If you’re into indie film or hip to an emerging trend in fundraising – crowd funding – you’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or Film Interactor. You may have even pitched in money for a friend’s project. I have. And now, I’m on the other side of it, the raising money side.
I’m a producer on Broken Kingdom, a little indie film I’ve talked about before on here. We lost financing midway into shooting the film in Bogota, Colombia, just as the world banking crisis hit and money got much harder to find. How we found the cash is another story, but I will say we got the film shot on a slashed budget. Then we just had to complete all of post-production (editing, score, sound, color correction, online, layback, etc etc.). With no money.
As you may know, the movie is done. Mostly. But we needed money to pay hard costs. And since we had all been hearing about crowd funding or even been donors for others’ films, it was logical we give that a shot. And so we have.
Anyone can go to Film Interactor and put as little as $5 into Broken Kingdom and get various perks for doing so. It’s a donation, officially, as opposed to an investment. There’s a short video featuring writer-director-star Daniel Gillies, actress-producer Rachael Leigh Cook, producer Jason Kirkham, and myself outlining the financing story, why we need your help and support, and what Broken Kingdom is about. And you can see the first official Broken Kingdom teaser there. Or… you can watch it all here. But still go check out Interactor and the perks, pretty please.
The questions I’ve been getting from friends and strangers mainly focus on these two areas:
1. What is crowd funding and why is it good?
2. Why did you guys do it with Film Interactor as opposed to Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?
1. Crowd funding is where a company, person, or what have you presents their film, business idea, app, non-profit, or whatever you want to the world at-large and asks for donations to finance it. There are many, many ways you can do this, and several name platforms will help you (for a percentage of what you raise). It’s a good thing because it’s not a solicitation for an investment. I used to be a Series 7 licensed stock broker when I was raising money for films at Civilian Pictures. We actually ran up against incredibly complicated regulations for soliciting investments, stuff our best-in-the-world attorneys didn’t even always understand. To do an investment solicitation to anybody and everybody is a violation of a million SEC rules. Even asking 100 people you already know can be tricky and you have to stick to both Federal and individual state’s rules. It’s just impractical for a small business of any kind to do so. Too expensive and too complicated. But if you’re not able to get large chunks of cash from a small amount of people (via a traditional private placement offering or co-production deal) on decent terms, you’re out of options.
Until now. Until crowd funding. In crowd funding, people can give you money, no strings attached, no regulatory issues to navigate, no insanely priced lawyer fees. So what do you get out of it as a donor (or Sponsor, as Film Interactor calls them)? You get to support people and endeavors you care about. You get to be a part of something you may otherwise not have access to (for example, we’re giving people who sponsor us credits on the movie and invitations to screenings with the cast and crew, and autographed shots of the cast, stuff like that). And you can do this at a price level that works for almost anyone (most private placements have minimums of at least $25K – as they should – our minimum is $5). It’s a pretty good little exchange, and it opens up a way of financing, in this case, a film that puts the “green light” in the hands of fans, friends, and moviegoers. It’s really a form of democratization. I’m very interested to see how it goes, how it evolves.
2. We chose Film Interactor over their rivals. Full disclosure, it was starter by Instinctive Film, the company that co-financed Broken Kingdom. But that’s not why we did it. In my opinion, Film Interactor is better for the life of a film, and better for the sponsors who are putting up the money. Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have pretty cool front-end donation mechanations. It’s easy to put money into projects on their sites. But, then once you do, that’s it. Interactor has a very cool members’ area where people who put money in will have exclusive rights to hang out and see exclusive content like directors’ blogs, behind-the-scenes videos, updates from set or from film festivals (depending what point you’re at with the film), photos, and, well, you get it. It’s a better experience.
As a producer, I can go directly to the most important supporters we have and talk with them. I can post updates. I can ask them what they think about this or that. I can gauge how we’d do if we were considering putting the film in a theater in Boise – is anyone from there? Will people show up? What’s the best theater in the best location that shows indie films? As someone who’s never been to Boise, this could all help me make a decision. And the people I’m able to communicate with here are the most likely to give me their time and thoughts and talk back. I’m only now exploring what else I can do as a producer with what Interactor is doing. As a fan, I think I’d much prefer it to just putting money in and then being just like everyone who didn’t (ie relying on public communications via Facebook, Twitter, an official website). I’d still monitor those channels, too, but I’d know I was getting more cool stuff than Joe Non-Supporter, which is important to me because I spent cash on it.
The other difference is that Film Interactor is for filmmakers by filmmakers. They only do movies, unlike Kickstarter. They also have a PR machine behind them to support them. And since they don’t take all comers, you’re not one of five million competing projects.
My thoughts on the three platforms was – and we’ll soon see if I’m correct – that given the quality of Broken Kingdom, the people involved and their fan bases, and the people we have in our personal lives to support us, we’ll raise the money we need no matter what platform we use for it. I think I’m right. I hope I’m right. And I’ll update this post if and when I have a definitive answer to that question.
I’ll also keep tabs on crowd funding in general. I’m really curious as to when a really giant movie star will take their pet project to one of these platforms and try to raise $10 million. So far, these platforms have financed relatively low budget fare. But none of these projects have had the kind of star power that a select list of big, big names can tap into. Someone’s going to try it. I wonder who, when, and if it’ll work.
In the meantime, check out Broken Kingdom on Film Interactor, and if you have as little as five bucks, come join us on this journey.