Tag Archives: crowd funding

How Plan B turned into Plan A+

My bad! I haven’t posted here in way too long. But I have a really good reason…I’VE BEEN MAKING A MOVIE!

We are actually in the final stages of post production right now, and it’s turning out so much better than I ever could have imagined.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Plan B had its real start when I met Cedric Hill through Mandy.com. Cedric is a 15-year film veteran and an instructor at both the New York Film Academy and Rutgers University Newark. When Cedric first replied to my Mandy posting, I replied to him that I thought his background might be too extensive for my little project, but he asked to see the script anyway. A day later, he got back to me and asked if we could meet. Not next week or in a few months, as so many other respondents had suggested. The next day.

We met on a Saturday over lunch in Montclair, NJ. I explained my no-budget plan to him, and he didn’t seem to flinch. We discussed not only the script and how it came to be, but also film in general. He kind of dug deep into my soul, which was a little unnerving, but somehow I didn’t feel uncomfortable revealing so much about myself (I’ve come to understand that Cedric has a true gift when it comes to getting people to open up and to trust him, which is probably one of the qualities that makes him such a talented director).

As the meeting progressed, he said something to the effect of, “Okay, now let’s talk about what kind of money it will take to make this film.”

I was a bit taken aback, because I’d made it clear that this was to be a no-budget film.

“Well, I have about $800 left from a screenwriting prize,” I replied.

By this time, I was so excited about the progress we’d made over lunch, that my mind started racing, thinking about how to raise more money. Could I even think about asking people to contribute again after two failed crowdfunding attempts (I hadn’t received a cent of what had been raised because I hadn’t reached my lofty goals).

“Well,” I continued, “I was able to raise close to $5000 the last two times. With some work, I could probably convince my supporters to believe in me one more time.”

“That’s a good start,” he said. “And once we have something to show people, we can probably raise some more for post production. When were you planning to shoot?”

“Six weeks,” I said.

“Make it eight,” he responded. “Let’s hold auditions Tuesday. We start rehearsals Thursday.”

I became silent. He knew what I was thinking.

“Place the ad on Mandy. We’ll have plenty of responses.”

“So we’re going to make a movie,” I said as we walked out of the restaurant.

“Yes. We’re going to make a movie.”

(To be continued in future blog entries, and soon…I promise! In the meantime, take a look at this link of Cedric telling a story to The Secret Society Of Twisted Storytellers. It will give you insight as to who he is, why he works with such intensity and passion, and why it it’s so easy to open up to him and love him).

As I prepare to re-launch my crowdfunding campaign…

As I work to prepare a relaunch of my Kickstarter campaign (although this time possibly not on Kickstarter), I yesterday performed one of the tasks most-suggested to me…dye my beard in order to look younger. While it irks me no end that a person my age has to be young to break into filmmaking (the same thing that ended my advertising career after so many years), I decided to go with public opinion. However, I decided to use “Touch of Gray” so as not to go overboard. The result…an interesting shade of light blue! I look like Papa Smurf! Anyway, I’m about to apply another very liberal coat and leave it on double the specified time. I figure the worst I can hope for is a darker share of blue!

Got my ass kicked on Kickstarter!

This article was supposed to be a post about the successful marketing tactics I used for my recent Kickstarter campaign.

But as you know, the campaign was not the success I’d imagined it would have been.

I did everything I was supposed to do. I spent several months getting ready: refining my project description and creating what I believed to be a convincing video; preparing a tight-but-realistic budget; studying hundreds of previous similar Kickstarter campaigns, both successful and unsuccessful; creating compelling pledge rewards. I unleashed powerful pre-launch and launch campaigns using social media contacts I’ve been accumulating. In addition to bulk emails, I also sent almost 1000 personal emails. I made regular Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. I blogged. I provided regular updates on my Kickstarter page. I generated positive press. I constructed creative messages to keep variety in my appeals. I purchased Facebook advertising and spent money to boost my posts. I lived and breathed Kickstarter every waking hour for a full month.

So what went wrong?

I have spent the last four weeks thinking of nothing else. And I wish I could tell you here that I’ve come to some solid conclusions. While I have in fact determined what some of the downfalls were, I am not yet certain how to conquer these obstacles.

Here is what I’ve learned from my campaign:

1. You need a huge stable of people who believe in you and your project before you launch, and they have to be loud about it.

Thank you again to those who followed and contributed to my campaign. The average pledge amount was $93.20, which is actually well above both the $25 most-favorite donation and the $70 average for most Kickstarter campaigns. Forty-four believers backed my project, but I’d anticipated about ten times that number based on my own relationships with friends, family and colleagues and their stated willingness to spread the excitement. So my stable wasn’t as huge as I’d thought, which still baffles me based on pre-campaign conversations. It’s tempting to get angry (and I have to admit that I was pretty miffed for a while…with some of that irritation still lingering toward a few people on whom I’d really been relying to sell my project to their contacts), but the more constructive thing to do is to figure out why my group of supporters didn’t come through as projected. Did I not sufficiently explain the process? Did I not adequately explain the importance of not only spreading the word but also of asking for support of their friends? Did I not give people enough reason to feel that they were a part of the project? Or were they just not as excited as I’d believed them to be? Before I launch again, I have to figure these things out, plus I have to increase my number of believers. While some crowdfunding projects are lucky enough to go viral, usually because of big name attachments, most are dependent upon the allegiance and participation of the core base.

2. People don’t want to be a part of a campaign they don’t think is going to succeed, even if they believe in the project itself.

This sounds crazy, right? But based on a post-campaign survey I sent to my prospect list, many said they didn’t see the point of pledging based upon the slow progress of the funding. Did they not want to be associated with a failed project? Did they think it just wasn’t worth their time to pledge if failure seemed imminent? I don’t know. This one makes no sense to me, especially because under Kickstarter rules, pledging would have cost them absolutely nothing if the campaign were to fail. This is yet another issue I must address before re-launching.

3. You will lose some friends and even alienate some family members during the course of your crowdfunding campaign.

Persistence is key to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Yet, there will be a segment who will find your persistence annoying. This was made very clear to me when I received an email with only two words in the subject box: “ENOUGH ALREADY!” I can’t begin to express how hurtful these two words were for so many reasons. Firstly, this message was from a professional fundraiser who knows the importance of repetition. Secondly, this was the response of a person for whom I’ve completed scores of successful projects over the years at no cost to him or his organization. Thirdly, this person knows just how important this project is to me. Once I got over the initial hurt (okay, so I’m not really over it yet), I began to wonder just how many others were alienated, especially if someone so close to me had such an intense response. I have to take this into consideration before my next campaign.

4. Funding other projects helps create support.

I am about to back my nineteenth and twentieth projects on Kickstarter today. I began supporting Kickstarter campaigns months ago because of my own dedication to independent filmmaking, because I know that crowdfunding is the only way most of these projects will get made, and because I believe in the projects I support. What I didn’t realize when I started pledging is that I was joining a community of mutual supporters who often reciprocate pledges and social media support. While I will continue to support the projects of other filmmakers in any event, I must concentrate on making better use of the mutual support that comes from pledging.

5. Did I choose the right crowdfunding program?

There are many reasons I selected Kickstarter over other fundraising platforms, and perhaps I will decide to go with them again. The main reasons I chose Kickstarter were because of their reputation and because I knew that I couldn’t create what I was envisioning for any less than I was asking. Since Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition, I knew I wouldn’t be in the predicament of delivering anything of lesser quality than I’d be promising my supporters. On the other hand, had I gone with another site such as Indiegogo, I’d have some seed money in my pocket now and a record of fundraising that I could use to my advantage in raising additional money. While I am more interested in making my film than I am in spending countless months on fundraising, this is another option I must consider before launching again.

6. Connecting and engaging online with those who are most likely to support my cause is a daunting task.

I wish there were a simple way of connecting with those who have already demonstrated Kickstarter support for independent films (perhaps the recent hacking of Kickstarter was by a frustrated filmmaker looking for leads rather than by someone looking to steal credit card numbers)! When I was making my living in the world of advertising, it was super-easy to buy or rent a list of potential buyers. It appears that such a list doesn’t exist for this particular demographic. You would think the Internet would make it easy to build a list of those who share your passion, but the opposite is true. As pointed out by the website agency 2.0, the people I seek “exist in the nooks and crannies of the web. These nooks and crannies are where the passion side of the web resides…These are those people that care about your issues, your causes and hopefully your project.” The post goes on to say that these people are found on blogs, forums, websites, social media, podcasts, in newsletters, in groups and in hashtags. I have been searching all of these digital avenues for months, and I find I haven’t even made a dent! Daunting indeed. Suggestions are welcome!

7. I have to listen to my supporters and learn from my mistakes.

As I mentioned earlier, I performed a post-campaign 10-question survey of everyone whom I’d solicited. In it, I encouraged complete honesty, and that’s just what I received. As a result, not only will my next campaign be different, but there may be substantial changes to the project itself.

So, am I any closer to re-launching the campaign?

I am.

But, as you can see, there’s still so much more I have to consider!

So please…post your comments below and pass this link along to those who have either run their own crowdfunding campaigns (successful or unsuccessful) and to those who may have supported similar campaigns.

Together, maybe we’ll be able to find out how to increase the number of successful campaigns well beyond the current 30% level!

And please…if you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, please do so below!

What is Kevin Smith thinking, and what does it have to do with my Kickstarter campaign?

I attended a session entitled “What Is Kevin Smith Thinking?” at this past weekend’s Montclair Film Festival. He explained why he maxed out his credit cards to make “Clerks” 20 years ago while he was making five dollars an hour in a convenience store. He said his compelling motivation was, “If I don’t get to do this, I’m gonna die.”

I actually gasped at his words. Those are exactly the same words I’ve been saying to friends and family for a couple of years now when I talk about making at least one of my scripts into a film. They tell me not to be so overly dramatic.

Okay, so maybe I won’t die…but I think something inside of me definitely will.

Many of you know me from school or our having worked together at one time or another, whether it was in journalism, marketing, advertising or during my brief stint as a small gym owner. But as devoted as I’ve been to my professional work, not one of the projects that defines my 40 years of corporate life has ever made me say, “If I don’t get to do this, I’m gonna die.”

So I have to make this movie. And I need your help. Hopefully, you’ve seen my LinkedIn and Facebook updates about my Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to film my script “Gymful Remembrances.” I’m taking the crowd-funding route because, unlike Kevin Smith of 20 years ago, my credit cards are already maxed out (having a mortgage and a daughter who’s a college freshman will kind of do that to you).

It’s a good script. My wife and brothers think so. But more importantly, so does the Indie Gathering International Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (first place, drama/comedy category, 2012) and the Garden State Film Festival Screenwriting Competition (top-five finalist, 2011).

Those of you who know me also know how hard is for me to ask for help…especially monetarily, so you know this has to mean a lot to me. But here goes…

Please consider being a part of this project by visiting my Kickstarter project page (http://kck.st/1hhCvJ0), seeing what it’s all about, and becoming a patron of the film. I’ve put together a professional team, and we’re giving away all sorts of goodies at the various contribution levels. Of course, every patron gets a participation acknowledgement during the film’s closing credits. And if I can be just a little bolder here…please also pass the word along to your friends and colleagues, especially those who enjoy supporting the arts, asking them, too, to become a part of “Gymful Remembrances.”

Whew! That actually was really hard! I’ve always been much better at creating sales materials to put in other people’s hands so they could ask for the money!

That link again is http://kck.st/1hhCvJ0, or just go to Kickstarter.com and search for “Gymful Remembrances.”

Kevin Smith at the 2014 Montclair Film Festival.

Kevin Smith at the 2014 Montclair Film Festival.