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November Book Club Pick: Crowdfunding for Filmmakers

Last spring, while I was manning a Fractured Atlas table at a career fair for the School of Visual Arts, I had the good fortune of being seated next to John Trigonis, a campaign specialist at Indiegogo. I'll admit to eavesdropping on some of his conversations with the students visiting his table because he had a lot of great advice to share. By the end of the event, I learned that he had penned a book - Crowdfunding for Filmmakers - and so I ordered my own copy before I packed up for the day. I was pleased to find that the book aligns with a lot of the advice we're already giving our fiscally sponsored projects on their crowdfunding campaigns while offering some awesome new tips that I hadn't heard before.

A little context: John's vocation is actually that of filmmaker. After self-financing several film projects, he tried his hand at crowdfunding to create his short film Cerise. In 2010, crowdfunding was still in its infancy and John was really a pioneer before there was a ton of how-tos online about running a campaign. Over several months, he successfully met his reasonable goal of $5,000 (and then some) on Indiegogo, honing some winning strategies for meeting the challenge. Running a crowdfunding campaign is certainly a trial by fire; if you come out on top, you've learned a lot along the way. John had learned so much that he shared some of his newfound expertise in a series of blog posts called The Tao of Crowdfunding, which got shared by Indiewire and garnered a lot of attention, setting in motion the events which led to his position at Indiegogo and the publishing of this book.

If you're not a filmmaker, don't be distracted by the book's title. The content is really applicable to any type of artist who is looking to crowdfund. And the advice is sound for almost any crowdfunding platform - RocketHub, Kickstarter, you name it. One thing that I think the book drives home for anyone looking to fundraise online, and this is advice that we give our fiscally sponsored projects all the time, is that crowdfunding should be considered a full-time job. You, or one of your collaborators, need to be able to dedicate time and care to seeing a campaign to completion. All too often, budding fundraisers set up their campaign, publish it online, and simply hope for the best, with no plan in place to market their project page, bring in traffic, and engage with their potential pool of donors. I hope that you consider this book as a potential resource if you're baffled about how best to do this.

In Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, John Trigonis outlines his tips with the Three Ps - Pitch, Perks, and Promotion - with a bonus P - Personalization - thrown in for good measure. Some of the highlights:

  • Pitch: When you're creating a crowdfunding campaign, you can imbed either an image or video at the top as the first thing your donors see when they navigate to your page. Campaigns that use a video tend to have more success than those that just use a static image. And of campaigns that use a video, it's important that the pitch video be specific to the campaign and include an "ask" from you, the producer. It's not enough for the video to be a trailer of your film or general info about your work, but you should put your face on-screen and directly appeal to donors for money.

  • Perks: We've all seen campaigns that offer T-shirts, tickets, or 'Executive Producer' credit. And don't get me wrong, this are all great perks to reward your donors. How can you go the extra mile, though, and make perks that are really specific to your work and memorable to your donors? Perks are all about providing incentive for making a contribution, so what will get your donors jazzed about your campaign?

  • Promotion: Have a game plan for updating and marketing your campaign daily if not hourly. John spent entire days online trying to get the word out through different means about his fundraising. Map out specific action steps that you can take each day so that it stays active. Day 1: Email everyone you know. Day 2: Write a blog post about the campaign. Day 3: Tweet about your perks. Et cetera!

  • Personalization: What's your campaign's special sauce? Well, it should have to do with what makes your film (or play or exhibition or installation or whatever) unique. And how can you integrate that unique quality into every aspect of your campaign? These are questions only you can answer. Don't try to replicate other crowdfunding campaigns that you know to be successful - use your creativity to make a true work of art out of your own campaign so that your potential donors cannot ignore your verve and talent.

Is it clear to you yet how much I like this book and how highly I recommend it? I review crowdfunding campaigns for our fiscally sponsored projects on a daily basis and I'm happy to report that many are successful. But if you're floundering at fundraising, or don't quite know where to turn for advice, this book could be what you're looking for.

Share your own ideas for books we could feature on our blog that could be useful for arts entrepreneurs. Tweet us, Facebook us, or email us your suggestions to A happy book is a book that's shared with friends.