When looking for funding there are a few paths a filmmaker can take. Applying for government funding via a body such as the BFI can bring a large sum of money to a project. But a lot of small-scale films do not qualify for these grants. This is why crowdfunding has become a popular way to finance creative projects, giving filmmakers a chance to share their concept with the aim to find backers.
Most government funding opportunities are open to projects that contribute to society, whether through sustainability, social responsibility or diversity. Each grant has a specific criterion that they’re looking for, so it’s only worth applying for ones where your project is eligible.
If you do meet the criteria, make sure you spend time preparing your application. You’ll want to make sure that you effectively communicate all the ways in which your film would benefit from the grant and how it would contribute to the community.
Including biographies, examples of previous work, why you’re the right person to make the film, detailed descriptions of the synopsis, what your concept is, your budget and how the funding would be used will also help to make a strong application.
When looking to apply for a grant, spend time getting to know the organisation and what its mission is. What sort of projects have they supported in the past? Who are the judges and what is their taste? This will give you a sense of how to tailor your application.
Take time familiarising yourself with the legal procedures, rules and regulations. Understanding the legal jargon will help make your application and any future interviews airtight. It will also help to ensure that you hold onto your IP over the course of the process.
Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are two of the largest crowdfunding platforms in the world. Crowdfunding helps ventures secure a small amount of money from a large group of people. The general public can look at campaigns and donate to a cause/project/start-up that resonates with them. However, both sites work slightly differently.
Kickstarter has an “all-or-nothing” policy, where, if a campaign doesn’t reach its target within the timeframe, the venture won’t receive any funding at all. This works as a way to encourage start-ups and other projects to invest time and energy into the campaign and create realistic fundraising targets.
The possibility that you might lose all the money that’s been pledged by the public is certainly daunting. It means that filmmakers have to have enough belief in the project and be prepared to take the risk, but the “all-or-nothing” policy can help to motivate audience to donate, especially if the campaign is running out of time and is close to its target.
IndieGoGo, on the other hand, lets you keep the money that’s been raised, but will charge a larger commission if the campaign hasn’t reached its target. Although less risky, IndieGoGo’s policy also helps to encourage users to create realistic and detailed campaigns that are thoughtfully managed.
Both platforms are popular among creatives as it serves many purposes. Firstly, it offers the team a chance to consolidate their concept and learn how to pitch it. Once it’s published, a crowdfunding campaign can help to spread word of mouth about the project and create some buzz. Additionally, crowdfunding makes financing creative projects possible without the constraints of grant applications and lengthy regulations.
Other smaller crowdfunding platforms also exist such as GoGetFunding. Many creatives find GoGetFunding attractive as there are less projects competing for funding. GoGetFunding is unique as it offers help with the preparation of a campaign. But does using lesser-known fundraising sites hinder your ability to raise substantial funds or impact the public’s willingness to donate? It’s worth considering the pros and cons of each crowdfunding platform when you want to start a fundraising campaign.
Applying for Crowdfunding
Decide what platform is right for your campaign. Make sure you understand all the guidelines and policies.
Think about how long you want your campaign to run. In general, you’ll need twice the run period to prepare the campaign.
Next, think about how you can get audiences excited about your project. Videos are always an effective way to communicate your message, but what other supporting material can you use?
Look into fundraising incentives, what can you offer to encourage donations? Some films include perks such as a credit, a day on shoot, tickets to a screening etc.
Deciding your budget is your next big step. This is important, as setting realistic targets over a realistic timeframe is essential to a successful campaign.
Make it more tangible by drawing up an estimate of the amount of people that you’ll need to reach. If you set the average donation £25, you’ll need to reach at least 400 people to collect £10,000. Creating estimates like will help you plan your campaign and set measurable goals.
When you’ve analysed this, you might have a better idea of whether crowdfunding could cover all or part of your costs. Either way, make it clear in your campaign whether you are raising funds for post-production, paying actors or whether it’s covering the entire budget etc. The more specific your campaign, the easier it will be to encourage donations from an audience that perhaps do not understand the financial workings of film.
It’s often beneficial to share your budget when crowdfunding, so the public know how their money will be spent.
When building your overall budget, don’t forget to make a contingency for any percentage that the platform will take from your campaign. This might impact certain financial decisions you’ll have to make when making your film.
Preparing your campaign will also involve designing your campaign, including artwork, videos, graphics and text.
A lot of creators launch their actual with a video where the producer or director introduces the project, the goal, the deadline and why they need funding. Other useful material includes cast shots, production team biographies, uploading parts of storyboards, actors performing a scene etc. Including content like this will help you gain the trust of your audience and give them a sense of your concept.
Other content that has proven to be successfully received are information about characters, costume renderings, location photography and insights into the project such as behind-the-scenes footage.
Launching Your Campaign
When you first launch a campaign, the early drive often results in a peak of donations. Typically, campaigns will achieve 30% of their target within the first few days.
Sharing the campaign with your network will help to trigger early support and generate word of mouth.
The second peak often appears just a couple of days before the deadline, where videos of appreciation and asking for help encourage audiences to donate in the final stages of a campaign.
These two peaks are the pillar of your campaign, but it’s important not to let the momentum drop over the course of the campaign’s timeline.
It’s helpful to create a post schedule, so you can release content methodically over the course of the campaign.
Sharing content on social media, getting bloggers and influencers to talk about it and finding platforms to speak about your project and promote your crowdfunding campaign will help to keep your campaign active in the time between the two peaks.
Keeping your campaign up to date is essential to sustain audience engagement. It also helps to ensure that your campaign seems urgent, important and valued.
Responding to supporters will help encourage an inclusivity in your campaign which might help to encourage people to share your campaign with their network.
1. Humanise Your Campaign
Appointing one person to be the face of the campaign is a great way to personalise your campaign without the confusion of multiple voices. If the face of the campaign is a creative involved in the project, it can help to make it feel more relatable and passionate. If the same person is used consistently over the course of a campaign, it will build a relationship of trust with the viewer as the campaign highlights the human story and why it’s important.
2. Award Your Audience
Another important factor when building a campaign is the rewards you offer. Offering an incentive will help to leverage audience interest. Make sure you’re clear about what you’re offering and manage expectation. Successful incentives range from name in credits, a free copy of the film, tickets to a screening, meeting the creatives etc. Just make sure that you don’t give donors access to your IP rights.
3. Don’t pressure
In the early stages, don’t ask for money. Pressuring audience early on will only put them off donating to your project. Save this for the latter half of your campaign when time is running out and you need to reach tour goals.
Let your audience know that every donation is helpful, however small. Even £1 can help you reach your target.
4. Be Serious
Treat your campaign as a full-time commitment. Having good communication with donors, answering questions and keeping content fresh is key to the success of your campaign and the goodwill it fosters. The more time you spend on your campaign, the more it will be reflected in donations. People notice how regularly content is posted and will be more likely to see this as a real opportunity and something to trust.
5. Use Your Network
Start by sharing your campaign with your network. They might help by donating, sharing with their friends and offering some tips on how to improve your campaign. Asking friends and family to share your campaign on their social media channels will help to increase your reach early on.
Most donors to crowdfunding campaigns are family and friends of the cast, crew and production team, so use this to your advantage and get their support early on.
6. Use Your Socials
As the majority of the donors will be the people that you know, your personal social media channels will be an important asset throughout the campaign.
7. Tell a Story
Setting up and monitoring a successful campaign is all about your ability to tell a story. Share personal success stories or challenges to give the viewer some insight into why this project is important to you and how it can benefit the wider community. Present your campaign like a quest, with you as the hero. You’re on a mission to reach your targets and you need your audience to help you make it. A transparent narrative will help you gain the trust and support of the general public.
Use POV videos to regularly share updates on your progress. Make the journey exciting by making your audience feel like they’re part of the adventure and that they’re in control of the happy ending!