An Introvert’s Guide to Crowdfunding

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IndieWire | By Nathan Williams | July 29, 2014

make moviesNot the most social person? No worries. This introvert's guide to crowdfunding has you covered.

Seed&Spark has given Indiewire permission to republish this story which originally appeared on their blog.

Thousands of fans. A team of tireless super-producers. An instantly viral concept. A robust network of friends with deep pockets. If you have any of these, congrats! Now save yourself the time and stop reading. This is addressed not to the filmmaker who is primed for crowdfunding success and just needs to fine-tune their campaign but, rather, the talented, passionate filmmaker for whom none of this stuff comes naturally. Because I know exactly how you feel.

I'm a private person (I avoided Facebook until 2013). My films have had touching responses from their relatively small audiences but have nothing resembling an established fan base. My close collaborators are stellar film artists but neither fundraisers nor social media pioneers. I feel queasy asking people for favors and worse asking for money.

Infographic:  11 essential ingredients every crowdfunding campaign needs

But we're kidding ourselves if we let any of that serve as an excuse. If you can make a film, you can crowdfund a film. It may run against the grain of your personality, it may be more work than you want it to be, it may involve countless small disappointments, but if you are smart about constructing your campaign and truly determined to make it a reality, you will succeed. Here's how:

Do your research

In preparing our campaign for "If There's a Hell Below," I looked at dozens of past crowdfunding campaigns. I looked at campaigns that were huge successes and those that were dismal failures. I looked at campaigns I've personally supported and those I'd never dream of backing (sorry, Mr. Braff).

Hangout:  NCFA hangout with documentary filmmakers on startups and crowdfunding

You've watched thousands of films as you've developed your filmmaking taste, skills, and style. So do your crowdfunding homework for a few nights. We didn't find any individual project that was a perfect model for us, but seeing great ideas and bad ones (and ideas that looked like great ones but failed for some reason) were critical in informing our own strategies. Films have been crowdfunding for half a decade, and they're all still out there to learn from—don't ignore this valuable resource.

Identify your strengths

Be as clear-eyed as possible about the strengths and weaknesses of your project. If necessary ask a brutally honest friend to do this. Not every element of your dream project is going to resonate—find what about yours will motivate people to action.

We identified two key strengths for "If There's a Hell Below." The first was our actors. Now, our lead actors aren't household names (yet). But we discovered that two of our leads had key roles in a popular series about role-playing games. Our film has almost nothing in common with this series, but a key goal of our project became tapping into its many passionate fans and convincing them it would be cool to see these actors they love in a very different context. And, more broadly, the appeal of the film itself rides on these actors, so putting them front and center in the campaign felt right.

Our second identified strength was our narrative hook. We've got a killer story, but it's dense and character-based and far too much to convey in a sound bite. The hook, however, which involved relinquishing something of a spoiler, was "A journalist meets a government whistleblower in the middle of nowhere, and an hour later one of them is dead." This emphasized a mystery and also tied into our actors (here are our charming actors—one of them will not survive). Are there better hooks out there? Most certainly. But I bet part of you is already a little curious about what happens…

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