,

executive producer Shih-Ching Tsou and DP Radium Cheung shot tests with a DSLR camera and a vintage Iscorama anamorphic lens adapater Sean had purchased on Ebay. The results looked promising. We thought we’d be able to use the adapter on the STARLET shoot even though we'd changed cameras to the Sony F3. As it turned out when we finally had a chance to test the F3 with the Iscorama adapter the results were not acceptable. This left us in a major bind scrambling at the last minute to find a set of anamporphic lenses that a) were available and b) were affordable. Both equally challenging!  The risk being that if we couldn’t find anything that worked we'd have to compromise by shooting the film in the flat 1:85 format instead of scope 2:35 which Sean and Radium had always envisioned.

A year earlier while researching options online Radium found a person who appeared to rent and sell anamorphic lenses. We got back in touch with him and it turned out he was living in a trailer park sixty miles north of LA and had one set of lenses available for rent. When we visited him at the trailer park we looked at the lenses and sure enough they were the real deal.  Russian lomos from the 70's but in perfect condition.  Despite the fact that they weighed a ton they were great lenses.  He explained to us that he had acquired a stockpile of Russian lenses just after the fall of the Soviet Union.  Sort of a right place, right time situation. He was introduced to the right contacts in Moscow and went back several times to purchase more. He'd been making a living off renting and selling them for the last 20 years. We were lucky he had this one set available. When we went back to him during post for a reshoot he had already sold them.

 (l to r) Shih-Ching Tsou, Sean Baker, and Adam Kolkman at the trailer park testing a lens.

2. There are others out there just like you

Our script included a few scenes in which some of the main characters play a first person shooter style video game. We needed to find a game that would allow us to use their footage in the film, and for a reduced price. Because STARLET does contain some explicit content we tried to only approach companies that wouldn’t have a problem with this. We had an ally who is well connected in the video game industry help make the initial calls for us. After receiving rejections from the first couple companies approached we learned of one that seemed excited about working with us. They gave us permission to use their footage and we filmed it off the monitor during production. Contractually we agreed to show them the scenes with their footage in the final edit before they signed off so they could be sure we weren’t depicting their game in a derogatory way. Very deep into post-production we sent them clips of those scenes and everything seemed to be ok. They sent an executable copy of the agreement to our attorney which I signed and sent back.  Then all of a sudden they came back and insisted we show them the entire film. Once they saw the sex scene in the film they pulled out (no pun intended).  Due to the corporate nature of their business they just couldn’t be associated with something so risque.  Ironically, they create games for adolescents that revolve around killing everything in sight.

As you can imagine this was an extremely stressful situation for us. We were warned by our contact in the game industry that we wouldn't be able to find anyone else. However, we refused to believe that as we knew that the game community has just as many independent creators as the film community. It had to be a good opportunity for somebody!  We searched Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for crowdfunding campaigns and sent messages out. Within a couple days we connected with Jason Welge of Panzer Gaming Studios who responded enthusiastically to our request. He was psyched about having his game ‘Left to Rot’ appear in the film. And it worked perfectly for us. It was a win win for all.

3. Dreams do come true 

Our co-lead character Sadie is an elderly woman living in the Valley. Initially we wanted to cast an aging starlet for the role. Along with our casting director, Julia Kim we approached several famous actresses for the role. We got one of them on board. It was an exciting moment in our pre-production. But just as quickly as we got her attached, she dropped out.  Ultimately, we weren’t able to meet her budget needs. Around the same time our executive producer Shih-Ching Tsou was exercising at a YMCA in West Hollywood when she discovered Besedka Johnson. When she approached Johnson and asked her if she’d ever acted, Johnson’s eyes lit up and she responded “I’ve never acted but I’ve always dreamed of it.”  A few days later we auditioned her for the role and she immediately won us all over. We cast her and the rest is history.  At SXSW she was awarded a Special Jury Recognition for her performance. She told the audience at the premiere "Dreams do come true". 

4. Strike quickly when opportunity knocks

During pre-production while we were out scouting one of our locations, Talent Testing Services, a very well-known adult film performer Manuel Ferrara was on his way out as we were walking in. Sean had been considering him for an important role in the film and had mentioned this to me a few days earlier. Shortly after Manuel exited the clinic, Sean leaned over to me and whispered “That was Manuel, should I go follow him and talk to him about the film?”.  I nodded yes and Sean chased him down in the parking lot.  When Sean returned a few minutes later he gave us the good news that Manuel said yes. 

5. Divine Intervention

One of our greatest challenges during the making of STARLET was finding a car for our lead character, Jane.  We wanted something with some character, a little beat up, and a little outdated, but nothing over the top or quirky. It also had to have working air conditioner as we were shooting in the Valley in August which is hot as hell, and it needed to be automatic for our actress. That last condition we failed to make happen.  We spent several weeks searching used car lots, rental places that specialized in renting damaged cars, as well as asking all of our friends if they knew of anything.  Finally we found something that worked. A late nineties Saturn. We paid too much but by that time we were desparate. And we had exhausted all our other options. We later found out it had a lein on it too but that’s another story... 

The car lasted us a couple good weeks of shooting before it broke down, erupting with heavy smoke while I was driving to set on the 405. We were exremeley aggravated at the thought of throwing more money into trying to fix it, after already having spent too much to begin with. Later that day, while shooting a scene, our DP Radium Cheung was framing a shot, looking into the lens when he saw an identical looking car stopped a red light in the deep background. He yelled “That’s our car!!”  I literally ran into the intersection and pitched the female driver the possibility of renting it to us for the rest of our shoot. Amazingly she agreed! If that hadn’t happened I’m not sure what we’d have done. 

As these stories suggest, filmmaking is not for the faint of heart. Those 5 lessons only scratch the surface of what we’ve had to overcome to make STARLET. One final lesson is that sometimes, even when the stars align, you still need help to get to the finish line.  We were very fortunate to have premiered the film at SXSW and received positive responses from audiences and critics alike. This led to a N. American distribution deal with Music Box Films – a company whose work we admire and who believes in our film. It also led to Rezo Films acquiring the film for international sales. Both of these companies are taking a risk on STARLET and will have to work hard to ensure that it finds its audience. There is no easy path for true independent films.

That is what brings us to Kickstarter. We have been short on funds for a while as we’ve tried to take the film to completion.  Due to lack of time and money we screened the film at SXSW before having done a proper sound design and mix, and color correction. We licensed only festival rights for the music. We went into debt just to be able to attend the premiere. And now we need your help. We will be able to get this film out there in the way that we also intended if we are able to meet our goal on Kickstarter. We hope that you will be interested in supporting our project and our future filmmaking efforts.

Blake Ashman-Kipervaser is an independent film producer based in New York.  STARLET premiered at SXSW 2012 and will be released later this year by Music Box Films. They are currently raising finishing funds on Kickstarter. Please visit their page here: to support the film.


Trumping The Industry with Kickstarter: Women Support Women To Get Movies Made And Seen

By Lydia Dean Pilcher

We’re nearing the end of an ambitious Kickstarter campaign for an independent film, “The Sisterhood of Night.” Adapted from a short story by Pulitzer prize-winning author Steven Millhauser, our movie is a modern twist on the Salem witch trials. It deals with teen girls and the wild west of the Internet, its potential for casual, breathtaking cruelty, and its capacity to connect and share - all slippery new challenges to this transitional generation. "The Sisterhood of Night" is about holding close what makes you different, through diversity of thought and culture. It shines a light on the dangers of cyberbullying, but it also suggests that there are ways of using the Internet to find your inner creative spirit and tap into positivity.

But this journey began a few years ago. When my producing partner, Elizabeth Cuthrell, and I first met director Caryn Waechter and screenwriter Marilyn Fu, we fell in love with their irrepressible energy and their quest to find beauty, fun, and meaning in the dark edges of life. We worked for a couple of years with Caryn and Marilyn, further adapting the original material from an 80's setting to our contemporary digital world.

Despite our passion--having a first time feature director and deeply female material, and a teen cast with no vampires--we found it hard to gain traction with the conventional ways of financing. It’s no surprise that women are more likely to green light women's pictures, have more confidence in women directors, and be more interested in stories about female characters. The scarcity of women at the top of the business-end of the film industry could have a lot to do with the fact that women made up only 5 percent of directors in Hollywood in 2011.

In addition, the issue of entry and retention in our industry for independent filmmakers, women filmmakers, and diverse filmmakers is a very serious matter. It takes someone with real vision in the studio executive's chair, and strong-minded passionate producers, to push back against the mediocre middle ground which studios tend to feed.

With crowd funding, audiences now have a vehicle to push back as well. Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites provide an opportunity for individuals to influence the development of independent film projects at the ground level, and give these films the momentum they need to go into or finish production, with or without Hollywood’s consent. Audiences can vote with their dollars and contribute to the development of projects, rather than just be mere consumers at the end of the line.

Last year saw Dee Rees’ Pariah break out of the pack at Sundance to be picked up by Focus Features, making it the first film in Kickstarter’s two year history to do so. The 2012 Sundance festival unveiled a total of seven out of fourteen Kickstarter narrative and documentary film projects by women directors and co-directors, including Aurora Guerrero’s Mosquita y Mari, Alison Kayman’s Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry; Lisanne Pajot’s Indie Game: The Movie; Erin Greenwell’s My Best Day; Katie Aselton’s Black Rock and Valerie Veatch’s Me.

And for The Sisterhood of Night, beyond getting financial momentum for the project itself, the biggest reward of our campaign has been the community we are building around our movie.

We’ve been impressed by the number of women directors backing us in order to help another woman director. Katherine Dieckmann, director of “Motherhood,” emailed to say, “I absolutely want to back this, so count me in, and I’ll pledge right now... I teach so many amazing young female filmmakers at Columbia (and they are super-diverse, often coming to me from everywhere from Russia to Laos) & it breaks my heart when they can’t get their projects made.” Other women directors who are backing Sisterhood include Mary Harron, Mehreen Jabbar, Katja von Garnier, Maggie Greenwald, Gina Prince Bythewood, Mira Nair, Tina Mabry, Pamela Yates, Sara Terry, Lilly Scourtis Ayers, Angela Tucker, Stephanie Wang-Breal, Ursula Liang, Suzi Yoonessi, Joyce Dragonsky and we’re still counting!

While our director, Caryn has been tirelessly shooting and editing videos for our campaign updates (you can see them all on our Kickstarter page), our screenwriter Marilyn Fu tapped into her Taiwanese-American community, and they in turn showed huge support for Marilyn’s unique voice as well as for positive cultural images in the media. One of the Sisterhood characters is Taiwanese American, loosely based on Marilyn’s teen years growing up in Berwyn, Pennsylvania.

Through this Kickstarter campaign and a teen art contest we’ve created called Wanna Know A Secret?, we’re using social media in a way that wouldn’t have been imagineable a few years ago. And because of this, we have no doubt, our movie will be deeper and evermore far reaching.

Kickstarter has filled a real need in bringing people together to fund the projects they want to create, and the results have been -- and continue to be -- amazing. Kickstarter is expecting to bring in a total of $150 million in funding this year – more than the $146 million provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Last weekend we surpassed our goal of $100,000 and we will continue to receive pledges thru March 10th, the last date of the campaign. Now we want to keep building our Sisterhood community, reaching out to our audience, and discovering new supporters. We plan to start shooting this summer, and the funds that continue to come in during this final week will get us that much closer to the final film. By pledging as little as a dollar you can become a member of the Sisterhood, privy to all of our progress updates as we bring this movie to your screen -whatever size that may be! Every pledge at every reward level proves that we are a fan-funded film that has found an audience before the director has even called "Action!"

Feel free to share wildly. Who knows what other discoveries we will continue to make together?

Lydia Dean Pilcher is founder of Cine Mosaic, a production company making independent feature films with an energetic focus on provocative and entertaining stories that promote social, cultural and political diversity. Pilcher has produced over 30 feature films and is currently in post production with The Reluctant Fundamentalist, directed by Mira Nair, based on the highly acclaimed novel by Mohsin Hamid. Also upcoming for production is Fela: Music is the Weapon, which she developed at Focus Features with Steve McQueen set to direct.

Crowdfunding a Collaborative Film

By Audrey Ewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perseverance & Endurance: Necessary Elements For Every Film

By Jane Weiner

No one ever said filmmaking was easy (at least I don't think so). That said, what is required to get a film to completion sometimes awes me beyond comprehension. I can not think of a better testament of faith to think we can reach the place where is our work is projected in front of an auditorium of people. Sometimes people I meet think it just comes down to the material. But when a beautiful inspiring work about one of cinema's key figures requires so much effort, even technology to change, it demonstrates the opposite. Without the courage and commitment of the artists behind the work, many great movies would remain incomplete. Today, Jane Weiner shares with us some of trials and tribulations behind her latest film.

It's madness. Yes, it is completely crazy to have launched a Kickstarter campaign while working 70+ hours/week in the editing room. More nuts was to pretend that we could make regular video updates (as simple as they are) when we're pushing the clock to complete RICKY on LEACOCK in time for a festival roll-out in early 2012.

Yet, we launched it, so we're trying... and, it’s no exaggeration to say that this is like doing three full-time jobs at once!

RICKY on LEACOCK is a film that I started shooting in 1972 using a prototype of the MIT Super 8 Synch Sound System designed by Jon Rosenfeld and Al Mecklenberg. I sought out Richard Leacock at the 'Summer Institute' (held that year at the U of New Hampshire) because I was interested in the new ‘small-format’ filmmaking system that he was developing at MIT. I didn’t know Ricky except for references in film history books – and, at that time, the major reference was Robert Flaherty and LOUISIANA STORY. So, after seeing Leacock’s films, I became fascinated by the fact Leacock's mentor had been Flaherty and that, after launching the Cinema Vérité period with Drew, Pennebaker, Macartney-Filgate and Maysles, his obsession was now to make film equipment smaller and more available to young people; being a young person who was benefiting from this experiment, I proposed to make a documentary about him. He agreed on two conditions: 1) No interviews and 2) that I shoot on small format i.e., Super 8.

But to make a film about a filmmaker, one needs to obtain rights to certain examples of their former work – in this case, clips from Flaherty, Drew Associates, Pennebaker, NBC, CBS, ABC, etc. Quite daunting. And, as a novice filmmaker, I never imagined what the response might be from the funding organizations. NEA was automatically out because Leacock was the head of the panel that decided on filmmaking/Media grants. All others just laughed: A film shot on Super 8 with no formal interviews about a major filmmaker? Ha, ha, ha.

But I pressed on, following Leacock to his father’s banana plantation in the Canary Islands (location of his first film) and then on to Paris to meet Henri Langlois, Chris Marker, Carole Roussopoulos, and others. In the USA, many were mocking Ricky's obsession with small-format filmmaking, but not in Europe. It was refreshing and encouraging - but this didn’t help the financial situation.

Back in the States, Jeff Kreines (who was 17 or 18 years old at the time) helped out enormously. We worked together; he’s a fabulous filmmaker and, in those days took very good sound when I was shooting and, when I couldn’t be there, on his own initiative, captured the extraordinary and memorable sequence of Ricky and Ed Pincus at MIT.

But, eventually it became obvious it was time to put this unfunded project in storage and go out find a real job.

Every decade or so, I pulled out the proposal and show it around...

You get the picture.

Flip forward several decades. Ricky's dream comes true. Small-format filmmaking is a reality, readily available to almost everyone.

After retiring from MIT, Leacock met Valerie Lalonde, whom he called the love of his life and moved to France. Here, he re-launched his filmmaking career and, with the support of French and German television, started experimenting in small-format video. He revamped Hi8 cameras to suit his needs – changing to super-wide lenses, adding a side-window viewfinder – long before anyone else. While most other serious filmmakers were cautiously ‘looking into’ the relative quality of video versus film, Ricky jumped in with both feet and, once again, was way ahead of the times…

By the early '90s, we were both showing our films around, so we ran into each other quite frequently. At a film festival, he once loaned me his camera to shoot events and conversations with Jonas Mekas, Ross McElwee, and others. In 1995, I made an educational program about the digital revolution for French TV and went out to his home Normandy to shoot him at work on his last film, A MUSICAL ADVENTURE IN SIBERIA. In 1998, for a ‘Thematic Evening’ on Arte about the opening of the Euro Tunnel between France and the UK, I arranged that Leacock-Lalonde be commissioned to make a charming and remarkably prescient environmental film, LE TROU DANS LA MER that, by the way, has never been screened in America (DER - Documentary Educational Resources is releasing ‘The Paris Years’ on DVD – films made by Richard Leacock and Valerie Lalonde between 1989-2009).

Then, in 2005, I decided to seriously re-launch my own film. Ricky had written his life story and, totally fascinated by digital innovations, had decided to release his autobiography – not as a book but rather, what he called a DVD-Book – wherein, while reading along, one could immediately access the films he made reference to by simply clicking on an icon. This idea came to him, he said, because reading about filmmaking was like reading about tasting wine: How do you describe a taste? A still image from a movie doesn't tell you what's happening in the sequence and describing it always falls short of actually watching it. Most publishers scoffed at him (he wanted the impossible), but one said that he'd found the solution (‘holy grail’ were his exact words) to a problem that has always plagued film study literature. However, since Leacock did not own the rights to most of his work, licensing the 100 film clips would be a challenge.

So, I made a 20-minute DVD sample and, once again, I shopped around my film proposal. However, except for seed money from the LEF Foundation, everyone else said ‘No’.

Why? The head of a major film institute told me privately that my film was to 'arty'; the heads of two major TV documentary series said Leacock was not well enough known, plus they found my approach was too offbeat and risky. Bottom line: Come back and when your film is finished.

But, in order to finish, I needed cash: I had 15 hours of Super 8 footage (with synchronized audio on 16mm mag) that had to be transferred to digital. And, while I could do almost all the other jobs, this was beyond my means.

I don’t see my film as arty or offbeat, although in some ways, it is very personal: We see Ricky (and others) in situations that are unexpected. As I mentioned before, when I started this project Ricky declared that he would not do any interviews. There was a reason behind this for, although Ricky gave interviews to anyone who asked, privately he mocked TV crews who would come in with their big cameras, lights, and tripods and ask him to sit down and talk about Cinema vérité.

However, sometimes you need to find a way around these ‘rules’. There came a moment in 1974, when I realized I needed words from him about his past – so, Jeff Kreines and I took a Super 8 camera and Nagra over to his apartment and, in the middle of preparing dinner, asked him to just sit down and just tell us the story of his life. He had 30 minutes. We didn't ask any questions or prompt him in any way and, as a result it’s especially dynamic, pure storytelling.

Also, in my film we see Ricky doing things: Teaching, grocery shopping, cooking, fussing with technology, editing, etc. Nothing is ever 'faked' or set up. I would just show up and shoot…

Years went by, Ricky was getting older and, after being seriously injured in a fall down a flight of stairs, his memory was failing fast. Last year, he made one last trip to the Telluride Film Festival to screen Monica Flaherty's sound version of her father's film MOANA (1926), which he had helped make happen in 1975. I screened a work-in-progress of my film there, with Ricky in attendance. Everyone was quite moved and it was incredibly well received, even in its unfinished state and, without the original footage shot in the early 1970s.

Following Telluride, having spent years sending out proposals, making DVD samples, paying for everything, I was truly penniless. I knew I should have listened to sage advice from a filmmaker friend who told me I was on a futile mission because, he said, film biographies are rarely financed while the person is still alive. Winter was coming; I couldn’t heat my apartment or pay the rent. Friends helped keep me alive, but I’d lost all hope.

Re-enter Jeff Kreines. Jeff, whom I'd not seen in 35 years, is the inventor of the Kinetta Film Archive Scanner (see Kickstarter Update #8) – an amazing machine designed to gently transfer ANY film format to 4K digital without using the treacherous sprocket pull-down claw that rips and destroys celluloid made fragile by age or bad storage conditions. By total chance, in October 2010, I discovered that AS'Image, a postproduction house (literally next door to my apartment) was awaiting delivery of a Kinetta. Jeff arrived in Paris on Easter Day 2011 and, thanks to AS'Image's generous 'in-kind' participation, we started the transfers…

Sadly, one month before Jeff arrived, Ricky Leacock died on 23 March 2011, so he never got to see how marvelous his Super 8 Synch Sound invention looks on the large screen.

On the day he died his legendary fame, which broadcasters didn't trust, was evidenced in the hundreds of obituaries around the world. At the memorials at Lincoln Center and MIT, friends and family finally were finally able to view segments of the newly transferred Kinetta footage. Several people generously offered private donations to help match a grant that finally came from the same media fund that he had started and once headed.

In the last 6 years, having raised less than one-fifth of the actual budget, we desperate to finish.

How do you make a feature-length film on less-than-nothing?

Here’s how: My co-producers say the ‘thank-you’ list on the closing credits is much too long. I say my biggest fear is that somebody's name might accidentally be left off. Someone important, someone who gave something or did something that really made the difference. Of course, after 40 years, a no-budget film would not exist were it not for a lot of help from friends. It could be no other way. And, I have to say I am deeply indebted and extremely grateful to everyone – so many have contributed so much – it’s impossible to list here – but, hopefully, one day soon you can read the credits!

If we continue working this crazy schedule, Sebastián Eyherabide (my WONDERFUL editor) and I believe we can get to a fine cut edit by the end of December.

However, in order to release we need to locate the masters of some 60 film clips, conform, color correct and find someone to do the sound editing and mixing, etc. And, malheureusement, these kinds of expenses require we that spend real cash money...

So, we’ve turned to Kickstarter and, boy, it’s a killer.

Less than two weeks left to finish the film. We’re SOOO close! Almost there by doing double-time in the editing room and a Kickstarter campaign running at the same time.

The most wonderful response from Kickstarter is that people love the video updates -- plus, it seems that festivals are watching, too. We've gotten several requests in the last couple days from major festivals wanting the film.

After all these years, it’s coming down to the same thing as always – perseverance, endurance and the help of dear and new friends. None of us could do it without the support of everyone else in the community. Ricky’s ideas on small format cameras, technology and how to make a documentary resonate stronger than ever, and the community that has supported his work has been incredibly supportive of my struggle to get this film out to the world. I hope to share it with you soon.

Since her first film, "7th Street Depot" (1971), Jane Weiner has made many films; her credits include SILVERLAKE LIFE, JUPITER'S WIFE, HOME PAGE, RAVI SHANKAR, and THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF BEES -- all international co-productions. LA CAMERA PASSE-PARTOUT and RICKY on LEACOCK will be released in 2012. Her next film, LES ABEILLES DE VEZELAY is an up-close portrayal of an agricultural community set on defending itself against the onslaught of chemicals.

Maximizing Distribution Through Crowdfunding

By Peter Broderick

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2011 Peter Broderick

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

Auteurs vs Collaborators

By Audrey Ewell

When I talk to filmmakers and industry people alike this year, there has been a new emphasis on collaboration. People are trying to find new ways to work together. With this collaboration comes a new way of looking at ownership and authorship. It is no longer always "my film" but is evolving into "our project". I even hear it in how filmmakers speak of those who watch their films -- in some cases "audiences" are expanding into "community". Yet for all that speak, I don't encounter all that action.

I am in London now, and I have been asked what the effect of the Occupy Movement has been in America. I tell them of the change in tax policy of NY Governor Cuomo. I tell them of the greater concern about the wealth divide that I heard in New Hampshire last weekend at the town hall events I went to. And I tell them of the 99 Percent Film.

We are entering the era of the collaborative film and we have Audrey Ewell to tell us all about it today.

My favorite films are those made by directors whose work is iconic and unique. Stamped with authorship. Bold. Brash. Or quiet: sublime. Auteurs.

As a director, I greatly value the work of everyone on a film, but I also know what I want, and that’s to create a singular world. I love the idiosyncratic touches of authorship that I find in the work of auteurs. An example; something about the rhythms of mid-career Michelangelo Antonioni films kicks my brain into high gear; I actually think they create a measurable change in my brain chemistry. I’d love to test that theory, actually.

Anyway, I also believe that others can enhance the director’s vision in ways the director might not come up with themselves. If the vision has been clearly articulated, the parameters defined, and skilled collaborators get the aesthetic and vibe, the collaboration should enhance the vision, while still keeping that idiosyncratic stamp of authorship. I believe in both the auteur and the power of collaboration, but above all, I value singularity of vision.

So why am I now making a truly collaborative film with a bunch of people I’ve never met, many of whom have no experience whatsoever, side by side with other award-winning filmmakers? What happened?

Well, Occupy Wall Street happened. One day a couple months back I was at home, watching on the livestream as hundreds of people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge. So that night I went down with my partner Aaron Aites and we filmed, and the next day, I felt a need to make this film… with others. I not only knew that I didn’t have the time or resources to suddenly jump into an ambitious doc by myself, but I also felt that the treatment I’d be interested in would be the one with many voices. It’s just that kind of story. There was also something about the ethos and the kinetic, experimental nature of the movement itself that got me excited and made me want to try a parallel experiment with other filmmakers.

So I put out the word among filmmaker friends, got a website up (, did some outreach with press, and within a week we had about 30 people. In two weeks 50, and we’d been profiled in the NY Times, Filmmaker mag, etc. This helped us find more filmmakers all over the country, and ten weeks later, we’re around 75 strong.

And I’m not sure if this has been done before. I know there have been collaborative films, but have there been collaborative films about an ongoing current event, where the footage will be woven to make a cohesive film, not strung as individual pieces? I didn’t exactly research this before I jumped into it; it was just an undeniable impulse. But I think we’re doing something new here. And if not - OMG - someone please tell me how you did it.

Because at first, I thought my head would explode every five minutes. But somehow, we’re figuring out how to make a film about this movement from many perspectives, with people covering events as they happen all over the country (sometimes as coordinated national shoots), others doing outreach or editing, others taking on directorial roles and covering threads. It’s a crazy process, the logistics are challenging, but it’s exciting too. Amazing footage is rolling in, and I can’t wait to see the film we make! In the process of editing a quickie trailer (literally: it was edited with great patience and skill - from quicktimes - by Jill Woodward), I’ve become really excited about how good it can actually be. It’s a mystery that reveals itself piece by piece, day by day. But one thing has become clear: it’s working.

Which is great. Because this film was really scary for the first couple months, when we were just making it up as we went along, and hadn’t seen much footage. It’s a practice in letting go of ego, and it feels good (granted, that’s also because of the exciting footage coming in now, and because I can see the film taking shape. I might be less zen about it if that wasn’t the case.) I even respect the footage that comes in with a perspective other than my own, and I’m embracing and making room for that.

So, is this a contradiction of the things I said earlier about auteur films? I don’t know. Life’s a journey, right? I don’t think this process works for most films, but for THIS film it’s perfect. Even though I’m cursing my way through my days, I’m grateful for this experience (and I enjoy laying down a good swear or two any day). So right now, we’re putting out a general call for FCP editors (and there’s still some room for others). It’s not a free-for all; we have systems and leaders. We’re not Occupy; we’re filmmakers making a film about it in a process that in many ways, mirrors the movement. So if you’d like to, come join this infuriating, rewarding and exciting film. Auteurs welcome.

To give an idea, this Kickstarter trailer has about 20 filmmakers represented. I’ll write a follow-up super soon to talk about a new strategy we’re trying as part of our fundraising campaign. Stay tuned for that, in the meantime:

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

Sundance and Topspin Bring D2F to Indie Film

By Bob Moczydlowsky

The following post was originally published on


Sure has been a lot of talk about movies around here lately, huh? ;)

This morning, the Sundance Institute announced an expansion of their incredibly forward-thinking Sundance Artist Services program, and we at Topspin are honored to be included alongside distribution outlets iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Hulu, New Video, Netflix and Sundance Now as the provider of Direct-To-Fan Marketing and Distribution tools. We’re humbled to have our first major expansion outside of music to be with such a storied and benevolent institution, and we’re quite literally stoked to start helping Sundance filmmakers connect with fans and create new channels for their amazing work.

This quote from Robert Redford really says it all:

“When I founded the Institute in 1981, it was at a time when a few studios ran the industry and an artist’s biggest concern was whether their film would get made,” Redford said. “Technology has lessened that burden, but the big challenge today is how audiences can see these films. The Artist Services program is a direct response to that need. We’re not in the distribution business; we’re in the business of helping independent voices be heard.”

If you’d like to read the official press release, you can DOWNLOAD HERE.

In addition to the expansion of the Artist Services program today, Sundance also launched an online alumni community containing blog posts and essays from some of the brightest and bravest minds in indie film, like Tim League and Ted Hope. The goal is to provide a place where Sundance artists can share data and advice, and interact with distributors, technology partners and each other. Somehow, I managed to sneak my two cents in there, too. Below is a reprint of my “Direct-To-Fan Keynote” that appears inside the Sundance Artist Services site.

My hope is that all filmmakers find it useful. Please share it liberally.

You can it download it as a VIDEO or as a PDF.

Hello. My name is Bob.

I’m here to talk about Direct-to-Fan Marketing (D2F) and Distribution. I work at a software company called Topspin. We’re honored to be a part of Sundance Artist Services.

Topspin makes software used by 
Kevin Smith, David Lynch, Ed Burns, Trent Reznor, Arcade Fire and thousands of other artists to sell downloads, merchandise, tickets and memberships directly to fans. Our company mission is to create an artistic middle class, and we’re doing it by building a self-serve application you can use to market and distribute your work yourself.

You may think I mean self-release. Or DIY Distro. Or “creative” distribution. But those are not the same as Direct-to-Fan. What I’m talking about is a distribution and marketing strategy that should be a part of every filmmaker’s career. I’m talking about making sure you are directly connected to your core audience. I’m talking about selling premium products to super fans. And I’m hoping to persuade you to treat your audience like your most important asset. It is time to invest in your fans.

Here’s the problem I see: Filmmakers have been taught to be wholesalers, not retailers. Filmmakers make films — so the teaching goes — and then it is the job of distributors to market and distribute films.

There is actually a stigma attached to doing it oneself, as if every direct release was a sign not of true independence and autonomy but instead an indicator of the film’s quality or filmmaker’s professionalism. “Did you hear about XX film? They couldn’t get distribution. They have to self-release.” Sounds familiar, right? The goal is to make films and sell them to distributors. That’s the model.

That shit is broken. Permanently. I mean it. Yes, the “traditional model” still exists as a best-case outcome for a few films. But most likely not for your film. Sorry. Just being honest. It’s time to stop calling the best-case, long-shot, home-run option “the model”. Let’s get realistic about what’s happening:

Everyday, the odds of the traditional indie model working for your film get longer and longer. Even at Sundance, upwards of 80 percent of the films fail to find traditional distribution deals. A ton of interesting and excellent films don’t reach audiences and fail to grow the careers of the artists who made them. That’s sad. And yet, more and more excellent films get made everyday. Because technology makes production easy.

And the Web makes distribution easy, too. My phone will shoot video and upload to YouTube. Production and distribution is in your pocket! But here’s where the trouble starts: Free content, empowered fans and unlimited choice make marketing very, very hard. Fans can watch and share all day, effortlessly. But competing for their attention is really tough. Fans who want to watch a movie used to choose from the 10 films at the theatre on Friday night. Now they choose from the entire historical catalog of filmmaking on their laptops, phones, set-top boxes or VOD services. Or they skip the film altogether and play Words With Friends online. Think about your own habits. Getting fans to pay attention is harder than it has ever been.

“So, how will anyone see my work?” you ask. It’s simple, actually. You need to grow a database of fans, and market to them. Here’s how you do it:

First, make amazing films. I don’t mean pretty-good films, or better-than-average films… I mean INCREDIBLE films. Invest in quality, and invest in new. New sells. But also please make sure to budget appropriately, based on the size of your audience. Don’t have an audience? Then keep the budget LOW.

Second, give away free downloads in exchange for connection via email, Facebook and Twitter. This might mean a soundtrack, or the opening scene of the film, or some killer making-of footage. The point is to get fans excited, connected and sharing. You can’t make dollars until you have fans, and giving away incredible content is the best way to attract new fans.

Third, offer premium products fans actually want to buy, and sell these premium products at a mix of price points FIRST. Many of the folks who will end up with the $2.99 rental on iTunes would be even happier with a great-looking shirt, HD download, photo book and a Skype-call-with-the-lead-actress for $75. Don’t miss the opportunity to convert your core demand into a high-revenue product. Get creative with your products and your prices. You’ll earn more money and create happy fans who spread the word online.

Now, once you’ve grown your database and you can monetize your core fans, it’s time to look around for distribution partners. If you can prove there is demand for your art, you will have traditional distribution opportunities. But long-term success requires reversing the common logic:

Direct-to-Fan is NOT the last resort. Direct-to-Fan is the foundation of your career. Think about this way: Imagine your career is a ladder.

Each rung represents more audience paying attention to your work. Which rung are you on? For the sake of example, let’s say the ladder has 100 rungs. On rung 100 is Steven Spielberg, smiling down from the top. At rung zero is every first-time filmmaker just trying to get a project made. At rung 25 is someone like Miranda July (one of my personal favorites) and at rung 75, someone like Kevin Smith, who has a rabid fan base and relative autonomy.

Everyone starts at the bottom. From rung zero to 25, Direct-to-Fan will likely be 100 percent of your income. You won’t have traditional distribution offers, so you’ll do it all yourself. If you do it well, your audience will grow and you’ll move up the ladder. Once you start climbing, you become much more attractive to potential partners.

In the middle, you’ll mix it up. From rung 25 to 75, the mix of Direct-to-Fan income and other distribution deals will vary depending on the project.

You’ll have to license rights to move much past 25, but you’ll do it in a way that allows you to retain your control of your core audience and monetize them via premium products you control.

At the top, you’re really in control. If you make it to rung 75 or higher, Direct-to-Fan will start trending back toward a larger percentage of your revenues.

You’ll have a dedicated, connected following, and you’ll want as much creative control over your fan experience as possible. Read Kevin Smith’s Red Statements for a perfect example of this return to Direct-to-Fan in action. Sure, he’s done deals, too… but on his terms and with his audience as the top priority. In music, we’re seeing well-run D2F campaigns with top-tier artists earn 15 to 35 percent of gross revenues — and the lion’s share of the profits. There is no reason those numbers can’t be replicated in film. And during this year.

And there are many more practical examples out there, too. The film Broke* is giving away its soundtrack to grow its database. NYC filmmaker and musician Cory McAbee opted to take his serialized film Stingray Sam out exclusively via Direct-to-Fan, and he gets you hooked on the first two episodes before asking for your money.

Ed Burns has killer posters and t-shirts bundled with downloads of his new film Newlyweds, and William Morris and Barry Ptolemy have created a killer Direct-to-Fan experience for the Ray Kurzweil doc Transcendent Man.


With a database of fans, you can raise money on Kickstarter, sell premium products and ticket your own event screenings with a director Q&A. Like Kevin Smith is doing RIGHT NOW, TODAY. But most importantly… you’ll be able to RETURN to the same group of core fans for all of your future products. Build an audience. Build a brand. Always compare the money you’re offered to the value of your fan database down the line.

You may find that you’re better off keeping your film under your control than doing that no-advance, all-rights distro deal. Especially if we’re talking about short films!

Now, I know I’m getting long-winded, so I’ll wrap it up.

Here’s the summary: It’s time to make Direct-to-Fan Marketing the foundation of your career. It’s time to assume your films will be marketed by you, not acquired in a Sundance bidding war. It’s time to start building a database of core fans that you own and nurture throughout your career.

Stop calling it Self-Release. Stop calling it DIY Distribution. It’s called Direct-to-Fan Marketing, and it works for filmmakers at every rung on the ladder.

Direct-to-Fan Marketing is:

- Growing your email, Facebook and Twitter database by giving away free downloads and encouraging sharing

- Maintaining a great website that sells merch, downloads, memberships and tickets directly

- Owning your fan marketing data, and using it to raise money and promote your work throughout your career

Good Direct-to-Fan Marketing will make you more attractive to distributors. But you may find yourself telling them “No, thanks.” Your audience is your biggest asset. If you sell it, make sure you get full price.

Questions? I’m accessible. Let’s chat.

Thumbs up for rock ‘n’ roll,



VP, Product & Marketing

Bob Moczydlowsky has been kind enough to offer HOPE FOR FILM readers his service for free:

The code HOPEFORFILM entitles you to three free months of Topspin Plus, the most powerful direct-to-fan platform on the planet.

Topspin empowers you to:

- Promote your film across websites, social networks and mobile devices

- Connect with fans and offer free downloads for emails, Likes & Tweets

- Customize your store & sell digital media, physical items, tickets and more

To redeem your free account, go to and submit your email. Follow the instructions in the email to create your account, and then click "Upgrade" in your account header. Scroll down and enter this code: HOPEFORFILM

Josef Astor on "The 4 Scariest Things About Kickstarter"

A few months ago, Jennifer Fox wrote a guest post for this very site, a three-part, 29-point guide to running a successful Kickstarter campaign. Fox’s groundbreaking documentary My Reincarnation had recently broken all Kickstarter records and would ultimately go on to raise over $150,000, so her posts weren’t just informative and useful, they were a manifesto, a victory lap for the very concept of crowdsourcing.

Over the past decade, I’ve been working on a film called Lost Bohemia, a documentary focusing on the semi-secret world of the Carnegie Artist Studios and the lives of her tenants, including such luminaries as Bill Cunningham and Editta Sherman. The project took a tragic turn in the middle of production, when it was announced that everyone, including myself, was being evicted from these studios due to a series of “renovations” proposed by the Carnegie Foundation. Lost Bohemia ultimately ended up being a chronicle not only of a community but also its destruction, a cautionary tale set in a world corrupted by real estate madness and gentrification.

Now, when I read Fox’s posts, Lost Bohemia was in a similar situation to My Reincarnation: We had a finished documentary that, while well reviewed, had not yet found distribution; naturally, I was inspired to try this Kickstarter thing out myself. I pulled together a team and, following Fox’s wisdom, amongst other sources of Kickstarter-lore, attempted to devise a sucessful campaign. But the best laid plans, etc, etc…

Cut to the 31st of October, 2011. The Lost Bohemia Kickstarter has a 4 days left to raise a third of its target $18,000. The campaign has not been a failure, not by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s scary sitting here, not knowing if we’re going to be able to secure distribution. And so, in light of that, and seeing as it’s Halloween, I give you the Four Scareist Things About Running A Kickstarter Campaign!

1. Technical Difficulties

When we launched on the 5th of October, we had everything set up and ready to go. We had made a great video, reached out through social media, compiled email lists of thousands of prospective donors, sorted out all the financial details; all we had left to do was push the button and LAUNCH. Unfortunately, fate threw a pretty massive gear into the works: for most of the first day, Kickstarter was experiencing some severe technical problems. That meant that a large portion of the people we told about our project went to check it out, saw that the site was down, and promptly forgot about it. This was completely out of Kickstarter’s control, let alone ours; sometimes these things just happen. This is port of the reason why it’s incredibly important to update regularly, to keep circulating the word, to never drop the ball: not only is it just a good idea to keep buzz circulating at all times, but also there will be times when you reach out and people will not be able to reciprocate.

2. Looking for an audience

A crucial difference between Lost Bohemia and My Reincarnation became painfully apparent as the campaign developed. While Reincarnation is, at its heart, a film about the relationships between fathers and sons, it’s also a film that will be of interest to anyone fascinated with Tibetan Buddhism. Lost Bohemia, on the other hand, is a film that is both limited and yet general in scope, and, as a result, difficult to find a specific demographic for. It’s a film about people losing their homes, but it’s also a film about artists and gentrification and what makes a community a community. It’s a film about old people that resonates most soundly with young people; in a word it's a film without a specific niche so not the easiest to market.

3. Lulls

On the 20th of October, the scariest thing happened: nothing. No donations, no emails, no questions. We just kept on refreshing the page to see the same number parroted back at us over and over again: $6,231. I didn’t even have to look that up, it’s just seared into my brain. We sent out updates, Facebook notifications, emails, Victorian street urchins with wax-sealed missives, all to no effect. I went to sleep that night thinking, that’s it, we’ve ran out of steam, ran out of interested donors, it’s over.

When I woke up we had two new donors, and I could breathe again. But we never found out why exactly this lull occurred, and townsfolk say that on a full moon, you can still hear a lull howling out upon the moors…

4. Uncertainty

Here’s the thing: when it comes down to it, even after you’ve researched and compiled and perfected, even if you have a great team and a great video and great incentives and something great to give money to, there’s still a certain percentage of running a Kickstarter campaign that is pure crapshoot. And like all great gambles, Kickstarter is an all or nothing game; if we don’t reach our goal of $18,000 by the end of the week, we don’t get anything. You can never really relax. If you are halfway though your campaign and you’ve raised 33% of your target, is that good or bad? Can you rely upon other projects data as a control of any kind? Or does each project develop independently, in its own unique way, according to the mitigating factors surrounding it?

As confident as I am that our project will succeed, I can’t just pretend that the doubt and the uncertainty aren’t there. Kickstarter is about asking strangers for money so you can make your dreams come true. Sometimes it’s a bit hard to have faith in that.

Now let me make this clear: we here at Lost Bohemia HQ love Kickstarter, and we are awed by the 100+ pledges we have received so far. It’s an awesome site, and all the support that we have received from it has been phenomenal. I can’t say thank you enough to everyone who has donated to Lost Bohemia. I just want to make it clear that Kickstarter is tough, and on occasion… a bit scary.

For more on Lost Bohemia, check out the Kickstarter.

The official website:

Our incentives page:

Josef Astor -- Filmmaker, Photographer

LOST BOHEMIA is Josef Astor’s first film. In 1985, he opened his photography studio in
Carnegie Hall, living and working there for over twenty years. Astor is acclaimed for his
theatrically staged, historically informed portraits of individuals from the world of music,
architecture, dance, theatre and art.

His photography regularly appears in Vanity Fair, The New York Times, The New Yorker,
Newsweek, GQ, Esquire, Rolling Stone, House and Garden, Dance Ink. Astor’s advertising clients range from AT & T to Bergdorf Goodman, Absolut Vodka and Phillip Morris.

He directed sequences in the documentary PARASOMNIA and was also Production Designer for the PBS documentary Aaron Copland at 100.

Astor’s work has been widely collected and exhibited, including shows at The International Center of Photography, Julie Saul Gallery, Howard Greenberg Gallery, 'Vanity Fair Portraits' at the National Portrait Gallery in London, and upcoming exhibit "The Digital Darkroom" at The Annenberg Space for Photography. He has received the Infinity Award from the International Center of Photography. Astor is currently on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts in New York.

Jennie Livingston on her Documentary "Earth Camp One" Part 2


So, speaking of filmmakers who combine first person speech with observations of the world, I was (and still am as I write this) deep into my Kickstarter campaign for Earth Camp one, and thought I’d go to the opening of  DocNYC  last Tuesday night not only to see the new Werner Herzog film Into the Abyss but to ask Herzog if he would endorse my film Earth Camp One’s Kickstarter campaign.    

What, are you nuts? you’re asking. Well maybe in general, yes, but not in this case: when I was 22 I wrote Werner Herzog saying I wanted to make films and I wanted to work for him, and he answered my letter. 
He wrote: so you want to be a filmmaker? Have you robbed a bank? Can you hold the attention of a group of 2 year olds? Have you climbed a mountain? A whole series of riddle-of-the Sphinx-like questions written out by hand on blue onionskin air mail paper.  I wrote back (using a typewriter: this was two years before I got my first Mac Classic with a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts!), sending him some of my "street" photographs and telling him about  the film idea that would eventually become Paris is Burning. He wrote back: I’m coming to New York, let’s have dinner! And we did! He took me to Hop Kee in Chinatown and told me to make my film, to steal a camera if need be. And we've crossed paths and gotten together a couple of times since.
I thought  last Tuesday, he might, in the spirit of that dinner long ago, say something into my friend the filmmaker Hima B's camera, something I could post right here, like “give money to Jennie’s film now” or “I’m Werner Herzog and I endorse this Kickstarter campaign.”
So Hima and I go into the Skirball Center and the first person we see is Werner.  I also see the crowd and realize this is a pretty big premiere. The wrong time to ask for anything. We say hello. Then everyone goes into the theater. Forget the endorsement, enjoy the film.
Well I did enjoy the film. The subject, death row in Texas, was compelling enough. There was an amazing interview with a retired executioner and a surprise ending having to do with smuggling some very unusual contraband OUT of a prison.  It was, for Werner Herzog, an uncharacteristically emotional film. At the film’s center wa s father-son relationship, not something you see much of in Herzog!
At the reception afterwards, the Poland Springs was flowing and I was feeling very free. I thought, what the heck?  I met Werner's daughter, a photographer who had a gracious and bemused air towards the people pressing in to talk to a man who'd earned cult status for 40 years and 60 films. I told Werner about this campaign and about Kickstarter, how and why crowd-sourcing works. He said, “I barely look at the Internet.  I don’t even have a phone.” He said that  raising money that way is asking for a handout and I shouldn’t do it.  “Well, how should I raise the money to edit my film?” I asked? “You should be a bouncer in a sex club!” he told me. ( If you think I’m making this up to be colorful, go here, 4 paragraphs down.) 
Bouncer in a sex club? I flexed my muscles in a bouncerly way. FYI I’m 5’5” and 120 pounds. “Werner, you think they’d hire me?” He saw my point. “You should work in a brothel!” (I hoped he meant as a decorator or pornographer.) He advised “you should work out in the real world, earn money, and make your film for $10,000. You should be self-reliant!”
Now I don’t disagree that it’s honorable to earn money with the sweat of your brow and put that money back into your art. But the film we saw at DocNYC was funded by The Discovery Channel. No doubt Herzog was paid, the editor was paid, the producers were paid, the composer and the musicians were paid. The budget was not $10K.
Am I begrudging a filmmaker whose work I hugely admire the status he's earned? Certainly not. Look, there are a lot of ways to flex muscles. It’s like the difference between third and first person. By supporting my film my backers on Kickstarter are acknowledging we can’t depend only on corporations or on artists’ savings to get good culture made. And from my point of view, their pledging is a great reason to wake up in the morning and feel I’ve got a shot at finishing a film I’ve been working on, on and off, for 10 years.  And I know that even if a veteran filmmaker like Werner Herzog hasn’t heard of Kickstarter yet, I choose to believe that, in the deeper recesses of his own heart, he would endorse any filmmaker who's doing what it takes to make a film.  I might feel shameful for a filmmaker of Herzog’s generation to write everyone he knows and ask for $10 or $1000 to get in the editing room, and although I didn’t grow up on the Internet (I grew up on the telephone!)  I’m glad I’m flexible enough to do what needs to be done to make a film, and if crowd-sourcing is one tool in the toolbag right now, I’m happy to use it. Plus, there’s something amazing about the people for whom you intend the film giving it props before it’s even done. It’s very satisfying. It’s radical and democratic and actually makes you realize that you are making your work for people. Actual people. 
A final word on Herzog. Into the Abyss contains a remarkable portrait of a woman whose brother and mother were murdered. Then a few other family members died and she didn't leave the house for four years. Got rid of her phone, afraid of the news that could come with each ring. I told Werner that my film was about that kind of loss in my own life [though fortunately not that kind of depression]  and he said “well make the film, but get it over with!”   I completely agree. 
As of writing this I have 2 days left in the Kickstarter campaign. It ends Friday night and 8 and I hope it works, so I don’t have to work as a bouncer in a sex club.

Jennie Livingston works in both fiction and nonfiction. Her films include Paris is Burning, Who's the Top? and Through the Ice. She lives in Brooklyn, NY. This summer she directed a video for Elton John's Las Vegas stage show, a series of portraits of New Yorkers to accompany the song "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters."