Recently, I asked our filmmaking community what new articles they’d want to see, and overwhelmingly, the topic with the most votes was crowdfunding. We actually happen to already have a lot of great crowdfunding advice on this forum, but in a variety of different places. Today, I thought I’d consolidate some of the great thoughts our experts and community have already shared into a single masterpost.
Overview: what makes a successful campaign?
I’ll say the most successful campaigns have these things in common:
- their pitch video is very short and very clear
- their goal is reasonable
- they are VERY communicative with their supporters during the campaign, activating
- them to spread the word
- they show constant, public gratitude
The first misconception [people have about crowdfunding] is YOU ARE NOT ASKING FOR MONEY. You are asking for HELP making your film, in whichever way possible. That will change the way you ask for donations….
In that vein, create things of value. Little shorts. Sketches. Pictures behind-the-scenes. Incorporate your community in the perks. Every day of the campaign you should be making or doing something entertaining. This is actually an Ask hidden in a “let me show you something fun” package.
Pitch video tips
We always encourage filmmakers to show the filmmaking skills they’ll need to make the movie or show they’re pitching. That could mean a LOT of things. It could be test footage, it could be previous films, it could even be a sizzle. In any case, you have to show your audience you’re capable of making the thing you’re promising. If you can do that cleverly without money, that gives audiences confidence about what you will do when you have money to spend.
Anthony Ferraro, creator of Galactic Galaxy:, recommends using the following structure for your video
- Intro with emotional hook
- Briefly explain your project
- What’s special about it
- How much backing do you need
- What will the budget pay for
- Timeline to completion
- What rewards are you offering
- Call to action
Ben Rock, co-creator of 20 Seconds To Live, a successfully crowdfunded series, made this deal with himself when planning his email reach-outs:
I had to be willing to ask literally ANYONE to look at our Indiegogo page but in return I had to be okay with ANY response. Only one person out of thousands responded negatively. A lot of people don’t respond at all, and those who respond are often encouraging.
Monica West, creator and star of the award-winning The Best Thing You’ll Ever Do, which crowdfunded successfully on Kickstarter, suggests the following for drafting your crowdfunding emails:
Write out your long email first - include everything you feel is important, funny, truly your voice. Then go back through and find the three most important parts of the email (and pretty much delete everything else).
Separate those points into three short paragraphs (readers’ eyes tend to skip over dense paragraphs) of 1,2, or 3 sentences each.
The last point should be the CTA or call to action. ie) support me by backing this project!
Selectively use italics or bold (or both), or titles like “WHAT IS THIS?” “WHY DO I WANT TO DO THIS?” “HOW YOU CAN HELP ME:” to highlight points in the email, directing people’s eyes to what’s important and breaking up the look of the email.
Other thoughts: make sure your Subject Heading is spelled correctly and grammar makes sense (spellcheck won’t catch it)
Tone: Remember that people are investing in YOU at this point and they might not even care what the project is! Tell them why it’s important to you to make this series.
In my mind, BEST perks are always unique to the project AND free for the filmmaker to share. For example, when I ran a campaign in 2010, I offered a $15 perk where each backer at that level for a fanciful bio on a Google map I made set in the setting of the film. By the end of the campaign, we had over 200 ‘townspeople’ on the map with interwoven bios AND their real life websites and twitter handles so that they could network. It cost me nothing (except time), it allowed me to show my writing skills, and it gave backers something to show off and share to others (thus sharing my project with others.)
Other thoughts: keep perks digital, sharable, and free (to you.)
Bob DeRosa, the other co-founder of 20 Seconds To Live, agrees with Julie:
Come up with a perk that is unique to your show. Our show “20 Seconds To Live” just successfully raised funds for our second season and our most popular perk (at $25) was a personalized death certificate that includes a ridiculous cause of death. Dark, yes, but our show is funny and someone dies every episode so this perk fit thematically with our show and fit our audience’s sense of humor.”
The most common contribution is $25, but the average contribution size is around $100. We think your $25 incentives should be personalized, visual, shareable, and immediate.
Jason Ryan, creator of Real Adult Feelings and successful crowdfunder:
As far as price points I would say to not be afraid to go a little higher than you might think… maybe $5-20 more than your minimum. I learned that generally speaking if somebody is willing to fund your project they are ok with donating a decent amount. I went in assuming our average pledge would be like $5-10 but it ended up being more like $30-50.
[Perks] you should stay away from:
- t-shirts (you’re a filmmaker, not a t-shirt factory, and you don’t want to end up with boxes of expensive, leftover t-shirts in your attic)
- signed scripts (unless you’re famous already, WHY?)
- big promises (you’re already making a big promise…you’re making a movie. so don’t promise trips to Sundance or Cannes or red carpet at the Oscars.)
Building an audience/community tips
The audience/filmmaker relationship is just that: a relationship. So you have to take your time to identify what your ideal audience members look like, find out where they’re already meeting online, then become a part of those communities.
Think about it this way: it’d be weird to walk into a room and just start asking everyone for $25 dollars for a movie you haven’t made yet, right? So instead, you walk into a room MONTHS before you’re crowdfunding, get to know people, take interest in them, share what you’re up to, and then - when the time is right - say ‘hey, I’ve created a FB page, or here’s my website, or I launched a crowdfunding campaign.’ FIND AND EMBRACE YOUR COMMUNITY
The bad news is that it takes research and time; the good news is that it’s worth it. The fans you gather now will follow you and support you your whole career.
But won’t I be annoying people?
You have to make sure that you have a network of true fans for your project BEFORE you crowdfund so that the responsibility for funding your project isn’t only on your friends and family.
Your friends and family (and co-workers and school mates) are often your first fans, so it makes sense that you’d want to tell everyone when you’re crowdfunding so that they can support you - many will want to!
Think of it more like a dinner party, where everyone’s been invited and they know why, and they’re all gonna participate in making it fun.