A guest post by filmmaker/consultant Jon Reiss who used Kickstarter to raise over $20,000 for his graffiti documentary follow up, Bomb It 2.

Its almost impossible to write a post on crowdfunding these days that would portend to have something new to say.  But I think personal experiences are always helpful and when Sheri asked me to put my thoughts down – how could I say no? I have advised on a number of crowdfunding campaigns so I’m trying to frame this post in terms of what really struck me while running my own campaign – here goes:

BombItPoster_3

1.  The first few days are nerve-racking! It’s hard not to panic –and there are ways to prevent against panic. I presold a number of higher value rewards in advance of the campaign so that these would clock in on the first day, giving us an immediate boost.  This, I feel, was and is essential.  Mobilize your super core audience well in advance, especially those who you think will pony up and do it early.

2. Know your audience.  I cannot say enough about this.  Even though this was a Kickstarter for Bomb It 2, I had a feeling that we would not get that much support from the graffiti/street art niche – for a few reasons:

A. Even though we were working to redevelop that brand, I had let it slack over the previous 7 years.  We did a bit of maintenance – eg our Facebook page in the previous 2 years went from 0-13,000. But the level of engagement was not that high.

B. That audience in the past has not been a big purchasing audience.

So I knew that most of my support would be through my filmmaker as distribution and marketing guy identity. We planned many rewards around this aspect of my brand that I have been developing over the past several years. These are the rewards that sold the best and where most of my support came from – thank you all!

3.  Use your Kickstarter campaign to build your brand beyond the project. I’ve always told people that crowdfunding is as much about audience development as it is fundraising, but I didn’t realize how much that was true until I really saw it in action in my campaign and I felt the results. I actually think that artists should do them once a year as a heightened way to connect with their audience.

4.  Create a membership perk.  As part of my personal brand building, I really wanted to start creating monthly “conversations” with my audience.  My first incarnation was a monthly “Join It” conversations for 10 months.  We’ve done one and are about to do our second.  It’s a bit chaotic – keeping track of the questions on Twitter and trying to fit them all in while keeping the talk focused on a topic.  But it’s fun.  We’re about to switch to a new platform that will let us really see who is participating which goes toward building a long term relationship with an audience as well. It is better to know exactly who I am speaking with than to regard my supporters as a faceless mass.

5.  Keep it Personal.  People want to invest in you – not necessarily your project – so if they don’t see you in your video and don’t see you in the updates, it’s just another film.  I’ve seen projects that should have been successful, fail – just because the filmmakers didn’t put themselves forward.  I don’t understand why the artist wouldn’t really.  Even if you are shy on camera, use that to your advantage. Claim your weaknesses as strengths and your strengths as strengths too. I found it really hard to convey the “script” I had prepared, but I didn’t feel that improvising on camera was focused enough.  So I created a video about my own difficulty in creating a video.

6.  Prepare content in advance.  We had a lot of videos and photos prepared in advance, but that was for the Bomb It brand meant to appeal to the street art audience.  I was always playing catch up writing blog posts for the film sites I wanted to engage for my personal brand as a filmmaker. I feel as if I eventually did enough, but I could have done more. It is advisable to talk to these publishing sites well in advance. The more popular ones have scheduled content and you need get yourself slotted into their publishing schedules.

7.  Be Flexible!  We constantly added and altered awards during the campaign.  We priced items low early for early adoption then, when those sold out, we added more at a higher price point.  Items that weren’t selling (like the artwork, which was surprising), we kept adjusting the price. Some items still never sold. Note: you can’t adjust an item after one has been sold.

8.  Email is still the conversion king.  While Twitter is good for getting people excited and engaged, all of our donation spikes happened after our email blasts. Cultivate an email list and don’t abuse it.

9.  Grab Bag of Confirmed “Crowdfunding Truths”:  All of these have been written about before, but they were all born out as extraordinarily true so ignore them at your peril!

A.  Prep is crucial.  Running a crowdfunding campaign is very similar to making a film. The more you prepare, the more smoothly the shoot/campaign will go.

B.  Have a team.  There is no way I could have done this without the people on my team – King is a Fink, Diana Duran Jones, Nijla Mumin and Yanique Sappleton.  Also, the international team that created the campaign videos:  Bernadette Wegenstein (my Austrian director on the breast cancer doc I am producing); Yevgeniy Vaskevich (Russian) who shot and edited the videos; Leone Fei (Italian) – sound.

C. Set your goal appropriately.  I didn’t want to pound people and I knew that my film audience was one of the most saturated for campaigns – so I set my goal modestly.  However, in retrospect, I should have set it higher because it helps in fundraising when you need to push the last 2 weeks. We hit our mark too early.  Then again, I didn’t want to pound people, so in the end I feel we made the right choice.

D.  Create a range of interesting rewards.  I hate campaigns with DVD, Poster and Download – I’m so bored with those perks.   What is interesting about YOU?!

E.  Perhaps this isn’t a truth, but is related to the last point. What kind of unique experience can you provide that would be of value to your audience?  Sheri Candler got me thinking about this early on and it was great advice. Also you don’t need a fulfillment company or to create merchandise for experiences, one less thing to take money out of your campaign.  However, you do need to schedule them!

10.  Do not do a campaign when mercury is in retrograde.  I thought we did a pretty good job preparing for our campaign and getting people rallied in advance, so I was surprised that after a couple of days our momentum started slacking.  It felt like we were walking through mud.  When communicating with people as a whole, I always check to see if mercury is in retrograde.  (I can see Sheri’s eyes rolling!) [ed: Yes, you can] Sure enough it was, and sure enough when it went out of retrograde in our 2nd week (usually a lull), it seemed that things started to click better. In your timing, don’t just avoid holidays and other known slow periods. Avoid when mercury is in retrograde. This usually happens 1-2x a year. (Also not a good time to pitch projects in general).

Thanks to Jon for contributing his experience crowdfunding for Bomb It 2 on our blog. You can view the entire film on the Bomb It 2 website as well as purchase other merchandise. For more fun and information – follow Jon on FacebookTwitter or Instagram (@jonreiss)

If you have a useful crowdfunding story of your own, we still have some publishing slots left in November. Please send an email to me sheri [@] thefilmcollaborative.org describing what you would like to share.

Sheri Candler

 

November 11th, 2013

Posted In: crowdfunding

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