Would it be possible to ask everyone you know for $100 to make your next (first?) film?
If so, how many multiples of $100 do you think you’d get, and how much of a budget would that give you for your next project?
In the most storied example of film crowdfunding, that’s exactly what Darren Aronofsky did with his first feature film, Pi. From a note in Aronofsky’s diary (interestingly posted live online back in 1996):
“Associate Producer Scott Franklin came up with ‘the scheme to end all schemes.’ We’ve been asking every person we know for $100. We drew up a clever letter and searched our rolodexes. The letter is doing well. People seem positive and we’ve already brought in over a grand. Anything to get it done.”
Do you think you could ask everyone you know for $100 towards the creation of your film? If so, read on.
A Short History of Film Crowdfunding
When it comes to financing a film project, more and more people are turning to sources of funding outside of the traditional. As modern filmmakers are discovering, lots of the established forms of funding (and distribution methods) are both outdated and outside of most people’s current situations.
Whilst it’s certainly not impossible for a modern day filmmaker to get money together using the more traditional forms of funding, modern communication technology means that we now have many other ways to do so.
The dawn of the internet, and especially the burgeoning social media movement, has enabled filmmakers to entertain the idea of crowdfunding their films. Crowdfunding on the Internet as we know it today was actually started because of crowdfunding for films.
But what exactly is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is the method of funding a project by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people. Nowadays, it’s often conducted via the Internet and the many communities set up specifically for this purpose, but the concept can also be executed through mail-order subscriptions, benefit events, and other methods.
Film crowdfunding is all the rage these days, and I’d be surprised if you haven’t heard about it in the news. It involves taking small payments from multiple people (often hundreds, if not thousands) towards the costs of making and distributing a film.
The people who contribute towards the making of the film via crowdfunding are most often given some form of compensation — whether it’s a DVD copy of the finished film, a t-shirt commemorating the movie, or even a listing on the film’s credits. Depending on the scale of the project, and the size of the donation, the rewards for helping to crowdfund a film can be incredibly varied.
We went through some of the mistakes people make when crowdfunding in a recent article on Filmmaking Lifestyle.
I want to look at 7 Sites to Crowdfund Your Film. This is a short list of the best possible methods for film crowdfunding today:
Kickstarter is an American public-benefit corporation based in Brooklyn, New York which has built a global crowdfunding platform focused on creativity. The company’s stated mission is to help bring creative projects to life. Kickstarter has reportedly received more than $1.9 billion in pledges from 9.4 million backers to fund 257,000 creative projects, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, technology and food-related projects.
People who back Kickstarter projects are offered tangible rewards and one of a kind experiences in exchange for their pledges. This model traces its roots to subscription model of arts patronage, where artists would go directly to their audiences to fund their work.
Indiegogo is an international crowdfunding website founded in 2008 by Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin, and Eric Schell. Its headquarters are in San Francisco, California. The site is one of the first sites to offer crowd funding. Indiegogo allows people to solicit funds for an idea, charity, or start-up business. Indiegogo charges a 5% fee on contributions. This charge is in addition to credit card and PayPalcharges that range from 3.5% to 9%.
The site’s market is anyone who has an idea and wants to raise funds to finance their goal. Fifteen million people from all around the world visit the site on a monthly basis.
The site runs on a rewards-based system, meaning donors, investors, or customers who are willing help to fund a project or product can donate and receive a gift, rather than an equity stake in the company. However, CEO Slava Rubin has stated that the company is interested in moving towards equity funding in the future once legal considerations become clearer.
Tubestart was founded by Josef Holm and Claude Shires in 2013. Holm, a crowdfunding advocate, and Shires developed the idea for Tubestart after creating their own YouTube channel and seeing how expensive it could be to produce and film a video for the site.
According to Fast Company the channel was called “StandUpBits, where they posted exclusive, stand-up comedy clips from a library of more than 3,500 that they’d acquired.
The site was popular: Within weeks, it received a million views. But moneywise, that added up to about $2,000 from AdSense … Not nothing, certainly, but considering they still had $25,000 worth of editing to do on their videos, it was clear that the venture wasn’t going to pay off.” They tried other crowdfunding websites, but none appeared to be suitable for the task of raising money to offset production and editing costs.
Tiffany Bain wrote of the company that, “Tubestart is a crowdfunding startup that bridges the gap between lack of ad revenue and the money it takes to launch a professional Youtube channel by allowing its users reach their specified goals through subscription-based crowdfunding.
Using this crowdfunding model, users can host monthly or recurring investment campaigns – opposed to one-time campaigns offered by mainstream crowdfunding businesses – to fund their projects continuously.
On Tubestart there are no barriers. No business plans needed, no significant wealth prerequisites, no gatekeepers to tell you “no,” according to Holm.” The website officially launched in August 2013.
Patreon is a crowdfunding platform popular with YouTube content creators, musicians, and webcomic artists. It allows artists to obtain funding from their fans or patrons, on a recurring basis, or per artwork. This San Francisco based company was started by musician Jack Conte and developer Sam Yam in 2013. Patreon has been featured in Forbes, Billboard, and Time magazine.
Patreon was founded in May 2013 by artist Jack Conte, who was looking for a way to make a living from his popular YouTube videos. Together with Sam Yam he developed a platform that allows patrons to donate a set amount of money every time an artist creates a work of art. The company raised $2.1 million in August 2013 from a group of venture capitalists and angel investors. In June 2014 the company raised a further $15 million in a series A round led by Danny Rimer of Index Ventures.
The company has signed up more than 125,000 “patrons” in its first 18 months. In late 2014, the website announced that patrons were sending over $1 million per month to the site’s content creators.
In March 2015, Patreon acquired Subbable, a similar voluntary subscription service co-created by John and Hank Green, and brings over Subbable creators and contents including C.G.P. Grey, Destin Sandlin’s Smarter Every Day and the Green brothers’ own CrashCourse and SciShow channels. The merger was consequent of an expected migration of payment systems with Amazon Payments that Subbable used.
In October 2015, the site was the target of a massive hacking attack with almost 15 gigabytes’ worth of password data, donation records, and source code taken and published. The breach exposed more than 2.3M unique e-mail addresses and millions of private messages.
Whilst Vimeo On Demand doesn’t try to operate (and act) like a crowdfunding site, it offers everything that a great crowdfunding solution would offer, just without using the word.
What you can do with Vimeo On Demand is showcase your creations to would-be backers and endorsers and get the word out about your outstanding work. Whether this be uploading a previous film to Vimeo On Demand, or showing a short that you want to turn into a feature, Vimeo On Demand can be a great way of generating a buzz for your project.
Yes, Vimeo doesn’t outwardly allow a crowdfunding model – you can’t directly pledge money towards the creation of a would-be project, their are no rewards for backers on offer, nor can you actively campaign in the ways you can with a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
However, Vimeo On Demand offers a great way to showcase your work and stir up interest in your future projects. You certainly wouldn’t be the first person to crowdfund a film through Vimeo On Demand.
Seed&Spark is a film-centric crowdfunding and VOD platform launched in 2012.
Seed&Spark is a film crowdfunding and online distribution platform that supports a mission it calls “Fair Trade Filmmaking.” Films are crowdfunded in the “studio” area of the website, where “supporters” earn “sparks” for contributing money towards active crowdfunding campaigns.
Once a campaign is successfully “green lit”, supporters may redeem their sparks to watch films on the distribution (“cinema”) area of the site. Distribution contracts are non-exclusive to Seed&Spark, with a caveat that a film shown in the Seed&Spark cinema must not be distributed free elsewhere online.
Unlike other crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, Seed&Spark acts like a registry system, showing potential backers a budget determined by exactly what “wish list” items are needed and at what cost. The platform also allows backers to purchase or donate specific items.
Seed&Spark takes a 5% fee from successfully funded projects, lower than other crowdfunding platforms, and allows campaign supporters to cover the filmmakers’ fees. Seed&Spark currently holds a 70% success rate for its crowdfunding campaigns, nearly twice that of Kickstarter, and an average raise of $14,700 per project.
In 2014, Seed&Spark launched the “Crowdfunding to Build Independence” tour, traveling to film festivals and schools in more than 30 cities over a four-month period to teach the basics of crowdfunding to independent filmmakers.
RocketHub is an online crowdfunding platform. Users — including musicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, game developers, philanthropists, filmmakers, photographers, theatre producers/directors, writers, fashion designers, etc.— post fundraising campaigns to RocketHub to raise funds and awareness for projects and endeavors. RocketHub is considered one of America’s largest crowdfunding platforms.
Incorporated in 2009, the RocketHub platform launched by January 2010. The original founders of RocketHub are Brian Meece, Jed Cohen, Alon Hillel-Tuch, and Vladimir Vukicevic. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates selected RocketHub as part of their guest edited Ways to Change the World edition of Wired Magazine. The Company is based in New York City.
RocketHub was selected by the US Department of State as one of its 12 top global partners, alongside large corporations such as Coca-Cola. Secretary of State John Kerry provided the foreword for the report. RocketHub operates in over 190 different countries, and through its partnership with the US Department of State is the only established US crowdfunding platform able to operate and crowdfund in emerging regions across the world.
I hope you’ve found this guide to film crowdfunding helpful. If you have had a great experience with a film crowdfunding site not listed here, please feel free to add it in the comments below. Likewise, any experiences (good and bad) that you’ve had with the above platforms can be mentioned in the comments, too.
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