Crowdfunding has taken off. The most successful film projects are now raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, when not that long ago they were raising tens of thousands. The top three films in the Kickstarter Hall of Fame are BLUE LIKE JAZZ ($345,992), THE PRICE ($161,774), and I AM I ($111,965).
Unlike BLUE LIKE JAZZ and THE PRICE which are both based on material written by authors with large and loyal followings, I AM I is an excellent example of how to build support for an original script. After seeing my presentations on crowdfunding, writer-director Jocelyn Towne and her producers Cora Olson and Jen Dubin from Present Pictures (GOOD DICK) convinced an investor to match up to $100,000 in donations. They built a solid website, calibrated their reward levels, planned the stages of their campaign, and created a great video. Done in one long carefully choreographed take, viewer’s found this humorous video irresistible.
They began their 38-day effort on Kickstarter through their personal networks. Jocelyn spent the month before the campaign drafting individual emails to everyone she knew and saved them for launch day. On Twitter, 40,000 people were following her actor/husband Simon Helberg (featured in the hit TV show, THE BIG BANG THEORY) and 10,000 were following Jason Ritter (another popular I AM I cast member who is the star of NBC’s THE EVENT). The team also made good use of Facebook. Jocelyn worked tirelessly on the campaign, writing personal thank you notes to almost every donor.
Donations started strong ($17,000 in the first few days), slowed down over the Christmas holidays, and accelerated as they approached the finish line ($24,000 in the closing days). Their contributors included friends, family, colleagues, and a few studio executives. 80% of their 902 contributors were total strangers. Amazingly, 3 of these strangers made $10,000 donations, for which Jocelyn and Simon promised to come to their hometowns and do private screenings just for them. Overall, as is typical with Kickstarter projects, the majority of donations were at the $20 (32%) and $100 (26%) levels.
Their campaign was so successful that it gave I AM I the momentum needed to move into production. Even after their campaign ended, people were still asking to contribute. The I AM I team added a Donate button to their website and is offering rewards similar to those they gave on Kickstarter.
In addition to the $111,965 raised, their campaign created a large network of supporters. Producer Cora Olson observed, “our initial goal was to raise as much money as possible, but when we saw how many online impressions we were making, we realized that this awareness could ultimately be more valuable than cash when it’s time to launch the film.”
© 2011 Peter Broderick