THE KICKSTARTER EFFECT (originally posted at multi-hyphenate on Feb 25th, 2010)
Have you made — or ever wanted to make a feature film? How far did you (or would you) go in order to get it done?
One of the most common questions I get asked is how did I finance my feature films NEW YORK LATELY and WHAT’S UP LOVELY. While there is not one true approach, the answer always makes me reflect on how crazy I possibly am in being a filmmaker.
Would you be willing to quit your well-paying corporate day job and move to New York City? Would you be willing to cash out your 401K to finance your first feature film? Would you be willing to spend over an entire year (or longer) seeing a project through from start to finish? If your answer is “yes” to those questions, then put on this straight jacket my friend and please join me in my padded cell.
Unfortunately for most of us, we are not lucky enough to self-finance every single film project (nor would some want to). So in order to make the films we want, we must seek financing from an outside source. In today’s climate, even major studios are having trouble funding pictures unless the project is an established franchise or already has a built-in audience. They take safer risks, whereas we indie filmmakers are still the true risk takers. But where does that leave us if we know that our film fits into more of a niche and is not intended for the masses at the cineplex? Thankfully filmmakers like this are still getting movies made and it’s inspiring to see. How are they managing to do it? The answer is crowdfunding.
Crowd-whata-who? That’s the response I usually get from people who are not familiar with the term.
According to Wikipedia:
“Crowdfunding describes the collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money together, usually via the Internet, in order to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.”
So basically we’ve seen this in action already for various causes (typically political or humanitarian campaigns) — but never has it been so popular with the indie film community until recently.
Right now, there are two prevalent services (IndieGoGo and Kickstarter) that assist filmmakers with crowdfunding. Both lead to the same question people ask over and over again (including myself): which one?
IndieGoGo and Kickstarter have the same intentions, but just different executions. I suggest researching both to see which fits your needs. But my initial response is “why not both?” In fact, I plan to use both sites eventually.
However, for my indie film musical HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG I chose Kickstarter for two main reasons. The first is what has been coined the “Kickstarter Effect” where the implemented deadline gives a sense of urgency around the project and utilizes game theory to create an almost gambling atmosphere for people to generate interest and ideally financial contributions. And secondly the basic layout of the website design gave me more flexibility in terms of how I wanted to present the information about the film.
“SCHERMANN SONG” centers around the theater and Broadway realm of New York City. It deals with the struggle of artistic integrity vs. doing what others want you do to in order to be successful and examines how careers can affect personal relationships through unspoken competition. And the fun part is the song and dance numbers will be a mixture of both reality and fantasy sequences.
Now thankfully, the budget I’m trying to raise is nowhere close to what a full-fledged union cast/crew production would entail as that would be hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars needed depending on its scope. So for all intents and purposes, most people using the sites are dealing with micro-budgets (a casual search found the largest campaign around $50K).
But what crowdfunding does is take the investor equation out of making films. One no longer has to worry about the return-on-investment or making money back to recoup costs. Although I’m sure the majority of filmmakers do want to turn a profit with their film, it is not a looming cloud above their heads. In fact, crowdfunding is more attune to a PBS pldege drive where “thank you” gifts are offered in return for the donation — in a sense the person contributing to the project is pre-ordering certain goods that will be ready when the film is completed.
This platform frees up the filmmaker to really make the film he or she wants – and to know there is audience demand for it. It is actually a mind-blowing concept and liberating to know that you can get a film made this way. Even if the crowdfunding concept was around for a while, these sites have polished the system and has given legitimacy to it. Projects are getting funded every day.
The most challenging part comes once you have chosen which site to use: the fundraising campaign. I can only write about my experience thus far as I have approximately two more months to hopefully raise the full amount needed ($30K) to make HOW DO YOU WRITE A JOE SCHERMANN SONG. I plan on returning (if Tyler wants me back) to contribute an update on the campaign with any learning lessons to share mid-way through. So it seems that this is just a prologue to this topic in which there will be an epilogue later down the road.
The outcome is yet to be determined, but I really believe in this project for various reasons. The first being my complete adoration for the genre. I think it will be very interesting to explore the hybrid of intimate storytelling within the musical realm. And second, these types are films are rarely made at the indie level and people are hungry for them. We just have to find our audience which is part of the campaign’s goal. And we’re doing it — so far so good.