Getting a movie made is easy – getting it financed is easy – getting your friends and contacts to support you is easy. Crowdfunding is easy – water off a duck’s back and other clichés too numerous to mention!
When you look at a crowdfunding campaign on paper what could be easier?
This is a Guest Post by Writer/Director Tim Lea. Tim recently made the award nominated short film of 54 Days. After the success of the short Tim has dived into the world of turning the concept into a Feature film. Tim is not a full time professional in the industry he is in fact working in banking.
This is his first feature, he is currently in the middle of his crowdfunding campaign. Tim’s progress has been very impressive with the campaign, organizing his team and getting things moving. When many people would have given up, Tim has soldiered on and made more and more inroads into getting the project off the ground. We look forward to hearing more from Tim and the 54 Days crew.
Over to Tim:
When you look at a crowdfunding campaign on paper what could be easier:
- You have a creative project supported by a great team of professional guys and girls all with proven industry experience.
- You have an award nominated short film to prove you can produce something worth seeing
- You have squeezed costs out by offering deferrals to key creative in the team to minimize the amount of cash that actually needs to be raised via crowdfunding
- You have product placement partners on board who help you reduce costs.
- You have a letter of intent from the festival director of a new International Science Fiction Festival confirming that your movie will open the festival in August 2014.
- Your friends and contacts all support you saying how great the project is … and how they will get behind you…….
It’s a laid down mezer ….. until you ask people to part with their hard earned cash…
Watch the dust balls spiral into the air as there is a rush for “them thar hills”, listen to the tsunami of excuses and remember the quote that I heard at one of the seminars:
“Crowdfunding is like a tax on friendship”
Your friends and contacts see you like the tax man – and you have to use that psychology – but how the hell do we make the ATO look positive let alone sexy.
Getting Things Started
My name is Tim Lea and I have personally been involved in corporate banking finance for twenty years – so know a thing or two about raising money but I can safely say crowdfunding is the hardest form of finance raising I think I have ever encountered – it is tough – damn tough and when you look at the hourly rate of raising crowdfunding finance you have to question is it worth it? But when you look deep inside yourself at your inner drivers and the power of storytelling you say to yourself YES it’s hard work – but is damn well worth it!!
But let’s be honest here so many people in the film game want you to fail – in many ways justifying their own indecision or a decision to absolutely not to enter a highly competitive industry. But as Darwin said – only the fittest survive – so let’s look at not only a survival strategy but also a strategy of quick learning and change to get things back on track
Now I am sure you all want to hear about how wonderful 54 Days is and how there is a fantastic team behind it but I am guessing all you actually want to hear an honest account about the cock-ups and frustrations so you can learn more about how you can get your project off the ground more securely.
So here we have for your delectation my top ten screw-ups and the solutions we used – which we hope will work before the end of the campaign!
Probably like many of you reading this blog I researched crowdfunding articles and blogs and I was arrogant enough to think I knew a lot about crowdfunding – after all I had been watching its development over the previous 2-3 years to see how it went. I had never actually done it. So the cock-ups:
1) Length of the Campaign
Length of the crowdfunding campaign. Best practice seems to be to have a condensed campaign – usually 30 days. We thought from a marketing point of view given the movie title was 54 days, it made sense to have a 54 day campaign. You can hear the press releases, see the headlines and hear the “kerching” of the tills as the money flows in. Wrong! Human nature determines that there are two KEY areas of support – initial enthusiasm and deadlines – its human nature . As a result you get the U-curve effect – where anything in the middle is the doldrums. We were aware of this U-curve effect but when you are in the “doldrums” area, it is the most frustrating and soul destroying area – where you need so much energy to drive the drip feed of cash. It’s not only stressful but soul destroying when you go a day without a payment coming in. You have doubts. Don’t – it’s natural for this phase – we are just coming out of it and starting to get some momentum building after so much effort.
2) Part time, more like Full Time
Trying to do things part-time. We are now three producers. We started with two and both of us work full-time. Crowdfunding requires speed of movement being able to change and to being nimble on the feet. If you get an opportunity (say telephone interview with the press) a problem or an issue they all have to be dealt with – but crowdfunding doesn’t pay the bills – your day job does. So have someone dedicated to your project in the background. We now have a third producer who has taken up some of the slack.
Getting all your marketing material together BEFORE launching the campaign. Because we were on very a tight schedule given the letter of intent for us to open the International Science Fiction Film Festival in August, we were working on a truncated timescale for script and film production. Time has been a very precious commodity all round so only basic marketing material was produced – Facebook page, pozible campaign site and a web-site. Even these took time and were prioritized – but at the initial launch event we held did not have take –aways – e.g. postcards or flyers to remind people – we relied instead upon Facebook and the webs-site. WRONG – get postcards and take-ways that people can keep. They cost money but are worth it to remind people.
Length of time and expense to agree branding. Marketing material requires branding – the poster and the imagery to go on both online and offline marketing material. Because of costs we could not afford to take on a marketing consultant. Any differences of opinion between core parties involved in the decision making experience means delay in agreement– especially if key parties work full-time. Assign one person to co-ordinate the marketing material and branding and budget for the additional time for decisions making.
5) To Out Source Or Not To Out Source
Using offshore guys for marketing design – because they are cheaper. Cost was a major consideration so we subcontracted design offshore – local graphics guys cost $60-$80 an hour – India is $12- $16. Upside is cost – downside is influences and flexibility. The great thing about offshore guys is they will do what you tell them; the downside is that they will do what you tell them!! Offshore guys don’t have the same influences from a given local marketplace – made it harder to get the right look and feel.
6) All About The Favors
Do not be afraid to ask for favors – if there is someone in you or your team’s network that can help you ask them – offer them free tickets to the premiere or something that doesn’t cost you money. A mate of mine has a graphic design house (Mesocreative)and I didn’t ask him until we were part way through our design process and had wasted 2-3 weeks of time. He got one of his designers to “knock something up” over the weekend and the end result was stunning. Check out our Facebook page for the poster design.
7) Social Media is a Wierd Medium
Facebook marketing is not as easy as you think. We all know the beauty of Facebook marketing – it’s as cheap as chips and can result in strong and quick influence. This is absolutely true – but the nuances of Facebook are manyfold. Short, sharp headlines and graphic images. With so much crap out there on Social Media – keep it really simple.
- Graphic images resulted in double and even treble the number of hits per post.
- Boost key posts – it costs money but it gets you massively increased traffic
- Get your cast and crew to share the posts you raise
8) Off Line Media is Still Powerful
Don’t neglect off-line marketing. Off line media – traditional newspapers and magazines and still hold a lot of influence especially for those with money – older folks have access to money – but are not necessarily that IT literate. PR people cost – but they have access to the editors of magazines who can influence your articles getting into magazine and can influence people being aware of your campaign. We started later than planned – but were interviewed for a magazine two weeks before the campaign is ending – so hope to catch some interest in our project from offline readers.
9) Its not Just About Money
Recognize that crowdfunding is not just about money. You are also building an audience for your movie as well, which is a longer-term play to prove your audience exists. As we have gone through the crowdfunding campaign various other opportunities have materialized – e.g. being asked to be judges on a short film competition – it won’t help our funding campaign but helps the movie in the medium term.
10) Its All About the Pitch
PITCH PITCH AND PITCH. Wherever you have the opportunity to pitch – DO IT! If you are afraid of pitching – take a course – you HAVE to be able to pitch – so practice your logline over and over again until you’re are blue in the face and that it is part of your very DNA.
I hope the above helps you in your project – the irony is that the 54 day long campaign has actually given us the chance to recover from some of the cock-ups and to fine tune the day to day activity. But if anyone says Crowdfunding is easy you have my full permission to tell them to stick it up their rectal passage – it is hard work and don’t think otherwise – it is not for the fainthearted – but would I do it again – IN A HEARTBEAT !!!
Tim Lea is one of the producers of the micro budget movie 54 Days, whose campaign finishes on 30th March 2014. You can check out their campaign here and see their Facebook page here and if you see him – give him a hug – he probably needs it!! So take a look and help out if you can. We will be catching up with these guys again and hearing about how they are getting on so stay tuned…