In 2010, Janelle Sorenson and I were trying to figure out how to fund our short documentary, Bring It 2 Peter. Part of Janelle’s job at the time was the decidedly unglamorous task of sorting mail. However, occasionally she would stumble upon something interesting, like a hand-scrawled envelope addressed to Hollywood actor Peter Fonda.
The envelope was dirty and wrinkled when we found it, and it had multiple postal markings. The last of which was a stamp that said, “Undeliverable.”
We took that as a challenge and decided to follow Fonda’s route from his most famous movie, the 1969 cult classic, Easy Rider, retracing his steps in reverse to Los Angeles to locate the actor.
It should be easy right? We’d just borrow a camera and go!
I’m sure your project is no different. I’m sure it’s amazing. I’m sure you’re excited and full of joy and hope and everything but capital.
“What’s capital?” you may ask. Capital is the upfront money it takes to make a film. Or a record. Or a macramé bust of Marie Antoinette. We artists need it. And I’m going to tell you how to get it. Or at least how we got ours. So without further ado, let’s get going.
- Don’t Talk About the Money – It seems crazy since that’s what you’re trying to get, but your backers are more focused on the finished product. They want to think about what it will be like to hold it in their hands and tell all their friends that they helped make it happen. At least that’s how I felt with the projects that I have chosen to back. In fact, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have now found that certain Kickstarter phrases seemed to guarantee failure. I’m not sure about all that, but it’s definitely best to focus on the emotional impact of what you’re doing. Tell your story. Kickstarter (or IndieGoGO or whichever platform you choose) takes care of the money part for you.
- Shoot a Great Video – A picture is worth a thousand words, but video can be shared on Facebook, or a blog, or anywhere web traffic roams. A video is content and people LOVE to share content, especially if it is surprising or novel. Why? Because it makes them look cool. And deep down, we all kinda want to be cool.
- Hire a Writer or at Least an Editor – One thing that Janelle and I had going for us with our film is that we were both writers. We had three English degrees between us, as well as some marketing and publishing experience. I’m not saying everyone has to have that, but you can definitely hire somebody to edit your page fairly reasonably. Check out the Freelance Writer’s Association website for a ballpark cost. You can also hire a local college student who may work for deferred payment (they get paid once you make your goal) or even just a credit in the project. Ask around.
- Be Realistic – Sure Amanda Palmer got a million dollars to fund her project, but she’s Amanda Palmer. If you don’t meet your goal, then with most of these crowdsourcing platforms, you get nothing. One of our biggest concerns with Bring It 2 Peter was not only getting nothing, but of being labeled a failure. The idea that there could be this website out there with a giant stamp of “Did Not Make Funding” for one of our pieces of art was just not an option for us. So what can you do to make sure that doesn’t happen? Well, a couple of things. Number 1 (actually number 4) is to lowball. I cannot stress this enough. Put up the lowest possible figure that could possibly allow you to make what you want to make. Why? Because you cannot fail. I don’t care if you have to set the limit at $100 and your mom pays it. Which leads me to number 5.
- Have an Angel in Your Pocket – Not a real angel, although I’m sure that would help too. I’m talking about an angel investor. Somebody you know with a decently high credit card limit in case you’re 2 hours away from the end of your funding period and don’t feel like you’re going to make it. You can’t use your own credit card because that would be cheating, but your dad, or great aunt Mildred are fine examples of angel investors that can share in your success.
About the Author
Melany Joy Beck is an award-winning independent filmmaker. Her Kickstarter project, Bring It 2 Peter (co-produced with Janelle Sorenson) was selected Special Jury Prize at the Nevada Film Festival 2011, Best Documentary at the Central Wisconsin Film Festival and Official Selection at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival. Watch it now at: