A Few More Crowd-Funding Thoughts

Crowd-funding is becoming a bigger and bigger concept and conceivable way of raising money to create/make/help people move closer and closer to their dream. It’s definitely a much more popular way of raising money than even twelve months ago and more often than not, you have a conversation with an emerging filmmaker and they’re either thinking about, have completed or are in the process of running a campaign to crowd-fund their project.

I’ve already talked about the crowd-funding campaign for With A Little Help From Our Friends here and here. They run through most of the things that I’ve picked up on that you can do for yourself to give you the best possible chance of hitting your goal. Nothing is ever guaranteed, but there are definitely things you can do to put together a fantastic campaign.

The main thing I’ve noticed recently, as more and more campaigns get launched every day, is that often people underestimate the power of the internet.

The internet is a huge, international being. Social media – the main way that word of projects and campaigns is spread these days – is a worldwide phenomenon. A crowd-funding project launched in Australia, can hit people who are on their computers in America, Ukraine, the United Kingdom. These people also have money that they can give to your campaigns. They also have friends that they can pass your campaign on to.

Don’t alienate them.

More frequently, I’m seeing projects that have perks that are restricted to particular regions. A perk reward of a ticket for a local event in Brisbane is less likely to interest a contributor who is based in Denver and has no chance of getting to Australia for the dates. And yes, there will be some people who give money for the sake of giving money, but more often than not, the average person would like something for their money.

Make your perks accessible internationally.

Why cut yourself off to additional members of your audience? You spread the net as wide as you can so that you give every single person who looks at your campaign an equal chance of contributing to it. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have perks that are local – but make sure you have a range of perks that are accessible on an international scale.

And open yourself up to dollars, pounds, euros, rupees, roubles – all of it!

End Of An Era

It’s with intense pride, relief and joy that I’m happy to announce that the With A Little Help From Our Friends DVDs have been posted (and hopefully most arrived by now)!

They were posted out last week and I’ve had some people telling me that they’ve shown up on their doorsteps, which is really wonderful to hear. It was a bit of a process putting the DVDs together – designing the covers, printing, trimming, fitting the sleeve; designing the DVD menu; burning each DVD individually and trying to work out what design to put on the DVD itself. In the end, I was inspired by my sister who joked I should draw stick figures on them, which made me realise that I’d saved the figurines from the Indiegogo campaign pitch video.

The Indiegogo pitch video
The final DVDs

Once they were all packaged up at ready to go, I had to work out the best way to distribute the 40 DVDs around the world. I figured out that to send all the UK parcels individually to the UK would be the same price as sending them in one hit to Craig to post out again, so I decided to post them all from Australia. Some needed scripts, some were solely DVDs, all were hand addressed and packaged with lots of love and care by yours truly.

With several bags packed full of these, I trundled down to the post office to send them out. And ten minutes after I arrived, they were gone! Off to all corners of the world – from Moonee Ponds to Maidenhead, from Denver to Pontypridd.
It’s a strange feeling, having done everything now. The film is officially finished. The perks have all been sent out. I’ve had some wonderful emails, tweets and phone calls congratulating me on the film – some even with favourite quotes included, which does wonders for your self esteem as a writer and your appreciation of your wonderful actors who can deliver a line (Markus, Danny, Carolina and Victoria, I’m looking at you!).
So now, as ever, the next step. The next step in this case is to have a look into festivals that might be options to enter the film into. This is alongside writing other scripts and also toying with the idea of the next short film, one that I want to be bigger, better and stronger than With A Little Help From Our Friends. But right now, I’m going to focus on writing my comedy feature film and co-writing my television sitcom pilot and continuing to blog about random things that occur to me along the way.
Thanks for being a part of the With A Little Help From Our Friends journey. I can’t quite believe it’s over, but it’s been absolutely incredible!
Alli x

Crowd-Funding Thoughts

In the past few weeks, crowdfunding has become a hot topic once again thanks to the success of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign. It’s been a hotly debated subject – is crowdfunding now dead to indie creators as it’ll start to be taken over by bigger studios who want to get a bit of extra money in their pockets? Or is it just the beginning of something even bigger? Who knows? But I think that every single person who is planning to or is running a crowdfunding campaign can learn so much from the way this campaign has been run and some of the reasons it’s been so phenomenally successful.

1. Build your fanbase early.

Sure, Veronica Mars was on TV, with a pretty strong and devoted fan following in the years it was on. But they maintained the fanbase since the show has been off the air and when they put out the call to arms, the fans answered. And answered and answered and answered. There’s only a few days left of the campaign, but I reckon that they’ll still hit the five million dollar mark before their campaign is done. So get talking about your project. The easiest way to do stuff like this is to create your digital footprint. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Facebook page it. Make people aware of it. Give them as much access to the journey as you can so that when you need help, there are people there to give it to you. I reckon about 50% of the backers of With A Little Help From Our Friends were people that I’d met through Twitter since starting up the blog. They knew what was going on. And they were eager to help out when we needed to set up the budget.

2. Choose your limit carefully.

Think realistically about how much money you need. Think of the dream about you want. Then settle for somewhere in the middle. Be realistic but not cynical about the amount of money you think you can raise. If I was to do the With A Little Help From Our Friends campaign again, I’ve probably set my target a little higher. That’s not being greedy either – we weren’t asking for much in the first place. But because I wasn’t expecting the support I got (in the end, we raised 132% over our target), we hit the intended amount in the first week. And often once you hit your target, people think that that’s it and the contributions slow down a lot. In a typical campaign, you get most of your contributions in the last twelve hours as everyone comes together to help push you over the line. Rob Thomas of Veronica Mars obviously thought that two million dollars was a stretch (which would be rational thinking!), but looking at it now, if he’d asked for five million, he’d have probably raised that much by now too. Be hopefully realistic about your target limit.

3. Make your perks special.

Your perks are the things that are going to seal the deal. Honestly. If your project looks amazing but your perks are expensive and not thought through, people will hesitate. And you don’t want to give your audience a reason to say anything but yes. Think about the logical steps of money. $2, $10, $25, $50, $100, $200, $500. Maybe with a few others in between. It’s entirely up to you how you structure your perks. But think about giving people value for their money. Research other campaigns that have been successful. Veronica Mars is a great example. $25 for an exclusive t-shirt, exclusive pdf of the shooting script, regular updates and insights into what goes on on set. That’s a banging deal for $25 – especially if you’re a fan. $25 is often the most popular amount contributed to a campaign, so make it count. I remember a friend of mine once said that he’s happy to give $25 to a campaign as it’s like buying a DVD. This is a great point – if you haven’t got DVDs or t-shirts or tangible products until the backers start to hit $100, that’s a REALLY expensive piece of merchandise.

4. Make your pitch video count.

That’s what this is, after all. A pitch video. Keep it brief and to the point – unless you have super cool awesome imagery like The Underwater Realm or The Fitzroy. But if it’s talking heads, get across your tone, story, what you need the money for and yourself. After all, you’re asking people to give you money to trust that you’ll deliver them a product. You need them to buy into you and your project – very literally. There’s loads of space to explain more in writing and I’d really really encourage video updates throughout the campaign as it really helps build a sense of personality and excitement around the project. And by leaving them wanting to know more, they’re more likely to read what the rest of the campaign is about.
5. Do your research.

I really think that this is the key to running a strong campaign. Do your research before you start. There are loads of crowdfunding sites now – which is best for you? Kickstarter? Pozible? Indiegogo? Look into territories – Kickstarter is very US based, Indiegogo is UK based, Pozible is Australia but some support multiple currencies. Look into the wildly popular campaigns that have raised loads of money – what about them worked? Look into ones that haven’t worked and, sadly, failed – why didn’t they reach their target? What is unique about your project that you can offer?
I think that crowd-funding is going to become a much bigger player in independent creative projects. It already has done in the few years since it’s been around. With more projects out there competing against each other for attention, you really need to look at how you can make your work stand out. But it’s not impossible to raise money this way – in fact, I think it’s getting easier as crowdfunding becomes more prominent in the world. 
You’ve just got to be smart about the way you go about it. 
(I wrote a similar post to this as the With A Little Help From Our Friends campaign came to an end here.)

Post Production – The Long and Winding Road

It seems like it’s been awhile since there’s been an update on the film, but rest assured there is progress. The editing process is taking a little longer than imagined, due to people getting sick, people travelling abroad for work, getting new eyes onto the project…

It’s now four months since we wrapped the shoot. Time did that thing where it sped up without me realising. But the film is in the hands of a new editor and I’m due to see a new cut next week which I am very much looking forward to. It needs a lot of work to really help the jokes shine out of it and ramp the pace up, but I’m positive that between Adam and I that we’ll be able to put something together really nicely.

The other element of post production that is unusual for ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ is the fact that we are having to organise and send out some of our crowd funding perks. The first ones went out a few weeks ago – if you contributed $50 or more to the film, you would receive a handmade thank you card from yours truly. I spent a creative and slightly sticky Saturday afternoon creating these:

And judging by the tweets, texts and comments on Facebook I got, they were a massive success. The personal touch was something that people seemed to really love and as no two cards were the same, it was a definite unique stamp that helped to signify their involvement in the film. I’m glad they were so well received as I really do appreciate everyone chipping in to help us out where they could.

I’ll have more news for your guys on the edit in the next fortnight once I’ve caught up with Adam and we’ll see where we’re at!

Crowd-Funding: The Breakdown

I received a tweet a few days ago from Rachel on Twitter. She’s running an IndieGoGo campaign like we’ve been for With A Little Help From Our Friends and as we’ve managed to pull off such a successful campaign, she wondered if I could give her some tips.

I want to start off by saying this.

If you’d told me before we started that the campaign would raise over $2000, I’d have laughed at you.

I had no idea that our campaign would work as well as it has. We honestly thought that we would struggle to hit $1000. We decided to only ask for a portion of our budget as we thought it would be greedy to ask for the whole thing. We toyed with only asking for $800! As it is, we’ve now raised the whole budget anyway. Incredible.

That’s the thing with crowd-funding. You never quite know what’s going to stick. But from my experience from this campaign and watching other campaigns, I’ve picked up on a few things that might help.

Build a network.
I think this has been pretty key for our campaign. There are only three of us behind it and even then I think I’ve been the one talking about it the loudest. But I was talking to people who already knew who I was. I have a network on Twitter which has been expanded through the blog so people knew what the film was. It’s no coincidence that the majority of people who have chipped into the campaign are people that I know and speak to semi-regularly. Of those people, most I know through Twitter. They’re part of my support network. But I think it would’ve been much harder without that network of people supporting me, retweeting my tweets and getting the word out. If you’ve got 30 people in your team, each pushing it, you’ll have a pretty good hit rate too. But if there’s only a few of you, try asking the people you know to help you out first, then strangers will chip in too.

Have a well-made video pitch.
The part of the campaign I got the most comments on has easily been the video. They love the cutout characters, the simplicity which (apparently) gives it charm. I knew that the hand-drawn characters could’ve gone either way – tacky or charming – but I think that because it’s shot well, the tackiness gets taken away. But I’ve seen pitches that are fifteen minutes long and full of ramble and dark too. It’s obviously your call as to how you put your video together, but I’d suggest a few key points:

  • keep it short – mine is around a minute long. I think three minutes max.
  • tell people the story, quickly – it’s a pitch. Don’t get bogged down in the details
  • what do you want their money for?  – don’t go in to too much detail, just the key things.
  • conclude it – give your pitch an ending. Mine’s a pun on my title. But conclude it.
  • be yourself – don’t be afraid to let yourself come across in the video. These people are investing in you! The line from mine I once had quoted back at me was: ‘It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.’ That has nothing to do with anything, that’s just me being an idiot.

Don’t forget that you’ve got heaps of room underneath to go into detail. Put your key points in your video to pique interest and then put further detail in the words on the page. It means that people don’t read the same thing over – they learn something about you and your project by reading the extra bit.

Be noisy but don’t be annoying.
This is a fine line. IndieGoGo says that you need to hit your audience seven times before they actually contribute. I reckon that’s not far off. But remember, you’ve got 30, 60, 90 days to reach them seven times! I tweeted the link once in the morning, once at night and when someone contributed and I thanked them on Twitter (one of the perks), I included the link in the tweet. That was enough – although people I spoke to often still said to me after a few days in that they didn’t know I was running a campaign. But those tweets got retweeted and retweeted etc etc. Put a link on your blog, in your Twitter bio – anywhere people click to see who you are. But don’t be that person who tweets their link every two seconds. Then, instead of getting a ‘Oh, yeah, Alli’s campaign! I have to contribute to that!’ reaction, you get a ‘Oh. Alli’s campaign. Wish she’d shut up about it,’ reaction. Be noisy, but not annoying.

Put thought into your perks.
Make your lower perks accessible. Not everyone can afford to but in mega bucks, but even those who chip in a few bucks deserve your thanks. I knew that our $25 and $50 perks would be pretty popular, so I wanted to make them attractive to those who hadn’t decided how much to give yet. $25 was always going to be a copy of the DVD, but that’s a pretty expensive DVD, so I included exclusive content in the Behind The Scenes Stills. $50 was even more special – a copy of the script and a handmade thank-you card. Now, my hand-made cards are pretty ace (just ask my best friend who received a Hufflepuff birthday card this year) and I know I’ll make them all particularly special as a show of thanks. But make your perks attractive enough so that someone might spontaneously decide to jump the next bracket up.

Update it.
Updates rock. People want to see where you’re at and what you’re doing. I did two video blogs early on in the campaign and our contributions went up after each. People are curious as to who the person behind the video and words are. So SHOW THEM. Like I said earlier, they’re investing in YOU. Show them how proactive and productive you are. Show them that you’re going to get this project made – that you’re passionate enough to drive this campaign on. Keep it moving forward.

That’s just a couple of key starting points off the top of my head. Be realistic about how much you ask for, but trust the people you know to support you in the time you’ve allocated. Figure out what your target for each week should be and aim for mini targets throughout your campaign. Offer to put up a new video blog when you get to a certain amount, make yourself accessible if people want to ask questions.

There are heaps of websites you can use to run your campaign now. I used IndieGoGo, but there’s Sponsume and Kickstarter as well – I’d suggest doing some research before you lock onto one. Some give you the money even if you don’t hit your end target, some require you to hit your goal to get anything. One will suit what you’re after.

These are just suggestions, there is no proven formula to what works and what doesn’t. The With A Little Help From Our Friends campaign is still up for another day and a half if you haven’t chipped in yet and would still like to – if we can hit $2500, I would be completely and utterly overwhelmed. As it is, I’m already amazed that we even broke $2300. Like I said, you just never know.

Hope this helps you crowdfunders out there – good luck with your campaigns!

The Countdown: Two Days Until We Shoot

I believe that this is what is called ‘crunch time’.

The last few days have been busy trying to slot everything in place at the last minute, as you have to on a shoot. We’ve gotten our (not £200) harddrives delivered, I’m making lists of things that I need to have on set (pieces of costume, scripts, paperwork etc), updating call sheets at the last minute (yep, there’ll be another one sent out tonight, everyone!).

There are, of course, all those niggly little things that tend to crop up in the last few days before shooting (insurance, money, travel) which we’ve been sorting out over the last few days as well as catering, props and, the biggest one, was a swift addition of a short scene which helps the solidify the story. It means that we add two shots to our days, but they’re short and fast, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue.

The other thing is that the campaign is still going strong (16 days left!) and we’ve nearly hit $2000, which is STAGGERING. Thank you to everyone for your support! $2000 is our full budget (not including contingency), so if we could hit that (or get even more than that!), it would be absolutely amazing. If you haven’t had a look at the campaign yet, check it out here!

This is just a quick update to help me figure out where I am, so that you guys can share the slight chaos that is two days (a day and a half!) before the shoot. It includes slight concern over the soundie’s health, waking up at 2am and attempting to remember to organise a slate so we can actually sync the sound to the vision without wanting to kill ourselves in post and crossing fingers and toes that our Behind The Scenes extraordinaire will be able to make the shoot!

It’s incredibly exhilarating and I can’t wait until Saturday to see how everything’s come into place.

These are the days that remind me of how much I love making films! Utter chaos and last minute organisation, but it’s so ridiculously enjoyable!

And as one of my leads, Markus, said to me last week – ‘YAY FILM!’

The Countdown: Five Days Until We Shoot

It’s Monday already? Gosh, where did last week go? We’ve been busy in the ‘With A Little Help From Our Friends’ production office (and by that, I mean we’re all working out of our respective bedrooms) and suddenly we’re five days out from shooting.

This week is out last chance to get everything in place before Saturday morning. The list isn’t too formidable, but that’s ignoring anything that will go horribly wrong in the next few days. We’ve had a few hiccups but nothing disastrous as yet (touch wood) and we’ve managed to bounce back from that and keep the train moving.

So, where are we at?

We’ve currently raised $1771 toward our budget which is completely amazing considering we thought we’d struggle to hit $1000. Our budget is $2000, so if you’re still interested in helping us out, go and check out the campaign (it’s running for another two and a half weeks). We’re so stunned by the support so thank you so much to everyone who has helped out so far!

We had our second and final rehearsal yesterday which was pretty exciting. It was great to see how much the story and characters have developed since the first rehearsal a few weeks ago and the script is really starting to come into its own. The cast seemed to be having great fun, judging by the explosions of laughter that erupted after the end of each run through and I must admit that I lost it a few times during a scene and had to compose myself so that I could actually focus on the performances (see below for some ace photos!).

Now we’re all about the shoot. Craig is in charge of call sheets and schedules, Jack’s liasing with the locations and I’ve got to finalise shot lists as well as make sure we’ve got all the props and costume we need. This is the week to be organised, definitely, as this is the time when things’ll start to go wrong. But as I told Craig when he called me to tell me that the harddrives we were going to buy for the shoot had leapt up £200 in price because of the floods in Thailand – if nothing goes wrong, then you’ve forgotten something.

Bring on the shoot!

Lucy (Carolina Main) tells Abby (Victoria Smith) why dating Max is a bad idea.

Max (Markus Copeland) tells Des about how he met Abby.

Des (Danny Mahoney) tries to convince Max (Markus Copeland) he’s wrong.

Alli Parker (director) chats to Markus and Danny.

Abby (Victoria Smith), Lucy (Carolina Main), Max (Markus Copeland) and Des (Danny Mahoney).

Of Videos and Haunted Blinds

It’s been a week since the first rehearsal and all seems to be settling well. I have some ideas as to how to tackle the next rehearsal and the particular things I want to focus on with the actors in the second rehearsal the week before we shoot. Jamie, my DOP, is coming along too, so it’ll be a great chance for everyone to really meet everyone before the shoot. Craig and I have been talking about the budget (which is always lots of fun when you don’t have any money) and we think we’ve decided how we’re going to tackle it.

We’re definitely going to try our hand at crowd-funding.

For those of you who don’t know anything about it, crowd-funding is run through various websites that let you put up a pitch of your film and ask complete strangers to agree to contribute some money towards a goal figure in a certain amount of time. In return for them giving you their money, you give them presents as a sign of thanks. Too easy! Well, as long as you can convince people to contribute to the campaign, of course.

Which is what Jack and I were working on on Sunday night, shooting a video to attach to the campaign page. We managed to get the video shot between us, even if we were attacked by haunted blinds. There’s nothing as weird as talking about zombies and vampires and having a blind on the other side of the room suddenly go up. But we survived!

Check out the campaign for the film here!

Let’s see how we go! The video includes me describing the story with hand-drawn puppets!


Sorry for the radio silence over the past two weeks, but I’m back and ready to go!

A quick update on where we’re at with the film:

We’ve had to shift the shoot date by two weeks, due to a couple of little things popping up, so we are now not shooting until November. This is both a good thing and a bad thing – I’d love to get the shoot over and done with already but an extra two weeks in pre-production probably won’t hurt. The danger with having a long pre-production is that you lose enthusiasm because it feels like nothing is getting done. I definitely don’t want to shift the shoot dates again, so cross your fingers that it all comes off all right.

Our first rehearsal is coming up next Sunday which should be exciting because the cast get to meet each other for the first time and we can have a serious play around with the script and see if we can make it even stronger. It’ll also be really interesting to workshop the characters with the actors as well as see how they all bounce off each other to test the chemistry between them all. I’m looking forward to getting all our creative heads into the one room and seeing what we come up with together.

We’re also looking into potentially crowd-funding a portion of the budget to help us get it over the line. The film is a pretty cheap short film as it stands and a little extra money would be great (as always), so that’s an avenue that we’re thinking about exploring as well.

We also need to consider where we can access lights fairly inexpensively and am starting to think about post-production too (yes, it’s always better to consider everything, including post, during pre-production).

I’m off to enjoy my Sunday, but I’ll continue with the Audition Saga this week and round that off, just in time to start talking about rehearsals! Yay!