Crowdfunding and social media have transformed funding and promotion for the independent filmmaker. But generating the buzz needed to bring your dream project to life takes planning and ongoing effort, well before you write your first post. Here are some tips from successful alumni filmmakers to help first-timers cut through the competition.
Chad Walker (Advanced Television and Film, 2005 graduate)
Chad’s feature documentary I Am Big Bird: The Carroll Spinney Story (2014) received a win and six nominations at international film festivals. The filmmakers raised $124,000 on Kickstarter for the film.
- Be sure crowd-funding makes sense for your project. I Am Big Bird was perfect for crowd funding: We had built-in supporters already with Muppet fans and a subject in Carroll Spinney who was willing to participate directly in the process.
- Find the right audience on social media. We engaged puppet organizations, retweeting their tweets, mentioning them in our tweets, etc. People with a huge reach like Morgan Spurlock and Kevin Smith started retweeting our material.
- Everything in our industry is a slow burn. Your first film is a building block to your next film thanks to the connections you made. Those who saw that first film will give your next one a larger reach. Then financiers might come on board earlier, and so on. Our first film, Brownstones to Red Dirt did not pay huge returns. But Carroll Spinney and his wife Deb saw and liked Brownstones which helped us land I Am Big Bird.
Follow Walker on Twitter @Copper_Pot. Watch the trailer for I am Big Bird below.
Robert McCallum (Advanced Television and Film, 2006 graduate)
Robert has raised almost $140,000 through crowdfunding for five films he wrote and directed. He secured more than $76,000 by February, 2016 ($25,000 in just five days) through Kickstarter for his latest project, Power of Grayskull, The Definitive History of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
- Know where your audience is, how to engage them and provide value. The He-Man community is starving for content so it’s the perfect time to make a documentary on “Masters of the Universe.”
- You can’t simply build a campaign, hit the “launch” button and let the Internet do the rest. You’ll get some natural momentum at the beginning and end of the project, but navigating the desert of the middle is tough.
- Social media is the source of the buzz so plan something for every day of the campaign. Think mini-goals, sharing progress and communicating what’s happening behind the scenes.
- Make sure the rewards you offer backers are priced fairly. Put yourself in your backer’s shoes and you’ll find success. People are now “pre-shopping” on Kickstarter for exclusive specialty items or experiences they can’t get elsewhere so on-platform advertising is can be very effective.
Check out the Power of Grayskull teaser video below.
Sama Waham (Advanced Television and Film, 2012 graduate)
Sama’s short film Resight (2012) has earned over 12 awards and was selected by about 20 international festivals, including the National Film Institute Festival. Most recently, her film Sing for Me received a nomination at the 2015 Dubai International Film Festival and won at the 2016 Qumrah International Film Festival in Iraq.
- Collaborate with like-minded artists – including Sheridan faculty – who will invest their thought and creativity into your project.
- Be obsessed with seeing your film made; believe that you will eventually get the support you need and keep perfecting your film until you do.
Watch the trailer for Resight below.
Richie Mehta (Advanced Television and Film, 2002 graduate)
Richie’s feature films Siddharth (2013) and Amal (2007) have won over 30 international awards. Mehta is pictured at left in top photo with Steven N. Bray (Media Arts, 2002). He also wrote and directed I’ll Follow You Down (2014).
- The story is the fuel of the film business and if you have a great one, combined with practiced skill, promoting your film will be easier. Make many short films to practice your craft and work persistently on the script. Bottom line, there are no short cuts!
- Pitching your film is all about building relationships and trust. Gather a close group that you trust to propel you forward – a good producing partner or team and a strong distributor that believe in you.
Alexandra LeMay (Advanced Special Effects Makeup and Prosthetics, 2012 graduate)
Alexandra’s short film All the Rage (2014) has been screened at five festivals in Canada and has received several award nominations to date.
- Understand your project before trying to get it off the ground. Once you have a comprehensive foundation, don’t be afraid to break it! I’ve thrown away what I initially thought was my “best idea” and it led to a much stronger project which was then more marketable.
- Don’t hesitate to publish unfinished work and process pics on Instagram and Facebook. It’s a great way to attract feedback and track your development.
Watch the trailer for All the Rage below.