Two months ago we decided to find out just how far a crowd funding can take a film project. We set out an ambitious goal to patch up the gaping wound we have in our budget, created by the rough weather conditions we experienced while shooting in every corner of the world, and decided to see if – by using several of the Internet’s most well-known crowd funding services – we could help our situation. But even more interestingly, we wanted to learn more on how the famed Crowd Funding works using the platforms – what’s good, what’s bad and what’s ugly.
My aim is to combine the results into a research I’m planning to accompany on a book project the Iron Sky team is working on simultaneously, looking forward to release it around the time the film comes out. But even before that, I’m about to write a three-part blog article breaking down the process, the results, the services, their functionalities and discuss about the future of crowd funding.
Crowd funding – all fun and games!
Because we’re quite active throughout the crowd involvement field, asking people to participate in many different ways, it’s good to define what we mean when we speak of Crowd Funding.
So, in so many words, Crowd Funding means using a platform through which people can donate the amount of money of their liking, and in return they get pre-defined perks. Usually, Crowd Funding is done by using an existing Internet platform, and the Perks are nice fan items – more like a thanks from the production’s side for the support.
The services we decided to use were hand-picked from a heap of about 20 different services. We narrowed down the search into 10 different platforms we wanted to use, and launched The Race on 9 of these. Our aim was to finance in 2 months the total gap of 300000€, sharing it approximately 50000€ / platform.
Before going into results, one good thing to know about Crowd Funding platforms is that they operate either on keep-it-all, or all-or-nothing -basis. Keep-it-all means that whatever amount of money is donated to the project, the filmmakers can keep. The commission might vary depending on if you reach the pre-set goal or not, but the money is there for you. All-or-nothing means that if you don’t reach the pre-set goal in the given timeframe, you will lose all the money, and the money will be returned back to the donators.
As you can see, we did not get very close to the target, which was 300000€. Not very close at all. But – just as a reminder – this was never the main intention of The Race. The most important factor was that we wanted to learn how this side of the Internet Crowd Collaboration works, and that goal we did reach. But as you can quite quickly deduct from the chart, none of the Racers actually finished, but closest to the goal was reached with the awesome German service StartNext .
So, what did we learn?
First: Crowd Funding is not the goldmine of the Internet filmmaking. It takes a huge heap of hard work, a lot of spamming, a realistic goal, and a very clear message. But if done right, it surely can help a production to get on it’s feet. In our case – when talking about post-shoot funding, the case is trickier. But the fact stands: we did not succeed in raising the 300000€ during two months, and there’s no way going around it.
Mistake nr. 1: Multiple Platforms
The first mistake was to launch Iron Sky over multiple platforms. This creates immediate confusion among the followers; too many options turns a lot of interested people away. It would be better to focus the Crowdfunding efforts on just one platform, maybe two if the other one is somehow specialized (like very strong in an important region or something like that).
Mistake nr. 2 – The Lack of Clarity
Second mistake was to go after post-shoot funding. The people supporting films want to help films get made, and to many the fact that the film has been shot means that the film is practically done. Only a bit of post production and voilá! We, of course, know that it’s not the case, but that doesn’t mean doing a post-shoot Crowdfunding wouldn’t be possible. The most important thing the people are interested is to understand why does a film production need money, and to where that money very physically goes, and what is the final outcome. In our case, we were able to say quite truthfully that it goes into filling up a gap that was torn open during the shoot, but unfortunately – we learned – that’s not concrete enough. Had we very specifically described that the money goes into getting some food on the plate for Samuli and his 20-something team in Tampere, keeping them crunching the bytes, we probably would’ve succeeded better.
But given the complexity of a film production funding, this isn’t the whole case here. Looking at it, much of Crowd Funding should be positioned in the very beginning of the production; being able to say that with this money we will produce a killer teaser, or go to Cannes to fund the film, or something would be more concrete, direct and clear to the supporter’s minds.
Mistake nr. 3 – Unrealistic goals
Third mistake was that we didn’t want to over-extend our welcome with you, dear followers. Had we been daily spamming the shit out of you, we probably would’ve reached a better goal, but we realized that this is not something we want to do – and not something you want to listen to. We’ve already been pioneering on quite a substantial amount of different ways to crowd source and crowd finance Iron Sky, which sometimes might turn our communication a bit one-minded, and that’s not good.
But ultimately, we set ourselves goals that were unattainable. 300000€ in post-shoot Crowdfunding is not an easy target to reach, and we just didn’t have the resources, the experience or the cleverness to work it out in the end. But that’s not the End of the World, as Lars von Trier might say. True, the gap in the budget is still there, and true, we have to find alternative ways to close it, because if we don’t, it’s going to start bombarding our post production budget, which – very clearly – translates into jeopardizing some of the coolest shots of the film. And that’s not something I’m OK with, and neither is anyone else in the team – Samuli the least. So we’re working as hard as we can trying to come up with ways to secure the post production process – and your continuous support is highly appreciated. There’s still a long way to go, and we wouldn’t like to stumble so close to the finish line. Not now.
Next to come…
In the next 2 parts, I will be digging deeper into the platforms and hopefully being able to help you filmmakers out there who are hoping to decide which platform to use to crowd finance your own films. And in the last part, I’ll try to take a bit of an outside-the-box look into the crowd financing, trying to visualize the future of it, the possibilities that haven’t been used, the general problems it faces, and eventually – of course – thanking you all supporters. So stay tuned!