Crowd Funding Your Film Case Study: $100K in 30 Days

We’re back with the first installment of my new Crowd Funding Case Study series. I created this series to hopefully inspire you with results that other filmmakers are getting in raising development and production money through crowd funding platforms. A few weeks ago I asked on Facebook what you wanted to know about Crowd Funding and people said – more success stories and case studies please! So here we are….

Today we’re going to hear from Film Specific member Wendy Haines, who doubled down when one source of financing fell through by quickly executing a 30 day campaign that brought in over $100K (she surpassed her goal)!

A few weeks ago she told her story on my Building Value For Investors Virtual Seminar, and those on the call were rapt (and so was I quite frankly), so I invited her to share her experience in more detail, and she gladly obliged so hopefully it will help other filmmakers too.

So with that said, over to Wendy…..

 

WHAT IS THE NAME AND LOG LINE OF YOUR FILM?

“Sophisticated: the Untold Hollywood Story of Dorothy Arzner”

Logline: The wild, untold story of Dorothy Arzner, a dame in the 1920’s, who overcame the odds and stepped into her greatness as Hollywood’s first female Director.

 

WHAT IS THE WEBSITE FOR YOUR FILM?

http://dorothyarznermovie.com/

 

WHAT IS THE BUDGET FOR YOUR FILM?

We are currently budgeted at 7M

 

WHAT WAS THE ORIGINAL FINANCE PLAN FOR YOUR FILM?

20% private equity

Remainder in presales and tax incentives

 

WHAT WERE SOME OF THE OBSTACLES YOU ENCOUNTERED WHEN TRYING TO RAISE FINANCING FOR YOUR FILM?

I’m still in the process of raising money. A lesson that I’ve learned is to not put all your eggs in one basket. I spent months “courting” a sure-thing investor who was bringing 1/2 our private equity to the table. At the end of the day, an unexpected personal obstacle he faced caused him to pull out entirely. I was back at square one because I had assumed things were moving forward with him and turned my energy and attention to another aspect of the project.  This ended up being the catalyst to do a crowd funding campaign to help cover development costs and to add leverage in the attachment process.

 

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO TURN TO CROWD FUNDING AND WHAT WAS YOUR ORIGINAL PLAN AND GOAL?

As I shared above, I decided to do crowdfunding to bring some immediate money in for the project to help with development costs and to help give us leverage for the attachment process.  I had resisted crowdfunding up until this point, thinking that with a $7M budget, it would only offer a drop in the bucket.  However, I decided that having $100,000 would help move things forward in an immediate way.  So, I dug in, taught myself what was needed via the Kickstarter website and took a big, huge leap!  It is very “me” to find myself at the edge of the cliff and blindly jump…. trusting that I will learn to fly along the way.  Boy, did I!

 

TELL US ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN – HOW DID YOU STRUCTURE IT, PROMOTE IT, AND SUSTAIN IT?

When I approached the campaign, I took the time to hone in on and then communicate the “hook”… the thing that would have people want to become a part of getting this movie made.  In the case of “Sophisticated”, it is clear to me.  It is the story of the first female director in Hollywood.  An unsung heroine who had a great career and contributed a lot to the art of film, yet is essentially forgotten in Hollywood history.  The “hook” helped me to identify and reach out to the specific audience: women, people who have a heart for unsung heroines, people who want to be a part of writing this unsung heroine back into Hollywood history through the medium she loved.  I shot a video for the KS campaign where I shared about this and the power of sharing it forward with your friends.  Word of mouth is how crowdfunding works, so it is important to make it clear, engaging and exciting to jump on board.

Throughout the campaign, I invited people to be a part of the team.  I carried that spirit throughout the campaign.  It really is that… you are in a “race” to the specific finish line and you are growing your team along the way.  I maintained that and it truly was a team effort.

As far as promoting the campaign, I started with a mailing list of my own of about 2500.  From there, I branched out through Facebook and Twitter.  I learned along the way, that it is essential and possible to expand your reach on the internet.  I did this by searching for groups on FB that would align with the project, joining the groups, then sharing the project with them.  You can also do that through broad internet searches for groups and organizations that align with your vision.  I learned this while the campaign was already underway.  Ideally, you should do this BEFORE you launch.  It is about relationships.  Casting the widest net possible.  If you do this legwork and relationship building before you launch, you will save yourself a lot of headache and stress.

As I said before, you are running race.  You will reach plateaus during that race.  In those “down” times, you can incentivize your audience to share and donate and even increase their pledge.  I got on bended knee to friends to ask for matching funds.  I did that more than once during the campaign.  I have also heard of people getting bonus gifts to get people on board.

My goal from the beginning was to reach the $100,000 goal in 30 days.  A big goal.  But, the woman that my film is about was very gutsy, a real risk-taker and in the spirit of her and the nature of the project, it felt like a match to do the campaign in this way.  I KNEW it was possible and worked my but off to keep reaching out, keep inspiring people to come and be a part of the team.

 

WHAT RESOURCES OR TOOLS DID YOU FIND MOST HELPFUL ALONG THE WAY?

The most powerful tool, hands down, was the internet.  Using this resource to continue to broaden your reach, to get to know more and more organizations and people… it is endless and it takes diligence to continue to reach out further, but is well worth the effort.  I also had a small band of volunteers who helped me in this process.  I could not have done it on my own.  Late in the campaign, a friend tipped me off to the fact that there are people who you can bring on board (hire) to help your campaign succeed.  I did this.  It was invaluable.  I would advise anyone to consider this ahead of time.  People who do this can help craft your campaign, strategize and create an “on ramp” so your campaign will succeed.  I learned from him that successful crowdfunding is not “luck”, there is a science to it.  Having a clear vision/message, knowing who your “audience” is, building relationships to expand your reach, coupled with the psychology of running a winning race adds up to success.

 

WHAT HAS BEEN THE ULTIMATE OUTCOME AND DID YOU ACCOMPLISH YOUR GOALS?

It was a LOT of hours, a LOT of work and a white-knuckle at the end, but we did it!  We surpassed our $100,000 goal in 30 days.  What bowled me over was the response from our “win”.  I knew the money would empower the project, but what I found was that the energy and enthusiasm from the people who came on board was even more valuable.  It knocked my socks off.  The minute the campaign ended, a tidal wave of excited emails, texts and phone calls hit.  It was (and still is) truly encouraging to see and feel the support of so many.  And I now know that I not only reached the financial goal, I have begun tapping into and building my audience.  Very affirming.

 

IF YOU HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY?

If I were to do it again, I would:

1. put more time into building my onramp – I would have started my outreach and relationship building at least 2 months before I launched.

2. timing of your launch – I launched first thing in the morning west coast time.  mistake.  the campaign ends exactly at that time, and the END of your campaign is when there is the most urgency, that is your “anchor” time.  Better to have your campaign end at the end of the day, so you can finish strong.

3.  strong start – get your close friends and family to be a part of starting strong.  let them know exactly when you are going to launch and have them contribute right away.  raising a lot right out of the gate will make you a winning team from the beginning and more people will want to pay attention to and join a winning team.

4.  put your website in an obvious place on your KS page as the campaign ends – your page “freezes” as it is when your campaign ends and you want to forever be able to point people toward where they can reach you after the campaign ends.

 

WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT STEPS FROM HERE?

Since the campaign, I have been interviewing directors and am also exploring partnership with a production company.  We are bringing bankable attachments on board to position us to raise the rest of our funds.  The journey continues!

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If you want to read more about Crowd Funding, check out a previous post I did called Constructive Advice For Crowd Funding Your Next Movie.

And any questions you have for Wendy, please post them in the comments section below!

 

JOIN OVER 10,000 SUCCESSFUL FILMMAKERS

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Comments

  1. Trevor F. Ward says

    I would agree with the top 3 “if you had to do it all over again.” I’ve done two campaigns. The first one successfully met it’s goal and the second one just fell short. I’ve learned these lessons the hard way.

    One more thing I would add: have good incentives. Though people will often give because of the “cause”, we’re all motivated by “what’s in it for me?” Think about what you can give someone that will have value to them?

    • Stacey Parks says

      Hey Trevor, Good idea about the incentives. And thanks for sharing your experience! How much did you end up raising in your campaigns and what did you use the funds for?

  2. bob says

    “Late in the campaign, a friend tipped me off to the fact that there are people who you can bring on board (hire) to help your campaign succeed. I did this. It was invaluable. I would advise anyone to consider this ahead of time. People who do this can help craft your campaign, strategize and create an “on ramp” so your campaign will succeed….”

    Can you recommend some possibilities here? Thanks.

  3. Anastasia says

    Hi Wendy! Thanks for sharing your experience. In terms of reaching out to groups or forums online, did you find that you broke through the e-pitch barrier easily? You mentioned had you had prepped more it would have been better. Do you think this pertains to building more authentic relationships rather than calls to help? Also, were your messages to each group/forum etc tailored specifically to them (ie no mass emails)? Thanks and continued success on your project.

    Best,
    Anastasia

    • Wendy Haines says

      Hey Anistasia

      To respond to your questions: I did find success with my e-pitches. Crafting this in an enticing way is essential. Consider your audience and appeal to what’s meaningful to them.
      As for different messages, I did attempt to craft my messages to the people and groups I was reaching out to. I had the message change and evolve over time. This way, people wouldn’t feel I was repeating things. You can cut and paste messages to specific groups. For example, if I were sending messages to a number of people in the same group, to save time, each of them would get the same message each round. Make sense?
      People do seem to respond to a sense that you are speaking to them personally, so keep the time of the message specific to that.
      Best if luck!
      Peace
      Wendy

    • Wendy Haines says

      Hey James

      “On ramp” is the time you take leading up to the launch of your campaign. Ideally, as much as two months. In this time, you want to craft your “pitch”, get clear on who your audience is, reach out to groups and organizations who would align with and possibly support your project (this can mean joining related groups on FB, searching the internet for other groups, reaching out to make contact, post on blogs to create a presence, etc).
      This is also the time you let your friends and family in on your campaign and strategize with them. Let them know exactly when you will launch. Have them lined up and ready to pledge right away. This gives your campaign a strong start, which will paint the picture that this is an exciting campaign, is starting strong, and will motivate others to come and join the team.

      Hope that answers your question!

      Best
      Wendy Haines

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