You know I must love bringing you crowd funding success stories when I blog about 2 in the past 2 weeks Case Study #1 if you remember was called $100K In 30 Days. After publishing that one, I was contacted by another FS member Lena Khan about her own success story in raising $85K in 30 days. Wow – I just love when these stories keep coming! Why? Because hopefully it not only inspires you with what’s possible, but shows you how these filmmakers were successful, the specific tactics they used, and what they’d do differently next time. It’s a gold mine of information for those of you who want to use crowd funding as part of your financing plan.
So back to Lena …. as you’ll see from her story below, she overshot her original goal of $55K and goes into great detail on what played a big part in that. Anyway, I don’t want to give too much away, so let’s get on with the show…. enjoy!
WHAT IS THE NAME AND LOG LINE OF YOUR FILM?
THE TIGER HUNTER – A young Indian comes to 1970s America on a quest to make it in America, but when his job falls through, resorts to an elaborate charade to convince his girl back home that he’s a huge success.
WHAT IS THE WEBSITE FOR YOUR FILM?
WHAT IS THE BUDGET FOR YOUR FILM?
Under $1.5 million
WHAT WAS THE ORIGINAL FINANCE PLAN FOR YOUR FILM?
Having worked at some production companies before, I knew how difficult it was to get a film financed and get “discovered” in the industry. So, our plan was always to seek private financing and produce it independently, which is what we are doing.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE OBSTACLES YOU ENCOUNTERED WHEN TRYING TO RAISE FINANCING FOR YOUR FILM?
Getting the money! The reality is that all films are risky endeavors, and so finding the sort of people who are okay with that level of risk was always a problem. We knew who they were, and we had even seen some of them finance other films. Quite often, they were the type who had become quite wealthy because of the fact that they were risk-takers. Our problem? Figuring out how to contact them. We did extensive google searches, asked around, attended events they were at, even tried facebook messaging them or tweeting them. All of those, except for tweeting (which never worked) got us to most of our investors.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO TURN TO CROWD FUNDING AND WHAT WAS YOUR ORIGINAL PLAN AND GOAL?
I decided to turn to crowd-funding when I started learning more about how important it was to have a fan base early on. I started reading about how people who join your campaign become invested supporters of the film, and thought it would be a great way to get people involved in the film and also help raise some of budget shortfall. Originally,we wanted to raise $100K in 60 days, but the more we researched the successful campaigns, the more we realized that $100K was actually very difficult to raise and that the most successful campaigns were 30 days long. People talked about campaigns that raised that much as if they were amazing success stories that were trailblazers rather than the norm. Seeing that, we changed our goal to $55K. We ended up raising about $85K.
TELL US ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN – HOW DID YOU STRUCTURE IT, PROMOTE IT, AND SUSTAIN IT?
The campaign was tough. We started out by making contact with influential personalities on facebook and twitter that may have interest in our film–anyone from engineers (our lead character is one) to South Asian comedians, indie film groups and even Hindu and Muslim groups (we have a character from both groups, even though it’s not a religious film). We contacted them all asking them if they could do a write-up or announce our campaign. That proved pretty effective; the first two days of our campaign we raised about $15K I think. After that, it was a fight to sustain it. The first 10 days were easier –we had a lot of blogs who let me write for them, or wrote about us. That attracted a sizable amount of traffic to our page. The worst part was sustaining interest mid-campaign. We did contests and surveys (like, “which of these actors do you think is best for our lead role?”) on my Facebook fan page and that helped a bit. By the last week of the campaign, I think all of that sort of audience participation helped because I think people either just started feeling bad for us or felt excited. In the last week, it was more of a ”help us reach our goal!” type effort. People would check in to ask how much we had left and they were concerned, as if they were running the campaign with us. Through the entire campaign, we had various ways to keep interest. We had a team member who would post a “badge” (cute icons shaped like a guy with an Afro, a Rubik’s cube, a lava lamp, etc since our movie was a 70s flick) to each donor’s facebook wall. It would say something like, “I made the movie’s picture car possible!” and had a stylized image of a Dodge Charger. In addition, on my twitter and facebook I would post a movie line every couple hours (I used Hootsuite to schedule these) with one word replaced with #kickstarter and a link to our campaign. It would say something like, ”Nobody puts #kickstarter in a corner.”http://kck.st/13tcFx8 . This actually helped a lot because it wasn’t in your face promotion but it got a lot of retweets and sustained interest. Sustaining and promoting the campaign mostly rested on making friends on twitter and just having conversations (we didn’t just blast out our campaign all day), being engaging over Facebook, and the most important part–sending emails to literally everyone I ever remember having met. I sent about 3000 personal emails, with personal messages and also a link that made it easier for them to share the campaign. Our click-through rate for those emails went through the roof, and I wrote a blog post about how to make easy links for sharing here:
Using Kickstarter’s analytics was a big help. It let us know which blogs generated more traffic and which didn’t. For instance, I published an article on Huffington Post to help promote our campaign (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lena-khan/they-say_b_2626396.html ) and that helped us quite a bit.
It also helped that none of our incentives in the campaign cost anything, but they were tailored around recognizing those who pledged. For instance, in one tier we offered to hide the donor’s name somewhere in the film. In another, we simply wrote a poem about the person pledging and posted it on their Facebook wall. This made the people pledging feel recognized, made us use less money on useless rewards and thus have to raise less, and gave us easy promotion by being very visible on Facebook. In the last few days of our campaign, we again messaged every single influential person again and people I knew asking their help in a final push. That worked well and we got most of our pledges at the end. We actually got our goal a few days before thee campaign ended, and the struggle after that was getting people to understand that we still needed more money…we just set the Kickstarter goal lower because that is what Kickstarter (and everyone) advises so that you don’t end up with nothing.
WHAT RESOURCES OR TOOLS DID YOU FIND MOST HELPFUL ALONG THE WAY?
Small things made a big difference. A lot of it was learning what other Kickstarter campaigns had done that was successful and imitating them! For instance, we put little arrows in our main image pointing to the links to share on twitter and facebook; a lot of people told us that helped a lot since people have short attention spans and don’t want to search. Making a landing page for people to visit that made it easier to share on facebook and twitter was a big help as well. After that, a lot of it was just about automating. I used a Zirtual assistant for one month to help with small tasks like posting everyone’s names each day to our “special thanks” page on our website (they are still there). I used Hootsuite to schedule Facebook and Twitter posts. I used “Boomerang” (a gmail extension) to pre-write my 3,000 personal emails and send them all on the beginning and last days of the campaign. The list goes on. All that helped a lot, and having a committed team of people working with us, doing anything from posting badges or writing poems for those who pledged (that was one of our incentives) made a huge difference. There’s no way I could have done that much work alone. Another tool that was helpful, honestly, was PayPal. I’m sure Kickstarter would frown on it, but by the end of the campaign we put a ”Donate through PayPal” link on our page. That helped us raise more than $10K. It turns out that a lot of people don’t feel like taking the effort to sign up to Kickstarter (which you have to do in order to pledge) and once we announced we had integrated PayPal, decided to pledge. I’m pretty sure having such a link would jeopardize your campaign’s chances of being featured on Kickstarter (we already los our chance when we launched our campaign early on accident), but it is invaluable to put a PayPal link on your website, your emails, etc. A lot of people also wrote us checks.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE ULTIMATE OUTCOME AND DID YOU ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS?
We did, mostly. We actually have about $50K left to raise, but we didn’t think we could get it over Kickstarter. Looking back, I almost feel like I should have taken the risk and raised our goal amount because once we met it, it was hard to convince people to still give. That said, the campaign was great for us. We made great contacts — be it groups, influential people or sites who will help promote us later, or even the investor that we got from the attention that the campaign generated. And now, we have a nifty little video we can use on our web site and more than 800 people invested in the film.
IF YOU HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?
Preparation for a Kickstarter campaign is like pre-production. If you can afford it and can manage making time for it, you can never have too much of it. People say you can’t raise that much over Kickstarter if you don’t already have large numbers of Facebook and Twitter fans and I think that’s absolutely true. If I could do it again, I would spend an entire year just building up a larger fan base (I started my campaign I believe with 4,000 Facebook fans) and then launching thereafter. I would also do as much as I could before — making the graphics, pre-writing all blog posts, etc. It all translates into more pledges!
WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS FROM HERE?
Right now, we are looking to add some key personnel to our team and shortly will be trying to attach more of the main roles. In addition, we do have a bit of the budget left. If anyone wants to help us meet that, no contribution is invaluable! Please feel free to throw us a bone at http://www.thetigerhunter.com !
So now over to you – what questions do you have for Lena or me? Please post them in the comments section below!
And if you have your own crowd funding success story you’d like to share, please email me and let me know!