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What Is It and How Can It
Help Microbudget Filmmakers?

by Sheri Candler

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The first of a three part series on platforms that help filmmakers raise funds

Production Still from Similo.

The latest buzzword sweeping the microbudget filmmaking, indeed all of indie filmmaking, is crowdfunding. Crowdfunding describes the process of aggregating small amounts of money from many people to help fund projects. This money comes in the form of donations, not investment, so it will not be repaid. However, most of the crowdfunding sites do offer the ability to provide a donor with a perk for his/her donation. Perks vary in range andW are dependent on the amount of donation made. There are many donation sites available to the microbudget filmmaker and I will be covering three of the most well known over the course of the next few months. The first is Kickstarter.

Kickstarter officially went live in April 2009. The platform is not exclusively for film endeavors. Many creative projects can be funded on the site; everything from comic books, video games, and unique apparel to theater and music events and help with expenses for educational trips. While my requests for an interview with the founders was declined, I did manage to find an interview on Lance Weiler’s brilliant site The Workbook project with one of the founders, Yancey Strickler. Essentially the way Kickstarter works is that you set a funding goal and a deadline by which the goal must be reached. If you do not reach the goal by the date, all funding is cancelled. So, when you pledge a donation, you are not actually charged anything unless the goal is reached. “It might seem harsh that you can be a dollar short and not get any of the money, but people who raise funds normally would tell you that it serves as a nice motivator. It is a way to protect yourself really because it encourages you to raise your funds before you start a project rather than getting a little bit of money and starting a project, but not having the funds to finish it,” said Strickler.

The time frames are available in 30-60-90 day spans. Ideally, you want to use the shortest time span to raise your goal. “Most people want to choose 90 days because they feel like it gives them the longest chance to get their funds together. We have found though that it ends up hurting some projects having such a long time to reach the goal because a lot of the funding came in much more quickly than expected. The plus is it is possible to raise more than the goal, but instead of being able to start and capitalize on the momentum; projects had to wait out the 90 days to get started when the funds were released. The psychological phenomenon helps; the race to finish by the goal. If that span is too long, momentum is lost and the fundraising languishes” said Strickler.

“We find that the fundraising tends to be more U shaped. In the first few days, the people who love you, your friends and family or people who are your fans are the first ones in, so there is a spike at the beginning. Then, there is a trough and there won’t be much activity. When the deadline is looming, and often some people have a long way to go to their goal, the time limit really ramps up the support. There is an urgency to get it in before the deadline and so it all gets spread around fresh again, people end up reaching their goal. It is amazing. We find over and over that if a project can reach 25% of its funding goal, they have a 90% chance of success to raise the rest. This means you get your core group in early and then they spread the word for you and it all emanates from there. The ticking clock is a positive and powerful motivator” said Strickler. Three filmmakers who have either reached their goal or are in the process of raising the funds are Gregory Bayne, Mike Hedge and Gary King.

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