Crowdfunding Movies Possible Even For Original, Rather Than Derivative Works

from the a-step-forward dept

An anonymous reader pointed us to an interesting look at how crowdfunding is becoming more popular for movies. Make no mistake: it’s still not widespread by any stretch of the imagination. But there are a growing number of examples of it working. In the link above, the author, Peter Broderick, points to a couple of movies that were funded this way, noting that they had existing fanbases, as they were based on books that already had a committed following. However, he focuses the main part of the discussion on a movie that came with no such built-in fanbase: I Am I, which was able to raise $111,965 via Kickstarter starting from scratch with just a few friends. The filmmakers smartly had also found an outside investor who was willing to match any such funds up to $100,000, so they came out of this with over $200,000 in funding. They sent out emails to friends and pushed the project on Twitter, and it began to get some attention.

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.

So how did they achieve this? Well, certainly a well-designed website, and a really entertaining video (embedded below) for the project helped, and got some viral buzz going. And, from that, word of mouth really seemed to take off.

The other interesting point is that the community that’s been built up around the crowdfunding are providing much more than just money. There are now about a thousand people who have a really big interest in helping the movie along and promoting it to others:

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.”

I still think it’s early for such crowdfunding projects, and the failures don’t get nearly as much attention as the successes — which is a bit unfortunate, as there’s much to be learned from what went wrong as well. However, I still think it’s a fascinating area to study and to understand, and I’m glad that we’re getting more and more case studies to learn from out of what’s going on these days.

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Comments on “Crowdfunding Movies Possible Even For Original, Rather Than Derivative Works”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Possible was never the question. Practical as a business model is the question, and so far the answer is “not really”. Occasional successes are nice, but overall, it’s not clear it is a functional business model.

The real key will be if, after the novelty factor of being part of a “crowd” wears off, will people continue to support it? Or will be it be like the “pay what you want / tip jar” model, which seems to have already run it’s course?

I would be interested to see how many movies attempt to crowdfund and how many of them actually get enough money to do the job. It would also be interesting to see how many of those that do get funding are actually paying wages to the people working on the movie, and how many are just hobby projects.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Can we make the same claim about recorded music? I mean, it was nice for a while for the people who sell plastic with music bits, but it after that novelty factor wore off, people were perfectly fine just having the music bits without the plastic.

And then the novelty of paying for an infinite good kinda disappeared for many people so they stopped paying for that. Many of that group are more than happy to pay for other things from the same artist for lots of values of “other things” and for lots of different reasons and for lots of different amounts. But the model which charges people for things that have negligible marginal costs has run its course for all intents and purposes.

There are still lots of ways to make money, but charging for an infinite good isn’t going to cut it any more.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Except that people still want the music. It isn’t clear that people will want to spend their lives being “donors” for this project or that project, or if they will end up with the old donor fatigue.

More than anything, it’s a poor attempt to replace people paying a very little for their own copy of the work, and replacing it with a few people overpaying for the right to see their name in lights somewhere for a few minutes.

There are still lots of ways to make money, but charging for an infinite good isn’t going to cut it any more

Music (and movies) are not infinite. They are very, very limited and scarce in the real world. The means to bring them to the public may change, but in the end, there will only be so many songs from a given artist, only so many movies from a given director. Distribution is meaningless without content. Otherwise, you infinitely distributing nothing at all. Don’t let Mike trick you on the infinite thing, it’s a red herring.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

More than anything, it’s a poor attempt to replace people paying a very little for their own copy of the work, and replacing it with a few people overpaying for the right to see their name in lights somewhere for a few minutes.

I hate to bring this up, AC, but what you are saying is what has existed all throughout history, until 1710, when the English Parliament decided to implement this new fangled system called “Copyright” which gave a 14-year monopoly to publishers (not the writers/artists.)

Before that…if you were an artists or a writer…you’d have someone out there who would hire you to work as an artist. So one or a few nobles would pay for the work and would make that work a benefit to others.

Chosen Reject (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Music (and movies) are not infinite

This is true insofar as time will eventually come to an end and there probably is a finite amount of material to which you could copy those bits. But for all intents and purposes copies of music and movies are infinite.

If, on the other hand, you were referring to the act of creating, then yes, that isn’t infinite. So you may want to start asking how do you fund the creation of content?

Oh look, it looks like some people are figuring that out!

CJay (profile) says:

Not Practical?

Let’s compare apples to apples… hundreds of people pitch movie ideas that don’t get funded by studios. Effectively this is the same thing. Pitching an idea to a studio on an existing property with an audience is going to have a better chance for success. Pitching it on Kickstarter should likewise have a better chance. Pitching an original idea is more risky and takes more convincing and selling the idea.

Should every idea for a movie receive funding? Probably not, so I think what we need to look at are the rate of “failures” of Kickstarter movies to take off vs. the rate of rejects of scripts from a studio. When they are on par, you’ve got an equally functional model.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Not Practical?

Should every idea for a movie receive funding? Probably not, so I think what we need to look at are the rate of “failures” of Kickstarter movies to take off vs. the rate of rejects of scripts from a studio. When they are on par, you’ve got an equally functional model.

Oh, come on. I am sure there are far more movie ideas out there pitched to the studio that would make tons of money but just aren’t worth the risk to the entertainment industry…and yet we still get really bad movies like the Transformer series, et. al.. I’ve heard more than my share of folks out there who just won’t go to movies any more because they consider them all to be crap. The entertainment industry wants a sure thing, and they usually try to quash folks from talking about the movie after seeing it in hopes that their friends won’t figure out how crappy it is and save their money.

I think Kickstarter does exactly what the Movie Industry doesn’t do…offer a chance for movie ideas to meet an audience, and in this case, it does just that. Now if you can make a good movie for $200,000…that is the problem though I think Kevin Smith and others have proven time and time again that you can make a good movie for cheaper. Special effects in todays movies is a very expensive substitute for a good story. Give me a good story and I’ll like the movie alot more than if you turn it into a two hour explosion-fest (I like MythBusters for explosions, not movies.)

I personally liked FanBoys, even though it was very campy…and I watched it a whole bunch of times, both in the movie theater (and once for free at a test screening presented at Comic Con.) A lot of critics panned the movie, but it had a following. Had someone gone in and pushed it on Kickstarter, I would have donated to it. The fact that the movie took so long to be released and suffered through multiple re-edits was because the movie industry wanted to tamper with it the whole time…the end product had to be wrested from the jaws of the movie industry and returned to the producers so that they could complete the project…because the industry thinks it knows what is best…and it doesn’t. Sure, FanBoys didn’t appeal to everyone, but who cares, it appealed to a large enough group to give it a hollywood-accounting return of close to a million dollars (yeah, it took 8 million, but how much of that was caused by the industry holding on to the movie for 10 years, forcing multiple re-edits and changes, and fudged costs.)

This movie seems like it may be somewhat of a chick flick, but it may be worth a watch, especially with Simon (from Big Bang Theory) on it. We’ll see. I see this as the future of movies…but it may be a while before the old guard dies off and better movies start appearing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Not only movies

Not only movies, or even content creation. Some other instances of crowdfunding I have seen:

  • Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. They are one of the most popular websites in the world, have hundreds of servers, and are able to survive on donations alone, year after year.
  • The Document Foundation. “In less than 8 days we collected over fifty thousand Euros, […]
  • Wikileaks and The Bradley Manning Defense Fund. So much, that the several attempts to stop the flow of donations caused a well-documented backlash.
David Brown (profile) says:

Electric Man

My friends managed to cobble together enough cash to get a full length feature completed and now they are up for a Scottish screen writing BAFTA. No small feat indeed. Most of the money, I believe, came from local businessmen in or around Edinburgh. But there were also a number of contributions, both large and very small, through the website and friend’s of friends.

If you have an idea, get on and make it. You may have to score it yourself on penny whistle but there are lots of talented folk out there willing to help for next to nothing except for the experience.

Nick Talor says:

Not Practical?


yup – good point… and I think there’s a knock-on effect of that, and that’s that some “god in the sky” doesn’t decide yes/no on whether you get to play… but rather “you can play, but you need to radically re-define your process, because this is your budget”.

Which (maybe) will cause us to drift away from film as an art-form, needing hundreds of millions of dollars. Or even millions. The 2011 Oscars were “won” by two films with budgets of less than $13 million – which bucks the billion-dollar-franchise trend of the 00s… but which is still too much.

There’s a will to do this – there just isn’t the writing talent… or… the writing talent isn’t connecting with the acting talent which isn’t connecting with the people actually shooting videos and uploading them to the web.

Or it is… but it’s not being done with the Pop-Art virality that would allow the likes of me to hear of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

The only reason why crowdfunding is difficult outside the Internet is because the system is intentionally set up for it to be (and, of course, after so many years of being denied the experience necessary to successfully crowd fund things, these things take time to (re)-learn) . Outside the Internet the government grants wrongful monopolies on public airwave and cableco infrastructure use and the monopolists in control of such communication channels use it to their personal benefit. Outside the Internet, restaurants and other venues that want to host independent musicians and performers have to pay a third party ridiculous licensing fees or else they maybe faced with expensive lawsuits under the pretext that someone might infringe. This deters small businesses from hosting independent performers. The result is that people are wrongfully denied any meaningful way to communicate and distribute their content outside the Internet in order to find other ways to fund it. The government is purposely responsible for this. Outside the Internet the government grants monopoly power over both the means to distribute content and over the content being distributed. Instead of making any effort to fix the problems they have intentionally created outside the Internet (notice they are not lifting a finger to do so), they will do everything in their power to do to the Internet what they have done to everything outside the Internet. We must not only resist their efforts to destroy the Internet, we must actively seek to reverse the destruction they have caused to everything outside the Internet.

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