1. The Story Behind Your film
The first thing you want to consider when funding a film is the project itself. Why is this such a great film? What has brought you to the project. If you wrote it, why is the story compelling to you and why do you think it will be something others will engage with. This is where you really need to understand your audience. One of the biggest misconceptions is the notion that you have to create a fanbase for your project. In most cases, the main topic of your film will most likely be something that already has a fanbase. For example, if you’re making a film about a soccer player, your main audience will be people who like sports movies. If your film is about cats, then there is an entire world of cat lovers just waiting for you. But whatever you’re making, make sure you are tapping into something where you can define your audience. That way you will always know where to look when it comes time to find people who are interested.
The second part of your story should be about you the filmmaker and specifically why you are the right person for the job. As filmmakers we are storytellers. So it has always been strange to me at how few filmmakers recognize the importance of their own journey and how compelling that can be for others. I have never met a filmmaker who didn’t know the story of how Robert Rodriguez funded El Mariachi with only $7,000 and ended up getting into Sundance. Give your story an amazing one two punch by not only demonstrating why people will want to watch the film, but why you’re the best person to bring it to them.
The next step is going to be explaining how you will create the story. This is where it’s important to really know why you are working with the budget you’re working with. This will allow you to really break things up and give insights as to how it will really come together. It’s also a great way to show how organized you are. If you can pull up very specific facts and figures as to how exactly every dollar will be spent and that there is no waste, you will put investors minds at ease that the money the put in will be properly spent.
End your story by making things inclusive. You can’t do this without them and always reinstate the idea that you are asking for them to give to the project.
2. Creating A High Conversion Campaign Page
A lot of people obsess over the quality of their video while forgetting the most compelling part of the page, the story. But, if you are specifically pitching yourself as a filmmaker, you need to make sure that in the video itself you demonstrate your ability as a filmmaker. Try to shoot with your cinematographer if possible. Demonstrate good cuts and add a few little flairs if necessary. If you are pitching a stylized film like Edgar Wright, make sure to add a few little whip pans or have the camera tracking in just to give the right vibe. You should also pay attention to the art direction like shirt colors and the background. Don’t go crazy, but it is nice to see people who are aware. You will probably also want to think about adding a little bit of music just to make the medicine go down easier.
Next you will need to focus a lot of attention on your rewards. A lot of people overlook the rewards, but it is absolutely key that your rewards match the amount of money you’re looking for in terms of pure value. If you’re asking for $1,000, don’t offer a t-shirt as a reward. This is a part of the process that’s going to require some special insight into your niche and the kinds of things that would be of value to them. One huge mistake people make with crowdfunding is offering tangible goods, like discs and shirts and things that will require shipping. There are however many things that you can give away that have tons of value but won’t cost you anything. For example, working with a sponsor that will be willing to give free products away in return for some appearance in the story.
It’s also important to make all of your backers feel like they are now part of the team. Create a secret Facebook group for everyone who contributes so that you can upload weekly updates on the project and mention people who have helped with the project. If people get a sense that the project is moving forward and gaining momentum, they will want to jump on board. Many of them will want to be involved because they see so many eyes within a given niche now have their eyes on something. This causes kind of a snowball effect of more people in the niche coming on board and then more sellers in the niche following…and on and on.
Last but not least, and this is very important, but you need to set a goal that you have a realistic chance of funding. Although the statistics for Kickstarter success are around 50% at the beginning, this goes up drastically once you have obtained 20% of your funding. When people see that others have been willing to donate to a project, they are much more likely to come on board. That’s why it’s so important to build a launch team before you begin. If you don’t have a lot of momentum towards the beginning, you won’t have the energy to get the train running.
3. Creating An Amazing Video
One thing that all successful videos has in common is honesty. You can tell if someone has genuine passion for a project. Be honest about where you are and who you are. Don’t try to come of like a hot shot director if this is your first film. But humble. People like an underdog so paint yourself as Rudy who, in the end, will defy the odds and make an amazing picture.
Be explicit about exactly what you need. Always be sure to ask for money and tell exactly why you need it. Also tell people how they can do other things to help the project, like spreading the word and sharing your posts. Say things like “Please donate” or “Just click the donate button”
Show the work you have already. If you have created storyboards or costumes, get those front and center. Show your cast and some of the work they’ve done. This is especially important if your stars already have a fanbase. Get them out front and center and make sure that they share with their followers.
If there are any other aspects of your film that might have a fan base, use those too. I’m currently in development for a post apocalyptic feature in the tradition of Mad Max. One of the key things in Mad Max of course is cool modified cars. So I’ve been reaching out to the local car community to find some really amazing cars we can use. Cars are like free celbrities. They have their own fan base. For example if your characters drive a Dodge Charger, then put your project in front of Dodge Charger fans. Or fill the project with different cool cars.
My friend Ryan Bellgardt was able to get a huge fan base for his film Army of Frankensteins simply because Frankenstein is a popular brand. In the tradition of Disney, he found something with an expired copyright that he could use. There are tons of examples of this, including Disney’s use of stories like Snow White and Cinderella because of expired copyrights.
In terms of time, people differ on how long your video should be. Ideally it should be no more than 5, and more like 2 if possible. But make sure you have enough time to really tell your story. Also, don’t be afraid to be funny and entertaining. That will only endure you more, as long as you’re not very funny.
4. Build Traffic
While 20% of your time should be dedicated to the campaign itself, most of your time will be spent building traffic to your page. One thing you will definitely want to do early on is register a url that will point people to your kickstarter page. Usually it will be the name of the film, then the word “film” and then .com. If that’s not available, just find something simple so that people can just write it into the url bar without thinking.
Crowdfunding requires at the very least an intermediate understanding of online marketing. It’s not complicated but there are some very specific concepts. We all know about the power of sharing on Facebook and Twitter. You will obviously want to have new accounts for your film project. You will also want to go to twitter and start following people who are in the niche of the film. Make sure that on both your twitter feed and facebook feed that you have artwork related to your project. Try to get at least a few pictures of your actors in costume with the title of the film.
Start trying to build relationships with influencers in a given niche. Join Facebook groups related to your niche audience and even friend some of the influencers there. People are very savvy about crowdfunding these days, so don’t ever start a conversation with…”Can you follow me” or “Can you give me money”.
Try to find people with mailing lists or lots of followers. A great way to get in front of your potential audience is to find some way to be mentioned in a newsletter that goes out to followers of a related niche. This isn’t always easy since you will need to find people who are willing to include you. So it at this stage it is important that your story and you project are also compelling to the influencers.
You may find that a lot of people are willing to help, but the truth is you really want to go after the people with the most clout. You can use something like clout.com to check this out. You would be surprised at people who you never even though about who have a huge following on Pinterest or Instagram.
Find bloggers and magazines that are also influential in your niche and make contacts. Again, you are going to need to get their attention with an amazing project, but a lot of times this is a great way to get your project in front of people.
The sad truth is, only about 1% of the people who see your message will actually contribute, so you need to be getting out some big numbers in terms of visibility. There will always be people who you thought were in the bag in terms of giving money who give nothing. And there will also be people who you don’t even know that will be touched by the program and offer more than you ever imagined. So, again, it all comes back to the story and then making sure that story is in front of as many eyes as possible.
5. Activate Your Launch Team
A few months before your project goes live, you need to have a launch team in place. It’s really important that you find people for this group who come from different world and who all, hopefully, have their own following. The main purpose of the launch team is to change the relationship of those on the team from passive watchers to active participants. We live in a scrolling culture, and even amongst your closest friends it’s fairly common just to scroll right by people’s crowdfunding campaign. But once your a “part” of the team, you approach a project differently. You are now an active participant and part of the film itself.
You muse be very specific with your launch team. They need to know what day the launch starts and specifically what you need them to do. This will obviously consist of liking the project and sharing your project on their walls. But make it easy for them. Give them pictures they can use and write out exactly what you want them to say. We’re all lazy and the more that can be automated the better. Make sure your friends are contacting people directly and give them a cheat sheet of exactly what they can say to help you. Also don’t forget to ask those friends directly to donate to the project and stress the importance of getting the numbers up quickly to build momentum.
Try to time everyone’s post to either be between 8 and 9 in the morning or around 3 in the afternoon as those are the highest traffic times. Also see if they have their own lists or know of people with lists who would be willing to include a short blurb about the project.
If most of your launch team is local, throw a party or create a Facebook event just to make people aware.
6. Launch Campaign
Whatever you do, make sure you launch on the day you say you will. It sounds obvious, but some people get delayed and end up launching late. This will start everything already with the taint of unpreparedness. Make sure that when you are emailing your supporters that you make it personal. Include names and try not to send people generic mass emails.
7. Create a bandwagon
Once the project begins, keep it moving. Crowdfunding campaigns are exciting. The clock is ticking and you have to get the ball in the hoop before the buzzer. Bring everyone into the tension of the campaign. Respond to emails and messages quickly. Be in the moment. Put up reports to your team to show the urgency. Ask for your team to keep sharing and to bring in new people who may want to help. If it looks like things are on the right track, a lot of times people will suddenly come out of the woodwork to help you get over the finish line.
I created this article from a number of sources, but the most influential was the one below, definitely worth a watch.