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August 21 at 8:30am

Kickstarter for Filmmakers — Campaigning and Rewards

By Ted Hope

Here’s another excerpt from  James Cooper’s eBook www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com. This time James’ has some advice about how to manage your crowdfunding campaign and the rewards to offer.

by James Cooper

 

Campaigning as a Team

Up until this point, we’ve been under the assumption that you’re acting as a one person band for your film’s campaign, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Assuming you’re not the Writer/Producer/Director/Director of Photography/Editor/Actor, there should be others involved in the making of the film that have a vested interest in seeing the project come to life, so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be combining your efforts to maximize the odds of success.

Successfully running a crowd funding campaign can become the equivalent of a second job, and spreading the responsibility around to multiple members of your team can take some of the weight and pressure off you to be on your game 24/7. You’ll all have to do your own social media posting, but alternate outreach can be divided up to help maximize efficiency and give you a few minutes to breath, which is a welcome opportunity when you’re in the trenches of a campaign.

The other great thing about campaigning as a team is that you have others to bounce ideas off. Films aren’t created in a vacuum, so there’s no reason your crowd funding campaign should be. Everyone will have their own opinion on a strategy to take or a way to execute a plan that you hadn’t considered before. Two heads are better than one, they say, and that applies here as well.

If you have to shoulder the whole campaign on your own, fear not. Others have done it successfully, and you will be able to as well, as long as you plan accordingly and keep your head above water as the pressure sets in.

This brings me to a crucial piece of advice: do not, by any circumstances, launch a crowd funding campaign while you are the only person attached to the project. In the same way you cannot walk into an investor’s office with no cast or crew and expect them to hand money over to you, you should respect your audience enough not to expect them to do so.

Always keep in mind that it is your job in building the campaign to instill a sense of trust in your potential backers; trust that you will be able to deliver the high quality film you’re promising them in your pitch. Who is involved in the project that will help you deliver on that promise? If it’s just you and a script, there really isn’t much for your audience to be sold on.

This is not to say that every crew position must be filled and every character cast, but you should be able to give your audience a reason to believe in your project outside of your sole enthusiasm for it. The added benefit, as we’ve just discussed, is that it means more people to push the campaign out into the world, and more people to share the excitement with.

Rewards

A crucial part of any crowd funding campaign is the rewards offered. As I mentioned earlier, crowd funding campaigns work by people pledging money to the project in exchange for an incentive or reward of some kind. Being able to identify what, if anything, you can offer is key in planning your campaign. If the answer is ‘nothing’, then you’re probably not well suited to launching a crowd funding campaign. In fact, Kickstarter requires that you offer something in exchange for the pledges received as part of their policy.

They key word to remember when brainstorming this portion of your campaign is ‘incentive’. In other words, what incentive does someone have to pledge $50 instead of $25? Remember, it’s easier for someone to say no than to say yes to $25, so it’s easier for them to say yes to $25 than to $50. Your job in building your campaign is to give them a reason (see: incentive) to put in that extra little bit. How do you do that? You’re a filmmaker, get creative.

The great thing about rewards is that they’re limited only by your imagination (and Kickstarter’s policies, which prevent you from offering any cash back rewards or giving away personal belongings with no connection to the project). The more novel and interesting you make your incentives, the better the odds that someone will take a liking to one of them, and pledge for it.

Obvious reward ideas range from things like DVDs or downloads of the film, access to special behind-the-scenes footage through a private blog (again, keeping them feeling like part of the process), set visits, scripts, etc. These are the types of perks almost all film projects offer, and are unlikely to turn any heads. If you really want to excite people into pledging, you need to dig deep into your pockets (metaphorically speaking) and come up with some ideas for things no one else can offer, but that people would actually be interested in. Just as one would hope you’re thinking of your audience when you’re crafting the film, the audience should also be at the forefront of your mind while creating your rewards list.

Not to be overlooked is the cost of creating these rewards. Something like a download of the film won’t cost you any money, but if you’re offering, say, DVDs: those will cost you, both to make it, and then to ship it to the backer. Make sure you factor this into the budget of your film, and account for it in your campaign goal. If you eat up 25% of your goal fulfilling rewards, you’re going to be that much shorter on your shooting budget.

Lastly, be reasonable with the cost of your rewards. In short, this means don’t ask for $150 for a t-shirt. Some common sense comes into play here. Because people tend to understand that they’re making a glorified donation to your project, you can get away with asking for more than what would be considered store value, but try to make sure people are getting their money worth.

Dropping out after a short stint at Toronto Film School in 2008, James pursued more pragmatic methods for developing his style and expanding his understanding of film language: making films. 
 
After successfully funding his short film Elijah the Prophet through popular crowd funding website Kickstarter, James began compiling his experience into Kickstarter for Filmmakers, an inexpensive ebook guide to assist his peers in planning campaigns of their own. Find him on Twitter: @cooper_jim and online at www.kickstarterforfilmmakers.com


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