The Race was good, but the road was bad, part 1 / 3

June 14th, 2011 by Timo Vuorensola

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.

The three ways of Crowd Financing

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.

The Results

*The number for Flattr was updated later then the others and is actually 335€

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!

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11 Responses to “The Race was good, but the road was bad, part 1 / 3”

  1. Stan says:

    It is too bad you were not able to use Kickstarter. They have a lot more visibility than any of the other services you list.

  2. Jaap says:

    Absolutely true!
    Americans often come up with great internet platforms, but some need to realize there are also creative people living across the pond!

    I’m a little disappointed many people don’t realize the importance of post production. Actually, shooting a film means baking the bricks and post productions means building a house with those bricks.
    And this can’t be emphasized enough for a film like this with so many greenscreen shots where during initial editing you don’t even have proper images that come close to the final film.
    And don’t forget sound design. If you see a cool spaceship but only hear a reverberating sound stage, it simply doesn’t work!

  3. We really wanted to get Kickstarter working, but probelm is that you need to have a US bank account to set that up. We tried to organize something with our US partners, but that turned out to be too big a hassle, and we dropped it.

  4. An interesting additional number would be to see how many donations you got from the different services and thus how big the average donation was.

    I imagine that it differs a lot – some platforms are better suited for bigger donations and others for smaller and choosing a good combination of the both that enables both types of supporters to take part probably makes it easier to reach ones goal.

  5. Marie says:

    It looks to me like you’ve given one number here for Flattr revenue and one on “the race” page. The race numer is higher than it is here! Bit confusing.

    Good that you learned something from it, and I hope you’ll stay around on Flattr. :) We’ll feature this post in this weeks weekly review.

  6. Maria: True, the race page number is the correct one. Timo had made that graphic in the beginning of the month before last month’s revenue from Flattr was visible.

  7. Marie says:

    Aha! Okay, but well it’s sort of visible though. ;) As a pending transaction. Because I don’t think you’d make it before.

    Maybe add an update or a footnote under the picture about it!

    I really liked this post anyhow :)

  8. Kasia says:


    I wanted to ask you one thing – what was the reaction of people who gave you the money in keep-it-all model portals, when they knew that you didn’t get the needed amount, meaning for them – your project might not succeed?

    My friend is thinking about seeking fundings for his first album on a crowd-funding website, but we are worried, if there will be no troubles, no harsh reactions from people who might gave us their support.

  9. Max says:

    I would say crowd funding is _exactly_ the goldmine of internet filmmaking, only it’s the Realistic Version™ of it: it takes an enormous amount of work to find some gold, and while some will strike it rich, most will never make a fortune. Oh, and it’s gonna cause a gold rush any day now, when people realize what it can do when it does work… ;)

    Seriously though, here’s an outside perspective on the Race:

    - I very much agree with some of the reasons you quote for its lack of success – multiple platforms definitely does not help, it really “dilutes” the sense of focused targeting of a specific goal (which I think is essential in galvanizing massive response); also, people get turned off in a major way when the goal targeted seems unrealistic – working with sums the size of your budget you may conceivably have lost the sense of perspective on this, but 300.000€ (even 50.000€!) is a huge amount of money in crowd-funding terms, and honestly I for one never expected you to get anywhere near that total – and not because I don’t believe in you guys – I really do. But that was never realistic, people felt it, and that didn’t help.

    - I think approaching the crowd in a humble manner is essential and goes a long way. A certain Spanish production which had the misfortune of being let down by a major investor at the last moment did in fact manage to raise a sum quite comparable to 50.000€ in a matter of days instead of months in the same timeframe, while being (I’d say) a lot less visible (and certainly younger) than you guys are. However, their approach was quite different from the race’s “Good news everyone! We’ll allow you to give us a several truckloads of money, ’cause we kinda need some more!” – well, at least that’s how it sounded to me, anyway. They had emotional appeal, you did not.

    - Another thing those guys learned was that 1000€ is a rather high barrier of entry for potential “investors” – much many more are willing to spend some money (even if they might not care about the actual investment part) if the threshold was lower, much lower (in the 100-200-300€ range). I strongly believe they would have got nowhere with their plea if they had a lower limit of 1000€ (as they originally did, for investment). This does not directly apply of course to the Race where that limit did not exist, but it does very much apply to the “investment” section of crowd funding.

    - Crowd funding is _not_ a tap that one can turn on every time funding is short, nobody – and I mean nobody – should take it for granted. One might get people enthused over a promising production and cash in on that quite nicely with a bit of luck, but I think a second or third round of “hey, there’s a small problem” is more likely to be met with a feeling of “come on, I didn’t apply for a subscription, I funded you guys once already”. Again, I might well be wrong on this, but I do think that if the budget cannot be secured in one go, multiple rounds of funding need a _very_ careful approach if they stand any chance of succeeding.

    I certainly hope you guys don’t take all this for what it’s not – it’s just the insight of a simple fan, not a critique, and definitely not malicious. I’m very much looking forward to see Iron Sky finished and in the theaters worldwide…

  10. Ghafar_ says:

    I was seeing a guy for a short while. I am diabetic and have severe medical issues. I was with him only a small amount of time before I had to tell him that if he did not wish to seek professional help from a psychiatrist that I would have to leave him as a result of his severe depression and suicidal thoughts. I gave him a month and after he still refused I left him. Shortly after I found out I was pregnant. I was terrified. I am only 23 and I felt he had the right to know. He told me right away to have an abortion. I told him that was not a choice I felt comfortable in making. I asked him if he would give me a sum of money to help me pay for child items PRENATAL such as medications like folic acid and diabetic items. He obliged an he signed a piece of paper on a bank statement, at the bank in front of cameras that says he is giving me not loaning me the money for prenatial before birth care. I plan to use the money to get to my many doctors appointments since I have no car and live in the country away from all the doctors. He is now saying that he wants the money back and that he wants to see the baby. . . My thoughts are this, and I’m only looking for the opinions of people, if I wasn’t concerned with the best interest of the child I wouldn’t ask. If the father has a severe mental health issue, refuses to get help, and now is trying to go after me legally for money he gave me, but wants to see the child…what right’s do I have in protecting myself and the unborn baby? I have 7-8 months of pregnancy to go and already I am very ill, it’s painful, it’s scary, I live alone and he is not supporting me except for the financial pay he gave me, now he wants it back. Legally I have no reason to give it back, and if i do he may still come after me for the child. But how fair is it for a mother to have to go through nine months of hell alone, while still having to work, clean, cook and take care of her health, then give painful birth, and then have a father or sperm donor in this case walk in and declare he has rights? His family will support him in his decisions. My family has been supportive in mine. He will not speak to me, and I see this as being unstable right from the start. If he can’t communicate to me that he needs some space to think how will he ever communicate visits with my child? How can I work with someone who is not communicating? How do I protect myself and the child BEFORE it is born? I don’t want to have a little baby that I have worked so hard for for 9 months be born and then have him able to barge in and take the infant for the weekend..

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