No, 99% Of All Filmmakers Shouldn't Crowdfund… But An Awful Lot Should Be Testing It Out

from the don't-go-too-far dept

I’m an unabashed supporter of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo for certain things (in fact, many things), but I still worry that the early success of some such campaigns has people thinking that those platforms are the solution, rather than one possible solution in a sea of opportunities. Ross Pruden points us to an interesting article by Chris Dorr, in which he suggests that 99% of all filmmakers should crowdfund. Perhaps this is just hyperbole — and the overall article is a decent one explaining some of the benefits of crowdfunding — but I want to remind people that just because crowdfunding is a good way for some artists to make money, it doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to do so. We’ve been saying for a while that content creators should be prepared to improvise with a variety of business models. There’s no one business model that works for all artists all the time. So I get worried when people suggest there’s a “single” solution for everyone. Content creators shouldn’t get too hung up on thinking they have to crowdfund when it might not be the right way for them to connect to their audience, even if it is a good idea for many artists.

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Comments on “No, 99% Of All Filmmakers Shouldn't Crowdfund… But An Awful Lot Should Be Testing It Out”

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31 Comments
Nigel (profile) says:

Its a curious thing. Folk’s don’t realize that there is still work required to actualize ideas and concepts sometimes.

I am all for putting my foot up Hollywood’s ass but no one on this side of the fence ever suggested it was easy.

That crowdfunding is kick ass does not make it impervious to turning itself into the Myspace of out of the box thinking.

And not to be a nuthugger.. because I am about to sound like one…. the common factor here being human and awesome(runs for cover)

Nigel

Anonymous Coward says:

” There’s no one business model that works for all artists all the time. So I get worried when people suggest there’s a “single” solution for everyone.”

Sadly, if something works even a little, everyone will be all over it and it will fail more often than it works. It’s the real challenge for these new ideas, because most of them are functional only under certain circumstances. In crowd funding, the risks include too many offers for too few payers.

Any good idea can be killed by scaling it. Funding like this could easily get over used and killed in short order.

Anonymous Coward says:

Every person should make a list and put their options there and go from the top to the bottom trying it out everytime like a check list.

With time some people realize where their strengths are and start putting those at the top of that list first.

I always find that it is unwise to put all your eggs in one basket or limit yourself to only one road or one mean of transportation for that matter.

Which reminds me, if you want to travel make a list of your options with the bad and the good that you know and experienced and try to travel by the best way you can afford or get, the same thing can be said about business, list your options and go for it using the check list.

I Pee Freely says:

The simple fact is a good product will make money. a bad product will not. If you have an original idea, you have a better chance of success. Just because you create something does not entitle you to profits. You can crowdfund a poop popsicle, but who wants a poop popsicle? It is not funding or advertising that makes it work it is the product.

David Jordan says:

crowdfunding is great, but challenging

I think up-front crowdfunding can be a wonderful opportunity to get things made, often things that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Artists who already are well-connected with fans can easily mobilize them for their next project if they don’t have the capital available otherwise. Crowdfunding can be a great way for new artists to get started, though it’s challenging without a built-in audience.
Especially for artists new to the scene, it can be hard to find an audience. I got frustrated seeing crowdfunded films and webseries struggle to get press, and I didn’t know where else to suggest, so I just started up a site for that purpose. http://fundindiefilms.com There’s some interviews and some careful thought has gone into how to cross-pollinate projects, build a ready audience, and pay-it forward. I welcome questions.

PaulT (profile) says:

“There’s no one business model that works for all artists all the time.”

Yep, that’s the mistake the people who argue here constantly tend to make. There’s plenty of room for “traditional” models and other models to live side-by-side and even complement each other if used correctly. What we do see, unfortunately, is a tendency to assume that everything needs to be shoehorned into one place. No, not every artist has succeeded under older models, and not every artists will succeed under newer ones. The trick is to find the model – or combination of models – that actually works for your project. That’s one of the reasons why all the legal and other flailing to try and protect “traditional” models is so disheartening – it’s just an attempt to lock out competition.

I can give an example of one project that’s struggling to find its niche that I’ve helped fund – http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/609017648/before-the-mask-the-return-of-leslie-vernon. It’s a proposed sequel to a sleeper cult hit from a few years ago that took the traditional slasher tropes and did some very interesting things with them. They’ve tried funding through traditional methods, and have failed. They’ve then tried the crowdfunding approach – first through other means then through Kickstarter. Despite a lot of vocal support, at the time of writing it’s only got 5 days left and it’s possible that it won’t hit its target.

Now, if it does fail or succeed, would that mean anything in particular about the business models being used? Probably not. The fact it failed to get traditional funding doesn’t mean another project won’t fit that model. If it fails the Kickstarter approach, that doesn’t mean others shouldn’t try. If they succeed, that doesn’t mean everyone will.

It’s all about balance, and rejecting any one form of funding is foolish – unless, of course, your paycheck depends on keeping a model that doesn’t work alive as the only solution…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Yep, that’s the mistake the people who argue here constantly tend to make.”

No Paul, that’s just one of Mike’s horrible strawmen, an attempt to discredit those of us who generally don’t agree.

It’s simple, really. Look at the existing (you might call it legacy) systems. There was not one single way to so things. However, there is a huge area “in the middle” which is the normal way things have been done, and then people playing on both sides of normal. You know, the ones people here try to point to as “normal”, when they really are exceptional. The Greatful Dead or Phish might be good examples.

The question Mike fails to answer is “is this the normal middle of the road, or is this exceptional”? In other words, is Kickstarter the replacement for the label system, or is it a more exceptional concept, as having a patron has been in the last 30 or 40 years?

It is all about balance. It’s also about understanding that you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. You don’t have to destroy what you have to make kickstarter work. Why does Mike always seem to want to make it an either / or choice?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“No Paul, that’s just one of Mike’s horrible strawmen, an attempt to discredit those of us who generally don’t agree.”

No, it’s my personal opinion of the crap you usually spew across this site. Personal opinion – one of the many things you confuse with some sort of immutable fact. Strawman – another word you use but don’t seem to understand.

Why do you always try to attack Mike when I state my own opinion, anyway?

“The question Mike fails to answer is “is this the normal middle of the road, or is this exceptional”? In other words, is Kickstarter the replacement for the label system, or is it a more exceptional concept, as having a patron has been in the last 30 or 40 years?”

What does it matter, so long as artists are getting work produced that may not have been previously funded?

“You don’t have to destroy what you have to make kickstarter work.”

When have I, or Mike, ever actually said that you do, except in your deranged fantasies?

“Why does Mike always seem to want to make it an either / or choice?”

He doesn’t, unless you want to provide one of those citations you always avoid providing?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“No, it’s my personal opinion of the crap you usually spew across this site. Personal opinion – one of the many things you confuse with some sort of immutable fact. Strawman – another word you use but don’t seem to understand.”

Yes, I know what a strawman is – Mike sets it up that all of the opponents are ABSOLUTELY in one horrible spot (thinking that there can only be ONE way to do things) and then knocks it down. It’s a simple strawman, even a dumbass like you can figure that out.

“When have I, or Mike, ever actually said that you do, except in your deranged fantasies?”

How many “labels suck” “labels are gatekeepers” “legacy players” and so on do you have to read before you understand where Mike is going? He feels the entire label way of doing things is a failing business, a stupid business, and one that should go away. What site have you been reading if you didn’t catch that simple message?

Really Paul. You need to start reading all the words, not just the short ones you like.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Yes, I know what a strawman is – Mike sets it up that all of the opponents are ABSOLUTELY in one horrible spot (thinking that there can only be ONE way to do things) and then knocks it down.”

Yet, you didn’t attack anything Mike said, you were addressing an opinion I personally stated, then attacked Mike for it. Even if you’re correct about Mike’s tactics (which I don’t think you are), you’re just engaging in pot vs. kettle arguments here. If you’re going to accuse others of strawman tactics, don’t engage in them in the argument you’re making yourself.

“How many “labels suck” “labels are gatekeepers” “legacy players” and so on do you have to read before you understand where Mike is going?”

Ah, so we’re into the “I’m reading this into what he’s saying, why don’t you?” territory. Brilliant. No wonder you’re getting confused when you insist on everyone having the same subjective opinion of his words, rather than looking at what he actually says.

Here’s a shocking idea for you – it’s perfectly possible to believe that the legacy players have a place, but also believe that they need to adapt in order to survive and that they deserve failure if they don’t. That flailing around trying to turn back the tide isn’t working, but that they can thrive if they stop doing that and work with it instead. No contradiction here, they’re complimentary ideas that work together quite well.

“He feels the entire label way of doing things is a failing business, a stupid business, and one that should go away”

No, he doesn’t (as far as I know, Mike is free to correct me if I’m wrong). What he believes – as do I – is that they need to make some changes to work in the modern marketplace, and that their attempts to avoid doing so are damaging both to themselves and to the future of their industry. If they refuse to adapt, they’re better off going away as quickly as possible as they’re only causing harm with their current tactics. But, they do have a place if they wish to take it.

Is that too subtle for you? Sorry that I don’t deal in black-and-white absolutes like the ones you prefer.

“Really Paul. You need to start reading all the words, not just the short ones you like.”

You’re really good at being a condescending ass, but very poor at providing facts and addressing the actual points people hold. perhaps you should try that for a change?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“Yet, you didn’t attack anything Mike said, you were addressing an opinion I personally stated, then attacked Mike for it. Even if you’re correct about Mike’s tactics (which I don’t think you are), you’re just engaging in pot vs. kettle arguments here. If you’re going to accuse others of strawman tactics, don’t engage in them in the argument you’re making yourself.”

Huh? I was addressing this piece of text:

” So I get worried when people suggest there’s a “single” solution for everyone. “

it’s the creation of a strawman, where “people” are thinking something. That’s just not the case.

Your further clarification of the concept makes it even more obvious that you don’t get it.

You really do need to start reading all the words. Your failure to do so is pretty much ruining your stand.

The rest of your post, well, it’s opinion, and one not supported by facts. Sorry!

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

“Huh? I was addressing this piece of text:”

Ah, so you were pulling your usual trick of cherry picking a single sentence from an article, not directly referring to it in any way, then attacking those who didn’t interpret and extract the same sentence in the same way.

No, Mike didn’t create a strawman. He stated his opinion of certain people, which happens to coincide with mine, and addressed that opinion. He didn’t state that everybody who opposed him thought that way – that’s the strawman tactic you use – but directly addressed that method of thought. I don’t see the problem.

“The rest of your post, well, it’s opinion, and one not supported by facts. Sorry!”

a.k.a. every word you’ve ever written here. But, of course, you won’t hold yourself to your own lofty standards…

Goyo says:

Re: Re: Re:

The question Mike fails to answer is […]

I’m not Mike but maybe I can give you a clue.

is Kickstarter the replacement for the label system

No, it’s not.

or is it a more exceptional concept, as having a patron has been in the last 30 or 40 years?

I don’t know how exceptional it is as a concept. I think crowdfunding is currently more exceptional as a source of funds (i.e. it raises less money). It’s getting less and less exceptional over time and we don’t know where the limit is. Enough of an answer?

You don’t have to destroy what you have to make kickstarter work. Why does Mike always seem to want to make it an either / or choice?

Citation needed.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, a good bunch of us here wish to see the legacy industry destroyed because they are doing much more harm than good. Other than that, I see a role and a space for the labels much like Mike does when he says he sees labels as enablers and no longer as the gatekeepers they were. That alone is proof enough that Mike doesn’t dismiss the legacy players as much as you’d like him to in your delusions.

Me? The MAFIAA can die a fiery death along with copyright. Then we can start over.

Cosmicrat says:

+1

Yes, this! Although Mike is somewhat of a hero to me in certain areas, I’ve often criticized him for what I perceive as a naive proposal that crowd funding can replace traditional funding models in movie production. I’ve always seen crowd funding as an exciting new business model that will sit alongside the traditional models, providing additional opportunities for (mostly low budget, startup and “indie”) filmmakers.

As a unionized grip and lighting technician (I worked on the original “Behind The Mask” btw), I don’t feel crowd funding is going to supplant the big studios and their business models, and I’m glad. I like working on the big shows, and I like watching them too. As for those who want my industry to “be destroyed”, well, haters gonna hate.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: +1

“I’ve often criticized him for what I perceive as a naive proposal that crowd funding can replace traditional funding models in movie production.”

A genuine question – has he ever actually stated this? Crowdfunding is a great model but it’s never going t replace blockbuster funding, so I’m honestly curious.

Cosmicrat says:

Re: Re: +1

Well I admit I can’t point to where he’s said it verbatim, but I think it’s been implied several times. For instance I remember a low budg crowd funded project being compared to big budget studio films and Mike saying things like “with DSLR’s to shoot on and laptops to edit on filmmakers can match the quality of large big budget films”. Recently I read a post ( from someone else) who said “I can hold in my hand more filmmaking technology than Orson Welles had when he made “Citizen Kane””. Umm, not so much. You don’t have large and expensive sets for your actors to work in, you don’t have the number and power of lights to light large night exteriors, you don’t have hair, makeup and wardrobe for dozens of actors and background, even your camera (an iPhone?) and lenses are far inferior to what Welles had. And I could go on and on. Again, I’m not trying to diss low budget production, I’ve certainly worked on many films in that category, but there are certain things you can do with a bigger budget that you can’t on a shoestring. I’m a big fan of Techdirt, and agree with much that is said here, but when it comes to the practical aspects of movie and TV production there is some education that could be done.

Cosmicrat says:

Re: Re: Re: +1

Having re-read my post in context (and after rubbing some of the sleep out of my eyes -pulled an all-nighter shooting night exteriors) I want to reiterate my original comment: kudos to Mike for recognizing the differences I speak about and pointing out that crowd funding is complimentary and not antagonistic to traditional business models.

Chris (user link) says:

Crowdfunding and Kickstarter Advice

Crowdfunding your film or entrepreneurial project is tricky business in a world with information overload. With over half of crowdfunding projects ending up unsuccessful, how do you position your project to succeed in a soon to be oversaturated market? From many successful crowdfunding campaigns, we have been able to develop a clearer idea of what works and why?

Check out the rest at: http://agency20.com/crowdfunding-kickstarter-strategy-advice-empoweryourcrowd-by-co23464-a2pt0/

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