Donna ON PR: Crowdfunding Films – Coming Back Down to Earth Post ‘Veronica Mars’

Originally, my column for today was going to be a nice, 101 social media lesson for promoting your film through Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, Google Plus and LinkedIn groups – as well as Indie Backer, exclusive to the film community (Check them out, and tell me if you’re digging that song as much as me!)

Then, Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign blasted onto the scene, and yawn, a simple social media lesson seems so boring. So, I thought I’d take this chance to dig in and take a look at the marketing opportunities tied to crowdfunding campaigns and how this game-changer, Veronica Mars, may impact the business of crowdfunding.

crowdfundingOf course, I turned to Twitter to gauge the reactions from other filmmakers to the Veronica Mars campaign bonanza and saw a mix of reactions. Some were concerned how this boom for a celebrity film would impact indies; others saw it as an opportunity to open doors for the commercial (Firefly and Clerks III are just two I’ve seen mentioned). I saw many indie filmmakers concerned with how this will impact the platform now that a major commercial success has had such an impact – but others feel there’s enough room on the playground for everyone.

After watching Veronica Mars raise two million + dollars in 11 hours (currently total: $4,884,479 with three days to go) my initial thought was holy s$%# – you can’t build this kind of publicity for a film that hasn’t even been made yet; but how can they possibly sustain this momentum? I did reach out to try and speak with Rob Thomas about Veronica Mars, his publicity people politely declined. Perhaps that plan is in development – time will tell how they decide to ride this wave of fantastic media coverage through to the limited theatrical release and VOD.

I’m still interested in taking a look at the nitty-gritty associated with crowdfunding that all of us should be aware of before digging in.

Don’t be afraid of commitment

Crowdfunding and maintaining the momentum through social media and traditional marketing and publicity efforts can be a full time job. Can you commit or do you have the resources to hire the right people for the job?

If you’re now considering crowdfunding your next film project – here are some things to consider before you commit?

  • Understand the amount of work it takes to run these campaigns
  • Which platform? As I noted above there are several different options for platforms – do your research and figure out your goals and which works best for you and your film.
  • How long do you plan to run your campaign on the platform – and what happens next?
  • What is your plan with all the emails you collect? One tip: lock these contacts up and throw away the key – do not share, ever! You want to establish trust and continue to engage your new fans and encourage them to help/share/like with their fans and followers.

To crowdfund or not to crowdfund… that is the question:

Let’s dig in and get some outside perspective shall we? I e-mailed with John Trigonis, a film, web & Video manager at Indiegogo and author. “The first thing I tell everyone, which I mention numerous times throughout my book, Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, is that crowdfunding is a full-time job, and you have to prepare way ahead of time. By preparation, I mean build a core audience of folks who will be among the first people to fund you months before you launch a campaign. Aside from that, be personal in what I call the “Three Ps for a Successful Indie Film Campaign,” namely your pitch, your perks, and your promotion, and thrive to make the campaign not about you or your project, but about the funders, since without them, you might not be making your film.”

I’m currently working with a filmmaker, Delaney Ruston, to put together a grassroots campaign to roll out her latest film, Hidden Pictures, about global mental health. The film is part of a larger campaign,  “The Hidden Pictures Project,” to help raise awareness about global mental illness and the stigma associated with these diseases. Delaney has established a strong “crowd” of support generated from her first film, Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia, which originally aired on PBS stations in 2009. While production of Hidden Pictures is complete, Delaney still needs to raise funds for participation at film festivals, distribution, and marketing costs.  Even with her existing fan base and support from major non-profit organizations focused on mental illness, we’re not convinced crowdfunding is the way to go for this particular film. First and foremost is the matter of time and resources to put together the campaign. Delaney is based in Seattle, Washington but currently working on another project in New Delhi, India through mid-summer. The jury is still out as we may decide to pay for some of the marketing, especially participation at film festivals, but then seek out funding through other channels for distribution and marketing costs.

To that point about time and commitment, John adds this point for maintaining the life of your crowdfunding campaign: “Two words: social media. Start early and never stop.” He continues, “funders need to know who you are before you ask them for money, so be a person before a petition, as I always say, and post relevant content that’s not only about you and your projects, but about filmmaking in general, about your friend’s movie, about the Oscars®.”

I’ve watched many crowdfunding campaigns over the years and one constant I’ve seen, especially with indie producers and filmmakers, is support for their peers through sharing/donating/like/follow with different campaigns. On Red Wall Productions website, along with their current list of projects and events, I found a “What we care about” page with links to a partial list of artists they’ve supported through crowdfunding along with this statement: “We feel strongly that it is the job of everyone with strength and means to use their talents to help make the world better. From creating scholarships to mentoring emerging actors, writers and filmmakers, to contributing to crowdfunding campaigns, Red Wall Productions  believes in giving back.”

Is there a winning formula?

While there may not be one winning formula for a successful crowdfunding campaign, the secret certainly includes a mix of dedication and great use of social media to support your project. Your colleagues, friends, fans and supporters can help you spread the word and reach your goals – don’t be afraid to keep up your outreach and keep your campaign in front of as many eyes as possible. Social media opportunities are limitless and constantly changing. Just when you think you know what is the latest and greatest – up jumps another opportunity. Embrace it and enjoy the ride; research, ask questions and dig in. As you’re making your decision – be sure you have the bandwidth to embrace this kind of campaign and see it through to the end.

According to a 2012 study by Maculation about crowdfunding, film music and the arts account for only 9% of donations but receive much of the press. Great news for filmmakers as long as you’ve got the time and are savvy enough to keep the momentum going through to opening day.

Talk to me! What are YOUR thoughts and experiences with crowdfunding?

Jump in and share your thoughts. What have your experiences been with crowdfunding? If you haven’t crowdfunded your films why not and will you try it now? If so, how did you keep the marketing momentum going?

Do you think Veronica Mars crowdfunding campaign has hurt or helped indie filmmakers?

And, if you’re crowdfunding a campaign right now – share a link and I’ll do the same. Good luck and happy fundraising!

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