Not sure what gave me the idea to make a movie. Making my first movie was akin to having a child. You are never truly prepared for your first. It was a learning experience from start to finish.
I reached out to many experienced pros for help and advise. But the problem with experienced pros, they are laser focused on the “right” way to make a project happen.
But nothing about this movie was to be the “right” way. Scary but I loved it.
FIRST OF ALL we did not have a script. It was designed as a Christopher Guest style mockumentary, where amazing character performers improvise the finer points of dialogue. While amazing, this proves very hard for film making and editing. And many would be producers were scared by the problems this would cause. Seasoned film makers are used to a script that is broken down into shots. Camera, lights and sound focus on specific spots and beats.
So that alone kept a lot of the folks on the side lines as advice givers. But not active producers or investor finders. And that was the biggest area I feared. HOW DO I ASK FOR MONEY?
Often on SHARK TANK you will see dreamers walk out empty handed. “You have a product not a company” “It’s too soon for me.” “You’re dead to me!” Mr Wonderful? How dare you.
But that is how I felt. We were failing at showing our vision.
SIDE BAR – I think that is why I am so addicted to SHARK TANK. I just found the show recent but have been watching on demand and old episodes on CNBC. Fascinated by that process of asking folks with expendable cash to support your baby venture. Watching arrogant folks demand and ignorant unprepared folks beg is quite the learning experience. But when the right product and person come together and get a deal, it is wonderful to see that “American Dream” fulfilled.
Looking back now we were just like all those that TANKED on the show. We were not prepared. We had to fall on our face. We had to learn the hard way as many of these more seasoned producers had. They could probably snap and make this happen but what would I learn. And these producers all are mentors tome that know I need to learn this for my self.
So I turned to KICKSTARTER for help. This was right before VERONICA MARS raised $3 million for a movie project. Before KICKSTARTER was even known outside of the arts community. Crowdfunding was still very new as an internet phenom.
We still did not know what we were doing. We shot a bunch of shorts to introduce the characters (A lot of that footage ended up in the film).
We created a KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN. We launched. Then we watched. Then we waited…
Nothing. Then I researched. Fixed up the page a bit. Then I pissed off my world spamming emails, Facebook, twitter etc. Then I got $2k of our $10K goal.
When it comes to anything in life – IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET.
“NO!”s are very scary, right? I have always been a great pitch men but don’t have the heart for sales because I sift through way to many “NO!”s to get a “YES!”
I hate hustlers, players and hard core sales folks, but I respect someone that keeps it up until they get a “YES!”.
In person it is just too heart breaking. However online, from the comfort of my living room while watching mediocre TV, it is very doable.
Posting is not enough. In fact posting does nothing! You have to post to name brand the project but it was the individual outreach that made the difference. I dug in and got busy.
My entire life became about raising money for this project. So many times I wanted to call it quits, but I hate failing. At times the only thing driving me was fear of failure.
SIDE BAR – My favorite story that turned into a big funding source was when I got into a discussion with a hard core Republican. Somehow I convinced this person that KICKSTARTER and similar sites are as CAPITALIST as it gets in funding the arts. It started with a joke about crowd funding being socialism. But I quickly said “NO!” – breaking every Improv rule, I know.
Socialism/Communism is government taking your money against your will and applying it where they see fit. Most often much is wasted by bureaucracy. Like a lot of bad fundraising organization, most of the money funds the leaders and the collection process.
But CROWDFUNDING allows you to fund projects you want to see and 95% of the money goes into production. KICKSTARTER keeps 5% to cover their operating expenses. Most of that is CC fees anyway. Most crowdfunding is preordering a product the fundraiser is creating. You are helping to create work. You are creating demand. You are driving economy. And with our project every time you see the movie you see your name as why we were able to make this crap.
I went on and on about how crowdfunding is the best way to get rid of the the GOP-hated NEA. It worked. That person became one of my biggest funders.
No one got rich doing this project, but all were paid at least as much as they would doing any low budget union project. Probably as much as an average day waiting tables. They had experience performing on camera. They now have another showcase for their talents. And most young artists have nothing but CRAP on their resumes, why not include POOP – LOL!!!
YOU CAN GET WHAT YOU ASK FOR! BUT YOU HAVE TO ASK!!!
I think I could have gotten a lot more out of my uncle. But I was shy. Embarrassed, like I was begging. I did not want to become a burden. I got a big check. But I bet had I asked for more I would have gotten more.
I have never been great at negotiating. The process seems so tedious. When folks try to nickle and dime me for the best price on Improv shows for the kid’s birthday I get so pissed. I am already the cheapest in town for “PROFESSIONAL” kids/family entertainment. There is far worse charging double or triple for crap. To get cheaper than me you have to go amateur.
But I realize now – long after my KS campaign is over – that you have to ask for what you what to get to get it. Or better, ask for more.
I learned recently that for the Improv show folks are wiling to pay a lot more than we charge. I do not have to risk bankruptcy to be an artist. And often I charge more to difficult clients. “If they are willing to pay the premium, we will put up with their BS!” (To a degree…)
So you can work hard or you can work smart. The most successful do both. The biggest reason we hit our goal was motivating the team.
We have 10 actors lined up to play key roles before going to Kickstarter. They are all equity holders in the future of this movie. And everyone of those artists were great at every step.
They created some great characters.
They helped us promote the crowdfunding.
They delivered hilarious committed performances.
None of this worked with out them
I cannot thank my friends and family enough. I do not have fans. I have folks that appreciate my work but they all become friends and family. And they came through for me like I could have never expected.
Not only did folks give – often money they may not actually have – but they helped spread the word. When the gave, they shared that on their social media. They became part of our POOP TEAM.
That is the real power of SOCIAL MEDIA and CROWDFUNDING.
THE LAST 48
The 48 hours of the campaign I did not sleep. I basically spent two days non stop not taking NO as an answer. I begged, I scraped, I spammed… I celebrated every funding to the world. I sat at my computer. Every few hours I got up for a snack or… well the title of the movie says it all…
It all happened with just about 2 hours left. Again I almost gave up. But then I realized, OH I FORGOT TO ASK… I may have lost a couple “FRIENDS” on face book. A few just “UNFOLLOWED”. but you know what those folks were not exactly close. Most were peopel I had not seen since high school. But many of the people I have not seen since high school said THIS IS COOL!
EVERYBODY POOPS is read by most people my age as young parents. NOT EVERYBODY wants to fund POOP. But just enough did.
TIPS TO SUCCESSFUL CROWDFUNDING
1) BELIEVE in yourself and your project – if you don’t how can you expect other to join your campaign. Money is not a good enough reason. You must believe you are solving a problem.
2) BE PREPARED – true of everything in life. We probably started to soon and barely got by. But a lot of work in the first two weeks helped us correct course and and get to home plate.
3) RESEARCH – go to Kickstarter and fund a few things with your own money. $1 here. $5 there. Get to know the process. understand what you are asking of others to do for you.
4) BUILD A TEAM – a campaign team of one is almost impossible.
5) DESIGN YOUR CAMPAIGN – put a lot of thought into this. Go to other successful campaigns. Keep it simple, but make your case. Be creative but not desperate. Visual is key. But text is SEO. Up top of your CROWD FUNDING homepage have a graffic that simply say “YOU WANT TO BE APART OF THIS!”. Below that a video that makes your case for you. Than a simple pitch. That is all folks will read. But below that it is great to have more content.
6) REWARDS need to be attractive to your funders but not so much that all the money will go to awards. You need to fund your project. Preorders are great because you are basically creating demand for the product. Presell your product through the funding site. $20 folks would get a digital copy of our movie. Most of the KS
7) SPREAD THE WORD – get creative. Simply asking for money is not enough but that is a start. Find ways to get press to the attention of your campaign. Major media may give you the once over but search out bloggers.
8) APPRECIATE every penny you raise. Thanks and continue to connect long after the project. Anyone willing to give you cash this early in the project is sure to become your biggest fan and client later.
9) DON’T GIVE UP! This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. You need to set a pace and keep with it.
10) Don’t just rely won social media. While easier to deal with that “NO!” my biggest funding still came from a one on one at a bar with a beloved family member. And all of my phone calls and meetings delivered more than cash. The support and advice was invaluable.
The world is your oyster! Go out and find your pearl!!!