We did it! We raised the $7K we asked for and went even beyond to $9K in 21 days! I really enjoyed the experience! I know it sounds crazy, because working on a fundraising campaign is stressful, but it’s also really amazing. I’ve raised money for movies in many different ways—applying for grants with small films, then with a bigger movie (feature) like Raspberry Magic, getting investors on board.
Looking for grant money sucks because you spend a lot of time putting together applications that are, for the most part, rejected. Finding investors on a feature usually means there is a business plan, an LLC, and some kind of documentation that allows for high net worth (over $250K) individuals to invest in a project. This means there is a way for these folks to make their money back, plus get a rate of return. This is a good way to set up certain films, usually, you are seeking investments of at least $10K, which means friends and family who want to be a part of it and give say, $50 just can’t. But crowdfunding has changed that—people can now be a part something for even $10.
I’ve supported dozens of Kickstarter and Indiegogo campaigns, mostly for filmmaking, but also for other things, mostly art, music or crafty things that I think are interesting. I love seeing the spirit of innovation, and I love things are that off the beaten path. Sure, I like mainstream movies/TV, but it’s really great to see other types of projects being made out there.
For some time now, I’ve been watching a lot of different projects on Kickstarter, and thinking about my own work, and trying to figure out the best thing to crowdfund. I’ve been working on several women-centric web series for So Natural TV that I thought it might be fun to crowdfund, but really, I feel those should have a few episodes out first, with some sort of audience who might want to support.
I’ve had the feature script for Days with Dandekar for some time, and have been talking to the producers about working on a bigger campaign to get that going, say for $50K. One of the producers did this last year for a film, Miss India America. But for me, jumping into a feature seems a little crazy before building an audience and testing the concept.
So… The short film, Dandekar Makes a Sandwich… After pondering this for a long time, I felt that it was the right place to start with crowdfunding. It’s a short film, funny, doable, and since there is no defined/known audience for it yet, I knew I could start off by tapping into friends/family… Now that we did it, here are some thoughts on things I’ve learned:
1. Your friends and family are the place to start. I’m blessed with some very supportive friends and family members, and have been really lucky to be supported by so many people in my life. I don’t want to burn these folks out, so I know that I can only go them this one time. But I have to say, hearing from old friends, family members and then having them support was really cool! A cousin of mine who lives in AU even supported! That being said, once you ask friends/family, you have got to find the audience for your project and really go beyond. This is something I know I need to work on for the future.
2. Your filmmaking (or whatever community you are a part of) supporters/community are important. The Tribeca Film Institute has been terribly supportive of my work, and they were amazing during the campaign. They tweeted it out, posted it to their FB page, and someone there even supported it personally. There was a great hashtag going down on twitter #hirethesewomen, and it was nice to get a shout out on that. We got some supporters from it, which was cool. I can also never forget the power of the South Asian/Indian/Asian community. Since this story is about an Indian/Asian character, we got some press from the likes of Angry Asian Man and others in the community, woo hoo!
3. Email and email lists are key. MailChimp is a great tool for gathering all of your contacts in one place and sending out emailers. (SPAM!) Yes, people will unsubscribe, but assuming you are sending to friends/family, those who love you will look and it will be ok. For us, there were those 15-20 people who might have unsubscribed each time, but over 500-600 people read each of the blasts I sent out, which was great. It’s really important to send out the blasts, updating your audience and personally reaching out. It’s a lot of work, making those blasts, but every time I sent one, we got movement on the campaign.
4. Don’t Just Ask for Money all the Time. That being said, if you are constantly throwing figure in people’s faces, or straight out asking for donations, people will tire. Instead, it’s good to have updates like casting, locations, crew, and just engage people in your process. You can gently remind people of your goals, and let them know how much time is left, but I say, only throw out numbers when it counts (see below).
5. Thanking people on social media is critical. For every shout out and call out that you put out, someone sees it and ponders contributing or just posting it to their own page. I found that these call outs are key to keep the momentum alive. On slow days, this might be the only new thing people see about your campaign. It def gets annoying, and I am sure people hid me from their feed, but I tried to do it in batches, so it was twice day rather than all day.
6. People contribute in the mornings and evenings. If you do call outs, or post news about your movie, the early mornings and evenings are best. This is when people are off work, or they are starting/ending their days and this is great time for call outs and putting out substantive material out about your project, like, casting announcements, locations photos, etc.
7. People don’t give for rewards unless they are amazing. This was the hardest part for me to conceive. I was really excited about Ameet’s sandwich illustration, and our sandwich bag + tote + tshirt, but I know we could have been a lot more funny, ironic and creative with the rewards. I think our $100 level especially needed some help, but this is something I will think about if I do another campaign. I think people tend like to like “experiences” rather than “things” but this part was def a bit challenging. I’m personally burnt out on schwag like shirts and hats, so when I contribute, I usually just say “no perk.” But if you can think of some cool/unique ideas, it’s worth it!
8. It takes a team. There is no way one person can do a campaign. It takes contacts from multiple sources to raise money and bring awareness to the project. We had an awesome group of producers, and my hubbie also kicked in with the the drawings. Jane was pushing hard on the campaign, and Megha ended up finding an investor who wants to help us with the feature, too, so these were both amazing developments. If I did it again, I would have a couple more people involved, pushing it out to a new audience.
9. The final hours really do matter. We met our goals well before the ending date, but we decided to do a small push in the 5 hours leading right up to the end, and I am so glad we did! A lot of people wait until the last hours or minutes of the campaign, and a small, polite nudge can really do wonders. I had mixed feelings about pushing too hard since it was mostly friends and family I was reaching out to, but I am glad I did bc there was a lot of people who really wanted to support and forgot about it or just waited until that last moment.
10. Don’t underestimate what inspires/excites people. When setting the amounts on these campaigns, it’s hard to know how people will take it. At first, I wondered, will people contribute at all? But I was really amazed to get 3 people at the $500 level, 3 people at the $200 level, and then of course, our investor who came in as the executive producer, at the $2500 level. You can’t always depend on those kind of contributions, but never underestimate the power of your ideas and project, and the potential it might have to reach other people…. This is really and truly the power of social media, the Internet and human communication.