Crowd funding when you’re unknown is incredibly difficult. While everyone is touting it as the solution to the funding problems that indie filmmakers face on an ongoing basis… to raise decent funds to shoot an ambitious film with high production values is still nigh on impossible.
When you are trying to compete with the 1000s of other short films out there to get into respectable festivals and find an audience, production values are of high importance. And $10,000 just doesn’t buy you a lot in that area.
If you’ve ever tried to raise money for a project, you’ll know that even just getting $10,000 is an extremely hard slog. And it basically involves begging your family and friends for money. It’s a rare accomplishment to actually ‘go viral’ and break outside of your own network.
So when faced with the challenge of needing to raise $42,000 for our latest short film (a figure that would still require us to have most of our cast and crew work on a volunteer basis) we were overwhelmed by this task. It’s far more than what we knew we could get from our own network. And while we sat down thinking of an idea for a smart crowd funding campaign that would bring attention to our film, we watched on while celebrity fuelled campaigns literally raked in millions.
One particular campaign really struck close to our hearts. A first-time director making a short film with a target of £25,000 (a similar target to ours once converted) managed to raise more than 3 times his target on IndieGoGo because he had Benedict Cumberbatch attached to play the lead role.
Then of course there were the Zach Braff and Veronica Mars campaigns, which raised in excess of $3mil and $5mil respectively!
And as all this happened around us, we suddenly had an epiphany… strangers DO NOT CARE about your movie idea! They just don’t! And why should they? There’s an ocean of movie ideas out there on crowd funding networks all asking them for their money. How do you provide any value to these would be contributors when for a smaller amount of cash they can go see a ready-made movie at the cinema or stream the latest season of Game of Thrones? If you want to break out of your network you MUST somehow provide value.
Whatever you think of Zach Braff’s campaign you cannot deny that he did exactly that: provide value. He has credibility from the success of Garden State, fans know they’re in for something they’ll love and that they’ll get to take the journey with him. Shirts came in at just $40 and for $100 you could attend a special advanced Q&A screening with Zach in one of dozens of cities across the globe. There was bang for your buck!
All the wailing and gnashing of teeth about whether or not Zach Braff misused kickstarter really misses the crucial point: He was selling something that people wanted to buy! We know all too well now that these campaigns don’t work solely because a celebrity is behind them.
BUT… it sure as hell helps!!
So what do you do if you don’t have a celebrity attached? How do you get strangers to care about your idea?
Well, we’re proposing a solution:
We’ve just started an IndieGoGo campaign with a target of $2,000,000 that lovingly parodies Zach Braff’s Kickstarter campaign. We downplayed the significance of our own movie idea and instead focused on making the campaign about unknown filmmakers vs celebrity filmmakers. David vs Goliath!
If we successfully raise $2 million we’re not just going to make our movie (it’s only a short after all), we’re going to give the vast majority of that money, $1.75 million, back to the global indie film community by funding as many short films as we can manage!
And that’s where the value is! Jane Smith who donates $25 doesn’t just get to watch one short film on Vimeo when it’s done. She gets to watch an arsenal of short films!
Further to that, our audience of contributors will get to actively participate in the discovery of new talented filmmakers – the kind of formula that we all know works from shows like X-Factor and American Idol. They get to be the judge on which film projects from our pitch competition get funded using a brand new voting system that we’re developing (that’ll have to be another article). They’ll be involved and engaged in the system and it won’t take much of their time.
Now, if this all works it’ll be the prototype for our ultimate grand plan: a paid, subscription-based, online platform for funding and distributing short films – an oasis for emerging filmmakers. The audience isn’t invested in you as a filmmaker, they’re invested in something broader: the MEDIUM of short film.
So, no more countless hours on social media to build an audience, we’ll have a paying captive audience ready for you. All you have to do is convince them that your idea is the best and then it’s already paid for!
Now, back to the opening dilemma. We don’t have 1 million followers on twitter. We don’t have hordes of screaming fans. But we do have a campaign that provides enormous value to filmmakers and audiences alike. So we need the indie film community to get behind us. We need contributors (even if you can only afford a few dollars, check out the perks on the campaign, they’re a lot of fun) and we need word of mouth. Big time. So please, jump on your social networks, blogs and forums and help get the word out on the street!
But don’t just tweet your friends. Tweet @ZachBraff. Tweet @donald_faison. Tell Zach that we want him to buy an #imnotzachbraff shirt, or a pair of #youveneverheardofme underwear. If enough people do it, he’ll respond and then we’ll generate the kind of publicity that’s needed to make this work. Here’s some sample tweets to make it easy for you. But we encourage you to add your own flair:
Hey @ZachBraff, you should totally buy an #imnotzachbraff T-shirt! It’d be like, so ironic lolz https://igg.me/at/not-zach-braff #supportindiefilm
@ZachBraff, you’d look so good in a pair of #youveneverheardofme underwear. https://igg.me/at/not-zach-braff #supportindiefilm
Hey @ZachBraff! I loved you in Scrubs & Garden State. But I’ll love you more in an #imnotzachbraff shirt https://igg.me/at/not-zach-braff #supportindiefilm
Let’s show the world $2 million isn’t just for celebrities!
FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ‘THE INTERNATIONAL,
NOT ZACH BRAFF SHORT FILM PROJECT’ HERE!
We are Emma McKenna and Craig Foster, a producer/director/writer team from Sydney, Australia who have been working together for 4 years. Emma is a film editing graduate of the Australian, Film, Television and Radio School and Craig is a software developer come storyteller/filmmaker. We produce commercials, music videos and short films under our production company Myrtle Street Pictures.
Our first short film Parrot won several awards in festivals both at home and abroad. We are also currently collaborating on a brand new web series called “Love Bytes” with director Tonnette Stanford. And Emma is the editor behind the recently released “Justice Lease” web series.
We are passionate about film and the film industry and we believe that it is possible to create an ongoing, financially sustainable market for short films.