Independent filmmakers often forget that the most difficult aspect of filmmaking isn’t a fussy leading actor, a complex lighting setup, or that day craft services forgets to show up at call time (arguably the worst thing ever to happen on a film set). In reality, it’s funding, marketing, and distribution—which should be a part of every filmmaker’s plan from the very beginning.
Which brings us to Kickstarter . . .
Kickstarter is crowdsourced funding at its finest. Creators of all types raise money to fund all kinds of projects, from feature films to smart watches. Only successful projects are funded (if a campaign doesn’t meet its funding goal, its funders are not charged).
It’s no coincidence that the Film & Video category is the second most-funded category on the site, with more than $200 million raised to date—and while Kickstarter is primarily known for funding, it also acts as a unique platform for distribution.
DIY distribution can seem incredibly daunting. If you have an established brand, you could try your hand at self-hosted distribution following the path of those like Louis CK, a comedian who paid for his stand-up special out of pocket, cut out the middle man, and offered a digital download to fans on his website for a mere $5—to massive success. However, it’s important to remember that CK was already an Emmy-nominated comedian at that point, with millions of fans and several HBO specials.
Kickstarter is far more open to the everyman—though donations aren’t entirely selfless. Backers receive rewards that increase as donations increase. Rewards for backers can come in many forms, such as t-shirts, personalized thank you notes, etc., but digital media downloads are among the more enticing incentives. Instead of waiting around for distribution, you can sell your film while simultaneously raising money for its creation.
Getting Support for your Campaign
Kickstarter has its own community of potential backers ready and willing to donate to projects (about 60% of all money pledged on Kickstarter comes from repeat backers). However, the key to success on the platform is how well you can leverage your existing network—which holds true for any self-distribution plan.
A good first step is to make a list of all the people you know who will have an interest in your project: family, friends, mentors, college buddies, etc. Craft a personal email that explains your project goals, why it is important, and how you plan to spend the money. This core group is very important—as before you shout out to the masses, it will help to show that you already have support for your project.
As a video creator, you already have a slight edge over other Kickstarter projects. Approximately 50% of all campaigns on Kickstarter succeed when they include a campaign video, as opposed to just 30% without. The key here is to come off as genuine, friendly, and professional. There’s nothing worse than a filmmaking Kickstarter campaign with poorly lit video and distracting background noise. Using stock footage or royalty-free music is one technique that can add production value to your work and show potential backers your high bar for quality.
While YouTube mainly exists as an end-use platform for completed videos, Kickstarter can host the full lifecycle of your project—from funding all the way to distribution.
Finding Vivian Maier, a successfully-funded independent feature film on Kickstarter offered backers pledging $25 or more a digital download of the full film—and later became a 2015 Academy Award nominee.
While the standard distribution model takes a lot of time and money and brings no guarantees of success, using Kickstarter allows you to build audience support throughout the filmmaking process—making the name Kickstarter really quite accurate.
Is Kickstarter the Right Platform for you?
Whether you are developing a film or have a completed film ready for distribution, Kickstarter can be a great platform to find success. Unlike some other distribution methods, Kickstarter also provides a source to raise funds and grow your fan base. Instead of purely transactional viewers, you can connect with loyal backers with a vested interest in helping see you achieve your goals while following you every step of the way.
Adam Gillikin writes about self-distribution, crowdsourced funding, and stock footage for VideoBlocks.