At first, I thought my potential investor’s slurring of words was fatigue. It was kind of late. But the more he went on with his rhino hunting stories, the clearer it became. He was drunk off his ass. “See, I shoot the rhinos. But there’s this footage of me saving this one baby rhino. That’s controversy, OK? And controversy sells!”
Oh my God. My potential investor is not only drunk, he’s pitching me! He wants me to help him make a web-series about hunting rhinos. I decide the fact that I’m kind of an animal rights guy is not something I need to share. Then, as I try gently to steer him back towards my feature film, out of nowhere he explodes at me: “If you f**k me over on this, I will f**k you up, OK? I will totally f**k you up! And I can do it!”
Two thoughts occur as I recall this incident from last summer. The first is, I really hope the guy doesn’t read this article. He’s clearly hunted bigger game than me. The second thought: this must have been about the time I decided to try crowdfunding.
It’s not like I had never thought about it. I knew some people were raising large sums on IndieGoGo and especially Kickstarter. But I was skeptical. Sure, Ryan Koo seemed to be on his way to raising over 100K on Kickstarter. But he had his amazingly popular NoFilmSchool website and the tens of thousands of people who went with it. What did I have? Less than 200 friends on Facebook and a nearly dormant Twitter account. And my feature film project David & Kat was not some wonderfully niched easy sell, but a kind of funny-sad dysfunctional love story. Maybe if it were a dysfunctional zombie story, I’d have something. On the other hand, while I had raised over $26,000 towards its production, I had already gone through most my friends and contacts. And I needed more to make my film. So now what? Give Mr. Rhino another call?
Then late last September, I went to a crowdfunding seminar hosted by Film Courage. I was already leaning towards crowdfunding, but this was the night that really sold me. I liked the enthusiasm of the panel. And the artistry. Financing had always felt like a chore. I liked how creative and personal crowdfunding felt. And I was starting to get how this was also a new form of film marketing as well.
Some very specific ideas for my own crowdfunding drive were crystallized that evening. First, I knew then I was going with Kickstarter. IndieGoGo looked like the nice woman you take home to meet Mom. Kickstarter, with its all or nothing platform, was the wild woman. She might not be as safe, but with the amount I needed to raise, I didn’t think I could afford to play it safe. I also quickly got what a huge amount of work it was to prepare a really good Kickstarter campaign. Though it took real experience for the full lesson to set in. One panelist said they took about six months to prep their Kickstarter project. I remember naively thinking, “Well you might need six months. I’ll have mine up in two to three, tops.” Cut to about six and a half months later. I’m just now launching my Kickstarter campaign
I had another inspiration that night. While panelists discussed the importance of project updates on Kickstarter, I started thinking how I wanted to do something a little unique with my campaign. Some way of adding entertainment value to the process besides my initial introductory video. So I decided I would do daily, funny, weird little video updates on my project. Some as Kickstarter project updates, but all posted on Facebook, Twitter my website. I had been reading some Sheri Candler around that time. She talks of how social media is not about shilling but community building. An idea I really like. And I thought these updates would be an opportunity for that. And it would bring out more of my, “Hey! Let’s have a Kickstarter party!” self, rather than my “Help me! PLEASEEE?” needy side.
The next few months went by fast as I started preparing my campaign. I set my funding goal at $20,000. Minus Kickstarter’s and Amazon’s percentage and the potential cost of rewards, that was the minimum extra funding I would need. I wrote my Kickstarter script and put together my crew, deciding on a light approach to the video. I didn’t treat it as just a simple pitch, but tried to make it as funny and engaging as I would any short film. And I cast myself in the lead since most Kickstarter projects are introduced by their creator. “Hey, I’m a former actor” I thought. “No problem!” Except I had never actually acted in a piece I was directing. Not as easy as it looks! I would be distracted in the middle of takes by my own mental badgering. “No, Faster! Tempo! Oh God, you’re ruining my video!” Ultimately, I did the job. But the next time I direct, l look forward to being back behind my nice, safe, monitor.
I was in the homestretch. I made online networking a hobby, having fun with it as I went. My social media presence grew correspondingly. I crowdsourced for ideas. Threw a Kickstarter mastermind and brainstormed with friends. I had a vote on project blurbs on Facebook and Twitter and the winner became my tag. And I came up with lots of unusual ideas for my daily video updates. Like, “Our future: vegetarian or cannibal?” And “My summer with Andy Dick.” Fund raising had never been this much fun before!
But now, all the prep is over. My Kickstarter project has launched and my heart is nudging up towards my adam’s apple. I’m excited, but nervous. Will people like the project? Are my daily updates going to be passed around? Or something I and my girlfriend watch alone every night? Fund raising was never this public before. Well, here we go! In a few weeks, I’ll either have a funded feature… or hey, it’s back to Mr. Rhino. “So, when you’re hunting, you ever thought about arming the rhinos? You know, make it a fair fight?”
In my acting days, my braces locked with a girl’s in Meatballs 2, and I got licked to death in the horror film, Society. And still, no Oscars! As a writer/director, I made an award winning short, First Date Meltdown, and a satirical web-series, Fun With War Crimes. Oh, and I love all the Star Trek Films where Kirk yells “KHANNN!”
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