It’s been 30 days since I launched my Seed & Spark campaign to raise funding for the post-production phase of my feature indie film The Spaceship, and as promised, here is my follow up review of the service.
The funding campaign didn’t make the required 80% minimum it needed to receive a green light and I’ll talk about this in a moment. First, I just want to give the people over at Seed & Spark props for the service and their killer efforts to make this campaign a success. They really went above and beyond the call of duty to help me get the word out. They were actively tweeting, re-tweeting, favoring tweets and FB likes – and a few staffers even pledged (try getting a Kickstarter staffer to pledge – it won’t happen). In the campaign’s second week, they elected my campaign to be featured as a “Staff Pick” which was incredibly generous and helped us gain some traction.
Unfortunately we only topped 3% of our our $15,000 goal – we didn’t even break $500. I’ve made a valiant effort not to be angry about this and have actually kept calm in light of the reality. I’ve managed to do so by going back and thinking about other times in my life I have had to raise money for a project (whether it’s a school project or a community fund raiser of some kind). Anyone who has ever done any kind of fund raising knows that just because someone has disposable income, doesn’t mean they have sympathy for the cause. Some of the most common responses to my e-mail blasts were “if you need money for your movie, why not go to Kickstarter?” Well, that’s exactly what this was! That’s when I realized that most people have little to no clue how Kickstarter or crowd funding in general actually works. If I had gone to Kickstarter, I would have still e-mailed them about making a pledge. Unfortunately, crowd funding is dependent on the filmmakers network and the generosity and enthusiasm of that network. While I had some very surprising people come out to pledge, for the most part my network seems to have developed a severe case of apathy for the project.
Crowd funding is precisely that… CROWD funding: success is dependent on the filmmaker having a generous network of contacts who are sympathetic to the arts and understanding of the plight of indie filmmakers. Success and failure seem to have little to do with the abilities and potential of the filmmaker or the project. I’ve had offers to screen this project at several huge film festivals in addition to other incredible opportunities but none of this matters to most people because most people seem to be incapable of thinking about the future. It’s a now or never thing, unless you’re a big time director. As an out of pocket indie filmmaker, I’ve embarked on a massive project that has way more production value than any of my peers are attempting to do and some of these cats assumed the film would be ready and released within the same year we shot it. Even if I had been properly funded, this project would take at least two years to complete. We’re likely looking at a pushed deadline considering the failure of the campaign. I recently changed the date on the IMDB page from 2014 to 2016; few noticed or even seemed to care.
People will find a reason not to give. When I volunteered with various animal rescue groups a couple years ago, I was taken aback by some of the excuses people came up with to get out of putting a dollar in the jar. Everything from, “Sorry bro, on my way to the bar” to “God takes care of all creatures, why bother?” – one line of bullshit after another. If the general public isn’t willing to drop a buck to save a kitten, getting them to drop a buck for a sci-fi movie is a million times more unlikely to succeed.
A couple of actor/filmmakers I had reached out to informed me that they’d rather “save” their contacts for their own projects should they need to crowd fund. I reached out to Seed & Spark about whether or not they had heard of this, here was what co-founder Emily Best had to say to this: “All of the filmmakers in your network need to understand that you are helping to build a broader network they can reach in to. Crowd funding works best with altruism: they help you, you help them. If they’re all planning to launch a campaign, they should all be contributing to a campaign. It’s not an “I take all and give nothing” environment. That’s the old way.” Emily is correct – altruism is key to ensuring that crowd funding continues to be a successful financing mechanism for future indie films and “saving your contacts” won’t achieve anything more than alienating those from the project you’ve refused to support.
The core of crowd funding relies on the filmmaker having a massive network of people they can go to, all of whom have a bit of disposable income. Very few people have that in general. If you’re a serious artist working on focusing your craft, you’re going to be concentrating on that and not building this big huge network – which has been my problem. I’ve figured out how to make a pretty kick ass film, but have had bucket loads of failure on the business end because of my focus on the craft and lack of focus on my network. On a personal level, I do not believe you should have to be a salesman to succeed at getting films made and although the crowd funding mechanism seems to be a positive step forward for the indie filmmaker, it stills requires the ability to sell yourself, your project and network with others.