If someone had told me at the beginning of my filmmaking career that I’d one day be making a dark comedy web series about two white trash junk collectors, I’m not totally sure I would have believed them. And if they proceeded to inform me that it would be loosely based on my own experiences working at 1-800-GOT-JUNK, I probably would have picked through their hair wondering why the lobotomy left no visible signs of scaring. The journey of an independent filmmaker is one that is full of surprises and one that allows for inspiration to creep in from experiences you never dreamed possible. So how did I get here? Let’s go back a few years.
Upon graduating from film school as a video editor, I landed a job as a production coordinator on a top home design show in Canada (no one actually works in the field they studied do they?) Quickly tiring of the reality TV world and all the drama that goes along with it, I decided to move on and focus all my efforts on my first feature film, “The Notorious Newman Brothers.” Unbeknownst to me, this brilliant idea coincided with the greatest recession the world had seen since the 1920’s and running out of money with an unfinished film in hand, I desperately searched for employment… apparently so did millions of other people. Failing to find a job within my industry, I looked for anything to help pay the bills and more importantly allow me to finish my gangster mockumentary. I don’t like getting dirty, I don’t like lifting heavy objects, but there I was, looking like a Smurf in my shiny new blue 1-800-GOT-JUNK uniform… a victim of circumstance.
So if that wasn’t the way to secure financing, what was? I wasn’t interested in waiting around for someone to tell me that I could go ahead and start shooting. I get antsy sitting around doing nothing, so I deicide to test the waters of crowdfunding and see what all the fuss was about. Kickstarter seemed like the obvious choice since it has the most clout, however right off the bat I encountered my first hurdle. For whatever reason Kickstarter is still only available to those residing in the States. Knowing this I quickly contacted a friend living in New York and he agreed to come onboard as an associate producer and kindly provided his bank details. Sorted.
Now for the pitch video…
As part of my pre-production for the campaign, I did a lot of research on the do’s and don’t’s and the one thing they all had in common was that you need to have a cleaver and compelling video. So I wrote the script, assembled the cast and crew and for the same budget as my first feature, we shot the pitch video. A few weeks later the video was cut, the donation perks were selected and with the press release typed up, it was now just a matter of pressing the launch button and watching the money roll in (like I stated before I can be naïve, but I’m not that naïve). Through my research I also knew that the campaign would involve writing and lots of it. Whether it’s emails, Facebook/Twitter updates, contacting blogs or websites, writing has consumed me for the better part of the campaign. So if you’re thinking of crowdfunding, but don’t like to write… you better learn to love it. My homework also advised me that I’d need a large social media presence in order to reach my goal. I thought mine was ok, but quickly learned that ok wasn’t good enough. I can’t stress this enough, no matter how big or good you think your social media following is, it can always be bigger and better. Spend months, even years building up your fan base before launching your campaign or project… you’ll be glad that you did.
Now my next hurdle was one that no amount of research could have prepared me for and it was a big one…
A few days into the campaign, at the most critical phase of the crowdfunding process my co-producer abandoned the project and refused to promote it because someone he knew either didn’t like the project or was offended by the pitch video. Totally lame I know and I could go on an epic tangent here, but let’s stay positive shall we. Fortunately for me my lead actor James McDougall, who is in love with the project as much as I am, stepped up to the plate and has been promoting the hell out of “Manuel Labour.” Everyone needs a guy like him in their corner.
So in conclusion, whether we reach our funding goal or not, my first crack at crowdfunding has taught me a lot about myself and what it takes to run a successful campaign. Be confident that you’ll overcome all obstacles along the way, grow your social media/fan base well in advance of launching, shoot a cleaver and engaging pitch video, stay focused and positive and lastly surround yourself with people who possess the same drive and passion as you do and you’ll be fine.
Ryan Noel is a Toronto based filmmaker and owner of Retro Films Entertainment. Building upon the success of his award winning gangster mockumentary The Notorious Newman Brothers, Ryan is currently crowdfunding his latest dark comedy web series Manuel Labour through Kickstarter.