Meet the Project: Desperately Seeking the Exit

Each month we will feature one of our fiscally sponsored projects who have been successful at using our program to advance their art/cause/career. February’s featured project is Desperately Seeking the Exit.

Photo credit: David Rodgers

Photo credit: David Rodgers

Desperately Seeking the Exit is a solo comedy by writer/performer Peter Michael Marino about the making and unmaking of the West End flop musical “Desperately Seeking Susan,” which featured the hit songs of Blondie. It has played in NYC, Hollywood, Manchester and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where it received 5-star reviews. The show plays the Adelaide Fringe in March before transferring to the Leicester Square Theatre in London for a 3-week run in May.

Peter enjoyed great success with his RocketHub campaign, so we decided to ask him a few questions about his thoughts on crowdfunding and how he achieved his goal.

How did you arrive at your decision to go with RocketHub for your crowdfunding campaign?

I really liked that RocketHub was linked to Fractured Atlas. Having fiscal sponsorship was very important to me so that donors could write off their donations on their taxes. I also went with RocketHub because they are a fairly new company in the crowdfunding world, and since my show was a new show, I thought it was just good karma idea to support a new company with the same artistic goals as me.

What did you factor in when setting your fundraising goal and deadline?

I struggled with the fundraising goal. I probably went back and forth on the amount about twenty times before hitting the submit button! I looked at what kind of money other artists like me, with shows like mine, were asking for. I drew up a realistic budget for what the show would cost to bring to Edinburgh. Then I realized that it was the NYC pre-production that I really needed to fund, so that the show was ready for an international audience. I was pretty realistic about how much the show would cost and only asked for about 75% of that cost. I based the deadline on a 2-month fundraising window to coincide with preview performances of the show in NYC; leaving me enough time to scramble for money before I headed overseas. Luckily, I raised $1,500 more than my goal. I also took a unique approach by doing the show for free and giving audience members the opportunity to “pay what you may” via RocketHub when they got to their computers at home. I’ve done the show that way ever since - holding a hat at the end of the show. Pay what you think the show is worth. Some think it’s worth a buck; some think it’s $10-$20!

Once your goal was reached, how did you get donors to contribute above and beyond your goal?

I used social media to spread the word that any additional funds raised would go toward the future of the project after the Edinburgh run. Then, I kept those funds in my FA account - and sure enough I used those leftover funds to pay for postcards, publicist, etc. I think that people really want to be a part of something; so those who hadn’t contributed, did so after they saw how many had. I also made it more tempting to donate by trying to “round off” the amounts by the end of the day. Like, “Help us reach $7,000 by Friday night!” That worked as well because then folks really felt like a part of supporting the project on a “soft” deadline. The word “support” seems to reach people more than the word “help.”

What are the biggest things to which you can attribute your campaign’s success?

Taking the show overseas and having a long term goal were important, but the trailer for the show was probably the biggest influence for people. I worked hard to make the trailer very short, clear, unique and exciting. At first I was going to do a trailer for the campaign as well, but then we reworked that idea so that the trailer would work for the show in production, performance and touring. I put the video on the first page of the show website, and it’s still there. This saved me money on editing costs and it also kept the marketing of the show precise and consistent. I made sure to send simple, fun, personal letters to folks and family members out of town that clearly stated what the show was and what my future goals were. I offered fun rewards, like a live recording of the show in Scotland - which people really responded to. And I didn’t over-do the social media posts about the campaign. I acted like a company and not like an individual - using the proverbial “we” gave the project a greater sense of importance; which I thought was a unique direction for a solo show. After all, it’s not just me, but a director, publicist, video artist, venue owners and others who have a stake in the success of the show.

Is there anything you would try to do better/differently if you tried crowdfunding again?

I don’t think I would have done anything radically different. I got a bit overwhelmed with the record-keeping and balancing the books - and that cut into some of my “brain time” while still doing the show. But, running the show and the fund-raising as a business has certainly made me a better businessperson. I did my fundraising research. I did the webinars and I spoke to other artists about how they raised money, so I was well prepared. I would encourage anyone who is looking into crowdfunding to do their homework. You only have one chance to make a first impression!

Peter Michael Marino is based out of NYC. If you’re interested in this production, visit their website here. For greater context, you can also view his successful RocketHub campaign. Desperately Seeking the Exit has been fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas since January 2012.

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