For an indie filmmaker seeking finance, crowdfunding can seem like a magic money tree. Just set the page up on Kickstarter, post about it on social media, and the funding will come rolling in, right?
The team here at Ren HQ certainly wish that it was that easy, as we prepare our big Kickstarter campaign for new episodes! (Edit: Our Kickstarter is now live here.) But the truth is that crowdfunding is tremendously hard work.
For Season One, we raised £36,000 on Kickstarter UK, and we learnt a lot from doing it. So here are our top ten tips to make your own campaign a winner:
You need “elements” – aspects of the project which have an existing audience base, such as a name actor or a director with a strong social media following. Sometimes people will donate because the film is being shot in their home town, or maybe it’s about a subject they have an interest in. Whatever it is, figure out where that existing audience base is and what they want, and create your rewards and marketing strategy accordingly.
Work out in advance how much your rewards will cost to produce, and reject any that aren’t cost or time efficient. They should consume no more than ten percent of your budget.
3. Pitch video
Make your pitch video professional: tightly edited, well lit, well shot and with broadcast quality sound. No-one will back a filmmaker who can only be bothered posting a ten-minute ramble shot on a webcam. Your “elements” should appear in the video.
4. Ease of use
Whichever one of the crowdfunding sites you choose, make sure it’s extremely quick and easy to donate, with a minimal number of clicks.
5. Campaign length
A longer campaign doesn’t necessarily mean more money raised, but it does mean more work for you promoting it.
6. Putting in the work
If you take a day off from promoting your campaign, people will take a day off from donating. You cannot sit back and expect the money to roll in. It doesn’t work that way.
Keep reminding people about your campaign, but do it indirectly by publishing new content like blogs, behind-the-scenes videos or storyboards. Most backers will have to see your campaign several times before deciding to contribute.
Social media marketing is crucial, but remember that the internet isn’t the only way to promote your campaign. Attend or organise events in the real world. Hand out cards or flyers with the campaign address on, or better still: have a tablet ready with the crowdfunding page loaded up so people can back right then and there.
Make people feel involved in your project, both during and after crowdfunding. Run competitions, invite feedback on things like poster designs, issue updates and answer questions.
The endorsement of a well-recognised person or entity can give your campaign a massive boost. This might be getting coverage in the national press, or convincing a celebrity to retweet your campaign link. Neither is easy!