Can Crowdfunding Help You Finance Your Movie? Yes, It Can

film reviews | movies | features | BRWC Can Crowdfunding Help You Finance Your Movie? Yes, It Can

Producer and director Spike Lee, best known for films like “Do The Right Thing” and “Malcolm X,” was heavily criticized by fans and independent filmmakers after raising $1.4 million on Kickstarter for his latest movie “Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.” Lee was quick to point out that crowdfunding is the new trend for filmmakers. Despite being successful and financially well-off, other actors and filmmakers (like Rob Thomas and “Veronica Mars” and Zach Braff and “Wish I Was Here”) have also raised millions via Kickstarter for their movie projects.

Crowdfunding was once an option reserved for aspiring indie filmmakers who didn’t have access to Hollywood studios or deep pockets to self-fund their projects. Competition from Hollywood heavyweights will make crowdfunding efforts a bit more difficult for the little guy, but it still provides the best avenue for indie movie makers to turn their dreams into realities.

Low Budget, High Profits

Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick will probably go down as the most successful indie filmmakers of all time. The initial budget for their 1999 indie blockbuster “The Blair Witch Project” was only $25,000. But the film ending up grossing a quarter of a billion dollars, according to Entertainment Weekly. “The Blair Witch Project” has reached legendary status, with Robert Ebert naming it one of the 10 most influential movies of the 20th century just six months after it was released.

It simply does not take a lot of capital (relatively speaking) to turn all those chicken-scratched notes into a big screen success story. The key is to create a budget and stick to it. Edward Burns, director of “Newlyweds” and actor in “Saving Private Ryan,” gave the blueprint for how anyone can make a feature film for $9,000 or less. The biggest investment will likely be the camera. Actors provide their own clothing and do their own hair and makeup, while everyone wears multiple hats while filming (actor/director, camera person/actor, etc). Locations and settings are attained by “begging and borrowing.”

More than $112 million was pledged to Kickstarter campaigns in Q1 2014 alone, according to data released by the website. The money is out there for any filmmaker to get over that proverbial hump. The best way to get started is to buy the camera and lenses with your own funds.

Emily Best, founder of indie film crowdfunding website Seed And Spark, told that aspiring filmmakers must learn to raise equity from friends, family and crew if they want to be successful. A crew of three or four can easily come up with $2,500. A well-marketed crowdfunding campaign highlighting what you’ve already accomplished can get you the other $2,500 necessary for editing and post-production costs. Consider moving in together while filming to save money on rent. If any of you receive regular payments from an annuity or structured settlement, you may be able to sell all or some of the future payments for a lump sum of cash now. Consider selling any stocks or bonds you may hold as well. Or, you can pull a Robert Townsend (of “Hollywood Shuffle” fame) and max out a few credit cards to help fund the project.

Is It Really That Easy?

There are several consistencies with successful crowdfunding campaigns. One is offering perks to high donors. But don’t get too cute with this idea. Bill Johnson, director of films like “Secretariat” and “Malibu’s Most Wanted,” set out to raise $450,000 via Indiegogo at the beginning of 2013 for his film “Backseat Driver.” He offered anyone who donated $25 a spot in the opening credits as well as access to the entire production of the film. Investors ultimately realized their names would be lost among the list of hundreds, and the campaign ended up raising only $5,450.

Learn from the mistakes and successes of others. The film “Dear White People” successfully raised $41,405 by offering a Twitter shout-out to anyone who donated $10. “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” (which raised $56,903 on IndieGogo) rewarded backers who contributed $500 or more with an invitation to a wrap party when the film was completed.

Crowdfunding has changed the way both established directors and indie hopefuls view the business of filmmaking. But ultimately, good acting and a good story line will determine any film’s success.

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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.



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