Crowdfunding really has changed the filmmaking landscape. Nowadays its commonplace for short films (and some feature films) to raise part, if not all, their budgets, from crowdfunding. 20 years ago, the idea that friends and family could give small donations towards a film, hadn't really crossed anyone's mind. In fact you were told to find 'wealthy family members' and ask them for the money to make a film. Not many of us have wealthy family members.

Securing finance from a film fund is challenging when you are a new graduate. If you're still a student in a UK university you aren't eligible for film fund support. So crowdfunding is a great way to raise money and give yourself the challenge of handling a production budget. In this video I go over a few examples from previous crowdfunding campaigns and share some advice on how to sell your film to people.  

Transcript:

Above the Line | Crowdfunding.mp4

[00:00:00] Hi, everybody, welcome to Above the Line. In this video, I'm going to talk about crowdfunding.

[00:00:07] If you're fresh out of university or still at university or film school, crowdfunding is a great way to make your first film away from a student environment.

[00:00:18] And it gives you the flexibility and freedom of not being accountable to a film fund structure with deadlines and you can shoot in your own time. I crowdfunded the first two short films that I made, and as a result of those campaigns, I met an investor who then helped me finance another short film before I was ready to start applying to film funds. So crowdfunding is a great way to get yourself noticed. It's a great way to make new connections in the film industry and also outside the film industry.

[00:00:49] I'm just going to run through a couple of points that you might want to consider when you're starting your crowdfunding campaign based on my own experiences.

[00:00:57] PREPPING YOUR CROWDFUNDING Your approach to raising money through crowdfunding shouldn't be that different to when you were applying to a film fund. You still need to have a really good script and you still need to do your budget breakdowns and understand the scope and the ambition of the film. Ultimately, that's what you're going to be pitching, but to the public and you need to know how much money you can raise and how much money you need to raise. So generally, I would like to think that three thousand pounds is probably the limit for a short film.

[00:01:28] I know there are exceptions to this rule and it really depends who's in your networks and how much money you think you can raise. But I think a three thousand or one thousand budget level film is really a good starting point when you just out of university and you don't want to overwhelm yourself with huge financial responsibilities and you also don't want to take too much on in terms of the size of crew you need to manage and in terms of the ambition and the scope of the film, I know you might think that this is contradictory when I tell you would be ambitious, but I think within reason, when you're spending money and when you're accountable to other people, just remember that you don't want to give yourself too big a task and you need your experiences in filmmaking to be really positive and meaningful. You don't want it to be a bad experience where you feel like you just dug yourself a big hole and you were overwhelmed by the responsibilities involved. So crowdfunding for around a thousand or three thousand pounds, I think is a good thing to aim for and think about what script you can you have or can develop that would fit within that budget range.

[00:02:34] The most important part of crowdfunding is the pitch video or pitch videos, depending how many you want to make throughout your campaign.When I was producing A Six and Two Threes, which was funded by Creative England and Metro Line, which is also funded by Creative England, they were part of a scheme called shorts and you would get five thousand pounds and then you had to crowdfund additional money. So I'm going to use these two videos as examples.

[00:03:03] VIDEO. Now, one thing I think about when you're making a crowdfunding video is you're selling yourself as a creative filmmaker. So be creative. Don't hold back. And if you're making a comedy, make people laugh. You want people to know that you're a funny person and you're a funny team and you're going to make a funny film. Your crowdfunding video should be funny. Alternatively, if you're making a drama or if you're making a horror film or a thriller, try and incorporate those elements into your crowdfunding video show that you can successfully craft something that adheres to that genre and really sell yourself within that genre space. If we look at the crowdfunding video for A Six and Two Threes, in fact, it doesn't feature myself or Andy. And it's just a guy called Daniel John Williams, who is an actor from Stockton, which is where we filmed, and he was just using all the charm and all the humor that is in the script to just walk around Stockton and pitch how great it would be if we made a film there.

[00:04:11] We've also got loads of iconic landmarks like this bridge, this bridge and this bridge. We proper love bridges us. Despite all that, no one's ever made a film around here. I mean, we're going to make that World War Z film, you know, the one with Brad Pitt. But they reckon Teeside was a bit too depressing, you know, to make an apocalyptic zombie film. But some mad heads want to change all that.

[00:04:35] I mean, that video did extraordinarily well, had a huge reach because people in Stockton and people in Teesside  saw it and they became really involved and really excited about the idea that somebody wanted to make a really fun film in that area because before nobody else was making that kind of film. And then if we look to Metroland, um, we tried various different approaches. Ultimately, we went with one where, you know, Benjamin, who has quite a self-deprecating sense of humor and sort of used that within the pitch video. And we also had his mentor, Mike Lee, come into the video and do a bit about how annoying Benjamin is.

[00:05:22] Maria is incredibly supportive of the projects that we're making together. And the thing that I really enjoy about working with her is that she's always there when I need her. As a graduate from the London Film School last year, I'm lucky enough to actually know Mike and spend quite a bit of time with him. He's always been incredibly supportive of the films that I'm trying to make, and he's somebody that I can always call up and depend upon to help me really forge my place within the film industry. Listen, Benjamin, if you don't stop e-mailing me and stop phone me, stop texting me and stop sending me... And I just don't want to have any more copies of This Weekend at Bernie's. If I get any more of these. If I hear from you again, I'm going to call the police.

[00:06:04] I think we were making very quirky, very silly kind of film. And we wanted the the the pitch video in the crowdfunding campaign to kind of reflect that. We also did another, more personal, like, quite heartfelt video about the inspiration for making that film. And again, that was another really quite a successful thing to have within our campaign. If you're selling yourself as a filmmaker, make a good film that pitches you. It's not rocket science, but you'll be surprised how little effort people put into their crowdfunding videos - don't do that. You want to stand out. You want to get people's attention. You want the reach of your campaign to spread beyond your friends and family. And by using everything at your disposal, by making a really creative pitch, you can do that or you can get the attention of the wider community.

[00:06:54] PITCH. Another thing that's important to mention your team, if you're working producer, director, writer, cinematographer, it's good to show that you're not one person on their own trying to make it all happen so that there's a professional structure for three thousand pound film. You might not have a huge crew. You might have maybe seven or eight people in a couple of actors, but so many of them. And and bring them along the journey of crowdfunding because you never know what opportunities that might open up. But it's really important to show that you are serious and you're professional. And I think that helped convince people who might be on the fence about supporting you, shows that you're thinking about how difficult a film can be to make and how it is a collaborative process.

[00:07:36] Part of the excitement of a crowdfunding campaign is the rewards that you can offer people. Um, I always found that it was better to be realistic with rewards. So if you're going to offer certain merchandise, know that you can factor in the cost of printing and postage and just generally making these rewards. Um, my personal tip is don't do anything so crazy that it stops you from working on your film and making a good film. You're the focus of your crowdfunding campaign is to then go and make the film and make it really excellent. You shouldn't be spending your time printing T-shirts or designing banners, make things that sort of really engage people in the process that was making a film. Think about how you can give them access to behind the scenes footage or give them an invite to set and the opportunity to be an extra in the film. Maybe they can sort of get an invite to the screening. You know, things likee these are manageable. They can be delivered digitally as well. And you don't have to spend your time sort of fretting about, you know, how are you going to create something bespoke and give it to people. Because your energy should go into making the film. Always make sure you're being honest and realistic about your film. Don't pitch it to people saying it's going to be a massive success and going to win an Academy Awards because that might not be realistic. Understand that most people giving to your campaign are usually family and friends, and really what they want to do is be true patrons of your career and they want to help you get your foot in the door.

[00:09:14] And the best thing you can do is be honest and involve them in every step of the way. They don't want huge rewards and they just want to know that you feel happy and creatively fulfilled. So when you're going through your campaign and even afterwards, when you're making the film, send them updates, be engaging, be honest and just show them the process that you're going through. Make them understand the hard work involved, because that could mean that the next film, they give you more money or they can be supportive in other ways. And, you know, it's your family and friends that become your true champions at the beginning and help you go through to the next level. So really be honest and engage with them and bring them along with you as you're making your film. And it can be a really rewarding experience for you and for them.

[00:09:59] Always say thank you. When you crowdfunding, you have social media channels for you, your personal account, and also one's dedicated to film. And just remember to always thank people very loudly and very openly. Thank you is sometimes the best thing that you can offer people. And there's no shame in that. And just be very grateful and understand that people are not going to get their money back again. And goes back to my previous point, they're just, they want to be supportive. It's not an investment that's going to come back to them. So remember everybody and always be gracious and kind and grateful to anybody who supports you.

[00:10:36] Usually crowdfunding campaigns do very well in the first three days and on the last three days, and there's quite often a lull in the middle. Don't be discouraged and don't think that you're going to lose everything. Keep promoting your film. Keep reminding people to give money, be gentle in the way that you ask and always be engaging and honest. As I said before, and when you're coming to your final week of crowdfunding, maybe offer different rewards, try to get some press attention, or maybe try to engage otheere networks. And just to really give you a campaign, that final push so we can get over the line. And once you do hit your target, you know, make sure you celebrate that and make sure you make people aware because they still might want to contribute to your campaign. So don't just stop campaigning for crowdfunding. You know, keep going and be honest with people of how you're going to spend the extra bit of money that you might raise.

[00:11:33] Ultimately, crowdfunding is a huge commitment and it does take about a month to run a campaign. And it is very involving, but it can be hugely rewarding. Make sure you're creative in the pitch that you put forward and how you design your video and make sure you can engage with your networks, your immediate networks and also the wider networks.

[00:11:53] And you'll find that it can be very rewarding and successful experience.