How to Lose Everything on Kickstarter and Still Raise a Production Budget



You know those stories about success on Kickstarter?  Like the one about the final push that got a project over the hump at the last second or the project that hit their goal and kept going to raise more than that proposed budget?

This is not one of those stories.

This is a story about a failed Kickstarter campaign that kept going and succeeded independently.  No Kickstarter, No IndieGoGo, just a web site and Twitter.

I make an Indie TV series called “Vampire Mob.”  Indie TV is kind of like Indie Filmmaking, stories made without a television network and distributed directly to an audience via the internet.

John Colella with the LAPD driving by while we were shooting without a permit.

Can you watch it on your TV?  Yes!  If you have a Boxee or Apple TV you can stream Vampire Mob in HD and watch it on your big ‘ole teeveee.

My goal is to create an independent, ongoing and scalable production free of the influence of a network, sponsor or standards and practices.  If there is something more basic than basic cable, Indie TV is it!”Vampire Mob” was first a one-act play called “Craig’s Other List” that was performed at the Ruskin Group Theater.  I made a few shorts, including one with my very talented friend, John Colella called “The Swear Police” that won at the LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival and I was itching to make another one, thinking this story would be next.

The thought of making a short that could keep going and develop seemed like the best fit for “Vampire Mob,” so I wrote six episodes.  I treated them like six short scripts, keeping the files separate, and through table reads and notes, developed the story until it was one document, with comedy and murder.

A still from Season Two made with the Canon 5D (r to l: Chad Wood & John Colella as Don Grigioni, hitman/vampire)

Season one of “Vampire Mob” was a 33-page script that we shot in early 2010 using ten-year old video cameras (a VX-2000 and a VX-2100), which barely made it through the shoot and it was completely funded out of my pocket.  All the locations, including a castle, were donated or stolen and there were lots of guerrilla filmmaking tactics used.

When I was editing the show I started looking into the next part of the project, letting people know about “Vampire Mob.”  I didn’t make it as a pilot or something to sell, so I needed to build an audience, however long that was going to take. I worked as a private investigator for over a decade until last year and doing research was a huge part of that gig, so I pointed some of my questions about audience building at the net.I found Jon Reiss talking about his book “Think Outside The Box Office” on Rex Sikes Movie Beat and picked up a copy.  Reading about the ideas involved in being a Producer of Marketing and Distribution made me think of ways Indie TV could do some of the same, so I began to think of myself as the PMD of “Vampire Mob.”

As I was looking for ideas about audience-building I also found blogs and videos about fundraising from Gary King, Gregory Bayne and David Branin.  I retrofitted some of the advice and ideas about fundraising and made them part of what I did everyday on Twitter and Facebook, but without a fundraising campaign, at least for the time being.

We released the first episode of “Vampire Mob” on the net on June 30, 2010 using the “ransom method,” which I borrowed from Greg Stolze and Stephen King. When the first episode reached 5,000 views, the next episode would be released.

People who liked the show and wanted to see more shared it with friends.  I didn’t sell anything on the web site, had no donation button and never asked for a dime, until September of 2010, when it was decided that season two would happen.

I made a video for our Kickstarter campaign to raise $10,000, over half of which was going to gear to replace the ten-year old video cameras.

I felt that season one was enough for anyone interested in backing the show to get a feel for what we were up to and in the absence of it, I never would’ve attempted a campaign.  If you can’t show evidence of your ability I don’t think you should ask anyone to give you money, period.

140 people pledged $6,212 and at midnight eastern on October 30, 2010, it was over, we lost it all.

What did I do wrong?  I think I tried to raise too much money in too short a time.  The advice recently given by Oklahoma Ward on Film Courage in retrospect was another, update content constantly, which isn’t just a written update.

Sixty seconds after we struck out, I launched another campaign on our crappy web site I built using iWeb because it was cheap and easy.

Our audience, which has taken on the moniker of “The VMob” began donating for the same rewards we had on Kickstarter.  I printed T-shirts, which were mailed right after donations came in and I also had several eBay auctions for signed scripts and other items.

We started shooting without the full budget raised, ran out of money, shut down production until we raised more and then went back to work.  Yes, fundraising while your in pre-production, production and post-production is really hard.

Thanks to the Supporting Producers who backed us and continue to, we cracked the $10,000 mark and succeeded to reach our goal, almost six months later and independently. We went slightly over budget and we’re still fundraising to cover production and a couple of hard drives, but we shot it!

Season Two of Vampire Mob is an 80-page script that we shot with 21 actors including Emmy winner, Marcia Wallace and Tony winner, Rae Allen. I still am amazed at what we’ve pulled off for very little money.

You can’t stop the Mob.

My advice, don’t think that a failed campaign is a failure, there’s a silver lining in there somewhere, you just gotta keep looking. Maybe it’s a lesson for the next campaign or maybe it’s the realization that you’re gong to need more time. The one thing that everyone says that is true, fundraising is full-time, every day, every hour you can possibly be conscious to do it.

Would I do it again on Kickstarter?  Absolutely.  The story of losing everything and still raising the budget to make our show is just that, a great story and proof that our small but mighty audience really likes what we do.

My favorite saying, which is a Marine saying, but it works in fundraising, storytelling and life…

“Improvise, adapt & overcome.”

I’d also add, never give up.You can.  You will.  You are unstoppable.



Joe Wilson is an award-winning filmmaker and the creator, writer and director of the Indie TV series “Vampire Mob.”  Wilson’s short “The Swear Police” won its category at the L.A. Comedy Shorts Film Festival and his first short “Tickle Me Harder” was described by Gawker as “a celebrity sex tape worth our time.”   Wilson also made international news by auctioning a “Jar of Celebrity Air” on eBay, which became an international news event and the subject of his one-man show.  You can find him on Twitter, probably right now – @VampireMob @JoeWilsonTV

(Watch the video here)

Filmmaker / Web Series Creator Joe Wilson (VAMPIRE MOB) gives us his thoughts on marketing and promotion, how Twitter and Facebook have become part of his job, and his belief that when it comes to fundraising that Twitter is more powerful than Facebook

(Watch the video here)


‘How I Developed My Webseries’ by Joe Wilson.

Check out more great videos by
Joe Wilson


Watch the video interview here)

These videos were filmed on location at
8536 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90035

Twitter  @Joewilsontv
Twitter @vampiremob
Watch Vampire Mob Trailer


Vampire Mob is an original series with cast from Boardwalk Empire, The Sopranos, The Simpsons, Parks & Recreation and Criminal Minds.

“Entertaining, funny, and well written, at its heart Vampire Mob is really a story about family and the challenges we all face as we try to get through this world. Even if it is a world populated with vampires and hit men.”

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