Crowd-Funding: The Psychology for Success – D-Media’s CEO, Gina Fegan, Reports from MIPCOM 2011

D-Media Network CEO, Gina Fegan, reports on Crowd-Funding, the Psychology for Success – notes from MIPCOM, October 2011

Crowd-funding is where you appeal to people to give you money so that you can make or do something. The focus here is on raising finance for film or television projects.

Although a seductive and deceptively simple concept, i.e. no more convincing investors of the viability of your business plan or filling in public sector application forms, just go straight to the audience and say ‘if you like good stuff – you’ll love this’, the question is does it really work?

Listening to Peter Wintonick a Canadian producer, yes it does, but it’s not new, even before the internet filmmakers have been trying all sorts of ways to raise the money; raffles, fund-raising parties, direct contributions and so on.

So what’s different now? The internet and social media allow us to access an almost unlimited number of people, so surely there are people out there who want to contribute to our project, you just have to ask them!

There are a number of websites that have sprung up to help achieve this aim, in the main they facilitate your web presence and manage the collection of the contributions. Most run a fund raising ‘campaign’ for a time limited period, so let’s say you choose xx days to raise £xx,xxx as your target, some sites will hold the money and if you do not reach your target will simply return it to the contributors while others will pay out whatever you managed to raise less a fee (in the range 3-5%) of the money raised.

www.Indiegogo.com is one of the earliest and arguably most successful websites to help people raise money for individual projects. The company’s Slava Rubin is passionate and driven, so I can see how he could do it but could anyone? Here’s where the psychology comes in…

Peter renamed the process as “Monetise Me”, and in fact this captures the biggest change in approach for most filmmakers/TV producers; now its about putting yourself out there in a direct, honest way and explaining to your ‘community’ or people likely to invest in you why this project is great and why you are the right people to do it. Throughout the whole process, the more effort and energy that you put into it, the more likely you are going to get what you want.

Indiegogo gives the key reasons people will give you money, (in order of importance):

  • They care
  • Perks – you give them things
  • To be part of a group
  • To make a profit – this one is hard

Successful campaign tips from Indiegogo:

  • Be clear, have one simple message, one goal to achieve
  • Use a video to explain who you are and what you want; they are buying into you, the team. The copy on the site should mirror the video. This is because moving image is substantially more attractive and attention grabbing and your direct honesty and passion comes across.
  • The perks should have a range of benefits, which relate to the engagement or contribution and should have at least three levels for bigger contributions, such as visits to the set, tickets to the premiere, screen credits, etc.
  • The best duration for the campaign is from 30 to 70 days
  • Update your site at least 13 times in that period
  • Ask people 7 times or more – don’t be shy – be direct.
  • Email is by far the best communication method, followed Facebook, then Twitter
  • Find an audience that cares, this is called ‘social proof’ and is 30-40% stronger than cash, ie they will come back for more and support your project throughout its lifetime.
  • To get a prime position on the Indiegogo homepage you need to raise your ‘Go-Go Factor’, this is calculated by an algorithm based on: ‘social proof’, time to optimisation, activity and other factors.

Basically the more effort you put into this, the more likely you are to succeed, and this time it really is personal!

This was supported by Barbara Tonelli of Touscoprod.com which is a French site specifically for audio-visual content.  To date they have limited the number of projects accepted in order to put their full marketing weight behind them. However, (hot off the press), they will soon unveil their new site which will extend the number of projects and the number of tools available to promote each project.

But it’s not all plain sailing. I have listed a number of the issues that Peter raised which should definitely be considered before starting out on a project, however some of the sites will already have taken a view and only offer you a limited route.

If you have an appetite for putting yourself in the public eye, crowd-funding can make a substantial contribution to your budget.  However, the real benefit comes from all the hard work developing ‘social proof’ and an audience who care, who are now ready and waiting for your film to come out and who will help shout about it.

The Crib Sheet:

Does it work?

The amount of money being raised by crowd-funding is increasing and a number of people have raised over £100,000.

Who’s doing it? i.e. what websites…?

Good examples worth taking a look at..

  • Age of Stupid – Franny Armstrong
  • Brave new films – Robert Greenwald
  • Steel this film – Jamie King
  • Yesmen
  • Michael Moore
  • Good Pitches and Good Screenings
  • A Swarm of Angels film

Services and Toolboxes:

  • Wikipedia on crowd-funding
  • White label crowd-funding generics
  • Createafund.com
  • Lance Weiler workbook
  • Creative Capital
  • DocAgora
  • Peter Broderick

Issues that you will have to consider:

  • Vetting, trust, accountability, due diligence
  • Expertise – is the project good?
  • Is it an investment or a donation?
  • Membership club or pre-ordering products?
  • Scattered free-range or targeted?
  • Legality – regions, territories?
  • Endless follow-through and follow-up

Re-cap on the Process:

  1. Post and Campaign
  2. Engage Audience
  3. Get Funded
  4. Track Analytics
  5. Collect Money
  6. Fulfill Perks

Design for Success:

  • An Honest and Engaging Pitch
  • Be Proactive
  • Find an Audience that Cares

Thanks to:           

Peter Wintonick, www.eyesteelfilm.com
Slava Rubin, www.indiegogo.com
Barbara Tonelli, www.touscoprod.com
And chair W. Paterson Ferns, www.fernsproduction.com