Posted by Paul Devlin:
As I take my Kickstarter campaign out into the world, I have encountered what may be a fairly common sentiment among filmmakers regarding crowdfunding. It’s paraphrased here:
“Hey your Kickstarter looks great! Here’s the problem: I get asked so often to join crowd-funding campaigns that I have made it a policy not to back any. But I wish you the best of luck with your project!”
Here is my open response to that response:
I understand that point of view completely! In fact that was my policy exactly for the longest time.
Until of course, I started my own Kickstarter campaign…
Now, I have a new appreciation for what a nervy, risky undertaking crowdfunding is. Not only is the life of the project at stake, but so is one’s self-esteem. As filmmaker Allison Berg says, “It’s like losing a popularity contest every day.” The “ask” is so difficult – who wants to hassle family, friends and colleagues for money? And then what message does it send if the campaign ultimately fails? I have great respect for anyone who makes a serious effort. So I have dropped my rule and now evaluate crowdfunding requests I receive on their individual merits.
This is reinforced by the buzz at IFP Film Week a few days ago that crowdfunding for independents may have a limited window of effectiveness. Big players like Sony Pictures Classics and Disney are sniffing around crowdfunding as a potential tool to supplement their mega-marketing campaigns. Maybe there’s room for everyone. Or maybe independents will get crowded out of crowdfunding, as the whole world applies this policy to all but the loudest campaigns. It won’t be the first time artists get squeezed from the space we pioneered. So, I will embrace the moment while it lasts.
In the meantime, crowdfunding is rapidly becoming essential for independents. Not only is it the only funding option for many projects, but gatekeepers may soon be expecting it as the first step of a distribution strategy. They will be looking at the success of the campaign and the dollar figures, but also the number of backers. These will be used to evaluate the filmmaker’s social capital and the viability of his or her project. There may come a time when every independent film needs to start with a crowdfunding campaign.
As filmmakers, we may want to support the health of independent film generally by applying an alternative rule of thumb that increases backer numbers: Back every crowdfunding request with at least a single dollar.
So I encourage you to reconsider your policy and start your first crowdfunding campaign sooner rather than later.
What is your personal policy regarding requests to support crowdfunding? Are we approaching a point of saturation where filmmakers will start to withdraw from the funding process? Or will the necessity to create our own campaigns encourage us to back others more consistently?