5 Crowdfunding Film Tips for Screenwriters


The traditional goal for a screenwriter was to get your screenplay optioned or sold. Then it was updated to becoming a produced screenwriter. Even more recently, the mantra is that screenwriters should produce their own films. That’s it, folks. We are now bona fide film producers. We must learn how to fund a film.

Raising funds for your film or TV production isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Not that it’s easy. Today, guest blogger Russell Nohelty shares his insights into crowdfunding for artists which includes filmmakers.

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Russell Nohelty

I’ve done a lot of crowdfunding in my day. To date, I’ve run five successful crowdfunding campaigns; and rising.

Through running crowdfunding campaigns, I’ve learned how to build a successful business and the best strategies to implement immediately if you want to maximize your own crowdfunding success.

If you want crowdfunding success, these are the top five crowdfunding tips you need to understand today, culled from studying and advising on hundreds of campaigns throughout the years.

1) Crowdfunding for filmmakers is not magic

Most filmmakers hit the launch button on a campaign and think it will magically bring them backers.

It won’t. Crowdfunding doesn’t work like that. It takes a massive amount of preplanning before you can successfully launch a campaign.

If you take the time to build demand for your film, then a crowdfunding platform can amplify that buzz and attract new backers, but it won’t do the work for you.

A crowdfunding platform’s job is to magnify success, not create it.

2) You can’t crowd fund a film production without a crowd

Once your campaign starts it’s too late to build an audience. If you don’t have a pre-existing network of film fans and creators before you launch, you won’t have a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Building an audience takes time, energy, and commitment. It means going to events and meeting other filmmakers. It means attending festivals and interacting with fans of films in your genre. It means engaging on message boards online and making yourself an integral part of the filmmaking community.

This time commitment pays of dividends when you launch your campaign. A warm audience who knows, likes, and trusts you much more likely to back your film than one who knows nothing about your project.

Plan to build an email list of at least 1,000 people prior to launching even the smallest campaign.

And don’t forget social media.

3) The first 48 hours of crowdfunding for films are critical for success

A massive spike in pledges will bookend the beginning and end of every film funding campaign. The middle, in contrast, is one long lull where very few people pledge. That initial spike is the key to any successful launch. That initial spike is what builds momentum for your entire campaign.

The higher your initial spike, the higher your campaign will settle during the lull. If you can double that initial campaign spike, you can effectively double how much money you will raise during the lull as well.

Plan to raise 30% of your goal in the first 48 hours. Most of those pledges will come from the audience you build before your launch. Even the most successful campaigns find that 80% of pledges come from their existing audience.

If you can build momentum in those first two days, it will carry through the rest of your campaign.

4) Your entire team needs to be on board 

Too many filmmakers run their campaigns solo. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo allow you to build a team when setting up your campaign. Teams are critical to crowdfunding success because each member brings a different crowd to the campaign. If 10 people push for the same goal, you can effectively raise 10 time more money than going solo, if you do it right.

Most crowdfunding teams fall flat because they lack coordination. Before your campaign launches, your entire team needs to buy into your marketing plan. Everything from images to daily posts needs to be created in advance so the team can work together effectively.

Create a schedule and keep the lines of communication open through utilizing Facebook chat, Slack, and Basecamp. The better you communicate, the more successful your efforts.

5) Start small and build slowly

There is a misconception that creators should crowdfund their dream project first. While that works in a very small amount of cases, for the most part creators crash and burn when they attempt to fund a massive project right out of the gate.

To maximize success, focus on creating a project with a reasonable budget first. Start with something you can make with a one day shooting schedule for a few hundred dollars.

Once you’ve successfully delivered that project, increase your next campaign to something you can make with a three-day shoot. Then a five-day shoot. Keeping building until you have a community that believes in your work and knows you will deliver something awesome to them. When you have that, then try to fund a more ambitious project.

Deliverability is an essential component to getting backers to pledge. When they believe you will deliver on a project, they are more likely to give you money.

And that’s it.

The good news is that crowdfunding isn’t a one and done commodity. It’s a renewable resource you can incorporate into your business again and again, but in order to do that it take long term strategic planning.

If you want more information on crowdfunding, I distilled everything I’ve ever written about the subject in my Kickstarter Toolkit.

Russell Nohelty is a writer, publisher, and consultant. He runs Wannabe Press (www.wannabepress.com) and hosts The Business of Art (www.thebusinessofart.us) podcast.

Get excellent script coverage and development notes at Script Firm.

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Check out Writer Duet, one of the best online screenwriting tools around.

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