Tag Archives: indie film

Calling All Trigonauts! (‘Cause “Trigonaut” Sounds Cooler Than “Intern”)

The time has come for expansion, and I cannot do it alone!

As many of you probably know, I’ve been putting out crowdfunding advice for filmmakers and various other content creators and storymakers for over five years. Ever since I successfully crowdfunded my short film Cerise, I’ve been mentoring crowdfunding filmmakers and content creators in the fine art of online fundraising through Twitter, via my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and exclusively for Indiegogo. But there’s so much more I want to do, mostly by way of content creation and various new ways of distributing that content and knowledge (Meerkat and Periscope, anyone?), so I’m looking for a Trigonaut –– an fellow explorer –– to work with me, to learn about and explore the chartered and unchartered realms of crowdfunding for independent film, and to help create more top quality content so that we, together, can keep the “indie” in independent film and make sure that creators are crowdfunding using only the best tools, advice and insights available.


So here’s what I’m looking for, specifically:

– Writing and editing (basic grammar and usage skills)
– Strong interest in crowdfunding, particularly for film (or creative projects)
– Graphic design (skills in Adobe Creative Suite, mainly Photoshop and InDesign)
– Editing content for social media that’s on-brand
– Organizational abilities
– Creativity and wit
– Speed (ability to execute tasks quickly)

– Owns a DSLR (or similar camera) and microphone
– Video editing skills (proficiency in either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere)
– A moderate knowledge of digital advertising (Google AdWords, Facebook Ads / “dark posts”, etc.)
– Listens to The #AskGaryVee Show religiously

– Outreach (to film festivals for speaking gigs, blogs / movie websites, etc.)
– Writing content for Medium (will be credited as guest writer under my personal culture / branding
– Content creation (if we go the Gary Vee route; TBD)
– Filming any local events, speaking gigs
– Research on the crowdfunding space in general, but specifically crowdfunding for indie film / web / video content
– Discover and attend events, Meet-Ups, Tweetups, etc. pertaining to film and / or crowdfunding

– 2 -3 hours a day,
– Three days per week (preferably Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, to start, but I’m totally flexible here

– Crowdfunding (for filmmaking) knowledge and insights from a noted expert and practitioner in the field
– Travel to and from events (subway / Lyft)
– Lunch once a week, during our weekly meetings, preferably on Mondays
– Drinks (at events, and just in general –– there’s always something to celebrate)
– Depending on performance, we can talk…

– What it takes to be a proper crowdfunding consultant and / or manager
– How to utilize various forms of social media (FB / Twitter, plus Instagram & Periscope, perhaps) for crowdfunding
– How to build, broaden, and make “Beliebers” out of your community (really, how to turn your networks into actual relationships)

Now, if by reading this you feel like you’re standing in front of a mirror, then I want to hear from you sooner rather than later, so reach out to me at jtrigonis@gmail.com and let’s get ready to explore the ever-changing landscape of the crowdfunding filmmakers together.

Oh, and a neat hat and soul patch to match are not requirements 🙂

Looking forward to hearing from you all soon!

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TEDx Talk: “Crowdfunding Today, Tomorrow, Together” Is Here

Well, it’s finally here, folks!

I’m very proud to present to you all one of the crowning achievements of my entire life (thus far) –– My TEDxJerseyCity talk called “Crowdfunding Today, Tomorrow, Together.”

Since it’s only a seventeen-minute talk, I’m pretty confident you’ll all watch the entire talk. But if you only have a few minutes, and if you’re toying with the idea of running your own crowdfunding campaign for a film, product, or anything else, then I highly recommend you scrub toward the end of the talk (11:03, to be exact), when I begin talking about my new and improved “Three INs,” presented as the “Three Is,” as in the letter “I” (you see why it didn’t stick, I’m sure) during my talk.

See, around five years ago, I unveiled my “Three Ps for a Successful Indie Film Campaign” –– Pitch, Perks, and Promotion ––  which paved the way to my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers. Well, as crowdfunding for indie film evolves, so did those Three Ps. it was during this TEDx talk that I introduced the Invitation, Incentives, and Interactions as three ways “in” to your crowd’s hearts. A new Medium post outlining them in more detail is coming soon.

From talking about a plethora of local campaigns to ones like the JIBO and Solar Roadways, which are paving the road to a more sustainable and Jetsons-esque future, to talking about vampires and how El Diablo knows how to listen on social media, I think you’ll get a kick out of my talk, and perhaps it’ll even inspire you to make something you’re passionate about a reality.

Special thank to Alicia Ruth and the most excellent folks at TEDxJerseyCity for getting this up and running on the TEDx YouTube page and on TED.com, and, of course, to my darling Marinell, who watched my talk five times today and realized this very important thing:


I trust that by the end of my talk, their eyes –– and all of yours –– will have been opened in the widest of ways.

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From Auteur to Author, Part 3: Crowdfunding for Filmmakers Comes Full Circle

The circle is now complete –– I’m officially an author!

On Saturday, April 6th, I had my first-ever book signing for Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign, published by Michael Wiese Productions this past March.


There I am reading to a captive audience at Tachair Bookshoppe, Jersey City.

The combination reading/signing was held in my favorite city in the country –– Jersey City, which also happens to be where I’ve lived for seven years now –– at a quaint little local bookshoppe called Tachair. The evening was special in many ways, mainly because I was surrounded by those who have been most supportive of me and my creative aspirations over the years. In the house was my lovely Lady Marinell, of course, to whom my book is dedicated; my brother Walter and sister-in-law Patti, who nearly made me well up when they told me how proud they were of me; and James Broderick and Vince D’Onofrio (not the actor, the playwright), two great friends, respected mentors, and former colleagues of mine from my days at New Jersey City University, where I’d taught Civilizations courses over the past ten years before trading in my adjunct status for the more reputable title of manager for film, web and video at Indiegogo.

Also in attendance were some exceptional folks whose friendships and support I’ve cherished over years, including Michael Ferrell and Devin Sanchez, two-thirds of the creative team behind the indie film Twenty Million People, which was successfully crowdfunded on Indiegogo between April and June of 2012, raising $13,515 on a $10,000 goal.

Amid a packed audience captivated by my personal stories of how Crowdfunding for Filmmakers came about and the various chapters I chose to read from, the evening was made even more significant simply because it was hosted by Tachair Bookshoppe. See, back in April, 2012, I wrote an article about Jersey City’s lack of a physical bookstore for Jersey City Independent. At that point in time, Tachair was a “roving” bookstore that would set up their tent at all the different markets and festivals in Downtown Jersey City. But partly because of my article and the spirited reception it received online, Aleta Valleau, her son Paul, and her mother Carol set up shop on Newark Avenue where they now sell used books, best-sellers, and books by local authors like me (and I hear those sell better than those best-sellers!)


A throwback to the Cerise acrostic poem days –– an appropriate thank you to to a bookshoppe dedicated to preserving the written and spoken word.

It has been an amazing journey, and it’s not over yet! From crowdfunding my short film Cerise during the early dawn of crowdfunding for indie filmmakers to writing my first blog post in my “Tao of Crowdfunding” series, which would go on to inspire Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and onto my current calling as one of two film gurus at Indiegogo helping filmmakers to craft successful campaigns, I’m certain none of this would have been possible without the blessings of the crowd –– Not my initial book deal with MWP, not my book being made available on Amazon, and not this book first book signing.

Make no mistake: It’s because of all of you terrific folks who’ve entered into my life, and who have allowed me to enter into yours, that I continue to receive such humbling triumphs and rewards, and I’ll pay it forward in helping our community make their independent filmmaking dreams come true, one campaign at a time.

That, and making a few more of my own come true, too. Stay tuned for more on that!

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From Auteur to Author, Part 2: Crowdfunding for Filmmakers Arrives on Amazon

After six months of writing like a rock star, including one complete rewrite and two full revisions, plus another two rounds of copyediting with an editor, and most recently an in-depth review of its first galley proof, my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign is yet another step closer to your bookshelves.

In fact, my (not-so-)little 255-page tome of crowdfunding tidbits and tactics is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com!

I’m still hard at work with my amazing editor, Gary Sunshine, and our layout editor, Gina Mansfield, to make Crowdfunding for Filmmakers read smoothly and look snazzy, keeping in the vein of the blog posts that inspired it (“Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign” and “A Practical Guide to Crowdfunder Etiquette,” as well as “Twitter Tips for Crowdfunders,” featured on Ted Hope’s Indiewire blog). I’m very honored to have this book added to the Michael Wiese Productions catalog alongside other best-selling books like Save the Cat! By Blake Snyder, Directing Actors by Judith Weston, Film Directing: Shot by Shot by Steven D. Katz, and many others covering topics ranging from screenwriting to film editing and beyond.

For now, set your sights on what these awesome indie film and crowdfunding folks are already saying about Crowdfunding for Filmmakers:

“John has been a practitioner and teacher when it comes to crowdfunding. This book helps anyone learn from his experience. Readers will be empowered to turn their ideas into action and action into money and success.” –– Slava Rubin, Founder & CEO, Indiegogo

“There is actually a science to the new zeitgeist for artists known as crowdfunding and John Trigonis’ Crowdfunding for Filmmakers contextualizes the history as well as outlines a step by step method to a successful crowdfunding campaign in an easy and enjoyable read indispensable to any and all future crowdfunders.” –– Filmmakers Jayce Bartok (The Cake Eaters, blogger MovieMaker) and Tiffany Bartok (Tiny Dancer)

“What do ancient Eastern philosophy and crowdfunding have in common? John knows and illustrates this connection wonderfully in Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, a very thorough look at not only crowdfunding, but social media, promotion, sales tactics, and so much more.” –– Daniel Sisson, Daily Crowdsource

“Chock-full of fantastic funding tips for your next movie by a filmmaker who has been through the process firsthand.”  –– Brian Meece, CEO of RocketHub, The World’s Funding Machine

Crowdfunding for Filmmakers is scheduled for a February 2013 release, which means my 35th birthday will be extra special this year, as this book marks my first step into a larger frontier –– that of a published author and crowdfunding consultant. And I couldn’t have achieved any of it without the help of my community, my ultra supportive family and friends, the generous funders behind my short film Cerise, who helped pave the road toward the brave new realm of crowdfunding and book publishing, and especially my girlfriend Marinell, who pointed out this road to me, revved me on to write the proposal for this book that I hope will instruct not only filmmakers, but creative artists of all sorts, in the art of successfully crowdfunding their next projects.

There’ll be more to come in the months ahead, so stay tuned to Hat & Soul for the latest on Crowdfunding for Filmmakers. In the meantime, click here and order a copy today (and tap that “Like” button, too!)

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Tao Te Trig: The Flow, the Muse and the Working Writer’s World

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011 marks the day I started writing my very first book, The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, for Michael Wiese Productions. Thirty days later, I’m about a hundred pages into my 200-page guide focused on helping indie filmmakers raise funds for their films on IndieGoGo and other crowdfunding platforms.


Checking off chapters and counting pages on my table of contents.

So what have I learned so far traversing this uncharted terrain of my personal writer’s journey? First and foremost, writing is hard! It’s funny because that’s usually the first thing I tell my writing students at each of the universities where I teach, but I never fully understood how true a statement it is. As a poet for most of my writing life, I’d become very used to waiting for inspiration to strike, for my faithful muse’s hand to brush the back of my neck, the way Doris Dowling’s does to Ray Milland’s in The Lost Weekend, and leave behind a fresh idea in the airy form of a mysterious scent that lingers long after her touch.

But once you get to writing an actual book, whether it’s nonfiction like mine or the great American novel or even a feature-length screenplay, you really can’t sit up waiting for inspiration to come strolling in any ol’ time she likes; you have to inspire yourself, and that’s been the single most challenging part for me while writing The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers so far. Writing about a topic like this, and in such a short span of time as six short months, I’ve been relying heavily on myself, not my muse, to conjure up the magic words necessary to concoct an informative, entertaining and inspiring bit of literary thaumaturgy.

And I have been fortunate so far. I’m working my way through these white unlined trenches because I’m writing about my own crowdfunding success with Cerise on IndieGoGo, as well as detailing the success stories of many other campaigns as examples to further illustrate my points. Plus, I’m incorporating a bit of the Tao Te Ching into each chunk I churn out, and this reinvigorates me whenever I fall into a spell of writing very straightforward, factual information, since it’s a philosophy I subscribe to in every aspect of my life. After all, when you write what you know, you’re able to flow.

Doris Dowling, muse to Ray Milland's tormented writer in The Lost Weekend.

Then, something wonderful happens. Once I work myself into that “Zone,” at about an hour or so into the key tap and space bar hustle, my muse will occasionally sneak over to my writing desk and massage my creased temples, help me find a way to elevate a rather insipid concept of crowdfunding up into the ranks of the almost poetic. The other day, for instance, I waxed 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 the difference in a more practical setting: You see your friend going to town on a piece of steak, cooked just the way you like it. It’s dripping with juices and smells unbearably delicious. So you ask him, “Can I have a piece of your steak?” to which your friend now has the option to say yay or nay. They have the power over you. Now, if you look at that steak and salivate over it –– well, that won’t work either ‘cause that’s just sad. But if you look up from that magnificent bit of medium well goodness and say to your friend something along the lines of “Man, that steak looks and smells delicious!” as a statement, you will elicit a reaction from your friend, which will most likely be “It is… (wait for it) “…Do you want to try a piece?” Now you’ve got the power and soon after, a tasty piece of steak.

I was in “The Zone” and then this chunk of elaboration flowed seamlessly out of my fingertips. It was inspiration’s finger sliding across the back of my neck; all I had to do was keep up with the flow of words flooding into my mind and write.

It took me a full three weeks to build up the discipline and get into the swing of what it means to be an actual working writer (and receiving my first check in the mail from MWP made that realization all the more solid, of course). To be perfectly honest, being a writer is something I didn’t really think I could do. I realized that I had too many misconceptions about it, all of them fabrications with no real footing in the real world. For years I believed that if I wrote something that wasn’t necessarily as creative as my poetry or as high concept as my screenplays, I simply wouldn’t enjoy it, and in turn, it would become the worst thing writing could ever become to me: A job.

Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do symbol, reflecting the everlasting flow of yin and yang.

My over thinking this for all these years has worked against what the universe had written down in the penmanship of the stars as in my best interest, and I know as well as anyone that when you work with the universe, all is right. Taoist sage Lao Tzu calls this wei wu wei, or “doing without doing.” By not over thinking something, everything gets done. In that way, The Tao of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers is meant to be written, and I’m the one who’s meant to write it.

I’m going with the flow now, like a stream flowing in one direction: forward. When a stone stands in my way, I simply stream around it and discover new ways to say something on my own because when you’re a working writer, you can’t wait for your muse to saunter in at whatever hour of the day or night she pleases (deadlines be damned!) to inspire every sentence you write. You must rely on your own flow, and trust that your own words will be the right words.

But, of course, it doesn’t hurt to leave the porch light on, too.

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Mating Dome: Growth is Inevitable

The wood, steel and other raw materials for my upcoming short film Mating Dome have been assembled, and now it’s time to piece together this sexy sci-fi romp.

This past weekend I had the honor of sharing the set with an exceptionally gifted cast and a host of crackerjack crew members who brought to life my good friend, actor and Mating Dome writer Joe Whelski’s darkly comedic vision of a future where dating has been reduced to moment-to-moment trysts in an endless labyrinth of lust.

The shoot itself went exceptionally well, and as always, I walked away from the experience with a few bits of insight for directors and auteurs alike:

Trust in Your Crew
Mating Dome
marks the first film I’ve ever shot in which an actual set had to be built. We transformed a large photo studio at Neo Studios in SoHo into a truly fantastical set. One of those sets was a lounge of sorts with a lit up bar, which we eventually used in other scenes in the film. I am by no means a handyman––I’m more like Tim Allen in Home Improvement––so I had to trust in our set designer Lucia Snyder and our crew to create this futuristic bar, as well as in our costume designer Sophie Philips to make the fashion-forward “towels” which our actors would be wearing throughout the film. I had given them both a basic idea of what I wanted and allowed them to run with it. I was not disappointed.

This futuristic, lit-up bar makes an appearance three times in Mating Dome.

The Script Will Always Change
As with every other film I’ve ever shot, Joe’s script for Mating Dome went through a bit of a “reconfiguration” of its own as the words and actions on the page turned into shots and sequences. Even some of the ideas that I’d implemented into the script as director didn’t make it into many of the shots in the film for various reasons. But I’ve learned that this is fine, because other concepts and visionary elements will work their way into each shot and compensate for any “losses,” and as a director, you simply have to roll with it. I did.

Keep (Some) Control Over the Creative Spirit of Collaboration
I’ve always said I’m not one to collaborate on the page, but on set, I rely heavily on collaboration to help generate a more dynamic look to my original vision. It worked with Cerise, my most recent short film. But as I learned on the set of Mating Dome, as director, you still have to maintain a certain level of control over however much creative freedom you allow your main crew members. If something that your set designer suggests doesn’t work as part of the vision in your mind, don’t do it. If you’re not sure whether it’ll work or not, try it. (Ah! The beauty of shooting in HD.) The bottom line is that a director should be open to suggestions, but hold a firm enough grasp on your vision so the compromise (and there’ll always be compromise) is not a drastic one.

Find Solutions, Not Further Problems
Admittedly, I’m not very good at finding solutions quickly. I know when a problem can be resolved, but very often I don’t know how to resolve them. My best friend, long-time collaborator and Mating Dome’s cinematographer Alain Aguilar is much better at it than I, and Mating Dome’s producer Ruben Rodas, I can say with utmost certainty, is a “Master Solutionist” (okay, so “solutionist” is not a word, but it should be!) A few times on set we came upon some stumbling blocks––or rather I came upon them––and as soon as I’d open my mouth about the problem, there was Ruben with a solution. So this is something that, as a director, I will either work on improving or simply rely even more on people like Ruben and Alain to solve them for me (I’ll try the former, but if I fall off that tightrope, I’ve always got the latter net to land on!)

Believe in “Happy Accidents” and All Will Be Well
Joe introduced me to this concept on the first day of shooting when he took me aside and said he had to make an “executive decision” (he is also Mating Dome’s Executive Producer) which scared the heck out of me. It seemed the towel that was made for him wasn’t fitting very well, and he had no other choice but to don an actual bath towel around his waist. I was a bit upset, truth be told, but it made sense, as Joe (the character) is the “average Joe” in a world populated with men and women who’ve radically “reconfigured” their bodies; it would only be right that Joe isn’t given a futuristic “real man’s towel” but rather a “little boy’s towel” because he doesn’t accept his world. I do believe everything happens for a reason, and that reason is always good and right, though sometimes I lose sight of that basic Taoist truth. So thanks for bringing it back home, Whelski!

Joe Whelski in his bath towel across from a Venus of the future.

Overall, the Mating Dome shoot this past weekend was yet another curve on the freeway to filmmaking knowledge, and one thing I’m always thankful for is being able to work with a crew that knows what its doing, moves and breathes as one being and helps me improve what I’m doing and strengthen me as a director, as well as a talented cast––and the cast of Mating Dome is not only talented but smokin’ hot and includes such personalities as Samantha Karlin, who’s starred in TV’s From Mate to Date, and Key of Awesome! superstar Lauren Francesca!

Lauren Francesca, YouTube sensation and one of our Mating Dome Ladies.

To see photos of our entire sultry cast of Venuses and Adonises, head on over to Mating Dome’s Facebook page (and “Like” it while you’re at it, ‘cause if those pics don’t make you wish there was a “Super Like” button, then I don’t know. I just don’t know…)

In the meantime, I’ll be getting my razor tool sharpened and ready for cutting these scenes together into a quick bit of cinema that will make everyone under the Mating Dome proud to have been a part of this quirky, witty, sexy and wholly original short film.

Until then, live long, and prosper. Or something like that.

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Callbacks & Additional Casting for “Mating Dome” — The Next Trigonis Film

8/28/11 UPDATE: Callbacks and Further Auditions Announced!

Following on the heels of my most recent short film Cerise, I’m pleased to announce that I’m getting ready to tackle my next short film––Mating Dome, a sci-fi comedy which “exposes” the true nature of mating in the 22nd Century!

Callbacks and Second Casting Call
We are still seeking our lead female roles. If you auditioned for us back on Saturday, August 20th, you may be getting a call if you made the cut, so be on the lookout for a phone call from our producer Ruben Rodas or our AD Pao Calderon this week.

If you’d like to audition, we’re looking for fun, sexy, slim and talented actresses between 20 and 30 years of age to play supermodels from the future. The film will be shot over the first weekend in October (September 30th, October 1st and 2nd) in New York City.

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, please email a PDF resume along with a recent head shot and, if possible, a swim suit picture (preferred, but not required) to matingdome.casting@gmail.com.

This casting call is open to union and non-union talent, and the position is PAID.

Now Seeking Male Parts
We’re also casting for one lead male role (speaking) in Mating Dome, as well as a few non-speaking roles. The physical requirement is key: You must be built! (This is the 22nd Century, a utopian future in which the women are slim and slender and the men are cut and ripped.)

IF YOU ARE INTERESTED, please email a PDF resume along with a recent head shot and, if possible, a body picture (preferred, but not required) to matingdome.casting@gmail.com.

This casting call is open to union and non-union talent.

Who’s the Team Behind the Dome?
Well, I’ll be directing and editing Mating Dome, and you can find out more about who I am simply by perusing the stories that make up my Manvelope or by following me on Twitter. The film will be starring Joe Whelski (who also wrote the story and script) and will be shot by Alain Aguilar, which marks the comeback of a talented triumvirate that once went by the name Nothingman Production, specializing in creating quality films (something) with little money (nothing)!

And we’ve got even more help! Mating Dome will be produced by Ruben Rodas of Skyframe Pictures, and as a producer, he’s building up quite a resume for himself; definitely someone to keep an eye on if you need to get things done.

Follow, Like, and Keep Informed
That’s all for now, but you can get a head start on keeping up with all that’s going on under the Mating Dome by following the film on Twitter and “Liking” the Facebook page!

Cheers, everyone, and don’t forget to close your towel!

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The Tao of Crowdfunding: A Practical Guide to Crowdfunder Etiquette

So you now know some of the keys of a successful campaign from reading the first post in my Tao of Crowdfunding series, but that’s only part of the ongoing battle to find alternative sources for financing our creative projects. Based on the incredible response “The Three Ps for a Successful Film Campaign” received from the indie film community and beyond, I’ve decided to soldier on and address a topic which some of my closest friends have cited as a bit of a concern––Crowdfunder Etiquette.

Like hat tipping, crowdfunding comes with its own etiquette.

Like hat tipping, crowdfunding comes with its own etiquette.

Some of you might be thinking to yourselves I didn’t know such a thing existed! It does or doesn’t, based on your own experiences crowdfunding. But I prefer to call it by its more common name: Good Manners. Whether your crowdfunding platform is Indiegogo, Kickstarter or any of the myriad others out there, here are five basic tenets every campaigner should follow:

1. “I’m Not Only the Campaigner, I’m Also a Funder!”
Some of you may remember that 1980s TV commercial for The Hair Club for Men and Cy Sperling’s famous concluding statement “I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client.”

Similarly, you should be more than just the filmmaker, musician or entrepreneur by having something more tangible than time invested in your project. Surprisingly, this is something crowdfunders rarely do. Let’s be honest––if you are not willing to put your money into your own campaign, how can you ask any of your friends to contribute, let alone a perfect stranger? Whether it’s $5 or $5,000, you should be the one to jump-start your own campaign either by setting aside your own cash and raising additional funds, or by contributing to your own campaign via Indiegogo or Kickstarter. With Cerise, for instance, I opted for the first choice, saving up $10,000 and crowdfunding for $5,000 more. And, of course, I let my potential funders know that within the first thirty seconds of my pitch video. If you opt for the second choice, your name should appear (as opposed to being listed as “Anonymous”) in your “Funders” tab so that others know you’re not only the campaigner, but your also a contributor. This kind of transparency is absolutely vital to the integrity and ultimately the success of your campaign.

2. Saying Please and Thank You
Remember “The Please and Thank You Song” from Barney and Friends? (Fear not! I won’t salt the wound this reference may have opened by posting the video here.) These “magic words” run marathons in all circles. So when you promote your campaign on Twitter or Facebook, whenever possible include a simple “please” (or its abbreviation when it comes to character limits) in each one.

Travis Legge Tweets “Please” for Poetic on Indiegogo.

More importantly, whenever you receive a contribution, the absolute least you can do is thank that person. Sending an email, message on Facebook and/or Direct Message on Twitter is fine, too, but in today’s multifaceted social media stew, the more out in the open a “Thank You” is, the better.

The Red Scare Team humorously thanks a new contributor, keeping with their 1950s “Red Scare” motif.

Apart from thanking contributors to your campaign, it’s equally important to thank any- and everybody who retweets your Tweets about your project or shares your link on Google+ and Facebook. It’s polite and shows that you appreciate their part in getting the word out about your campaign.

Writer/Producer Sam Platizky thanks yours truly for tweeting about his latest zombie comedy.

Another, more general thank you, but just as strong and just as personal.

It’s about making people feel appreciated by publicly acknowledging them for all the good things they’re doing on your behalf.

3. Send Contributors Something N0w And Later
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “With the past, I have nothing to do; nor with the future. I live now.” And so do your funders. You should give them something more immediate than a signed copy of your new album when it’s finished several months after your campaign has ended. It can be something personalized for the funder at one of the lower perk levels, and somehow related to the project you’re campaigning for, like these awesome perks from Sync:

I love the smell of nostalgia in the morning!

When I contributed to Brendon Fogle’s short film, I received my perks––a pair of records from Brendon’s personal collection and two Sync stickers––a few short weeks after clicking “Contribute Now” on Indiegogo. Now I’ve got a constant reminder of Sync until the film’s finished up and I can get my DVD in the future.

A sound designer named Christopher Postill recently got in touch with me about a campaign for his project Sounds Like an Earful, a pod cast about rethinking the sounds we’re surrounded by on a daily basis. Seeing the usual suspects of perks, I suggested he make them more personalized for his potential funders. When I saw his Indiegogo page next, I saw he had added a perk in which he’d create a sound specifically for the funder. Another perk higher up the ladder lends itself to Christopher creating a piece of music that a funder can gift to a friend or family member or keep for him- or herself.

Now this is an immediate perk that packs a personal punch!

Not only are these new perks innovative and personal, but they’re also immediate; once they’re created, they can be posted on the funder’s Facebook wall, tweeted, or emailed.

4. Constantly Keep Your Funders Updated
So you spent three intense months crowdfunding like a rockstar. You thanked all your funders. You mailed them their perks. And at the end of the campaign trail you became another crowdfunding success story! Feels good to be done, right?

Even after all that, you’re only now seeing the finish line, but you’ve still got a ways to go. Just as it’s important to keep your funders updated throughout your campaign, it’s just as important to maintain a steady stream of updates about the progress of your project even after the campaign has ended. Your funders have contributed to your campaign for various reasons, whether it’s because of your personalized pitch, your cool perks, or because they’re family and have to, but they’re also giving something more than money to you and your campaign, so the least you can do is make them feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.

Perhaps Cerise funder Andrew Bichler said it best in this quick video about why he contributed to my short film:

You heard it right from a proud funder’s mouth: “What really turned me on [was] the fact that I, as an everyday guy, could get involved in funding and supporting the arts…” As such, it’s gratifying to be kept in the loop about what’s going on regarding a project you’ve become a part of; I receive regular updates with behind the scenes footage, post-production notes and other status updates from many of the projects I’ve contributed to like Red Scare, Tilt and How Do You Write a Joe Schermann Song. If you don’t update your audience, they may start to think all kinds of outrageous things, the worst of which quite possibly being “Well, I won’t support that person’s campaigns any more!” Again, it’s all about appreciation, so treat your funders with the same respect that you’d show an investor, whether they’re contributing at the $1 rung or closer to the top of the ladder.

5. When Engaging Your Community, Don’t Solicit, Elicit
Perhaps the greatest aspect of the indie community is that in most cases it will come to bat for you during your crowdfunding campaign. The most recent account is probably the come-from-behind victory of Lucas McNelly’s A Year Without Rent, which had been stagnant for the long haul of the campaign. But in its final days and hours, this video project was pulled from the Sarlacc pit of unfunded dreams by the entire indie film community. This is an exceptional case, of course (I don’t recommend starting a campaign without plenty of preparation and a solid plan of action plotted out beforehand), but the lesson is pretty much standard: If you show passion for your project and drive it forward, your community will come to your aid.

Every time I tweet about my current 3rd Crusade for Cerise––in which I seek  film festival submission funds from friends and followers so I can continue submitting my short film to festivals––I make sure each one is unique and clever, and sure enough, my followers retweet it to their followers. I haven’t had to ask anyone to “please RT” anything in over a year because I’ve built up some credibility by showing them that I take pride not only in my film, but also in every minute detail that makes up the whole of Cerise.

If it happens to be a holiday, I make my tweets about that holiday.

If the project you’re campaigning for centers around certain subject matter, keep that subject in play.

As crowdfunders, we might try to elicit help from our respective communities and solicit less simply by showing them how truly important our campaigns are to us and how imperative their support can be in helping us reach our crowdfunding goals.

BONUS: Promotion, Not Spamotion!
There are many ways to get people not to contribute to your campaign or help you with promoting it, but by far the most sure-fire method is by coming across in your promotion as a spam artist. And I’m not just talking about sending the exact same tweet five times a day; other ways include linking your personal and project’s Twitter accounts so that those same five Tweets per day are now ten Tweets (but more on that in my “10 Commandments of Social Media for Crowdfunding” post on Indiewire) and even appending your campaign’s information as a comment onto another campaign’s page! This unscrupulous practice is actually such a problem that Kickstarter needed to mention it as one of their “Community Guidelines” on their FAQ page:

You’d think some things still fall into the realm of common sense. Not so much…

Be a pro when planning out the promotion tactics for your campaign. Even when I would promote my Indiegogo campaign for Cerise directly on my friends’ Facebook walls, it was always personalized enough that I was able to avoid the pitfalls of those annoying “Need Cash Now?” advertisements texted to people’s phones. So be personable when publicizing your campaign to steer clear of the “unfriend” and “block” features that occur with social networking and you’ll soon see that the personal touch leads to the Midas touch.

In Short…
My Dad always used to tell me “by nice ways you’ll accomplish everything.” A lot of this may seem like common sense to some of us, but it’s this kind of sense seems less and less common. As crowdfunders, we’re asking people for money, and when we ask for anything and get it, the least we can do is show our gratitude to those who gave it. By treating your funders and supporters properly, you’re not only gathering money for this one project, you’re also forging a stronger network, and at times friendships, that will stand by your side long after your first campaign has ended. And when you start another campaign for your next project, those same people will be ready to show their support once again to back a rising star and a real mensch!

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What are YOUR thoughts about crowdfunder etiquette? FUNDERS: Any props or pet peeves YOU’d like to share about crowdfunders you’ve encountered? Fill up the section below with your comments, questions or concerns!

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

UPDATED: MONDAY, JUNE 1, 2015 –– Not your grandpa’s “Three Ps” anymore!

BEFORE YOU READ THIS POST, in which you’ll certainly learn the basics of running a very successful crowdfunding campaign using my “Three Ps” of crowdfunding, I want to let you know that I have a brand new post over at Medium, with an all-new (similar) set of ways to crowdfund an indie film. It’s called the “Three Ways to Let Your Crowd In,” and those three Ways are the InvitationIncentives, and Interactions.

But whether you use my “Ps” or my “Ins,” you’ll still be on the Path toward a more successful campaign, and another step closer to making that indie film burning in your veins a reality. Happy reading!

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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.

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.


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!

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.

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!

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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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Ten Pages a Day: Getting Your Screenplay From First Page to First Draft

Traditional screenwriting is kaput, in my humble opinion.

For those of you who follow my tweets and Facebook status updates, you might recall that a few weeks ago I finished the first draft of my latest feature-length script Caput, a hyperbolic Hudson Hawk of an action drama that centers around a mafia hit man who’s peculiar quirk inhibits him from “getting out” for good.

Back in December I was determined to write Caput “the right way” which meant sketching some character bios, finishing a full outline, organizing a scene-by-scene breakdown on index cards, and getting through all the other step-by-step instructions that you’ll read in just about any book on screenwriting. It works for so many of my friends and colleagues whom I respect a great deal, but I found that it just doesn’t work for me.

When I write, the words need to flow. I can’t put too much thought behind them. I spent January, February, and March doing absolutely nothing with Caput except a very rough outline, which only got me up to the midpoint (in Syd Fieldian terms) before I was completely stumped. I spent a few days ruminating over it, sketching out some possible directions, but nothing seemed to work. So I put it aside, defeated for the time being.

Then I woke up on the morning of April 4th and got ready for my normal Monday teaching back-to-back Civilizations courses at one of my universities. I had packed my laptop since I was showing The Passion of the Christ as part of our chapter on Christianity, so I had a good five hours to sit down in that dark room amongst my students and write ten pages. That was my goal. It sounded reasonable enough. Ten pages, and that was all I wrote. And even though I felt the drive to continue, I parked my thoughts at page 10.

The next day, after a modest workout and even more modest breakfast, I sat at my little faux-wood table and wrote another ten pages. And ten pages a day it would be for the next two weeks, typing practically non-stop for an average of between two to three hours. By getting into “The Zone,” and most importantly by not thinking too hard about what I was writing, I was organically creating a bigger story with new characters, an entire subplot, twists and more twists with MacGuffens and other textbook elements strewn in here and there. It’s a beautiful mess of a script, I’m sure. But it’s fresh! And beginning this week, I’ll be putting together a tight revision of this first very rough draft that no eyes but mine will see.

Now I suppose it’s the poet in me, working from inspiration, letting the words flow from brain to page as if they were being whispered into my ear by some magical muse with a thick Italian accent (and pointing a gun at my ribs, too!) And although the two mediums are not worlds, but galaxies apart nowadays, one feature is the same for both: Words. If we spend too much time in our minds plotting and re-plotting, nothing gets written.) Just write out that first draft! It’s only when you have it writ that you can tell if it’s a hit.

So then, back to what I stated earlier, that traditional screenwriting is kaput. Okay, not quite. Though many script coaches and analysts will disagree with me here, I’ve found you don’t have to spend your time writing those character sketches, outlining on index cards. Just get the basic story and scenes written out and run with it. And most importantly, don’t overdo it. If you’re a writer in this day and age, you’ve probably got a job to go to at some point in the day, so write what and when you can. Tennessee Williams used to get up at 6am and write until noon every day. Well, we’re not him; most of us have to squeeze in our daily dose of writing with our morning orange juice. For me, it’s ten pages a day. For others it may be Pilar Alessandra’s Coffee Break Screenwriter approach or the “Million Dollar Method” popularized by Chris Soth and USC. And still some may simply learn tips and tricks of the trade by following the insightful tweets of The Script Lab, Screenwriting U, and Raindance Film Festival amongst others.

Whatever your method and however you do it, just write that script!

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