Leticia Agudo concludes her adventures in how to get a short film made using crowdfunding.
We passed the middle point on the crowdfunding campaign – and the production – and the filming is going well, we’re enjoying ourselves running behind the fawning crew at the park, meeting more great subjects and liking what’s coming out of the DSLRs, but are we getting those crowds to fund the project? Well, there’s an unnerving lull, two or three days without any funds going in, and that’s a lot, considering we need €110 a day minimum for the 45 days we have set ourselves to reach the $7,000 target. We’re obviously falling behind.
We know there are still specific people who want to support it but haven’t yet, but as regards the wider public, the announcements in Facebook and Twitter seemed to be getting a lot of thumbs up and nice comments but no incomings. Did we misjudge how much the wider public would be interested in a story about park rangers, and, worse still, the international public that has no blood or friendship ties?
From the comments and responses we’re getting, we know people think it’s a good idea and that there’s a strong connection to the park, if not yet to the characters. However, those people are, at most, contacts twice removed, rather than complete strangers. Repeated emails to the general media are not delivering any results. We underestimated how long it takes to get responses and how much happens in the summer: every festival under the sun, every event, charity run, gardening fair and clothe swap party, and we’re also feeling the toll of running the campaign at the same time as the production.
I’m trying to build a sense of mild suspense here, you know, like they do in those house renovation or building TV programs – will they or will they not save their falling property, will this be a pastiche piece of expensive rubbish or will they create a masterpiece? But, some of you may already know – we haven’t exactly kept it quiet – that we’ve raised 101.94% of our target. So how did we get a happy ending? We think what did the trick best was one-to-one nagging: individual emails and private messages to a few hundred contacts.
We tried other tactics, but we don’t really know whether they worked or not in deciding people: from having researched other popular projects, Paul wanted to offer a sale: perk upgrades on most categories. That was a good reason to email again, even those unwelcome group emails that a lot of people understandably ignore and some ask to REMOVE FROM LIST.
Whether this had any impact, the ‘we have one week left, for god’s sake, help!’ part of our emails probably did, as a lot of people that wanted to contribute but had forgotten were gently ‘reminded’ into action. Also, as I mentioned in the previous entry, a member of the cast had joined our fundraising team the good old-fashioned way: phoning all his contacts one by one, pitching the idea, getting the cash directly from them, and transferring it online himself. That got around one big obstacle, but I’ll get to that.
Behind the-scenes at City Wild (PIC: Louise Byrne)
So the finances started to pick up again, and after disappearing from IndieGoGo’s POPULAR section for a couple of weeks, we started to creep back in trough the last pages. With one week to go, we thought we might just make it to $6000 instead, and that wouldn’t be bad, but we kept pushing, until the last night was upon us … (sorry, can’t resist it)
At this point I have to explain that with IndieGoGo, unlike with other platforms, whatever money we’d raise we’d keep –minus a 9% if we didn’t make our target as supposed to 4% if we did.
So, it’s Saturday night, barely 7 hours to the end of the campaign, and we’re just under $70 short of our target. Tired and unwilling to get up before 7am to see whether more people had funded during the night, we took a practical decision: $70 were a lot less than 9% of almost 7 thousand, so we put it in ourselves. We had the first good sleep in days and were also surprised by extra money in the pot in the morning.
I’ve mentioned one thing that worked, but what didn’t and what advice can I give you:
1. First is to decide whether to go with a national or one of the huge international funding platforms, and I’ve given you the first subtle clue there: ‘huge’. New Irish funding platform Fund it has a few active projects each month, IndieGoGo and Kickstarter have thousands. Fund it staff push their projects individually while selection for the larger platforms’ Featured, Projects of the Week, etc is done by algorithms, at least with IndieGoGo.
2. If you still want to go with them you should coldly analyse the international potential of your project and be realistic: IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are US based, they still have a majority of US users and funders and they have to relate to the project. If your idea and presentation are too local, it won’t work. We thought we’d pitched ours in a way people everywhere could relate, but who knows, we might have raffled a few feathers by competing with Central Park and all of London’s city parks! Some other people might have thought that a film about an unknown urban park is a pedestrian idea, and then you can’t exactly through in a car chase in there.
3. One of the main reasons we chose IndieGoGo is the fact that we’d keep most of the money we made, as I mentioned earlier. The principle with Kickstarter, for example, is that you should budget exactly what you need to make your project, and if you don’t raise it, you can’t physically make it or not enough people have believed in it for it to be made. But, really, with independent filmmaking, you always have to under budget and anything you get will be useful; the rest, you’ll do it yourself for free, ask for favours and loans, so of course, you can make your project with 6 instead of 7 grand!
4. Say you chose IndieGoGo as we did, how do you make their users aware of your campaign? Aside from an attractive idea and presentation, getting into that exclusive Featured section will do it no harm, because unlike the Popular section, once you’re on it, you remain on it. If it’s not down to human selection, but to algorithms – we know because we asked the humans – how do you get the right numbers in the right concentration to trigger the program? The key here is that all sharing, tweeting and online shouting you do, that you use the buttons underneath the pitch video WHILE being signed into the site; even for visitors, we gathered this was crucial, otherwise all this activity won’t register.
5. For that reason, and also to widen the number of potential funders, have a good number of people in your campaign – at least 4 or 5 – who can share, update, tweet the hell out of your campaign page and encourage people to sign in and share it as much as possible, whether giving money or not.
6. Crucially: don’t rely on general and group messages and emails: get personal!
7. Moving away from specific platform tactics: pick the slowest time of the year events wise, if you want to attract wider attention. January to March maybe? Timing is very important; we launched when Fund it launched nationally and attracted a lot of press and attention for being the first Irish funding platform, so retrospectively, we may have had an easier time of it if we’d gone with them.
8. If the same people who are managing your campaign are also shooting the film, for your sake, don’t do both at the same time. The idea behind us going for that particular option was to film and upload short sequences to keep funders updated and attract more people to the project. Not a bad plan, except that, unless you’re being aided by substantial amounts of Berocca, it’s exhausting.
9. Large amounts of money first might put more modest funders off, because they don’t want to appear stingy, no matter how many times you say that every donation obviously counts, so make that point clear from the beginning.
10. Lastly: the internet funding conundrum: in the US having a credit card is probably more necessary than having use of all your limbs, but it’s not the case in Europe. Here sometimes the people with money and credit cards, aren’t so confident or trusting buying things online or even with interactive platforms, and the younger crowds, don’t have that much spare cash or credit cards. We did predict this and made a how-to-video in English and Spanish, but a few people that wanted to help here just didn’t have credit cards or the time to look for an alternative. So this is one for national funding platforms: make it possible to pay with Laser cards!
So here are just a few of the things we found out. We were always confident in the idea and campaign and that people would relate to the project. We are, in fact, still receiving contributions and enquiries about it, so we have made it possible by adding a PayPal button to the film’s website: www.CityWildTheMovie.com If you hear about this late and want to take part, you will still get the same perks.
One of the most important things that crowdfunding can do for independent films is that the all sought-after marketing that you normally don’t have much money, time or energy to put into has already started. If people have supported the idea they’ll want to see the result. Also, you’ll be much more inclined to keep the audience in mind throughout the production, because you really don’t want to disappoint those 120-odd funders!
Opening it up to the public and having to take more time with the filming has also meant that we’re achieving more depth with the subject and that what started as a 12-minute short could be a much longer and meatier piece… (I’ll leave you with that).
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