So you're all excited about crowdfunding your first/dream/calling-card film project via Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
But you're not Zach Braff, and you're definitely not "Veronica Mars." In fact, once you've reached out to all the friends, relatives and colleagues willing to donate some bucks, how on earth are you going to reach and impress the total strangers you might need to make your goal amount (and if you don't, in most cases, you'll never see a cent) in the allotted campaign period?
The Crowdfunding Film Society may have the answer for that and many other questions about the process.
Still in its nascent stages, the organization was founded a few months ago by Beverly Hills advertising and marketing professional Philip Cardwell and San Francisco-based campaign manager John-Michael Scott.
The L.A. chapter's first meeting drew about 20 curious people to the Cat & Fiddle Pub in Hollywood Wednesday night. Currently free and accepting members, CFS hopes to organize regular meetups for members and interested parties in various media centers around the world. (Other chapters have already been established in the Bay Area, Toronto and London.)
"What we want to do is teach filmmakers how to crowdfund," Cardwell said. "At the same time, we want to provide them interaction via the meetup groups and networking with other filmmakers whom they can bounce ideas off of, people who are facing the same obstacles and the same questions that they do."
That's not all it's about. Cardwell and Scott also offer their expertise, effort and even monetary outlays to certain crowdfunding campaigns that they deem viable -- but only expect compensation for it if the campaign successfully hits or exceeds its goal.
"Unfortunately, the mistake many people who are launching any crowdfunding campaign make is that they believe the old cliche that if you build it, they will come," Cardwell explained. "That's simply not true. You need two parts to make a crowdfunding campaign successful: proper planning and good marketing and advertising. We want to teach filmmakers how to accomplish those goals."
Scott added that some 1,600 movie and video projects are currently seeking funding on the two largest crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. That's a lot to assume random web surfers will find their way to your particular project before the requisite 30- or 45-day fundraising deadline runs out.
"We feel we have some ability to affect the outcome," Scott said. "One of the problems we see is that people come to crowdfunding because somebody told them about it or they heard or read about it -- and usually what they've read about is Zach Braff or 'Veronica Mars.'
"They think it will probably work for them," he continued. "So they come to a portal, and they're like, Oh, this is easy. I just fill in these blanks and try to explain what my pitch is. Then I hit the switch, and I stare at the screen. And nothing happens."
Scott has been managing crowdfunding campaigns since 2006 and runs a company called IndieFund.it. Cardwell has a background in equity crowdfunding -- which is different from the rewards-based online fundraising that's currently legal for film-type projects -- and his ad and marketing agency is called Universal Media Consultants.
They'll both advise CFS members,
but if you want Scott to manage your campaign and Cardwell to promote it, they'll charge $6,000 and 10 percent of its total take, respectively -- but only if it successfully hits its goal amount. Otherwise, they'll eat whatever time, effort and costs they've put toward professional-looking pitch videos, social media-targeting specialists and page design.
Their prospective fees will be added to the campaign's total goal amount when it's launched.
And all of this is what makes them different from most of the campaign consultants who have begun proliferating in the last year or so, as crowdfunding efforts in all sectors of human endeavor have yielded contributions in the billions of dollars.
"There are plenty of people who do what we do," Cardwell acknowledged. "But what you will find is that the vast majority of those people are not willing to actually put their money behind a project. They ask for the crowdfunding campaigner to step up in the beginning and provide a large amount of funds in order to begin, and frankly that's the problem. If the people had the funds, they would be doing this on their own!"
Skepticism as to whether professional campaigning is effective can be found among both platform operators and wary campaigners. The do-it-yourself and personal touch ethos are, after all, founding principles of the crowdfunding system. There is also a receptive audience for Cardwell and Scott's message.
"John-Michael has a wealth of information and positivity toward helping filmmakers reach their crowdfunding goals," said actor-producer Mark Gantt, who took a lot of advice -- offered for free -- from Scott for his 30-day, $12,500 Kickstarter campaign to raise postproduction money for his sci-fi horror film "The Night Visitor."
Pokey at first, the campaign succeeded in earning more than $17,000 after incorporating some of Scott's ideas. "I basically implemented everything he suggested, from changing text to making it clear about who the people were in the production to putting the trailer in the actual pitch video," Gantt said.
Even the young attendees at the L.A. chapter meeting who had already begun their crowdfunding campaigns thought Scott's approach made sense. Lorna Clarke Osunsanmi and her producing partner, Mona Barkat, are currently trying to raise $9,000 on IndieGoGo to complete the last three season episodes of their multiethnic YouTube comedy series "Cha Do."
"It totally makes sense," Osunsanmi said. "Right now, working on our campaign is so time consuming, it's literally a full-time job. Contacting all of the networks of people, writing letters, emailing, some calling, social media ...You have a guy like (Scott) totally dedicated to making your campaign money and going about it like a political campaign -- it sounds brilliant."
"It's been a lot of work, but if we raise the money we need, it's all been worth it," added Ben Dwork, who currently has a $9,000 campaign on Kickstarter for the short film "Ethan and Eli" that he's producing. It's going well, but Dwork acknowledged a professional consultant could bring worthwhile expertise,
"I'm sure that there are things that we could be doing with the campaign, but we're not," Dwork said.
The Crowdfunding Film Society is planning film festivals in San Francisco and London in October. Other information about the group can be found at meetup.com/CrowdfundingFilms/.