How to Crowdfund an Oscar Winning Movie

Crowdfunding has become a successful strategy for filmmakers to raise money to make their movies. If you were paying attention, you probably noticed that the 2013 Oscar ceremony awarded two films that benefited from Crowdfunding. With this I believe we can finally say that Hollywood has jumped on the crowdfunding bandwagon.

In March 2011, Andrew Napier co-produced a short film with his friend Shawn Christensen titled Curfew. Needing to cover post-production costs, they turned to crowdfunding site Indiegogo to help offset impending bills. At the time, crowdfunding had not gained traction and the filmmakers, knowing little of the service and its benefits, put minimal effort into their campaign.

Movie Crowdfunding – How to Crowdfund an Oscar Winner

The campaign raised over $1,200 and Curfew went on to win an Academy Award two years later in the Best Live Action Short Film category. Although they only raised 10% of their campaign goal, Napier recognized the opportunities Indiegogo could provide. He returned to the site to finish post-production on a documentary titled Mad as Hell: Rise of The Young Turks in the fall of 2012.

The campaign surpassed its initial goal, raising almost $70,000.

John T. Trigonis is the author of Crowdfunding For Filmmakers and he is the Vertical Manager of Film at Indiegogo. He stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to share some exciting tips on how filmmakers can raise movie money with a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Jason Brubaker
What is Crowdfunding?

John T. Trigonis
Crowdfunding is a revolution in the way films are funded. It’s pooling together funds for a film you want to make directly from the people who want to see it.

Jason Brubaker
How many followers and contacts on various platforms are needed to reach a reasonable fund goal?

John T. Trigonis
Of course, this depends on various factors, including the target amount. But in general, a crowdfunding is possible primarily because of social media, so you need to have a strong following of committed individuals before you even launch.

Jason Brubaker
What about email marketing? Is that better than just social media?

John T. Trigonis
Statistically, email is where most contributions tend to come from, though filmmakers need to have a solid following on Facebook (either friends on their personal pages or “Likes” on their film’s page) and followers on Twitter. Google Plus is coming in at a close third, followed by LinkedIn.

Jason Brubaker
Are there any metrics that say: I’m a filmmakers with 10,000 people on my mailing list. How much money should I go for? What are reasonable fundraising goals?

John T. Trigonis
The fact is that it’s not about metrics or how many people you have on your mailing list and social media sites as it is about engagement with those people. The more engaged your audience is before you launch, the more likely they’ll be to contribute to fund your next film.

Jason Brubaker
Like any business, you have to start somewhere.

John T. Trigonis
It’s about building your foundation so you can construct an amazing crowdfunding and film experience on top of their current level of engagement.

Jason Brubaker
What is the best way to acquire contributors?

John T. Trigonis
I always suggest what I call my “Three Ps of crowdfunding.” That is, your Pitch, Perks, and Promotion. Each is enhanced by a high level of Personalization.

Jason Brubaker
Talking about promotion, which works best for creating interest in your project, a trailer of your movie, or an informational video or both?

John T. Trigonis
People give to people, not to projects. The bottom line is a trailer for your film does not work. A trailer is a sales tool, not a pitch tool.

Jason Brubaker
So what do you feel is most essential in a pitch video?

John T. Trigonis
A pitch video is the thing that will endear someone to contribute to your campaign. Sometimes the contributor doesn’t necessarily like the project, but they like the person behind the project.

Jason Brubaker
Someone can see that you’re serious about your project.

John T. Trigonis
And in this case, the filmmaker is looking the prospective contributor directly in the eyes in his or her pitch video and shows so much passion and drive for the project, that someone simply can’t not contribute.

Jason Brubaker
What are examples of great perks filmmakers can offer their audience?

John T. Trigonis
A great perk, by my definition from my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, is one that is geared toward the audience and is relevant to the film project at hand.

Jason Brubaker
What are some perks that are memorable to you?

John T. Trigonis
The Indiegogo campaigner behind the short film Sync gave each of his funders at the $33 level a record from his own personal collection –– the film is about vinyl. Other great perks include a certificate of e-marriage (Hello, Harto!) and personalized choose-your-own-adventure stories (Twenty Million People). A great perk is one that stands out in terms of creativity and innovation.

Jason Brubaker
I have heard that all campaigns should have a one-dollar perk. Why?

John T. Trigonis
The real question why would anyone want to limit that person who truly loves the project but only has a single dollar to offer? If you start at $25, you’re expecting only a certain level of contributor to give to your campaign.

Jason Brubaker
What are your tips on how to properly manage a crowdfunding campaign?

John T. Trigonis
First and foremost, research. This is something which no one truly does. Second, be realistic with your goal. If no one knows who you are and this is your first film and it’s a feature and you absolutely need $100,000 to make your movie, well, no one’s gonna give you a dime.

Jason Brubaker
This is further indication filmmakers need to start building an audience with short films.

John T. Trigonis
If you’ve been making films for ten years, have screened at film festivals worldwide, and need some additional funds to make your next short film even better than your last ones, and you’re only asking your contacts, Facebook friends and Twitter followers for $5,000 or $10,000, then you’ll be more likely to make over your goal, as was the case with me and my short film Cerise.

Jason Brubaker
So you should probably plan your campaign based on realistic expectations.

John T. Trigonis
I recommend that filmmakers have a strategy from beginning to end, and leave room for innovation and creativity. Without those two elements in place, your campaign will simply get lost in the oceans of other campaigns out there.

Jason Brubaker
How do you feel the Jobs Act will impact the campaigns?

John T. Trigonis
Once equity crowdfunding comes into play, the entire landscape of film financing and funding will shift for the better, allowing not only those of us who want to contribute to a film campaign for a DVD or a role in the movie to contribute, but also allowing investors put larger sums of money into projects for a return on their investment and a piece of the film.

Jason Brubaker
I think this development is exciting for indie filmmakers.

John T. Trigonis
I predict we’ll see a major power shift in the industry, giving rise to a whole new breed of filmmaker who can make a sustainable living raising funds and shooting films.

Jason Brubaker
What are some differences between Kickstarter and Indiegogo – and why should filmmakers choose Indiegogo?

John T. Trigonis
The prime difference between Indiegogo and Kickstarter is that Kickstarter offers an all-or-nothing fundraising model. And Indiegogo offers flexible fundraising model, in which filmmakers keep whatever amount they raise whether or not they hit their target goal.

Jason Brubaker
What if you are not based in the US? Can you still utilize Indiegogo?

John T. Trigonis
Indiegogo is also a truly global crowdfunding platform. Anyone, anywhere in the world can contribute to a project via Indiegogo. Our platform has no gatekeepers who say yes or no to projects like Roman senators; we believe in democratizing fundraising for everyone, and it’ll never be up to us to say what should or shouldn’t be crowdfunded on Indiegogo –– that’s up to the crowd to decide.

Jason Brubaker
What should filmmakers do if they want to find out more? Is there someone they can talk to?

John T. Trigonis
We have a cut-rate Customer Happiness Team that is there to answer any questions campaigners may have, as well as what we call vertical leads who active aid in helping campaigners craft a winning campaign, which is something that no other platform offers except Indiegogo.

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John T. Trigonis is the Vertical Manager of Film at Indiegogo, a published poet, writer and storyteller, DIY filmmaker, freelance professor, and author of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers: The Way to a Successful Film Campaign. Additionally he is a cat lover, coffee aficionado, wine enthusiast, and comic book geek.

Private Film Investors

So you’re trying to woo some private film investors? Maybe you are gaining traction and you feel a deal a close – yet despite the great conversations, something feels elusive – the money!

As a filmmaker, know this. It does not matter how much you want to make a movie. Prospective investors do not care. What they care about is how your movie will benefit them.  If you find yourself getting rejected, it is probably because you forgot this point.

Some private film investors just want to feel significant. Some movie investors want to be famous. And still others want to know that investing in your movie will offer a financial return.

As you pitch your movie to prospective investors, you will experience enthusiasm, gain traction and then suffer defeat. It is not uncommon for calls to go unanswered or your prospect to be perpetually “in a meeting” and unable to talk. Do not take this personally. In every business, deals fall apart.

Strengthening your resolve and overcoming rejection will be one of the tougher parts of the process. It is important to remember that persistence coupled with the belief in your project is everything. Until the money is in the bank, you must continually push forward in the face of adversity. You must pitch your project to multiple prospective investors and always work to expand your network. Never settle until you achieve your goal. If you aren’t being rejected daily, you are not working hard enough.

But by pushing yourself beyond your current self will make the movie possible. In the Indie Producer’s Guide to Film Funding, you will discover specific tactics for actually finding and building relationships with powerful people and private film investors.

Filmmaking Stuff Audio Interview With Carole Lee Dean

Carole Lee Dean is an industry legend. As an entrepreneur, producer and supporter of independent film, her influence has had a positive impact on filmmaking around the world. Most notoriously, 30 years ago, Carole took a $20 bill and created the $50 million a year short end industry. Her company was instrumental in the birth of the Hollywood independent film community because she offered film to Indies at prices they could afford. Customers like Cassavetes took chances with her raw stock and succeeded.

In 1992, she created the Roy W. Dean Grant Foundation in honor of her late father. To date, Carole’s grant and mentorship programs have provided filmmakers with millions of dollars in goods and services and have played an instrumental role in creating important documentary films. She is the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing Concepts and The Art of Manifesting: Creating your Future.

in the following podcast, Los Angeles based indie producer Jason brubaker interviews Carole Dean about non-profit filmmaking, her thoughts on the new model of modern filmmaking and in the process, learns a lesson or two about The Art of Manifesting.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Filmmaking Interview with Carole Lee Dean

As president and CEO of From the Heart Productions, Carole Lee Dean produced over 100 programs, including the popular cable program, HealthStyles, and the historical show, Filmmakers, now housed in the National Archives. As an entrepreneur she created Studio Film & Tape, and sold it to Edgewise in 2001. She created a business supporting independent filmmakers in the 70’s with raw stock and coined the name “short ends.”

In 1992, she created the Roy W. Dean Grant Foundation in honor of her late father. To date, Carole’s grant and mentorship programs have provided filmmakers with millions of dollars in goods and services and have played an instrumental role in creating important documentary films. She is the author of The Art of Film Funding: Alternative Financing Concepts and The Art of Manifesting: Creating your Future.

Carole stopped by Filmmaking Stuff to share some ideas about filmmaking.

Jason Brubaker
Could you tell us a little bit about your work and how you got into the industry?

I was married to a cameraman and went to the set each Friday night and watched them unloading those little pieces of film that I termed “short ends.” I started a business of buying them from the studios and selling to independents, thus supporting the birth of the independent film market. I found that studios even sold new film because cinematographers wanted all one emulsion so I took the 10 or 15K feet of new and sold to people like Cassavetes.

Jason Brubaker
Wow! It is amazing how those “little pieces of film” changed the motion picture industry.

Carole Lee Dean
After a few years of selling “short ends” major video companies came to me to market their stocks and I expanded into tape. I started with $20.00 from the grocery money and sold it when my sales were at $9 million a year to Edgewise.

Jason Brubaker
This is an example of taking action on an idea and bringing it to fruition, much like a movie producer.

Carole Lee Dean
Yes, I believe in manifesting. It’s a process of releasing a potential that was already there. That short ends business was just waiting for me. Thank heavens I did not know how to do a corporate business plan or I would have known that I needed a lot more money. My belief that I could do it overcame the lack of money. I bought it and sold it the same day and most importantly I always saw it as a big business.

Jason Brubaker
It’s important to think big.

Carole Lee Dean
Look at a piece of coal; it’s a black rock, right? Well, if you ignite it you have heat and light, that potential was there you just had to release it. The same applies for filmmakers.

Jason Brubaker
Yeah. I think the key to dreams is internal, not external.

Carole Lee Dean
I tell them to realize their genius. How many people would give their right arm to be a scriptwriter? Most filmmakers are writers, producer’s even actors and editors. You are Pure genius and its important to know that so you have faith in yourself and your ability to make and finish your film. By seeing your film on a daily basis, knowing each shot, You are projecting into the future a vision that you can release with your faith and confidence. Fred Alan Wolf, physicist says that when we are daydreaming and visualizing clearly we are creating that future and that a handshake across time occurs and somewhere in the future it happens just as you saw and felt.

Jason Brubaker
I have experienced what you’re talking about. Sometimes things come into my life when I least expect them.

Carole Lee Dean
My father was responsible for the student discount. I spent every Sunday with him and He began this relentless weekly request for me to give a student discount. I agreed to 3%. He said it was not good enough. Then I went to 5%. Still not good enough so finally to keep peace I agreed to 15% discount.

Jason Brubaker
I’m sure the independent filmmakers were appreciative!

Carole Lee Dean
When Fuji gave me the exclusive national distribution of their 16 & 35mm stocks I set a goal for myself to sell in 9 months and Fuji said, “Oh, that’s too high you will never hit that.” I did hit it and I asked them to give me a larger discount and my priority that I told them was non negotiable was a 15% discount for students. I got this discount and after the first ad was printed, Kodak matched that 15%!!!

Jason Brubaker
And that care for supporting indie filmmakers has stayed with you. The Roy W. Dean Film and Writing Grants have become some of the most well known for independent filmmaker. Could you tell us what criteria you look for when you evaluate potential projects for a grant?

Carole Lee Dean
I want great stories with compelling characters. We fund shorts, indies and docs that are under $500K budgets. The films must be unique and make a contribution to society. Look on the site under grants for prior winners for the type of films we fund. We just started taking features and I want to see one win.

Jason Brubaker
How long does the evaluation process take?

Carole Lee Dean
We have the first cut of finalists on the site in 60 days and your name will stay on for a year, which is very good PR. Next cut is made on the site. We highlight the top 15, then top 10, then top 5 and announce the winner. All this takes about 2 to 3 more months. Filmmakers go through 3 sets of judges.

Jason Brubaker
Let’s say you’re a filmmaker and you’re not selected? Do you offer any sort of consultation or advice to those filmmakers?

Carole Lee Dean
Everyone who applies gets a free 15 minute consultation with me. We can talk about financing your specific film or how to improve your package or marketing or, anything you want. This grant is very dear to me and I like to see you improve from entering it. Our aim is to help you get funded.

Jason Brubaker
In your book The Art of Funding Your Film, you provide a very comprehensive overview of the funding process. Given all the rules and SEC regulations, what advice do you have for filmmakers who have never funded a movie – where do they get started?

Carole Lee Dean
It all starts with a great story. That’s the most important part, work on the store, give me compelling characters that I want to spend 90 minutes with. Write and keep writing and rewriting. Send your work out to really good screenwriters for review and listen to them. Read “Save the Cat,” my favorite book on writing. Take your script to the highest level possible.

Jason Brubaker
And once you have a great script?

Carole Lee Dean
Then go to work on your business plan and find good comparison films that you can easily defend. Be honest with your return on investment, always say hypothetical ROI and show one film in comparisons that did not make a profit. Put yourself in your investor’s shoes. Would you take a million from your parents to make your film? Do you seriously think you can pay it back? Keep investors interest your priority.

Jason Brubaker
You have been very passionate about helping filmmakers manifest their dreams into reality. I read your book long before I had produced my first feature. And I can remember times when everyone in my life seemed to think my movie making goals were pipe dreams. What advice do you have for filmmakers who are working to overcome self doubt?

Carole Lee Dean
If you were making movies 20 years ago it would cost you 10 times more to make a film. So ask yourself, “why was I given so much talent and born during the third most important time in the history of mankind.” Here you are with a great opportunity and all that talent. Do you really believe the universe would put you here at this time and not finance you? Of course not.

Jason Brubaker
That is a good way to think. Especially on those days where self doubt creeps in.

Carole Lee Dean
You need to believe in your talents and know that the money will come. Do all those things on your “to do list” and keep seeing your finished film. You will find doors open where there were no doors before. You are your greatest asset.

Jason Brubaker
I know you have been trying to find ways to bring filmmakers together to share ideas.

Carole Lee Dean
From the Heart is now producing events and I will give all of your members a 15% discount on any of our products and events if your people put GRANT in the coupon code.

To learn more about the Roy W. Dean Grant or some of Carole’s upcoming filmmaking events, check out the website.

Independent Film Financing

United States one-dollar bill

Today, I’m going to offer yet another bit of perspective on the whole question of how to raise money for movies.

As you may or may not know, independent film funding can be a little overwhelming. If you’ve ever dabbled in the business side of making a movie, you know what I mean. The first time I heard people talk about writing a business plan or offering a private placement memorandum, I suddenly felt like I was on another planet. And if you’re like most filmmakers, you would much rather focus on actually getting your movie made, instead of cold calling rich and successful people to set up random pitch meetings.

  • So, the first challenge you have in the world of film finance is: How do I find investors for my movie?
  • The second challenge is: How will my feature film provide enough ROI (return on investment) for my investor?

Assuming you’ve followed some of my previous advice on creating relationships with rich and successful people, even if you do make a favorable impression on a few rich folks, your potential film investors may still shy away from making an investment in your project. Why? Because without star talent, a known director, a film distribution outlet and an experienced crew – it’s very tough to answer the important question of ROI.

Your potential investors want to know how you plan on spending their money, how you plan on getting their money back, and when. Can you provide your investors with this information? If not, then you can understand why independent film financing, especially for your first feature, can be a pain in the butt.

However, having worked as an account executive for one of the biggest investment banks in the world, I would like to share some thoughts and end today’s article on a positive note. If you can come up with a plan that at least attempts to answer the question of ROI – then you’re in the ball park. While I can’t say it’s common, there are a few potential investors out there, for which their excess cash sometimes burns a hole in their pocket. These folks will assess the potential for gain and loss, and despite the risk (which you will always disclose and never hide!), they will still choose to do business with you.

I have a friend (who I’ll interview in a few weeks) – but anyway, he made a short film that went viral on the internet. One day he gets a call from a random multimillionaire who says he has always wanted to produce a movie. Suffice it to say, my buddy is now in pre-production on his first independent feature film.

Stranger things have happened. What’s important is that you keep pushing forward!

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If you are wondering how to get money for your movie – Almost every resource will tell you that you need a business plan. Very few resources will tell you how to actually go out, find prospective investors, qualify them, contact them, get a meeting and build a relationship.

Since getting money for movies was such a frustrating experience for me, I spent the last few months creating: The Independent Producer’s Guide To Financing Your Movie. In it, YOU will gain valuable insider experience so you can avoid my past mistakes, find investors and make your movie. To learn more CLICK HERE