Whatever you think about Zach Braff or the Veronica Mars project, crowdfunding has more or less become the lifeblood of indie filmmaking in the 21st Century. It’s still unclear if and how crowdfunding and–soon, crowd investing–might help filmmakers build a sustainable system that liberates them from the one-off nature of indie filmmaking which keeps this being more of a hobby than a career, but it’s obviously a very important piece of the puzzle. Two articles crossed our desks today that brought positive news about crowdsourcing and how to use it.
Kickstart Your Next Project, Don’t Try to “Kickfinish” It
I had a very successful Kickstarter campaign where I raised upwards of $10,000 for my film BETWEEN US (which conveniently hits theaters in June!). Of course, this was 2 1/2 years ago, when $10,000 was a successful campaign. I actually used the campaign as a Trojan horse, literally embedding my business plan on my KS page, so as to attract big money investors. Sure enough, we raised probably another $20-25,000 indirectly through the campaign. People forget – it’s called KickSTARTER, not Kickfinisher. It’s not about the money, it’s about the momentum. With what we raised, I was able to set a start date. With a start date, I got a cast that included Julia Stiles and Taye Diggs. And with them on board, we found enough money through investors to pay most of our crew and finish the film. 21 festivals and one grand jury prize later, and hopefully my Kickstarter supporters feel they got to be part of something worthwhile, even if they never see a dime back.
Mirvish used the online crowdfunding platform not to raise the budget for his film but to raise enough seed money to realistically set a start date for the project, which allowed him to make offers to and attach name talent like Stiles and Diggs, which allowed him to raise the rest of his actual budget from investors based on the actors attached, which ultimately allowed him to make an award-winning film. This is smart. Too many filmmakers see Kickstarter as a way to raise their entire budget (we did), and so they hamstring themselves by aiming for a budget that’s too small to allow breathing room for creativity as well as a minimum level of professionalism within the production (we did). They also only budget for production (we did), not realizing or not wanting to realize what a significant amount of capital they’ll need once the film is shot and cut: to finish, festival-up, market, and maybe even self-distribute the film. We’ve made all these mistakes ourselves. And let us tell you, there’s nothing more heartbreaking than killing yourself to raise money for and make a film only to find you can’t “finish” it in a way that’s acceptable to distributors and the market in general. Don’t do it! (Fortunately, we found a champion who helped rectify the situation. But were were foolish.)
State Film Offices Should Promote Film Crowdfunding Campaigns
We always wondered what State Film Offices could do to help indie films. When we made our micro-budget feature BENNY THE BUM, we visited the very genial people at the Philly Film Office, and although they really wanted to help, they seemed to not know what the hell to do for us. Film Offices, like much of the movie industry, were created and still exist to serve the needs of the next SPIDERMAN shooting in their locale. They love directing giant projects to tax loopholes and such. But for an indie or micro-budget film that’s not bringing massive revenue and short-term employment opportunities into the area, State Film Offices are pretty much useless. Until now…
As the New Hampshire Film Office is demonstrating, State Film Offices can help indie filmmakers: by featuring crowdfunding efforts on their websites. The NH Film Office has publicized the fundraising campaigns of over 30 film projects, many of which reached their goals. Filmmakers, hit up your local Film Office and encourage them to follow NH’s example. For too long, Film Offices have served the mighty. It’s about time they served the micro- as well.
- Zach Braff Responds to Kickstarter Critics (mashable.com)
- Crowdfunding Tip #1: Death & Crowdfunding Taxes (kickstartedmovie.com)
- A beginner’s guide to crowdfunding (theformationscompany.com)
- Financing Vet Launches Crowdfunding Consulting Firm (deadline.com)
- Kickstarter Responds to Critics of Zach Braff’s Campaign (mashable.com)
- Is crowdfunding ethical? (culttv.wordpress.com)
- Leading the Way in Film Crowdfunding (sacbee.com)