6 Tips on Crowdfunding Your Film

 

From the Heart Productions has helped indie filmmakers crowdfund over $3 million for their films.  Here are some key tips on crowdfunding your film to help you successfully raise money. 

6 Tips for Crowdfunding Your Film

Don’t let crowds scare you. Get them to help you raise money for your film.

1. Emotions Fuel Donations

Among the most important of the tips on crowdfunding your film is one won’t find on the internet.  But, I can promise you that it is most effective when raising money to use emotions.

Let’s go back to some of the earliest Indiegogo campaigns that were quite successful.

First, there was the campaign for a bus monitor named Karen, who asked for $3,000 to go on a vacation. She was responsible for the children on the bus going to school. 

Someone took a camera inside the bus and recorded the vicious, demeaning, bullying statements made to her by students. She was in tears. When we saw this, we felt embarrassed and ashamed that she was being so poorly treated. 

We were touched and moved and glad to donate as a way to apologize to her.  Soon she had over $100,000 and then $200,000.  She ended up with over $700,000.  Nice vacation. 

My second favorite campaign for eliciting emotion is one that did not have a trailer. That’s right, just copy on a page. However, it was professionally done with various font types and a great choice of words.

The campaigner was an admitted geek and he said that we had forgotten Tesla, the greatest geek that ever lived. He wanted to buy back the Wardenclyffe tower, Tesla’s old laboratory, and make it a museum for Tesla.  He also used emotion in his campaign.

“Let’s build a Goddamn museum for Tesla.”, he wrote “We overlooked him and we owe it to him!”

He raised close to $1,300,000  That’s using only written words and the right attitude.  He was demanding that we make up for our lack of attention and respect to Tesla.  It made people feel sad and remiss that we’ve overlooked such a great man. 

“Touch my heart and I’ll open my pocket book.” is one of my favorite expressions for fundraising. I think that people communicate through the heart chakra.  

What’s unique about your film? How can you elicit an emotion with your words and your trailer? That emotion could be joy, happiness or guilt, shame, or any strong emotion that you believe will create an action from your audience. Hopefully, that action is a donation.

2. Setting the Right Campaign Goal 

Finding the right dollar amount to ask for is a key to a good campaign. After running many campaigns, I can say that this is the most important part of the campaign.  You need to get the goal amount right so that you can have 30% to the goal within three days of the start of the campaign.  This is a must for a successful campaign.

It’s very important to create a special group of funders that can help you reach that 30%.  Give them a name, like your “founding Indiegogo or Kickstarter sponsors.”  You will build your crowdfunding page and send the link to only this founding sponsor group first in what we call a soft launch.  You have already spoken to these people and you know exactly how much money you will raise. 

Now, you launch your campaign to your entire mailing list.  Post and chat on social media about the benefits of your film, why people should donate, and thanking those that do.

Sometimes you set your goal based on the amount you know you can raise in three days.  Example, you talk to your family, friends, and staunch supporters and realize that you can get $6,000 in the first three days. Then, set your goal at $20,000 because 30% of $20,000 is $6,000.

Now, you know you have a very good chance of hitting that goal.  That is,  assuming that you have done the work needed to create a large database of people interested in the subject matter of your film.

3. Finding Your Audience for Crowdfunding

What is unique about your film? Find that and be able to talk about how special your film is because of this uniqueness.

Start listing the various audiences that your film addresses.  For documentaries, it’s much simpler than features, but let’s just take an example of a documentary on organic food. Go online and start looking for organizations and groups who fit your film like vegetarians, vegans, organic consumers, benefits of organic food, etc.

Find those organizations through Facebook and Google. Make a list.  You want to find the top 40 organizations and set a goal to connect to at least 20.  Hopefully, they will have a minimum database of 5,000 members each. Your goal is to get them to support your film. Get them to post about your film on their database, or newsletter, or ask them to tweet about your film.

You can drive them to your website where you can collect their email address is by giving them a nice gift, something they can’t live without. Create short three minute trailers.  Then, put them on your YouTube channel to drive people to your website.  Once there, they can’t resist your gift and will sign up to be part of your film community.

4. You Need Connectors

Connectors are people who will help you increase your audience. Your audiences will fund your film and then come back and buy the download. You can find your audience online in groups and organizations.

Take the key words that describe your audience and search those on Facebook and Google. Then, contact the top 20 largest groups and organizations. You want to create “strategic partners.”  By contacting organizations and groups ho are interested in the subject matter of your film. Connecting to them is most important.

You must take your crowd to the crowdfunding. They don’t find you, you find then. My statistics show that on Indiegogo 99% of the donations come from the people who you have in your database or on your social network. In my opinion, Indiegogo does very little to bring you new donors.

Kickstarter campaigns do increase your data base.  We work with a crowdfunding expert on Kickstarter campaigns who really understands how Kickstarter works and does quite well raising funds for our filmmakers. As a result, he helped raised $120,000 for a film on sound, $64,000 on a film about a music composer, and over $100,000 for another film. I highly recommend him.  If you are interested, email me and I can introduce you to him.

5. Give Them a Sticky Story

A Sticky Story is one that has the elements of surprise, emotion, and it has something credible and something concrete.  Give your audience a sticky story, one they can remember and repeat.  One that will allow your donors to pitch to people for you and expand your data base.  

6. Stay in Touch with Donors

Set up a community with your crowdfunding audience after the crowdfunding. It’s very important for you to keep them engaged and attached like family to you and the film.  You’ve probably just raised money for a part of your film, maybe just pre-production or part of post-production, so you want to keep them close by to raise more money.

One woman I was mentoring said that she was writing her Kickstarter group to give them an update.   She said “I don’t know what to say because I am behind on my production schedule. I told them I would be much further along at this date.”

I said why not tell them the truth? Quote Orson Welles by saying “I spend 95% of my time raising money and 5% making the film.“ She did just that and someone called and ask her how much money she needed.  She told him, $120,000 and he sent her a check!

You never know how much money is available to you from this group of new people that you get through Kickstarter. Taking good care of them is paramount to future donations.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-The Art of Film Funding Podcastprofit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcastThe Art of Film Fundinginterviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of  The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.  See IMDB for producing credits.

SEPARATING THE WHEAT FROM THE CHAFF

Don’t Let the Naysayers or Lack of Money Stop You From Pursuing Your Dream

The most important thing I can give you is a lesson I learned early.

Back in the 70’s, I created a multi-million-dollar a year sales company with an investment of $20.00 (from my grocery money) and a good idea.

intentional class separating the wheat from the chaffIf I had let money or the naysayers stop me, I would have never created a $70 million a year industry consisting of buying leftover, discarded, what everyone called waste “short ends” of film stock.

Those who insisted it would never work didn’t know that there were thousands of talented independent filmmakers, desperate to make their features and documentaries, that needed every penny available to get it on the screen. These budding producers and directors snapped up the “short ends” at a fraction of the cost of new Kodak stock, made their films, and started a revolution in filmmaking.

My greatest asset was the fact I knew I could do it.

I never doubted that I had a good idea. I found ways to make it work. I needed cash to buy film stock so I would find where film was available for sale. I’d buy it on a handshake, and then sell this same film using the money from the incoming sale to pay off the purchase. In the beginning, I can remember days when I had the seller in one room and the buyer waiting to pick it up in another room!

This idea developed into three productive sales offices in NYC Film Center Building, Hollywood and downtown Chicago. I managed all three of them. I ran this business for 33 years until I had almost 10 million dollars a year in sales.

Why only 10 million? Because I hired a VP from ABC Television News Division as an advisor and he said that “Getting over 10 million a year in sales was very hard.” I found that to be true. But, now I know that this information of hitting a wall at $10 million was his experience. Unfortunately, it became my belief and then the outcome.

Please be careful of what you hear and what you believe.

Remember, when listening to other people, that what they are telling you is not your experience, it is theirs. The universe could have something different in mind for you. You must know you can create a better outcome for yourself with your belief.

Discern what is fact and what is belief.

What do you believe you can do? Think about that. Can you make this film? If yes, then what’s the actual budget you need? Can you raise that much money?

Consider, are other films made with that budget? If the answer is “yes” then it’s a fact that this amount has been raised for other films, right? So, it must be your belief that says you can’t do it because it is a fact someone else has raised this money and made a film at this place in their career.

Work from this principal to separate belief from fact. Work from fact, not your own belief system. That’s something you created early in life probably from your parents or society. You may have unconscious programming to overcome and you can do this by separating fact from belief.

Your belief in yourself and your film are paramount to production and completion.

You must know that you can raise the money to make you film and then you will find a way. Turn your filmmaking creativity into funding creativity. All that talent you have you can use to find ways to fund your film.

That includes finding high net-worth Individuals or investors for features to using funding parties, grants and donations for docs. Have fun with it. Look for lateral ways to fund your film and your distribution.

You have the talent, it’s a matter of believing in yourself and the quality of your film.

Carole Dean is president and founder of From the Heart Productions; a 501(c)3 non-profit that offers fiscal sponsorship for independent filmmakers. She hosts the weekly podcast, The Art of Film Funding, interviewing those involved in all aspects of indie film productionShe is also the author of The Art of Film Funding, 2nd Edition: Alternative Financing Concepts.