Funding Your Documentary Through Kickstarter

Have you wanted to produce a documentary or feature film, but didn’t think you could find the money? It’s time to give crowdfunding a good look. If you haven’t heard about Kickstarter, here’s what you need to know.

It’s big. Kickstarter’s co-founder Yancey Strickler says the projections are that Kickstarter will distribute over $150 million dollars to its users’ projects this fiscal year.

As they say, “Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.” Most any kind of art or technology project can qualify. Starting a business does not qualify as a project, but producing a product you can sell does. The Digital Bolex I wrote about last week is a perfect example. And what’s great is that more money is raised for films and videos than any other category, some $41 Million.

The funding is all or nothing. If you say you need $20,000 to produce your doc, you set the deadline for that goal, typically 30 or 60 days. If the goal is not met, no money changes hands, but if it is met, everyone who pledged pays through Amazon. Amazon and Kickstarter take 8% – 10% and then pay you.

You don’t pay the money back, you offer “rewards.” The rewards offered by filmmakers might be like the following:

$10 pledge you get a Full HD download or a heartfelt thank you which is acknowledged on a Facebook page.

$25 pledge gets a reward of a DVD.

$120 pledge gets a “Founding Producer” credit in the film.

$1,000 or more and you get a personal thank you note from the director, plus four copies of the DVD.

$5,000 or more and you get Executive Producer credit in the film plus autographed Jay DeMerit jersey plus cleats signed by Jay DeMerit (a pro soccer star who is the subject of this film) plus a personal phone call.

The rewards can be just about anything so this is a good place to get very creative.

My friend Steve Yankee is a member of the blues band, The Vincent Hayes Project. They just raised $20,000 to produce a new CD. Actually they raised more than that. The fact is that many successful projects raise more than they ask for.

What do successful projects have in common?

  1. Most are not blockbusters but smaller projects that raise $5,000 or less.
  2. Having a focused and well-defined project with a clear beginning and end is vital.
  3. The most popular pledge amount is $25. The average pledge is around $70. Projects with a reward less than $20 succeed 54% of the time.
  4. Projects with videos succeed at a much higher rate than those without (50% vs. 30%). And this applies to all kinds of project, not just video projects. (Help your local artist friends.)
  5. Pledges don’t happen by themselves. Plan to promote your project well before you post it on Kickstarter. Your own networks of friends and business associates is the place to start. You’ll have to tell people about your project more than once and in a variety of ways. Use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Host pledge parties, print posters or flyers to distribute around your community, and organize meetups to educate people about your endeavor. Contact your local newspaper, TV, and radio stations and tell them about your project. Take the time to contact people individually.

If you don’t want to produce your own film, help someone else who has a project to fund by shooting or producing their pitch video. While the project creators all appear in these videos, others may well have produced the video for them. So talk to friends who are artists, musicians, writers, cooks, geeks or anyone with a creative project.

Go make it happen!

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