Can I use Crowd funding to recoup my production cost?
June 1, 2013 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I recently completed a short film/indie Tv pilot entirely at my own expense and would like to know if I anyone thinks it would be possible to utilize crowdfunding to recoup all or part of what I have put in to it up until this point.

It was done with more or less no budget, all my actors (less one name who was with us for 2 hours) were volunteering; as was the crew which was as small as we could manage. The total production was under $4,000, but i paid for it out of pocket. The hope being that by entering it in to festivals that maybe I can drum up some interest in either it or me as a writer/filmmaker.

A year ago, before production started, I tried an indiegogo compaign that was more or less unsuccesful. It felt like I was telling the same, seemingly broke, 20 people to check it out, and no one did. I don't want that to happen again. What i think the project has going for it at this point that it didn't a year ago is that it is complete and it has a (minor) celebrity attached to it. The problem being is I don't think I can offer copies of the show up as a perk if I have any intention of selling it, assuming (hoping) that would be an option down the line. So I don't know what to do for any sort of crowd funding perks. Shirts, buttons and any other tokens of the production feel like a hard sell since the show is unknown and full of unknown actors.

The best idea I have had so far would be to give tickets to a premiere party as a perk, but that still leaves the job of organizing a premiere party.

Because it is almost complete (waiting on a sound mix, which will be done in the next 3-4 days). I feel like it is too late to bring on an investor (and really have no idea how to even go about doing so), especially when I feel like the show itself is a tool that would be used to find investors for other projects.

Any recommendatiosn or help would be greatly appreciated, though I fear I already know the answer, and that is that I am screwed unless I win at a fest.
posted by djduckie to Media & Arts (11 answers total)
I think it's gonna be a tough sell, not so much for the reasons you're giving as because the project sounds mostly done. People want to feel like their contributions made something happen, not like they chipped in for something that would have happened anyway. (Even if that's often the reality.)
posted by pete_22 at 9:20 AM on June 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

I know of at least one successful kickstarter where the funding was for dvd production/promotion of a film that was already completed. In that case though, a copy of the DVD was one of the giveaways.
posted by drezdn at 9:28 AM on June 1, 2013

The biggest problem with crowdsourcing after the fact is that your contributors are denied anticipation and the thrill of getting in on the Next Big Thing. You can enter it in festivals, but frankly, starting a YouTube channel will get you more viewers.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:41 AM on June 1, 2013

If by "selling it" you mean trying to get it picked up by a distributor/network/etc, as opposed to selling copies via DVD or digital download, then yeah -- crowdfunding probably isn't going to be a good fit for you.

Plenty of people support Kickstarters that are for self-published projects -- albums, DVDs, books, comics -- but they expect to get a copy of the the thing as a perk. Shirts and stickers are great and all, but unless you're willing to provide copies of the film I don't think crowdfunding will be a good option.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 9:42 AM on June 1, 2013

Response by poster: Because I am packaging it as a TV pilot, by "sell it" I do mean to a network or something along those lines.
posted by djduckie at 9:46 AM on June 1, 2013

Would you only continue the project if you could sell it to a network? Would you be interested in using the existing pilot to finance future episodes (and - dare to dream - attract attention for selling to the big leagues)? The way I imagined it was approximately
- a free trailer to get people to make an investment
- giveaway for the investment is half of the first episode
- or the whole episode for a higher level of investment
- funds going to development of second episode, with a margin built-in to recoup some costs from the pilot
posted by whatzit at 9:52 AM on June 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The thing about a full-length TV pilot meant to sell to a network is that it's not something you can really crowdfund in the first place. Because the nature of the type of project means that, if you never sell it, nobody will ever see it. So why bother to crowdfund something you'll probably never even see?

So add that to the fact that you already made it with money that you had, and the answer is pretty much no.

I think this could work if you had shot a pilot meant for the web, and you were using the pilot you already shot to convince people to crowdfund the rest of the series. Which is definitely a thing.

and really have no idea how to even go about doing so

If you want to stop self-funding your projects going forward, the thing to do would be to LEARN about how to go about doing things like getting investors. Especially since your previous attempts at crowdfunding this same project didn't really go anywhere, and self-funded pilots that are later sold to networks is not really how most* TV shows happen, anyway. Maybe your next thing to throw some money into would be a producing workshop, or maybe use a little seed money to invest in someone else's project with the caveat that you get to shadow them as producer. Because you're doing a lot of this stuff in the hardest way possible.

*Unless it's reality, maybe? I don't know much about the reality TV development process.
posted by Sara C. at 9:57 AM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Oh, and nthing that crowdfunding could work if you framed it as getting the project finished, or paying for a DVD release, or the like. Crowdfunding doesn't have to be for the whole project from soup to nuts.

I contributed to a friend's kickstarter for his feature. Their goal amount was like $50,000, which obviously wasn't to make the whole feature, but to get seed money with which they could do things like hire a lawyer, take trips out to LA to meet with investors, and other related development costs. Sure, my $50 didn't actually Fund This Movie, it really just funded my friend's ability to get his movie made in an abstract way.

But I'm much more OK with that than "pay me for this thing I already made but which you will never see because it's really more of a portfolio piece anyway".
posted by Sara C. at 10:01 AM on June 1, 2013

Put a trailer together and post a campaign based on doing the editing and sound and generally finishing things.
posted by rhizome at 11:47 AM on June 1, 2013

For a successful crowdsourcing campaign, you need two things in place: A great sales pitch, and the platform for that pitch to reach more than your closest friends on Twitter. Other people are handling the question of whether this is a great sales pitch, so I'd like to talk about the second part.

If it felt to you back in your IndieGoGo campaign like you were only reaching the same couple of dozen people, then that was probably the case. What would you do differently the second time around as a promotion strategy to reach more people? Are you planning on just crossing your fingers and hoping that if you are cool and awesome enough that people will just give you money? Because that is a recipe for failure.

If you want dollars, you have to hustle for them: Daily posts on social media, offering to guest post on relevant blogs, contacting any press you know to see if you can get a little coverage, making sure your minor celeb cast member would tweet about it a couple of times, brazenly sending emails to people you admire asking if they'd give you a little love on social media.

It sucks and it feels gross to promote, but it's the game you have to play if you want attention. Note that this is not the same thing as sending out email, DMs, etc. to *individual people* asking them for money, because that is spam and it is totally not cool. There's a world of difference between "Hey Bob, would it be OK if I wrote something about my project on your blog? I'd owe you a HUGE favor!" And "Dear Distant Friend/Cousin/Colleague: I am so excited about my project but I need your money to make me dream come true!"
posted by Andrhia at 3:25 PM on June 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

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