The Tao of Crowdfunding: Three Ps for a Successful Indie Film Campaign

UPDATED: WEDNESDAY, MAY 20, 2014 –– Same three Ps. Fresh new examples!

Long before I became Indiegogo‘s head campaign specialist for film, I was given multiple opportunities to step in for the company’s CEO and co-founder Slava Rubin and give a presentation on crowdfunding sponsored by New York Women In Film and Television (NYWIFT). Though the seminar was primarily focused around grant writing and more traditional ways of getting money for films, more of the attendees seemed ready to merge onto the more active freeway of crowdfunding rather than take the passive back roads of grant writing.

Vinegar tasters

If a Buddhist, a Confucian, and a Taoist each tried to crowdfund an indie film, which would be most successful?

Although crowdfunding has been around for years now, it’s still the buzz word amongst the indie film community. The only real issue I find with crowdfunding is that far too many people jump headfirst into a campaign without the proper knowledge of how it all works and without a carefully plotted outline. Specifically, there are things that every filmmaker should be aware of before embarking on a crowdfunding campaign, things that have been proven to work, not only for my short film Cerise, but for many other, more recent projects as well.

That said, there are three aspects of crowdfunding that should be thoroughly sketched out before your campaign goes live: a proper pitch, personalized perks, and plenty of promotion –– what I call the “Three Ps” of crowdfunding.

A PROPER PITCH: BECAUSE FIRST IMPRESSIONS ARE EVERYTHING
Your pitch is the single most important part of your campaign because it’s the one and only chance you have to sell yourself and not necessarily your project. Talk to your potential contributors. Tell them about yourself (the introduction), then tell them why you want to make this film and why they should help (the pitch). Keep in mind the “they” –– we may think that crowdfunding is about us, but the word “I” isn’t a part of this neologism; it’s all about the crowd, so make it about them. Finally, show them that you’re not a newb when it comes to filmmaking by displaying some of your prior film work (the showcase).

A mistake that many crowdfunders make is not appearing in their pitch video. The truth is YOU MUST APPEAR IN YOUR PITCH. Not many people will give money to a photograph or a movie trailer. People give to other people. No one likes to ask for money, it’s true, but the least you can do is ask your potential contributors as personally as possible, and in this case, your pitch is as personal as it gets.

Many of you have probably seen my pitch video for Cerise, which got the attention of Indiegogo’s other co-founder Danae Ringelmann, and in turn she gave me the additional, last-minute confidence I needed to actually go live with my campaign. If you haven’t seen it, check it out below:

Back then, crowdfunding was young, and my pitch for Cerise was cited as a model of what a solid pitch video should be. Compared to the ones I’d researched back then, you could say that I went the extra yard with my video, actually shooting short scenes to illustrate my perk levels and such. Today, though, filmmakers need to up their game

Here’s a more recent pitch video for a Canadian indie film called The Etiquette of Sexting, and when I first saw it, I started laughing immediately, not only because it’s a hilarious comedy about a guy’s first tryst with sexting after a bad breakup, but because the video followed the four basic elements of a pitch:

  1. The Introduction: an short intro into who the filmmaker is, starting with her or his name, of course.
  2. The Pitch: a short description of the film (logline) and why the filmmaker’s coming to the crowd (purpose) and what he or she has on offer (perk mention)
  3. The Showcase: proof that the filmmaker is, in fact, a filmmaker
  4. The Call to Action: The moment when the filmmaker tells us what we need to do to help out.

See for yourself how the filmmakers put together this stellar pitch:

Your pitch can be as straight-forward as Jeanie’s, or you can have a bit more fun with it and still be gearing it towards your potential contributors, the way Lauren Mora did in her pitch video for Misdirected, which certainly helped her raise $1,000 over her initial goal of $5,000.

As crowdfunding evolves, the more creative you can get with your pitch video, the better. Just check out this amazing pitch for Kenny Gee’s Singaporean short film The Body, which not only pitches the campaign in a fun and unique way, but also showcases the filmmaker’s talent.

PERSONALIZED PERKS: BECAUSE CROWDFUNDING ISN’T ABOUT YOU

This is really the basis of crowdfunding –– you give me money, you get something in return, and the way I see it, there are three types of perks you can offer up for your indie film’s crowdfunding campaign:

  1. standard definition (sd): what I call “The Mandatories” –– digital download, DVD/Blu-ray copies, social media shout outs,
  2. High Definition (HD or Hi-Def): Experiential perks, such as producer credits, special thanks, dinner with directors, Skypes with actors, Instagram and vine videos, invitations to the premieres, and VHX streaming
  3. Three-Dimensional (3-D!): Personalized perks, which I define as any perk that seeks to bring contributors to the campaign deeper into the world of the film, must the way 3-D movies brings us into the film

Now while there’s nothing wrong with offering sd and HD perks, it’s much more meaningful to funders when campaigners think outside the money box and GET PERSONAL WITH THE PERKS on offer. A strong example of a 3-D! perk is the acrostic poem perk from my campaign for Cerise. Originally, at the $10 perk level, I offered a shout out on Facebook and Twitter. Then my girlfriend at the time (fiancée now) and marketing mage Marinell suggested I write each funder a poem. I’m a poet, yes, and Cerise is a film about words, yes, but like Dudley Randall once wrote, a poet is not a jukebox! My biggest concern was “what if I have to write, like, fifty poems?!” Well, I ended up writing over 100 poems, which Marinell beautifully formatted and posted on our funders’ Facebook walls to their surprise and delight.

My acrostic poem for Cerise funder Giselle Del Oro.

Another example is the short film Sync, which found success on Indiegogo through a masterfully executed campaign spearheaded by filmmaker Brendon Fogle. He started out with one of the typical perks –– stickers (very cool ones at that), but went the extra mile in his perk descriptions (it’s okay to get creative when asking for money, trust me!) Here’s an example:

Kudos for upping the nostalgia factor with “Trapper Keeper”!

Yet another of his perks was titled “33 1/3 RPMazing: $33” and this was where we got a glimpse into Brendon’s world, because at this level he sends you a record from his personal collection! I’m actually a very proud backer of Sync, and I was originally going to contribute at the $12 level so I’d have some money left over to finally join Pearl Jam’s Ten Club. Then I saw the $33 perk in all its coolness, and I just had to click “Contribute Now.” (Sorry, Eddie! Next year, perhaps.)

But Brendon didn’t stop there. Keeping with the theme of vinyl (the story of Sync revolves around a grandfather trying to connect with his MP3ed-in grandson through the gift of records), my favorite of his perks turns a photo of one of his mild-mannered funders into a super hip album cover from the 1960s using a process he calls “The Blue Note Treatment.”

Here’s a photo of me that Brendon gave “The Blue Note Treatment” as a test, and boy do I dig it, daddy-O!

From perks that hearken back to the old days to perk dollar amounts that reflect record RPMs, it’s that fine attention to detail that funders want to see. So go the distance and make every aspect of your perks count for something special.

The Kickstarter campaign for Hybrid Vigor, which raised $57,237 of its $50,000 goal, offered up one of the most personalized perks I’ve ever seen, one that not only ties into the film itself, but ties the contributor almost literally to a piece of the movie: For only $1, your face would become part of the official “photomosaic” movie poster for Hybrid Vigor:

You’d expect to contribute at least $25 for this perk. Nope. Just a buck!

And most recently there was the Indiegogo campaign for HELLO, HARTO!, in  which YouTube star Hannah Hart decided to crowdfund so she could take her hit show “My Drunk Kitchen” on the road. Because Hannah had gotten proposed to numerous times in the comments section of her YouTube channel, she decided to offer e-certificates of polygamous marriage to anyone willing to contribute $25 to her campaign. $223,007 later on her humble $50,000 (which she reached within the first six hours of her launch) and she’ll be coming to a kitchen near you.

Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 4.01.13 PM

Hannah’s certificate of e-polygamy and some of her other highly personal perks.

The list goes, so I’ll end this section with one of my all time favorite perks that I’ve ever received, which is this ukulele song by Tim Sparks when he was crowdfunding his short film Around Here on Indiegogo. I mean, it really doesn’t get much more personalized that a song about the funder. And for $20?! Easy money!

PLENTY OF PROMOTION: BECAUSE CROWDFUNDING IS JUST ANOTHER WORD FOR MARKETING 
I’ve said it at the Apple Store in SoHo, I said it again to the packed house of the NYWIFT event, and I’ve written it down in my very first crowdfunding-related post “Read Me Up Before You (Indie)GoGo!” and numerous times in my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers –– CROWDFUNDING IS A FULL-TIME JOB. Anyone who tells you otherwise must not have had a very successful campaign.

A successful crowdfunding campaign demands around-the-clock promotion. In today’s technocracy, that translates to constant tweets, relentless Facebook status updates, email blasts up the wazoo, sleep strikes, the occasional hunger strike, and any other means by which to keep your project on the minds of your friends, family, and supporters. It also means having some fun with your promotion, keeping your audience engaged with things like contests, giveaways, fun videos, and the like. Brendon sure had fun with his video updates for Sync:

I’m sure many people worry about the rejection that may result from a campaign with a strong social media presence. But really, it all depends on how you tackle your promotion. If that’s all you’re updating your status with and you’re not having any conversations on Twitter other than ones with #MyProject appended to them, then yes, you’ll most likely lose followers and friends very quickly, and rightly so –– there’s a fine line between promotion and spamotion. Don’t cross it.

Or, if you do cross it, do it with tact. For instance, with Cerise, I took a chance that I was sure would end badly. When I wasn’t getting enough “Likes” and “Comments” (and, by extension, not enough contributions) from my friends on Facebook  by simply posting the link to our Indiegogo page on my wall, I started to post the link directly on my friends’ walls with a bit of small talk and a humble request for their support. To my surprise, I received plenty of contributions using this tactic, and only lost one friend and, ironically enough, gained over 300 more by the end of the campaign. It all depends on how you come across in your promotion, like a company or like a person.

Take Steve Anderson’s ingenious (and fun) promotion for his Kickstarter project This Last Lonely Place. In between more standard promotional tweets, Steve infuses famous movie lines with a “Kickstarter” flare:

These “Famous Kickstarter Quotes” keep Steve’s crowdfunding fresh and fun with every tweet.

In fact, it was these “Famous Kickstarter Quotes” that helped Steve attract the attention of one very influential supporter –– The Humphrey Bogart Estate –– which not only contributed a substantial amount of money and support to the campaign for This Last Lonely Place, but also matched every contribution to the campaign itself up to its $75,000 goal.

PERSONALIZATION: BECAUSE PEOPLE GIVE TO PEOPLE, NOT TO PROJECTS 
And this brings me to the final P of crowdfunding (I know, I said there were only three, but only because this last aspect of crowdfunding was woven through each of the others I mentioned) –– Personalization. That’s perhaps the biggest difference between traditional ways of funding a film and crowdfunding; investors invest in projects, while people invest in people. That’s probably the most important thing to walk away from after reading this blog post aside from a few helpful tips that have been proven to work from a handful of victorious projects: PERSONALIZE EVERYTHING IN YOUR CAMPAIGN. The spirit of your pitch, your perks, and your promotion should be YOU as a person; give to your potential contributors a piece of you, and they’ll give you more than just a part of their paycheck. They’ll give you the power you need to really succeed!

*          *          *

Any crowdfunding stories or tips YOU’d like to share? Write them up in the “Comments” section below and perhaps I’ll be able to work them into future guest posts for the Indiegogo Blog or my “Crowd Reign” blog over at Indie Reign.

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75 thoughts on “The Tao of Crowdfunding: Three Ps for a Successful Indie Film Campaign

  1. Graham Inman says:

    Nice post excellent advice thanks

  2. Great read, will definitely take a lot of guidance/advice from this article for my own crowd funding campaign. Thanks for the referral Graham! :D

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks for reading, Joseph! Glad it was helpful. Check back (or subscribe) ’cause I’ll most likely be continuing this little “Tao of Crowd-Funding” series with further tips and tactics in the weeks and months ahead.

  3. Dmitri says:

    Great read, John. Totally makes sense and very educational (as in I would suck much more if I didn’t read this). Thanks!
    -d.

    • Trigonis says:

      Ha! There’s no sucking ’round these parts, my friend, only learning. All we can ever be are amateurs, according to a little guy named Charlie Chaplin! But I’m so glad you found the post useful. There’ll be more crowd-funding posts to come offering more tidbits and nuggets of insight in the future, so stay tuned!

  4. John, thanks very much for the insight. Everything you wrote is on-point and effective. It boils down to human contact and compassion. We’re certainly going to apply your suggestions to our campaign for our web series Generic Girl. Much appreciated – keep up the good work.

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks for reading and the comments, Victor! You said it best, my friend: “It boils down to human contact and compassion.” I just checked out your Facebook page for GENERIC GIRL. Looks like some fun stuff! (Are you crowd-funding yet, or just in the beginning stages of it?) I definitely wish you the best of luck, and keep me posted!

  5. flairCreativ says:

    Sent link to exec producer of ‘Clear Cut Love’, Tanner Givnan, who also wrote the SP.
    Read it and agree. Thanks for the great insights !

    Lora R Fisher | flairCreativ
    Communications Director | Clear Cut Love

    • Trigonis says:

      Much thanks for giving my post a read. I’m glad you found it insightful enough to share it. There’ll be more to come in the weeks ahead that I hope will help crowd-funders better prepare for their campaigns, so I hope you’ll stay tuned!

  6. Matthew Keen says:

    Great article! I’m an Animator / Director and I just launched my own crowd funding campaign on IndieGoGo, you can see it here: http://www.indiegogo.com/SuddenlyFromSleep Any feedback would be much appreciated :)

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks for reading my post, Matthew! I just checked out your campaign for SUDDENLY FROM SLEEP & I’ve got some brief feedback, if you’d be interested. DM me on Twitter an email address & I’ll send you my thoughts (I’m following @SuddenlyFSmovie!) Hear from you soon!

  7. Jon Barr says:

    Great piece, Thanks, John.
    Since you suggested you may write more, I’d be interested in advice/anecdotes regarding raising those hard-to-imagine ($50K+) levels of funding.

    Thanks again.
    Jon

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Jon! And thanks for the kind words. I’ll definitely add it to the list. A buddy of mine on Twitter was just telling me about some IndieGoGo film campaigns that raised a crazy amount of money supposedly without much FB/Twitter/Email interaction, which I do find difficult to buy into 100%, so I’m gonna be researching that, as well as how to hit the skyscraper-high amounts that you mentioned. Thanks for the suggestion. It’s very much appreciated.

      • Gloria Roma says:

        Hi,
        How is the research going on that one? I’m in the throws of campaigning right now and I’d love to not alienate my friends and fans by over reaching into their wallets using the social media.
        My ears really perked up when I read the above comment. Thanks for filling me in and for all you do for us.
        Gloria
        http://www.bit.ly/Baxies

      • Trigonis says:

        Thanks for reading my crowdfunding post, Gloria! Glad I could help set your mind at ease. It was extremely difficult for me to get started with this whole crowdfunding phenom, especially because of that whole “over reaching into [people's] wallets” that you mentioned. As I discovered shortly after, it all depends on whether your “over” reaching at all. If you come across as a person, a friend, a relative, and you’ve got passion for that your project, it all seems to take on a more genuine form, and I like to think our friends, supporters, and eventually perfect strangers see it for what it is–people trying to make their dreams happen.

  8. [...] his blog post, The Tao of Crowd-Funding: Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign, John T. Trigonis gives some great advice on using IndieGoGo to successfully fund a film [...]

  9. Sheryl says:

    Hi John,
    Really enjoyed your article videos and links!
    I’m thinking about an Indie Go-Go campaign (I’m even signed up!). My documentary is about stigma and mental illness. I’d like to post a minute or so of one of the most powerful interview as part of the pitch video. We have completed principal photography and are beginning the editing process. But I just can’t figure out what to give away besides DVDs. Advocacy group membership? (Depending on the cost of the particular group. I believe that NAMI is $35.) I’m not a writer (I am the director, producer, production designer, researcher and interviewer) and certainly not a poet! (But I do have a GREAT crew! Yes there IS a crew and they are AMAZING!) Also, I belong the Scary Cow Productions http://www.scarycow.com so I can’t give away Executive Producer,etc. credits. What do you suggest?
    Thanks so much,
    Sheryl

    • Trigonis says:

      Hi Sheryl! Thanks so much for reading my crowd-funding post and for your sincere words about it. I just helped out a friend of mine’s documentary campaign, and I suggested he try and get an advocacy group on board. Advocacy groups are a bit up there in price; if their cost is $35, you’d have to at least have that at the $50 if not $100 level to bring in enough money for the documentary, and I think that’s fine, but you’d still need something to give to your lower-tier funders. My initial suggestion is a rubber bracelet (i.e. the yellow “Livestrong” ones, the pink “Cure Breast Cancer” ones) with a specific color which represents this particular illness. And on the rubber bracelet can be a word that would inspire its wearer to keep up the fight, or at least act as a reminder that he or she contributed to this campaign for a very important ’cause. It’s unfortunate that you can’t offer Executive Producer credits and such, since that is proven to draw those who are looking to start a career in producing into the fray, but in its stead the advocacy group perks may work wonders. I hope that helps a bit for now. I have some other thoughts, but we can chat about those when you get the campaign more thought out and ready to launch.

  10. beckywrightsongs says:

    THANKS so much! Ironically, I JUST signed up for KickStarter last night, to fund the completion of my CD “The Heart of Adoption”, to find more foster & adoptive homes for kids in US Foster Care, particularly. Anyway, I did some of the things your suggested (before I’d seen your post), but left out perks I wish I’d thought of earlier!!! Couldn’t find a way to “edit” my proposal, though, sadly. Ideas?? Thanks! Becky Wright

    • Trigonis says:

      Hi Becky! Thanks for reading up on my crowd-funding post. Sounds like a bit of a dilemma, but let me ask this: Did you include perks at all (or are the perks you have just not necessarily as personalized as they could be)? Either way, you should be able to edit your profile (I’m more familiar with IndieGoGo, and on their site you can always edit your perks as long as they haven’t been “Claimed”). Now, if you have no perks at all, then I suggest getting in touch with Kickstarter’s customer support team and see if they can allow you to tweak your campaign, which they should. Hope that helps a bit for now!

    • Gloria Roma says:

      Hi Becky,
      I’m on Kickstarter too. To edit your proposal there is an orange rectangle on the upper right above the reward area. Click on the edit proposal button and everything will be editable. You need to click on each reward and edit them separately. Those buttons are just under the area that you fill in the reward. I hope that helps.
      Btw, my goals are to give 10% of all my profit to former foster youth charities. I tried to put that in my video but Kickstarter pulled it. It really sucked..but there is nothing stopping me from giving anonomously.
      Stop by and check it out if you have a moment. http://www.bit.ly/Baxies
      John is awesome!

  11. [...] which means no money is dished out to the filmmakers. The full blog post can be found on his blog, What’s in My Manvelope? Top Stories'Transformers' Claims Independence Gross Record July 4, 2011 [...]

  12. John,
    We’ve gotten great results so far on our Kickstarter crowdfunding project for “El Camino”, an indie film we’re shooting this fall. We offered to list people’s names or business names in the film’s credits: “Sponsors” for $250 donation, and to list them as “Associate Producers” for $500, and we’ve gotten some of each…and we are halfway to our $6k goal in under 2 weeks. I’ll check out IndieGoGo, too–thanks!

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks so much for giving a read to my crowd-funding post, Jennifer! I just took a gander at your page for EL CAMINO. The perks seem to work for some campaigns, especially ones with a dedicated following of film people, since they really want to get their name out there as producers; and it’s good that you’ve got a tight trio of $500 backers behind the project – that’s a pretty substantial amount. Congrats on the success so far!

      • Jennifer S Redmond says:

        We did it–hit our $6,000 Kickstarter goal a few days early even! Thanks again for your input and guidance!

      • Trigonis says:

        Congrats on the crowdfunding victory for EL CAMINO, Jennifer! That’s very awesome. Glad that my post gave you a bit of extra guidance, but the hard work is all you!

  13. Will says:

    John,
    Thanks for the excellent article. I’m a producer who’s raised over $8 million and am teaching a producing workshop called “What’s Your Pitch: An Artist’s Guide to Fundraising” to budding filmmakers. Everything you say is exactly what I’m suggesting to my students, and am forwarding this article. I think a lot of your advice applies whether you’re raising $5K or $5 million (which is what I raised in my first go-round). Look forward to seeing more soon!
    -Will T.

    • Trigonis says:

      Thank you very much for those positive words on my blog post, Will! I’m honored that you forwarded it to your students. You raised $8M, huh? That’s amazing! And the workshops sound like an excellent way for fundraisers unfamiliar with the crowd-funding terrain to learn a bit more about the intricacies of running a successful campaign trail (hey, if you ever need a guest speaker, let me know! :-) I’ve got more posts coming up soon addressing topics like “Crowd-Funder Etiquette” and “Twitter Tips” — hopefully you’ll find those equally as helpful for your students. Thanks again for the words; I really do appreciate them!

  14. Tracy Thorne says:

    Thanks for sharing this John! I’m trying to gather as much crowd-funding advice as possible before I launch my album campaign. One of my concerns is that because I am a musician/singer-songwriter, many of my FaceBook and Twitter contacts are fellow musicians… I am reluctant to ask them for contributions when these people have their own albums to make and music careers to worry about. Do you think it would be a good idea to maybe tailor some of the perks towards musicians/artists (for example, offering free background vocals on THEIR next album, show, etc…)? Any advice? Thanks!
    -Tracy Thorne
    hotmessinthus@yahoo.com
    http://www.reverbnation.com/tracythorne

    • Trigonis says:

      Hi Tracy! Thanks for reading my “Tao of Crowdfunding” post! I just sent you an email with my more in-depth thoughts, but suffice it to say that your community of musicians/singer-songwriters is probably going to be amongst the first contributors to your album (if the indie music scene is anything like the indie film community, of course.) So you shouldn’t feel reluctant to ask them for help. If they can’t help financially, then they can retweet and post your campaign page on their Facebook pages and help you find those people who will help you get your album from the studio to the iTunes Storefront!

  15. Kirsten says:

    Hi John,
    This is a great article, and I wish I had seen something like this before pitching my project! I had no experience in crowdfunding and stumbled in totally blind. My project still hit (and indeed exceeded) it’s £1200 target, but it was definitely a full-time job as you mentioned in your post. I never made a pitch video (I wasn’t sure how to go about it, I’m far from being a filmmaker!), but in retrospect I wish I had. I certainly will do for future projects.
    I used crowdfunder as it’s based here in the UK, and my pitch just ended a few days ago. It was heavy on words and light on media, which I would change if I could do it again…But I tried really hard to give it a personal edge, and it seems to have paid off!
    For perks, my highest reward amount (£100) was quite unique and was a big hit, resulting in several large donations. It definitely was a good way to generate interest!
    If you’re interested, the completed pitch is here: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/investment/saving-the-great-white-shark-227

    • Trigonis says:

      Hi Kristen! Thanks for giving my blog post a read, and congrats on your crowdfunding success for SAVING THE GREAT WHITE SHARK! I just checked out your “Adopt a Great White Shark” perk — very cool indeed! Overall, crowdfunding is still very much uncharted territory; there are so many companies emerging from the depths, and in the end it’s really about the tools the crowdfunding platform has at its disposal for project owners that make them rise to the surface; this is the main reason IndieGoGo and Kickstarter are at the top of the crowdfunding food chain (particularly IndieGoGo, which has superior tools, in my humble opinion.) In terms of project owners like us, we all learn by experience, trail and error and the like, and the best thing we can do is serve up those insights to others as a map of sorts which can also allow for further exploration and innovation before reaching the goal. Thanks again for reading, and best of luck with the project!

  16. [...] The Tao of Crowdfunding: Three P’s for a Successful Campaign by John Trigonis. His film went to Cannes so listen up. http://johntrigonis.com/2011/06/27/the-tao-of-crowd-funding-three-ps-for-a-successful-film-campaign/ [...]

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks so much for including my “Tao of Crowdfunding” in your Crowdfunder’s Bible! I appreciate the support and help getting the word out there!

  17. This was a really informative post and very helpful to me as I gather information on the way to kicking off my own crowd-funding campaign! Thank you!

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks so much, Tzuriel, for reading my first “Tao of Crowdfunding” post; I’m really glad you found it informative. There’s more coming in about a week of so, so keep a lookout for it on the social networks!

  18. Thanks for the great article!

    I don’t know if it’s always true that you MUST be in your pitch video though. I’d heard it a million times before, but decided to ignore this advice because instead, I wanted to show my viewers a taste of what this film will be like. I am raising money on IndieGoGo for my film “Jake & Jasper: A Ferret Tale” to cover the cost of animals in the movie, so I made a promo / pitch video showing what the movie would be like if we didn’t have real animals, but rather animals made out of paper mache. Seems to be going over pretty well, and the campaign is even one of the featured ones on IndieGoGo right now.

    So your advice IS great but just wanted to point out that in my situation, it wasn’t necessary.

    http://www.indiegogo.com/Jake-Jasper-A-Ferret-Tale

    Thanks,
    Alison

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks for checking out my “Tao of Crowdfunding” post, Alison! I’m glad to see that your IndieGoGo campaign for JAKE AND JASPER: A FERRET TALE is coming along strongly; I actually stumbled on the project when I was researching projects for my next blog post about crowdfunder etiquette. There are exceptions to every “Way” of doing things, of course; my sensibility is a simple one: if it’s a “pitch” video, then there should be a pitch, especially when we’re asking for money. With your video, however, you’ve got the two biggest influential forces at work — a child and an animal — so in your case, you don’t need to formally pitch the film since most people love kid protagonists and just about everyone loves cute, cuddly animals. I also noticed that a larger aspect of your campaign is your high volume of updates, many of which feature photos of some furry little friends, which I believe has directly contributed to your crowdfunding success so far (more so than your pitch and perks)! Keep that interaction up, and best of luck with the film!

      • Good point. Yeah, my perks are quite average, but I think it’s my video and the large amount of updates that’s doing it. And the subject matter, like you said. Also what you don’t see is I use Tweetdeck to send out thank you’s and updates many times per day, which goes to the Facebook fan page, my Facebook profile, and the Twitter page. I wish I had time to come up with unique perks, but I was in a rush. I only gave myself 50 days to raise $10,000. I’m at $5910 now and I have 30 days left. Fingers crossed! And paws!

        Also I notice that it’s usually within 15 minutes of me sending out a Tweetdeck update on our progress that a donation comes in. Also I get more donations at night, and Friday and Saturday are my strongest days. So those are the times that I really hussle the most. I know this because I have no social life and do nothing but think of ways to get more exposure for my campaign all day.

        Also one last tip from me, people like to feel like their donation made a difference. If I’ve raised let’s say $3150 out of $10,000, you might feel like your $50 won’t mean much. But if I say “We are only $50 away from reaching $3200, and having enough to get an OWL!”, then people think “oh, hey, I can be the one that helped her get that owl!”.

        At least, that’s what I think they’re thinking.

      • Trigonis says:

        These are some great insights and analytics, Alison. Thanks for sharing! Fifty days to raise $10K is pretty ambitious indeed! But at least in all your “rushing” you seem to have done a fair amount of thinking about your campaign, whereas others rush into it without fully understanding how crowdfunding works! I’ve got some other blog posts coming up soon about crowdfunder etiquette and Twitter tips, so it’s good to know how clients like Tweetdeck can prove helpful in certain instances; I occasionally use HootSuite myself, but only to schedule tweets in advance when I know I’ll have a particularly busy day, but I keep my Facebook, Cerise fan page, and Twitter accounts unlinked (for now) for added personalization (forever a poet!)

        And speaking of words, I totally agree about your last point; it’s all about the wording (and a little background in basic psych doesn’t hurt!) It sounds like you’ve got a tight grasp on the reigns of your campaign and I’m sure you’ll steer it to (over) $10K sooner than 30 days if you keep up at it the way your doing. Paws crossed, of course!

  19. Heidi says:

    Thanks for the insight into how to make a crowd-funding campaign really work!! Here’s a slight twist though: any suggestions on how to use crowd-funding during post-production?

    My co-producer and I are getting ready to create a pitch video next week in order to raise money for the sound design and the soundtrack for our first indie feature, which ended up being much more than we initially budgeted. We’re worried about promoting our campaign to actors and crew who may draw the conclusion that we don’t have enough money to complete the project, and with that lose their support in promoting the film in general. Is there a way to do this without sounding that alarm? The project will be completed regardless, we just don’t want to unnecessarily drain our personal funds further if there’s a chance people are willing to back our film.

    Another concern: with the funds being needed for post-production vs. production, is there a way to make potential backers feel more connected to the project? I’ve read in different articles that asking for contributions for hiring actors and crew, securing locations, feeding folks, etc. is easier than asking for completion funds in support of technical tasks like editing because the backers feel more of a creative connection to the project.

    Thanks again, and looking forward to reading more of your posts!!

    ~ Heidi

    • Trigonis says:

      Hey Heidi! Thank you so much for reading my blog post!

      Regarding your first concern, you should be able to use crowd-funding the same way for raising post-production funds as you would for raising production funds; the connective tissue will be the creativity associated with your pitch and your perks. For instance, what I might do if I were looking to get some additional funds for sound work would be to put together a very short teaser (or a scene) that was touched up by a professional sound designer, then cut to me: “Hi, my name’s John, and that was just a tease for my first indie feature. Now imagine if it sounded like this…” Cut to the same teaser or scene without post-audio work (and maybe even a little hyperbolic). Then I’d complete my pitch as swiftly as I can with what I need from the funders and what they get in return. If you can catch a potential funder’s attention in your first tip and get them emotionally, intellectually, psychologically “invested” in your teaser or scene, he or she will want to see (and hear) the entire film in the best form it can be in and will most likely contribute to the campaign right away. But those funders will need a taste of what good audio versus raw audio sounds like so they understand just how integral to the project their contribution will be. Makes sense?

      About your second concern, I personally wouldn’t be too concerned about losing the support of actors and crew; the bottom line is that you’ll be asking for additional funds because you have a great film project in the can, and you want to keep that level of greatness up (no one, especially your cast and crew, can fault you on that!) You just need a bit of extra money, and they should (and I can almost guarantee they will) be supportive because the better your film looks and sounds, the better those actors and crewmembers’ work will look and sound.

      And as for your third concern, I suggest that you devise perks related to your film just the same as if you were raising funds to make the film (if I knew what your film was about, I could probably suggest a starting perk and you could work your way from there.) From the campaigns I’ve seen in the past, there’s not much difference between raising funds for production over post-production. Case in point: My good friend Gary King initially raised $30K for his feature-length musical How Do You Write A Joe Schermann Song, then launched another campaign to raise an additional $18K because he wanted to hire a full orchestra to add even more production value to the film. With some personalized and fun perks, Gary walked away from two successful campaigns with a movie and the finishing funds to make it sing Chicago-style!

      I hope this helps a bit, Heidi, and more importantly, eases some of your concerns. Just put those Three Ps to work and I’m sure you’ll be on your way to a crowdfunding success story and a finished film with audio you can be proud of!

  20. [...] John T. Trigonis Presents My thoughts on film, demystified. Skip to content HomeAboutFilmsPoetrySocial Networks ← The Tao of Crowd-Funding: Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign [...]

  21. Niko Bulgari says:

    Great read, John.. really great! I’m happy I met you! I’ll do my best to follow your advises.
    Looking forward to talking to you!

    • Trigonis says:

      Glad you found the post insightful, Niko! Since my success with my short film, & by keeping a keen eye on the campaigns of others, I can offer some worthwhile advice on how to personalize one’s efforts & thus see a result by the end. Hopefully you can implement some of those into your campaign for Ghostly Invitation, particularly in your perks (but seeing you in an actual pitch might be pretty cool, too!)

  22. [...] a huge advocate of crowdfunding! Heck, I have a blog series called The Tao of Crowdfundingwhere I offer up some tips and tactics on how to run a successful film campaign like my team and I [...]

  23. [...] as heavily as possible without annoying people. Good friend, John Trigonis, writes in his blog, “The Tao of Crowd-Funding: Three Ps for a Successful Campaign” – “CROWD-FUNDING IS A FULL-TIME JOB. Anyone who tells you otherwise must not have had a very [...]

  24. [...] consultant of sorts to beginning crowdfunders ever since my first Tao of Crowdfunding blog post “The Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign” was recognized by IndieWIRE.com as a major asset to filmmakers. My third post of the series [...]

  25. [...] Then I decided to write a few more posts, and when my first Tao of Crowdfunding blog post “The Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign” came out, it was very well received by the indie film community, so much that IndieWIRE printed [...]

  26. Fantastic to see some of these pitch videos and hear the stories. I tried Indiegogo with our short film “Death Wish” a couple years back & met my fundraising goal & we made the film, which toured the fest circuit and won some awards, I’m definitely excited to be back at with our new film Death vs. Robot (http://www.indiegogo.com/Death-vs-Robot) even if it is a lot of hard work. Lovin every minute of it!

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks a bunch for reading my post, Timo! Glad you had some success on IndieGoGo as well. I’m gonna check out Death vs. Robot first thing tomorrow when I get back on my computer; just by the title it sounds like some good fun! And yes, you know it — crowdfunding is a lot of hard work! Thanks for taking the time to write!

  27. [...] metaphoric my concept of eliciting versus soliciting funds which I first brought up in my second Tao of Crowdfunding post “A Practical Guide to Crowdfunder Etiquette” by comparing it to a steak dinner: Here’s [...]

  28. [...] Marinell and I were talking one night about how so many crowdfunders were benefiting from my first Tao of Crowdfunding blog post, and she suggested I write a book about it since I’d been grumbling about not having an [...]

  29. [...] on johntrigonis.com Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in [...]

  30. Great article, John. I wish it had come up in my internet search on the subject before I started my Kickstarter project for Subway: The Series. Thanks for sharing your insight and I will definitely be using your advice for my next round of crowdfunding.

    • Trigonis says:

      Thanks for giving my Tao of Crowdfunding a read, Veronica. Looks like you did pretty well with Subway, but my “Three Ps” will always be here to lend a hand and help point you towards success in your future campaigns!

  31. Hearin Ko says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article! It gave me so much insights into making a successful campaign. I was wondering if you still give suggestions to indiegogo campaigns? It’s been a while since we started and we only have a few days left to go now. We’d really appreciate it if you could give us a few advice.
    indiegogo.com/trainofthought

    • Trigonis says:

      Thank for giving it a read, Hearin, and best of luck with the Indiegogo campaign for Train of Thought. I’ll give it a look shortly and I’ll get back to you with any suggestions I might have.

      The good thing is 19 days to go is a little more than “a few days,” which means if I give some solid advice, you’ll have a good amount of time to implement it and get closer to that $3,000 goal ;-)

      I’ll be in touch soon.

  32. RJ Harper says:

    The highly controversial HOOD LORDS indie tv project is coming to Indiegogo, John…just because you’re so friggin’ awesome with all that damn insider guru advice on how to launch a great crowd funding campaign: http://www.Youtube.com/watch?v=rzXpmXsqVXU :)

  33. […] page (questions you could answer can be found here). You can easily search examples and find tips specific to videos, but the takeaway is this: tell your story, know what you have to offer, and sell […]

  34. […] help with your campaign? See Kickstarter and crowd-funding advice from someone who work(s/ed) for one of their […]

  35. Kevin Hines says:

    Hello John, my name is Kevin Hines, I was featured in the film The Bridge by Eric Steel. I was the young man who attempted to die off of the GGB and survived. I have since dedicated my life to the causes of preventing suicide and helping others learn the art of living mentally well.

    You and your three (four) P’s along with a personal email you sent me a few weeks back about my draft indiiegogo campaign for my forthcoming documentary based on my memoir which was just released have helped me a great deal.

    I am sincerely thankful for the energy and time you put into your message to me. In reading this post and rereading your email, I have gained the inspiration to go out there to the world of crowd funding you know so well and GET FULLY FUNDED!

    Thank You So Much!

    KH

    • Trigonis says:

      Thank you so much for this very humbling comment, Kevin. It means the world to me to know that I was able to inspire a bit of enthusiasm and insight-filled thoughts about the world of crowdfunding which you can put to use for the campaign. Is your campaign live, or did it just finish up? If it’s live, send me over a link so I can check it out!

  36. Hi, i think that i saw you visited myy web site so i came to “return the favor”.I’m attempting to find things to enhance my website!I suppose its ok to
    use a few of your ideas!!

  37. […] had learned so much that he shared some of his newfound expertise in a series of blog posts called The Tao of Crowdfunding, which got shared by Indiewire and garnered a lot of attention, setting in motion the events which […]

  38. gueustou says:

    That was one great read, thanx alot John.

  39. […] my very popular “Three Ps for a Successful Indie Film Campaign,” I introduced three different levels of indie film crowdfunding perks: “standard […]

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