Five years ago the idea of funding an unproduced film through fan participation was unheard of, or at the least, a revolutionary idea. Now, the Internet is bombarded with crowdfunding sites, blogs and social media networks focused on funding independent films. There’s a smorgasbord of films and filmmakers all vying for fans and their pocket change. With so many people screaming, “gimme gimme,” how does the true film fan (aficionado) know who to support and what film is best served by their donation?
It would be simple to suggest supporting the most clever and original crowdfunding campaign. However, the truth is, most crowfunding campaigns are smart and flashy. Filmmakers tend to pull out all the stops to get the attention of interested fans. But research proves that many campaigns, while clever, do not speak to the heart of independent filmmaking. That is, most campaigns are about getting attention and do not build upon the concepts behind the do-it-yourself idea of independent filmmaking.
Further studies show that many fans who support a film or filmmaker’s initial project do not return to support additional projects. This is not a favorable occurrence for the filmmaker or the film fan since it suggests lack of interest. In this case, one bad apple , or bad film, can spoil it for other filmmakers and fans down the road.
To true fans of independent film, the idea of crowdfunding is enticing; it gives the fan the opportunity to join the film production process early and be an instrumental part of the film’s completion. Since film fans are a necessary aspect of the filmed entertainment business, an educated fan is far more valuable to a filmmaker. Here are some tips to make the crowdfunding experience more effective, pleasurable and rewarding for filmmakers and fans alike.
SUPPORT FILMS YOU ALREADY ENJOY
Film fans are intelligent moviegoers. They recognize genres, themes and bad ideas within the first five minutes of a film. Most fans have favorites. They enjoy a particular genre or theme and are often supremely loyal to it. If you are going to fund an independent film it’s best to choose a film in a genre you already enjoy. It’s the filmmaker’s responsibility to know and clearly distinguish his/her film’s genre in all campaign activities to make it simple to find fans of the genre..
If you are a horror film fan, look for crowdfunding campaigns within that genre. If you enjoy thrillers, look for those films. The same goes for sci-fi, documentaries, fantasy and action genres. Crowdfunding is a gamble. Even the odds by supporting a film in a genre that already gives you goosebumps. It’s far more risky to financially support an action film when you’re not a true fan of the genre. Chances are you’ll be disappointed.
SEE THE FILMS YOU SUPPORT
Most people have a certain amount of influence over their friends and family. This is the power of word-of-mouth advertising. However, most support for films comes at a level which typically ensure film credit, not film copy. If you are going to invest in a film and the filmmaker, why not guarantee your ability to actually watch the film? Donate at a level that includes receiving a copy of the film as a perk. This perk can be a digital download of the film or a DVD.
SUPPORT THE FILMMAKERS BEHIND THE FILM
When fans support a film with a donation they directly support the FILMMAKER. This is an irrevocable truth. The filmmaker gets the money and the film is made according the the filmmaker’s desires, not the fan’s desires. With this is mind, a film fan would serve his/her interests better by getting to know the filmmaker behind the film. Filmmakers should have blogs or websites seperate from the film site. This site is the starting place for fans who want to familiarize themselves with the filmmaker’s endeavors, film history and general personality.
A film’s personality is a direct result of the director’s influence. If a fan finds a director’s personality unlikeable, chances are, watching the film will not be a pleasurable event. However, this effect runs deeper than personality. Sometimes the issues involve spirituality, political preference, gender, religious belief, etc. Fans should know who they are supporting behind the camera and filmmakers must make every attempt to make their ideas for the film transparent.
SUPPORT EXPERIENCE, THEN OVER PASSION
Every year thousands of independent films fall short of completion. The passion behind making the film is overwhelmed by the frustrations that invariably come from the inherent difficulties in making the film. It is a miracle that any film gets made. In consideration of this it is smarter, if not simply more prudent, to invest your support in a filmmaker with a proven track record of completing his or her films.
Crowdfunding sites are ripe with campaigns from enthusiastic, burgeoning young artists. Many have never made a film before. And while everyone deserves a chance, remember, it’s your money. Funding a film is a gamble. Stack the odds in your favor.
However, never forget that for some people it is their passion that enables them to endure the hardships of filmmaker. Passion is unmistakable. You wear it like an armored suit. It’s either there or it is not.
TELL TWO FRIENDS
The primary concept behind crowdfunding is: building an audience. As a supporter of a film you have every right, and perhaps even a duty, to spread the word. If every aspect of the film excites you: the director, the script, the concept, the genre, why not suggest it to friends and family? Chances are you know people who enjoy the same types of films as you do. Referrals coming from a film’s ardent supporters can be the difference between a successful campaign and one that falls short of its financial goals.
THE LEGEND OF BLACK LOTUS, a crowdfunding campaign
An example of a crowdfunding initiative that goes above-and-beyond the call of duty to enlist ardent supporters is the campaign for Black Lotus. Black Lotus is my epic fantasy martial-arts film project. It tells the tale of the ancient Chinese legend of a child who would be borne of the earth, denied her royal birthright, made a slave and ultimately rise to become a great warrior and unify a divided kingdom. The campaign is hosted on Indiegogo, the premier crowdfunding site and includes three 3-minute videos and a mock-up video of the animatic storyboard that funds will be used to produce. The campaign also includes links to the casting call for Black Lotus, a Facebook fan page, and my personal blog where potential fans can get to know me and the award-winning films I’ve completed in the past.
The crowdfunding experience should be enjoyable for everyone, not just the filmmaker who gets the money to make a film. Filmmakers have a responsibility to deliver the goods and keep the fans informed of the project’s progress. Fans should do what fans do best, enjoy good movies and spread the word.