Many of you may be aware that we co authored a book in 2011 called Selling Your Film Without Selling Your Soul. It was funded, created and distributed much in the same way we advocate filmmakers approach their work; we attracted sponsors to help pay for the development, creation and the ability to distribute one version of the book as a forever free pdf download; and we self published it because it would be hypocritical to advocate that filmmakers take control of their work while we turned ours over to a publisher. Plus most publishers would bristle at the thought that copies are available for free. We felt that the best way to get our sponsors’ messages seen widely was through free distribution and we need to retain the rights to the work in order to make that happen.

Jon Sheri Orly at the NYC book signing

For all who did download and share that book, we thank you and hope that it inspired and guided you on releasing your next projects.

We are several years on from the original release now and our thoughts are turning to our colleagues outside of the US. Most all of our previous case studies came from American filmmakers, but now more and more filmmakers from outside of the US are either leaving their government funded filmmaking schemes due to shrinking budgets or are choosing not even to try for the funds and turning to crowdfunding and private investment. We think it is time to put the spotlight on non US based filmmakers who are navigating their own paths as well as the outlets that are enabling them to reach outside of their countries’s borders and bring their work to a global audience.

I published a short sneak peek at one of my case study chapters on the Selling Your Film blog yesterday, so hop on over and take a look at what writer/director Marcus Markou did with his narrative film Papadopoulos and Sons. Though a timely, sweet and funny film, UK distributors didn’t know what to do with a film that didn’t have major festival accolades or a big name cast (sound familiar?), so Markou took matters into his own hands. What resulted was a hybrid release that included a 7 week theatrical run in the UK with sell out screenings in London’s Cineworld flagship cinema, Shaftesbury Avenue (right in the heart of the city, for those unfamiliar), a nomination from the London Critics’ Circle for Breakthrough British Filmmaker and distribution deals in Germany, Greece, the US, Australia and on major airlines. It is an inspiring tale and I can’t wait for you to read the chapter in full when it is released in May 2014.

Sneak Peek HERE 

February 6th, 2014

Posted In: book

Tags: , , , , , ,

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

Tags: , , , , , ,

For the next several weeks, we will feature information for filmmakers who want to get started in using social media for their personal career and for their projects. These posts will be very basic in nature as we have realized that many members are confused/apprehensive/non tech savvy and we want to encourage them to be excited and proactive about sharing their work with an audience. At the heart of all social network marketing is the authentic, human need to connect and communicate with like minded people. This first post will prime you for the mentality change you need to succeed in using social channels. Quick jump to subsequent posts MythsFacebookTwitterYoutube

Changing the mindset and finding the time

Before starting with questions like which is better, Facebook or Twitter, we need to recognize that the whole idea of sharing online and communicating directly with an audience takes a monumental shift in thinking. While it was the accepted norm that an artist would be separated from her audience and expected to create away from the public eye, only allowing them to see the work when it was launched into the market, this is no longer the case. Artists, and all people and companies really, are now expected to be open, accessible and willing to speak with the public.

Whether one agrees with this expectation is immaterial, it is a fact and those unwilling to accept it are quickly falling behind. Are there well known artists who haven’t accepted this, who still enjoy popularity despite being inaccessible? Yes, for the time being. But 99% of artists reading this post do not fall into that category and cannot compare themselves to these personalities. Even within that category of artists, there is a changing mindset with very prominent directors (ie., Ron Howard, William Friedkin, Darren Aronofsky, Spike Lee etc), cinematographers (Roger Deakins, Matthew Libatique), producers (Frank Marshall, Dana Brunetti, Gale Anne Hurd) and screenwriters (John August, Craig Mazin, Roger Avary) actively using social channels on a consistent basis. If they can find time in THEIR schedules, so can you and you must.

audience shouldn't be disposable

Ending the disposable audience mentality

Every project you make is a startup product, but meant to further the whole of your career in the future. Your body of work should build on itself, growing in experience and helping to push out to the wider world with each successive project . However, it is a mistake to think that audiences also have to be looked at as a new startup with each new project. I would like to do away with the practice of discarding the audience after a film has run through its release windows. This goes for artists as well as distributors. It is extremely wasteful and even rude to court an audience for a period of time and then drop them only to start up again in a year or two or to regard them as mere receptacles for your one way advertising messages. The audience is growing used to expecting access on a near constant basis with brands (if you are an artist, you are a brand) and your brand needs to be more than a logo. It has to be a personality, an identity, it has to show the world what you believe if you expect any loyalty or relationship.The days of viewing your audience as some abstract entity or eyeballs with wallets are over and the days of thinking that all you have to do is make great work and it will just be found are over. Artists need to start cultivating their own audiences for a sustainable living.

Starting from Open, Random and Supportive*

Closed, Selective and Controlling. This is the mindset we have been used to in most aspects of the arts and in business. We have been operating mostly away from the public, hidden behind a logo and faceless entities we hired to speak for us (distributors, managers, agents and publicists). We listened to selective voices and we allowed only a selective group behind our closed doors of creation. We controlled all access in how our work was seen, experienced and who could talk about it or share it. This is NOT the world we live in any longer.

we're open

We need to open ourselves up to meeting all kinds of people and listening to all kinds of voices. Openness helps us grow. Be Open in accepting that this change in how people communicate has already happened, no matter how much you wish it hadn’t or how much you think it is just a phase. A major change in human communication has happened and the days of closed, selective and controlling are not returning.

Accept Random information. There is an endless supply of information streaming at us every day and the answer is not to cut yourself off from it. Learning to filter the noise, analyze the random in order to find the relevant is becoming a human skill that we will need in order to evolve and survive. Our children are already learning to do this, we need to catch up.

The Internet operates best in an open environment where sharing information, educating people, and building a large number of connections breeds success. Rather than thinking from greed and competition, think about how much faster you can grow your success by being Supportive of others and giving instead of only figuring out how to take from them.

Social channels are only tools

No matter which channels you choose, know that they are only tools to help accomplish your goals. When evaluating the tools, be realistic about the strengths you are going to bring to them yourselves. If you aren’t much of a writer, blogging probably won’t be a good tool for you I don’t care how much people say you should blog. Having a poorly maintained blog is worse than having no blog. If shooting video or photos is more your speed, then using Youtube, Instagram, Vine etc are tools on which to concentrate. If you would rather engage in short, pithy dialogue, Twitter will be your best tool. Not only will you need social accounts, you will need to populate these channels regularly. If you pick a tool that is torture to maintain, you won’t do it and you won’t accomplish much with it.

Goals to accomplish**

One goal for artists is to secure funding and one of the biggest opportunities in funding art projects is crowdfunding. You know what is at the foundation of successful crowdfunding? Having online connections with a core group of supporters.  Crowdfunding can help you expand an audience, but it is extremely rare to have a successful campaign starting at zero connections. If you don’t have an active presence online, it will be exceedingly difficult to raise money this way.

Another goal is industry networking. I haven’t met a first time or unknown filmmaker yet who didn’t say they wanted their work to be a calling card to lead to future work. While you can tour the festival circuit or hit all of the pitchfests in hopes of making industry connections, you can also accomplish this by following prolific industry executives online and interacting with them in a valuable way. Valuable in this instance meaning how you show your value to them, not how they can be valuable to you. We’ll talk about adding value in subsequent posts.

Reaching a group of interested people. While you can do this only through releasing remarkable work, you can do this on a daily basis as well. In sharing what drives you artistically, professionally, you can pull in those who have the same sensibilities as yourself. You can also be a catalyst for meaningful dialog and change. If the thing that drives you as an artist is to raise awareness or give a voice to the voiceless through your work in a visual medium, you can do the same thing on social channels every day. You can mobilize communities and create change.

In the next post, I will talk about the main myths behind social network marketing and you may recognize a few that you believe to be true. In subsequent posts I will highlight the main social channels in use today. Bear in mind that new channels are being adopted and existing ones are being replaced every day. Also there are near constant changes to the capabilities on existing channels. Such is the challenge to using these tools, but the core of what you are trying to do with them is not changing. Connecting and relationship building with an audience will become a cornerstone of your creative success no matter what online tools you use.

*based on this talk from Thomas Power.

**based on Jon Reiss’ 5 goals common to filmmakers when releasing their work

 

 

 

May 29th, 2013

Posted In: crowdfunding, Marketing, Social Network Marketing

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