Money Bomb for Women Filmmakers: Crowdfunding Platforms

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Hopefully gone are the days when filmmakers raised funds for their films by any means necessary -- medical experiments (El Mariachi, Robert Rodriguez), credit cards (Hollywood Shuffle, Robert Townsend) and family and friends (Kissing Jessica Stein, Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen). Now, crowdfunding platforms are the way to finance film projects through individuals on the web. There are two types of crowdfunding platforms for film: equity investment and donations. President Obama signed the JOBS (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) Act, which contains provisions for filmmakers to raise up to a million dollars in equity on the Internet. But, according to Filmmaker Magazine, the crowdfunding platforms created for equity film investment still has a few kinks to work out. The most lucrative crowdfunding platforms are through established web companies Kickstarter, Indiegogo and newcomer Seed & Spark enabling indie filmmakers to raise funds through donations. Oscar-winning Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich screenwriter Charlie Kaufman raised a record $406K for Anomalisa, his first animated film on Kickstarter.

According to Mashable, Indiegogo has had a good year too. Seed & Spark's Emily Best emphasizes the unique services her site offers film projects: "The goal of filmmaking is not simply making a film, but getting people to see it when its finished. Seed & Spark is built to leverage crowdfunding specifically for audience building and additionally to deliver finished films to those audiences. Filmmakers can fund their film, build cast and crew, and gather their community and keep them updated from pitch to premiere. Audiences can follow or fund film projects that speak to them. Audiences get unprecedented access to excellent independent content, and filmmakers keep 80 percent of the distribution revenue. Fair trade!"

Successful film-funding campaigns utilize equal parts: planning, teamwork and incentives. Set a realistic fund goal for the time period you select begin by calculating the amount your requesting secured by the middle of your deadline. Make a budget for your incentives to have at several donation levels. Through a fiscal sponsorship contract with a 501(C) 3 organization, such as Independent Feature Project or Women Make Movies, your project could offer to give donors a tax deduction for their support. A great campaign involves a team effort with delegated tasks to blog, tweet or donate so make a list of who would be interested in your project and seeing it succeed. Cut a strong trailer, write compelling and personal pitch material and press releases. Utilize every bit of social media (Facebook, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest Twitter, Google+ LinkedIn) in support of outreach of your project. Kickstarter's Justin Kazmarek advises, "The most compelling rewards draw the backer into the project and offer a behind the scenes glimpse of the creative process along the way."

One notable Indiegogo success is a documentary film, Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth. The director Pratibha Parmar of Kali Films Ltd. declares, "The most successful part of our campaign was the tremendous amount of outreach we did, which helped us to create a longer term awareness of the film. We were successful because we pushed out on every front -- Facebook, Twitter, regular blog on our website, interviews in online magazines. We had an enthusiastic response from many people to our teaser which got watched by over 13,000 people. It was exciting to see our support base grow internationally as our funders came from over 17 different countries. To get to be Project of the Week and then Project of the Month on Indie wire was a fabulous boost, and then to go on to be selected as one of the top 12 Creative Campaigns of 2012 by Indiegogo was a great affirmation of all our hard work. It was a full-time effort and there were, in the end, only two of us doing it throughout the three-month period, so it was quite exhausting but worth it in the end."

Producer Sara Murphy's film project, Stories of the Unconscious has a Seed & Spark campaign in progress. Sara observes, "As we are still in the midst of our funding campaign, this continues to be an enormous learning experience, but I have several observations thus far. I think the most important thing to remember during your crowdfunding campaign is to remain positive and keep moving forward. There are days and/or weeks wherein you will bring in way less than your goal, and this can be extremely demoralizing. You have to continue reaching out, brainstorm new ways of bringing people to your funding site, and take the opportunity to become very resourceful. Creating fun incentives as 'weekly specials' that go beyond your basic incentives can provide funding surges and also provide new possibilities to create 'buzz' about the project and the campaign. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. But by getting creative and targeting different demographics, you will increase your reach and hone in on your target audience."

Preferably working on the creative process of a film, a filmmaker wears many hats and fundraising is an important one. In his book, Rebel Without a Crew, Rodriguez financed his film with paid assignments as a medical experiment lab participant. Raising money on crowdfunding platforms requires a great deal of sweat equity to succeed, but it is less painful then being a hospital lab rat for pay.