Crowdfunding and Independent Filmmaking

Crowdfunding is something that everyone talks about when funding their film because funding is one of the toughest part about making your film project tangible and manifesting yourdreams into reality. As our world becomes more connected and technologically developed filmmakers are finding numerous avenues to get their projects off the ground. From wooing and hounding to campaigning and persuading, finding ways to finance you indie film can be a draining, but necessary process.

Austin Film Festival 2013


We recently had several panels in Austin covering the topic of Crowfunding such as Austin Film Festival (AFF)Austin Film Society, and International Film Festival Summit (IFFS).  Experts such as John T. Trigonis presented at the AFF and Marc Hofstatter presented at the Austin Film Society and IFFS.   Both work at the IndieGoGo Crowdfunding platform where Trigonis is Manager for Film & Video and Hofstatter is the head of IndieGoGo’s Film division. In Austin we have filmmakers who have made a successful Crowdfunding campaign and were excited to share with the audience their tips how to make it successful such as Robert Krakower who made the film “Always Learning” and Skyler Caleb who made “Waking” that premiered at AFF in 2013. Attending for the Austin Film Society and IFFSwere filmmakers such as Andrew Matthews, and Katie Graham who made “Zero Charisma” that raised nearly $40,000 on IndieGoGo.  P.J Raval and Annie Bush who made “Before You Know It” raised $50,000 on Kickstarter.


International Film Festival Summit

Crowdfunding is basically fundraising, but with built in social media and sharing tools that helps to accelerate the process making it like fundraising on steroids. Once you craft the killer pitch for your project and launch your social media campaign start spreading the word and be bold. Only when your campaign gets approval and support from your initial community of people you have previously introduced your project to, we typically see others from outside your network to start join the fund when you reach the 40% of your initial funding. The reason why people commit dollars are the messages or reasons behind your post, the unique way you raise your funds or the really enticing reward you offer on exchange of dollars.

Create an awesome video pitch about your project and the team behind it. Use the first 30 seconds to engage your target audience and keep your entire presentation from two to three minutes just like a movie trailer. Spread the word everywhere, leverage your entire network, friends, colleagues, social media pages, groups and put a link of your project in your signature. There is a reason why the word crowd is in front of funding. Keep your audience and network engage, frequent updates are a must, you need to let your passion flow!

It’s an important key point for your campaign to know who your audience is to tailor your pitch and make it appealing for them. Also this is the time to add your personal touch and you should be transparent, why are you raising money? Where is it going and how can they be of help?  If you make your pitch very appealing you set yourself up for the best success.

One of the most effective ways to make your Crowdfunding more effective is to Facebook  close friends and family. Create a Facebook fan page with the information of the film you will promote with your campaign and invite your friends, family and community.  With over 500 million people using Twitter it is an easy way to expose your Crowdfunding campaign to the masses. You can also purchase tweets.  This can be a good way to have a celebrity or someone in your field promote you.  The cost of the tweetdepends on the person and with a very small budget you can get additional exposure.

Social media messaging should be approachable, entertaining, and engaging.  Speak with your fans and followers as if they are a friend you are meeting for a beer, not someone you are trying to sell to.  Share information and get people excited to join you in your quest to turn your dreams into reality.

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, considered the two most popular donation or contribution based Crowdfunding sites, were founded in 2009 and 2007 respectively. They give people and creative projects the opportunity to raise money via online donations or pre-purchasing of products or experiences.  The two Crowdfunding platforms only support donation-based projects. They don’t allow contributors to become an investor or a shareholder, and do not qualify contributors as accredited investors to participate in any financial returns.

Crowdfunding models like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter are not like winning a lottery because most of the successful campaigns you watch on the news or making headlines they all have done quite a bit of preparation to get to that point.   Preparation is the key to success and campaigns require effort and constant promotion in order to be successful so make sure you have a good plan before you start. Many of the most successful campaigns have been run by a team and take weeks of months of preparation to run a solid campaign, such a marketing, promotional strategy, plans when they reach milestones during the campaign.

James Franco raised more than $220,000 for his IndieGoGo Crowdfunding Campaign raised the funds to help a new generation of young filmmakers to fund three films based on his book “Palo Alto Stories”.  Franco spearheaded the campaign in order to foster the next generation of filmmakers not to turn a profit; instead, the proceeds from the movies will be given to a charity, The Art of Elysium

Crowdfunding Models

There are two main models or types of Crowdfunding. The first is what’s called donation-based funding. The birth of Crowdfunding has come through this model, where funders donate via a collaborative goal based process in return for products, perks or rewards, such as IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.

The second and more recent model is Investment Crowdfunding or Equity Crowdfunding.  It wasn’t until recently that the JOBS Act was enacted that gave backers the ability to invest online via investment Crowdfunding. Although the rulings for the JOBS Act are being implemented gradually, Title II of the JOBS Act has just passed a vote at the SEC that will allow companies to participate in general solicitation as of September 23rd 2013, although only accredited investors will be able to invest.
Now that the SEC has finally passed equity Crowdfunding rulings, online investment is gaining massive momentum at sites like CircleUpCrowdfunder, and AngelList . The dynamics of investment Crowdfunding share some similarities with the donation contribution model, but it’s a different game altogether.
Equity Crowdfunding allows backers to reap eventual financial returns on investments, where businesses that seek capital sell ownership stakes online in the form of equity or debt. In this model, individuals who fund become owners or shareholders and have a potential for financial return, unlike in the donation to contribution model.
Crowdfunding sites can now solicit select wealthy individuals to invest in their movies and pursue profits rather than trinkets and perks.

Equity Crowdfunding still needs more explanation and it could be confusing with all the new rules, information and sometimes controversial. As a journalist for LA SPLASH MAGAZINE and as Actress in Austin/LA learning about Crowdfunding has been exciting and enriching. Be Bold and Creative! More articles coming soon about Crowdfunding.

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