This week’s Digital Clinic with our resident digital strategist Campbell X gets personal with some useful tips on crowdfunding for a feature film, based on her own experience.
Q: How easy is it to raise funds for a film through crowdfunding?
Campbell X: I was one of the first LGBT people in the UK to use crowdfunding for a feature film. In 2010 I used IndieGoGo to raise funds to begin the shoot for Stud Life, my first indie feature film. I didn’t reach my financial goal but fortunately I received enough money to kickstart the production.
Crowdfunding is now mainstream with many celebrities like Spike Lee using it to fund their passion projects. There are, however, some people who believe there is crowd funding fatigue. Raising funds in an economic climate where people are strapped for cash means it is imperative to be well prepared when starting a campaign.
Crowdfunding is also an excellent way to let people know about your project and whet their appetite and help you make it become a reality.
Before you start it is important to do your research on how projects like yours have performed on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and Sponsume. Ask yourself if your project is better-served by building a website like Girl on Girl documentary and having a donate button on the home page?
To help you make an informed decision, here are 10 things I learnt from doing my own crowdfunding campaign.
1. Have a solid social media presence
Depending on the type of brand or product you wish to fund, you need to be on social media. You also need to inhabit that media so your followers know you are authentic, can be trusted and worth investing in. You need to have active and passionate followers who believe in your product or brand and will spread the word.
2. Facebook/tweet/email daily
Picture credit: mediabistro.com
Running a crowdfunding campaign is exhausting. You need to set aside the time and commitment to tweet and Facebook your campaign almost 24/7. Remember some of your fans are in different time zones. Having done an analysis of your social media, you will know when your fans are most active and engaged. It is a good strategy to work with a team as it is incredibly draining for just one person to sustain this for the 30 days you need to drum up interest in your campaign. DO NOT under any circumstances spam other people’s timelines with your campaign unless you have a great relationship with them and have cleared it with them first.
3. Crowdfunding is global
I was pleasantly surprised when people from all over the world who I didn’t know contributed to the crowdfunding campaign for Stud Life. This enabled me to attract attention about the film way before it was completed which helped generate interest at film festivals and international screenings. I was particularly delighted that the film was screened in Jamaica via Sistah Sinema, an organisation for promoting the work of Queer Women of Colour.
4. Make a video trailer about the project
Picture credit: www.Sundance.org
People love to see who they are investing in. Social media can seem faceless and anonymous, so making a trailer which presents your project and its key players, allows people see the people behind the project. This is powerful as humans still respond strongly to faces and voices and if you can’t meet someone in real life, video is second best. Dear White People, a comedy film about racism on a mostly white campus, made a trailer of their film to promote it on their campaign.
5. Obtain a partner
What works in an increasingly crowded social media world, filled with so much noise, is to stand above the crowd. What makes you stand out is having a stamp of approval from an organisation with international authority and credibility. Beauty, a documentary film by Pratibha Parmar on the author Alice Walker, had a successful crowdfunding campaign which was partnered by Women Make Movies.
6. Thank people
As people donate to your campaign, give back by thanking them publicly. If they are on Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media platform, do not forget to tag them. Some people allow the campaigns to tweet that they have donated. Retweet their tweets and thank them.
7. Choose personalised rewards for your backers
The perks given to donors are valuable. Ms Fit Magazine, a fitness magazine for women with a difference, offered fun, useful and appropriately fitting perks to those donating to their campaign, such as a hoodie, a duffel bag or an aluminium water bottle as well as stickers and badges.
8. Keep in touch with your backers
At the backend of your campaign there is a list of people with their contact details who gave funding to your project. Make a record of these people, and keep in touch with them to let them know about the project’s progress. They gave you their time and money and will be delighted to hear from you. Dear White People kept in touch with their fan base who were so engaged and hungry to see their film, they released a teaser called – When the HELL is Dear White People coming out?.
9. The lead in time is longer than you expect
Picture credit: insearchofadam.wordpress.com
A successful crowdfunding campaign is not a spur-of-the-moment, fly into action kind of plan. I often get requests to manage crowdfunding campaigns with short lead times. Three months should be the minimum. This time needs to be used to build up your social media presence, inform your friends, family and supporters of your intentions, obtain perks and work out your marketing strategy, including making a video trailer and other promotional materials. It is also important to reach out to bloggers, influencers and more traditional offline media related to your niche.
10. Give back to the universe
If you see a crowdfunding campaign that interests you, and you have some spare cash, donate. If you don’t, share their posts and tell your friends to support them. What goes around comes around.
Main image credit: Shutterstock/rvlsoft