Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 4, Setting Up Crowdfunding Campaign

Ariel: Diary of a Short Film - Episode 4
Setting Up Crowdfunding Campaign

From the very beginning of preproduction on Ariel, I had planned to try my hand at crowd funding.  During the Austin Film Festival, I  had a chance to attend a panel on crowd funding.  One of the speakers was John T. Trigonis.  He spoke a lot on how one should approach crowd funding as a means to audience building, not just a way to raise money.  He also spoke of how one should focus on the funder experience and make it as personal as possible.  I was quite impressed.  This was the kind of thing that I hoped I would get out of attending the Austin Film Festival.  John Trigonis had written a book called “Crowdfunding for Filmmakers” (see: http://www.amazon.com/Crowdfunding-Filmmakers-Successful-Film-Campaign/dp/1615931333/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386229683&sr=8-1&keywords=trigonis) so, of course, I went right out an got his book.  It was indeed a worth investment.  The information put down in the book deeply resonated with the approach I wanted to take with my crowd funding campaign for Ariel. 

Armed with the wisdom imparted by John Trigonis, I marched forth to set all the pieces in place for my crowd funding campaign.  Now, I should say here that receiving wisdom and implementing it are two different things.  There were good pieces of advice about making the campaign personalized that I will admit that I am still struggling with.  However, I have accepted that I am doing this as a learning experience and hope to find ways to make the campaign more personal as I go along.

One approach to the campaign I decided to take was to treat it not so much as that I was looking to get money from people as much as I was looking to pre-sell them a product.  In this case the product, minimally, was to sell the film itself, either as a digital download or on DVD.  Other products to be sold were a production book which included the screenplay storyboard and production diary and associate producer and executive producer packages.  One key standard I had for these products was that I was only going to pre-sell what I knew I could deliver.

An early step in setting up the crowd funding campaign was to get all the social media set up so that when the campaign hit I would have that in place.  I got the arielmovie.com domain registered and got a Facebook page and Twitter account for the film set up.  I then started inviting people to these places so that when the campaign started the would be familiar to it.  I also went through my e-mail and collected all the addresses from the last few years so that I would have some sort of e-mail list with which to start. 

For a crowd funding platform I chose IndieGoGo . The way IndieGoGo works is that if you don’t reach your funding goal you still get all the donations minus nine percent.  However if you do make your goal you get the funding minus four percent.   For me this was better than Kickstarter’s all or nothing approach.  For most short films, the expectation is to work on a short budget and make do with whatever you get.  So, if you don’t get all of the funding, chances are you can still find a way to make do and get creative and still make the film happen.
    One of the things that John Trigonis had brought up in a separate crowd funding related article that I found online was to set your funding level for what you can commit to raising.  For me that was about $3,000.  I had taken the time to figure out the budget and knew through my own efforts and personal contacts I could likely raise that amount or come pretty close to it.  I also knew that If I did not get all of that, through other means I would find a way to either make up the difference or re-work the film to compensate.

The next consideration was to come up with the perks to say thank you to contributors for donating to the film.  Again, my idea was to approach this as pre-selling the product rather than asking for money.  It was also important to me that everyone who contributed would be able to see the film.  So I set up the lower perk levels to be digital downloads of the film and the production book.  The higher levels were set up as experience packages that went beyond just seeing the film.  The idea with the higher level packaged would be that those who chose those level would get the experience of being part of the film’s production.

So the day came that I went onto IndieGoGo.com logged in, filled in all the blanks and got it started.  I chose to go with the sixty day campaign knowing that the first week or two I would not be doing much activity with it.  This was in part because I still needed to shoot the pitch video but also to deal with the upcoming Christmas holiday.  (I will do a separate write up on the filming of the pitch video.  Another factor was that as my birthday was on December 18th and Christmas was just a week after I wanted my family members to have the option to donate as a birthday or Christmas gift.  This seems to be working as the film is now ten percent funded.

With the pitch video being added to the IndieGoGo page, I have started posting in various groups on Facebook and sending out e-mail.  Time will tell how the campaign goes.

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