LIBRARY: Tutorials Reviews Interviews Editorials Features Business Authors RSS Feed

Expert Tips for Crowdfunding Success

CreativeCOW presents Expert Tips for Crowdfunding Success -- Indie Film & Documentary Editorial All rights reserved.

When Kickstarter emerged in 2009, it was like the dawning of the Age of Aquarius for independent filmmakers. Finally there was a way to get your project out into the world and ask people you knew and didn't know to support it financially.

In 2012 crowdfunding raised $2.7 billion around the world. It is estimated that last year it would double to over $5 billion. Although that ranges from producing the Pebble watch, to recording albums, fashion, building classrooms, having a baby, to making a potato salad, $5 billion is nothing to take lightly.

Before you start your own Kickstarter, you should take to time to think about what you are asking for, and what you will deliver in return. The reality is that while there are always exceptions, running a campaign is a lot of work – especially if you then need to go and make your film, and get all your rewards made and mailed, while keeping everyone in the loop and happy they supported you.

Broadly, if you aren't prepared to do the following then crowdfunding is probably not for you:

  1. Do you intend to make/complete the project regardless of whether you raise enough money?

  2. Are you prepared to write to each and every person you know to ask for their support and are you prepared for any backlash from people tired of being asked to support crowd funded projects?

  3. Are you willing to maintain regular contact with supporters during, immediately following and throughout the time (sometimes years!) it takes to deliver your project?

I'm going to use Kickstarter's statistics, as it is the longest running of the crowdfunding platforms. They are also impressive, with $1.2 billion donated by 6.6 million people. That's an average of $184 given per person, even more when you consider that most projects don't make their goal and 10% don't even get a single pledge. It's also clear that these 10% had no idea what they were doing.

Doing your research and to being realistic about your goal will put you in good stead to reach your target. Under Kickstarter's Film category, of 37,329 launched projects, 14,650 were successful. The vast majority of these had a modest goal: 70% of the successful projects asked for under $10,000 and 29% under $100,000. Meaning just 1% of projects made more than $100,000 and 0.027% reached that $1 million milestone.

Of the 40.26% of film projects launched on Kickstarter that were successful each also had one or more of these five things going for it:

  1. Famous people were involved

  2. The subject matter has a following or can be clearly communicated to an existing audience outside of crowdfunding

  3. You have a strong, established social media or online presence

  4. There's well thought out game plan for the campaign

  5. It's Sci-Fi!

Film projects are the most unsuccessfully funded projects of any Kickstarter categories and that is for a number of reasons – from communication, to large number of projects to the commonly intangible rewards of supporting a movie.

Projects with videos are twice as likely to be successful than one without, so you should ideally be well into development and have supporting video material for your project, as well as concisely written outlines and photographs. You also need to have a ready network of people to pitch your project to, and a list of media outlets that you think would help push your cause. Having on the ground support from others – especially someone who knows what they are doing, be that one of your team or a consultant – will be a huge help.

Spike Lee's latest "Joint" on Kickstarter, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, was successfully funded at 113%. His movie description reads, "Human beings who are addicted to Blood. Funny, Sexy and Bloody. A new kind of love story (and not a remake of "Blacula")."

When you run a campaign, there are a myriad of statistics available to you, including seeing where your backers came from. Through this you can ascertain the effectiveness of media, and social media in particular, in your campaign. These results are incredibly useful guides for future campaigns.

On my first campaign, we raised 10% above its $10,000 the goal. It is estimated that 65% came from people the filmmakers knew, 20% through the social media networks established and 10% from media outlets that covered the campaign and 5% from unconnected strangers.

My second campaign pushed the media angle hard. Thanks to an easy-to-target niche audience of the surfing community and personal letters from the filmmakers to target well-heeled contacts, it reached 124% of its $50,000 goal. Close to 60% came from people known to the filmmakers, about 30% from media coverage, 8% from social media outreach, and 2% through Kickstarter.

While another film about old-school wrestling likewise tapped into its subject's loyal fan base and its local market through Midwestern media, targeted radio, podcast, newspaper and blog coverage helped the project surpass its $30,000 goal. Less than half came from people known to the filmmakers with the majority, about 60%, coming from social networking and media coverage combined.

What all of these documentary campaigns show is that unless you have an awful lot of very generous friends, you need to reach out past your network and work hard to get people to come to you.

I might add that none of these campaigns ran more than 21 days, thus ensuring personal networks only had a few weeks of harassment for donations. It also gave supporters more of a sense of urgency to give immediately. In fact, statistics show that the shorter the campaign, the more likely your campaign will be successful.

By 2013 with the merging of the mini-majors and the nail in the studio coffin of the independent film sector, producers started to look for new ways to get their sizable film budgets financed and crowdfunders came to the party.

Spike Lee raised $1.4 million
towards his latest "Joint."
Six film and video projects have broken the million-dollar mark, starting with Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars movie reaching $5.7 million of its $2 million goal with a groundbreaking 91,585 backers. Other famous names followed suit: Zach Braff with raising $3.1 million from 46,520 backers, and this year Spike Lee raising $1.4 million towards his next "Joint."

On Indiegogo, Sci-Fi movie Lazer Team received nearly $2.5 million of its $650,000 goal from 37,492 funders – and they didn't really even know what their film would be about yet. Helping them across the line were ten pledges of $10,000+ in return for Executive Producer credits and swag. A huge 1521 supporters gave at least $300 for their Ultra Sponsor branded swag package.

Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars movie reached $5.7 million of its $2 million goal
Rob Thomas' Veronica Mars
reached $5.7 million of its
$2 million goal
Having a known brand and covetable swag to leverage helps, but so too does participation. Considering the most common pledge is $30, in this case the filmmakers said higher-level supporters would be invited to a conference to help plot out their sci-fi film, something that brought an uncharacteristically high donation average to this project.

Behind it was cult production company Rooster Teeth, whose YouTube Channel has over 7 million followers thanks to its gamer community roots, top-rated comedy podcast The RT Podcast along with loyal audiences for its many online series such as anime RWBY, web series Red vs. Blue, and gamer show Achievement Hunter – all of which bring significant followers and a massive support network. Rooster Teeth also runs the RTX online gaming convention in Austin, TX – which they ran their Indiegogo campaign during. Smart people.

Rather than discuss whether people who may otherwise have access to more traditional financing should have the right to use these platforms, think about why these projects were crowdfunded.

Each of these had big names and even bigger companies behind them and for each crowdfunding was about much more than just the money. Everyone was talking about the Veronica Mars and Zach Braff campaigns. Crowdfunding is a great way to grow your network and spread the word of mouth about your project – because whether good or bad, title recognition is often what gets people buying tickets at the cinema or streaming your film on iTunes.


Something you should also be thinking about in the value of crowdfunding your film, webseries or media project – it provides a built in audience with a vested interest in your project and incredibly valuable word of mouth buzz.

Short Documentary Oscar winner Inocente, by previously Oscar-nominated and Emmy-winning directors, Sean Fine and Andrea Nix, used Kickstarter as a top-up fund after the film was completed and had already been invited to festivals around the world. According to their campaign, the money was for paying off deferments and creating deliverables. They reached $52,527, exceeding its $50,000 goal in 2012.

Inocente Official Trailer.

While the money came in handy, you can be certain that the industry-reported crowdfunding campaign and corresponding word of mouth of the film helped grow the awareness of Inocente within voting Academy members. Fine and Nix now have a shiny statue, a paid off short film and even more capital to get their next project greenlit.


As you go out there, readying to launch your project here are some questions you should be asking yourself to give yourself the best changes of exceeding your target.

  1. Have you done your research to understand how to use the platform? Have you followed other campaigns?

  2. Do you know who your target audience is?

  3. Do you know how to reach your target audience?

  4. Do you have visual media to support your project – be that stills, video or both?

  5. Have you clearly communicated what your project is?

  6. Have you explained what you want the money for and how you intend to use it?

  7. Have you considered stretch goals?

  8. Have you put together a rewards list and costed it out?

  9. Have you included personal, unique or special rewards not available outside your campaign? It helps to be creative here too!

  10. Are the rewards things you would want and at a price point you would be prepared to pay?

  11. Do you have sufficient contacts or an established a network to draw upon – be that an interest group, Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram, Steller, friends, colleagues and others?

  12. Have you pre-warned them that you are launching a crowdfunding campaign and will be asking for their support constantly over the few weeks?

  13. Have you rallied your entire cast, crew and support network to help spread the word?

  14. Have you let them all know when you are launching?

  15. Have you had some trusted people read your draft campaign to see it all makes sense to them?

  16. Have you linked your social media?

  17. Are you excited?

  18. Are you ready for some bloody hard work?


Great! Now go for it – after all, what have you got to lose?

Diana Roark Diana Ward Roark is a producer, unit production manager and crowdfunding consultant. A former communications executive and early adapter, she loves finding new avenues to market and engage audiences in her projects.


Re: Expert Tips for Crowdfunding Success
by Gregory Pearson
Great tips, thank you. We are about to launch a campaign to fund a non-profit project to help the homeless this holiday season - in addition to needing high quality video and clear project layout - we hope that tax write offs and honorable mentions will be sufficient reward for donors. Any suggestions?
Re: Expert Tips for Crowdfunding Success
by Jay Zee
Great piece. covered all the angles. Thank you!
Re: Expert Tips for Crowdfunding Success
by David Roth Weiss
Nice piece! Very helpful insight for those (like myself) who have often wondered how effective crowdfunding REALLY works.

David Roth Weiss
ProMax Systems

Sales | Integration | Support

David is a Creative COW contributing editor and a forum host of the Apple Final Cut Pro forum.

Related Articles / Tutorials:
Indie Film & Documentary
Tuskegee Airmen 75th Anniversary: A Documentary Revisited

Tuskegee Airmen 75th Anniversary: A Documentary Revisited

When Denton Adkinson and Bryan Williams told us the story of their documentary, In Their Own Words: The Tuskegee Airmen, back in 2011, we were amazed. It was one of the most popular stories we published that year, not just because of the inspiring subject matter, but for the remarkable way it came together as a project, and in post. In the years since then, the film has taken on a life of its own, including national DVD distribution, becoming part of high school curricula, NFL celebrations, museum presentations, and more. Now in 2016, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Tuskegee Airmen, their film will be presented as a live event on over 200 screens across the US. To get there, though, Denton and Bryan had to update their SD original for the big screen, add a surround mix, and prep it for digital distribution. This is a story of faith, fortitude, upres, ProRes, and the power of positive phone calls that you won't want to miss.

Denton Adkinson
Indie Film & Documentary
Louder Than Words: 7 Years, 14 Cameras, 1 Surprising Story

Louder Than Words: 7 Years, 14 Cameras, 1 Surprising Story

It took 7 years, and 14 cameras with 3 TB of files for cinematographer and editor Saj Adibs to tell the surprising story in his documentary Louder Than Words. The film's first interview was conducted in American Sign Language, and once he saw the transcript, Saj realized he was going to tell a different story than the one he had planned. This is a story about stories, as well as the challenge of managing lots and lots of cameras.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Saj Adibs
Indie Film & Documentary
Advantageous: Jennifer Phang on Making Way to Sundance

Advantageous: Jennifer Phang on Making Way to Sundance

Writer/Director Jennifer Phang's Sundance Jury Award-winning 'Advantageous' provides commentary on class and society that reflects her own experiences in the world through a science fiction story. The collaborative process took Phang from writing to post production in Adobe Premiere, where features like Dynamic Link became essential to finishing the film.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Indie Film & Documentary
Indie Tips for 4K With Little or No Budget

Indie Tips for 4K With Little or No Budget

4K isn't just part of some theoretical future. 4K production is here now, and there are some very affordable approaches for low- and no-budget indie filmmakers. Veteran producer and professional limit-pusher Al Caudullo put together a piece on the heritage of Angkor, Cambodia, and for us, has put together the list of the tools he actually used for this amazing project that are quite likely well within your reach. Even the photos that accompany this story have a lot to offer!

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Al Caudullo
Indie Film & Documentary
Thinking Differently to Create Successful Indie Distribution

Thinking Differently to Create Successful Indie Distribution

With the accessibility offered by ever more affordable tools, it has never been easier to make an Indie feature. This essay by President and Co-founder of the Digital Cinema Society, James Mathers, discusses the distribution of an indie feature and how the filmmakers brought "Why We Ride" to life.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
James Mathers
Indie Film & Documentary
Thriller in the Heartland: Indie Filmmaker Zack Parker

Thriller in the Heartland: Indie Filmmaker Zack Parker

While some would call family life in the midwest a challenge to making movies, writer/director Zack Parker has made deliberate choices in his career and has some great advice for aspiring filmmakers as his fourth feature, "Proxy", hits Netflix and DVD.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Kylee Peña
Indie Film & Documentary
Shot Lister App teams up with FilmAid International in Sudan

Shot Lister App teams up with FilmAid International in Sudan

Shot Lister, the successful shotlisting and scheduling app, is teaming up with FilmAid International to raise funds for their South Sudan Refugee Emergency Response Team. To encourage filmmakers to support FilmAid, Shot Lister is dropping the price of their app from $13.99 to $1.99 for 10 days from September 8 - 18th with every cent raised going to FilmAid.

Editorial, Feature
Zach Lipovsky
Indie Film & Documentary
Ten Tips to Indie Filmmaking

Ten Tips to Indie Filmmaking

We love talking about tools and technologies, but there's a lot more to filmmaking than cameras and computers. Writer/director/producer Rick Castañeda has made over 30 short films, and just wrapped his first feature. Here, he offers hard-won insights into the practical details of making an independent film.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Rick Castañeda
Indie Film & Documentary
With Paul Mazursky, It's All Crap!

With Paul Mazursky, It's All Crap!

When Paul Mazursky decided to create a series of intimate conversations with Mel Brooks, Leonard Nimoy and his many other industry friends, Cinematographer Bill Megalos came on board to produce. In this article, Bill talks about the choices he made with regard to camera, lighting and direction to make compelling interviews with a limited budget.

Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
Bill Megalos
Indie Film & Documentary
Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 4th

Cinematographer's Journey: Rightfooted in Ethiopia April 4th

April 4th: Bill Megalos, cinematographer and documentarian, is in Ethiopia with first-time documentary feature director Nick Spark on a mission to "make a film that makes a difference." Raising money on Indiegogo, they're following Jessica Cox, a 29-year old woman without arms who is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is licensed to fly planes solo (among her many accomplishments). She is an advocate for the disabled and often spends time in countries where the handicapped are stigmatized. Megalos is keeping a shooting diary for Creative COW readers of their experiences in Ethiopia.

Feature, People / Interview
Bill Megalos
© 2020 All Rights Reserved