I just wanted to post some information for any digital director filmmakers who are trying to raise a budget to make their short films happen ~ Crowd-funding.
Using websites such as Kickstarter (currently only covering the US only but coming to the UK this Autumn) and IndieGoGo, you can present your ideas to potential backers who, if they like the sound of what you are trying to achieve, donate money towards making it happen in return for ‘perks.’ You decide the perks on offer, such as, a special thanks in the credits or a download of the film’s script. If done correctly it is a great way of not only raising the funds to make your films happen, but also getting the chance to network with other likeminded people willing to support you and your project.
Crowd-funding had already been around for a while when I had my first stab at it towards the end of last year, producing a short called The Halloween Kid. Using another crowd-funding website, called Sponsume, we managed to raise over £7,000 towards making the film happen, the support really blew us away. (The Halloween Kid | Sponsume)
I started a second project, this time on IndieGoGo, back in February ~ Driftwood ~ which I wrote and directed. We gained a tremendous number of backers and support for our campaign (especially from a couple of members on this forum ~ yes Mr Stannard, I am talking about you!). You can see our campaign homepage here: Driftwood -- Indiegogo
Driftwood was a much tougher project to fund, as The Halloween Kid was a fun, spooky genre film with a couple of well known actors/filmmakers involved whilst Driftwood was more of a dark visual drama. What worked in our favour though was the fact that Driftwood was about a young swimmer, from a disadvantaged background and with interest in the Olympics at an all time high in the UK, it got peoples attention. Local papers and radio stations mentioned the film, which then led to BBC Radio 1, various film websites and the national press showing interest. Of course, every time we talked about the film we made sure we mentioned the IndieGoGo URL too!
I don’t want to give the impression that raising money via crowd-funding is easy, as it is in fact extremely hard work. You can have the best film idea in the world, but if you don’t present your ideas well, no-one will back you. Certainly in the case of Driftwood, we had to have a solid game plan in place to even come close to hitting our target of $10,000. Most campaigns tend to do well at the beginning and end of the timeframe, but will have a slump in the middle of the run. So we made sure we had a few tricks up our sleeve to try and prevent this. We planned for a straight month before the campaign began, setting out everything from the perks (which may cost you money to provide, so you need to factor this into your budget) and creating our website, which we wanted to act as a hub for all things relating to the film. I was lucky enough to be supported by a fantastic team of producers who, whilst they didn’t have a vast amount of producing experience, were extremely passionate to make the film happen, and between us we felt we could create a campaign that would grab people’s attention.
Social media was key to achieving our goals, Twitter in particular, as it is very easy to spread the word to a wide range of people. I’d say 80% of our IndieGoGo donations came from Twitter. All of the production team use Twitter, so we campaigned around the clock, for duration of the 30 day campaign (which was actually incredibly draining!). We also used the app ‘tweet deck’, which allows you to set up pre-written tweets and schedule them to go out at anytime you request. This made things a lot easier, especially if you have other things on and aren’t prepared to sit in front of your computer 12 hours a day! I was initially hesitant to tweet constantly about the project, thinking I would lose followers but, if anything, I actually gained more than 100 during this period. We also had the hashtag #DriftwoodFilm which we used to promote the film and encourage discussion. On the other hand, spreading the word on Facebook didn’t really work for us at all.
It is worth pointing out that IndieGoGo do take a percentage cut of all money that is received: 4% if you hit your target and 9% if you don’t. Make sure you factor this into your final target as you don’t want to still need money at the end of the process, especially if you hit your desired amount. Also if you receive donations via PayPal, they will also take a percentage cut of their own.
For Driftwood, we recorded a video for the campaign homepage with some of the production team talking about the project. I wanted to avoid scripting it, as I felt this would make it feel forced and artificial, so shooting it took a little longer than it perhaps should, but it was much more genuine, if a little serious. To lighten the mood we also released the video outtakes, once we had hit a certain funding target. One of our producers is a talented musician and did a ‘mash-up’ of recent pop songs with the lyrics changed so that the song was about Driftwood. It worked so well that it was actually played on BBC Radio 1, on a feature they did about up-and-coming filmmakers. It was very surreal to hear, but amazing exposure. I set up a dedicated Vimeo Plus account just for Driftwood, so that we could upload trailers, thank you videos and behind-the-scenes material etc, all to one location.
We also prepared a funding pack about the film that we sent to people via email which informed people, not only on the story of the film and the people involved, but what our plans were for the film after completion.
Ultimately, as well as achieving our budget of 17k (money was donated outside of IndieGoGo too) we also had companies such as Air Post donate post production services, and The Brewery offering VFX solutions.
All in all, I learned a great deal from the experience and I am incredibly humbled and grateful to everyone who helped to make Driftwood a reality. Would I do it again though? Probably not, as I think the success of Driftwood would be hard for us to replicate, but I would certainly recommend it as a very viable solution to the biggest problem that most up-and-coming filmmakers face… funding.
If you want to follow the making of Driftwood, please check out our website: www.driftwoodfilm.co.uk.