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Kickstarter Success: How We Did It

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Blog Written By Stephen Gibler

This blog entry is a long time coming. My passion for producing takes on many forms but the part of producing that gets the least amount of attention is the part where you go out and raise money. And that is the most important! Without your army of Benjamin Franklins to back you up, you don’t have a movie. Without Whenever I was in a conversation about Producing, I never mentioned the money raising part.

So when I realized a few months ago that I was a producer on 5 projects that were all fully funded on Kickstarter, two of them getting on the front page…I decided to make a blog about it. Now this blog won’t be a me bragging blog, as there were many people were involved in each of these Kickstarter campaigns. It takes a lot of people to run these campaigns. There were times I was directly involved and other times in close observation. And I was also on the funding side of the coin, giving money to dozens of other projects. And that variety of involvement and perspective informed those Kickstarter campaigns that I was a producer for. And each of those projects hit their mark. When Kickstarter only has a success rate of 43%. 5 for 5. And on top of that, two of those projects ended up on the front page. The odds of hitting every goal and doing that are astronomically low.

So here is a new goal. By the time this blog entry is done, I want you to feel like you have the tools to not only just run a Kickstarter campaign, but also to hit those goals and make the cash you need to fund your dreams. Why you ask? Because we should always be looking to make the people around us better. I hope this blog entry does just that for you in your journey to achieve your dreams.

Alright, so the five Kickstarter films that I was a producer on are “Volcano Girl”, “The Films of Avi Krum”, “Love Song”, “An Exchange” and “Bread and Butter”.

For those of you who don’t know what a Producer is, we’re the one’s who are with a film from beginning to end, from the creative conception to crew hiring, to raising funds, to actually making the film, then to finishing it and distribution. We’re with the director helping to bring the process along creatively and as a product and we manage every department. However this isn’t always true and can change from project to project and there isn’t a set code of what a producer is supposed to do on the project. Sometimes you get an Associate Producer credit for just being on set for a day. Welcome to the film industry.

Without further ado, here are the campaigns. The words FRONT PAGE mean they were chosen by Kickstarter to be featured on the front page.

Volcano Girl Kickstarter

The Films of Avi Krum Kickstarter Front Page

Venus in Furs Kickster (renamed An Exchange)

Love Song Kickstarter

Bread and Butter Kickstarter Front Page

Each of these campaigns had a different path to success. But they all have things in common to make them the way they are. For a point of reference, here is my corresponding producing credit for each. You can see me under the Producer section in IMDB.

Volcano Girl (2011)

An Exchange (2013)

Love Song (2013)

Bread and Butter (2014)

“The Films of Avi Krum” doesn’t show up on IMDB because shorts in post-production can’t be posted. But you can see the website page HERE. The 5th film that I was a “producer” for that had a successful Kickstarter campaign is the USC Thesis film Love Song. Remember that one day joke of mine? Well this was that film. I gave funding support to the campaign however in addition to my day of work on it. And there are a lot of important things we can learn from checking out that campaign as well.

1. Volcano Girl

Volcano Girl Kickstarter

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“Volcano Girl” was a USC 546 film, which is an advanced project class for the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. “Volcano Girl” was Directed by Ashley Maria, Produced by myself and Emily Ferenbach.

I consider this campaign a “Post-Project” campaign. As in the project was entirely finished, and a Kickstarter campaign was created to raise money to get the film out to film festivals and to help with a few odds and ends.

The goal for “Volcano Girl” was $2500. Ashley is very social media involved had developed connections through her blog, her Facebook following and her work connections. One of the most important things you need to remember is that it’s not people from India and Alaska giving you money, but it’s people from you social circles.

I wan to get into the specifics of these circles and what they mean for you. And the only way we can do that is to take a brief detour from “Volcano Girl”. Trust me, it’s worth it.

The I am I filmmaking team, who raised $111,965 through Kickstarter, came to speak at USC. Ashley and I were talking about starting a campaign and when saw that they were coming, we jumped at the chance. We crowded into a small room that could barely fit 30 people. Everyone and their grandma wanted to know their secret. The director Joyce and her two producers Jennifer Durbin and Cora Olsen sat across from us, and fielded questions. We asked them how they made the magic happen.

Their major points of wisdom were that 80% of the campaign money comes from people you know, and 20% from people you don’t. HOWEVER, their project was the opposite. They got 20% of the funding from people they knew, and 80% from people they didn’t. One thing they focused on what making an eye opening and “wow” short for their Kickstarter campaign. You can watch it here. As you can see it’s pretty amazing. One long continuous shot with some incredible staging and great gags. It very much has viral video DNA. The video also has some recognizable names with guys like Jason Ritter starring in it. One thing that is very useful is that name actors can do two major things for you.

1. They can get regular people who don’t know much about you to all of a sudden pay attention to your campaign. Name actors are name actors because they’re naturally talented and because they appear on screen enough that people eventually relate to them. When people relate to the people in a film, they want to show up to see this talented person in action and to be with a friend. Why do you think celebrities are getting paid so much? A film with a no name actor and a film with Brad Pitt can mean an investment difference of 50 million bucks. So that is where a lot of money came in, from people who liked these name actors and gave money so they could get access.

2. Another reason why name actors can be helpful is that they have professional networks and their friends and friends of friends will also contribute money. So a great video and name actors were major reasons why I am I made their money. But that’s not all.

The filmmakers made THEMSELVES part of the story.People aren’t just donating to their project but they’re also donating to you as well! If someone is going to give you money, they’ll want to connect with you, trust in you and believe in you. Joyce put herself front and center and vola!, people connected and wanted to help.

There was also another reason the campaign succeeded and that reason was timing. This isn’t something they discussed but in my opinion it’s a major element to why their campaign worked. This campaign occurred back in 2011. At that time period people were putting out terrible campaigns in relation to what they’re producing now. The “I Am I” team’s video and their description of the film was a step way above everyone else when they released it. Now…the game is harder. Look at their campaign description body. It’s barren! Most projects these days pack the description area with details, goodies, stories about the people involved, extras and all sorts of other stuff. If they did this today people would gloss over the campaign because it wasn’t enough. As you’ll see later down in this blog entry, the campaign descriptions even a few months after I Am I are packed to the gills with information and stories. How do I know? I was part of one of them. So to wrap up this tangent, what were learned to make a great Kickstarter campaign was a great video, names, connections and timing.

So Ashley and I got to work with our other producer Emily Ferenbach. Ashley really spearheaded the process, putting the trailer together and guiding everything for the campaign. We also enlisted Josh Eiserike, a good friend of mine, to do some writing for the “Kickstarter script”. One thing you must do is have some sort of structure to your video. Treat it like a real film.

We had some objectives. The first was to show off the film. The plan was to show scenes from it and funny moments to get the audience excited. We also wanted to show us. When you pitch a Kickstarter campaign, as I have mentioned you are also showing off YOU. Make people invested in your personal journey and show how it is related to the video. Also you need to make sure you’re clear about what the campaign’s about. We had finished the film, but we needed to go out to film festivals and do other post things for it. Which all costs moola. The big three for us were to show off the project, show off us and show off why.

Josh wrote us all into the script and we ended up reading lines. Here’s a picture of me and Emily having a little dialogue with Josh and Ashley.

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As a note, we never actually had real dialogue with each other. Instead we filmed everything at different times and Ashley pieced them together. She did a great job as you can see. Our video hits all the major points and shows off the best parts of our film.

As for the body of our campaign, we didn’t put much. The amount we needed didn’t require a massive project pitch and such. Ashley put in the basics. She put in our social information so people can follow us and a few links to the project’s internet presence so people can see what’s been going on with the project.

We all then pushed the project out into social media (Facebook, Twitter, Emails) to get friends and friends of friends to give to the campaign. But it was Ashley’s drive and energy that helped the project meet it goal and get a little extra money on top. For your campaign, social media is the DNA for your fundraising. People who know you, like you and believe in you will want to help you. But you don’t also want to saturate people’s feeds with your projects or you’ll get blowback. It can be annoying to have people hounding you for money. You need to find the balance between making sure people know and not going overboard. We found that balance and things ultimately worked out. And like any campaign I’m a part of, I always make sure to put my money where my mouth is and I donate to it. If you are expecting other people to put some skin in to help you without you doing a little bit of it yourself, you’re cheap. That’s my personal philosophy anyways.

2. The Films of Avi Krum

The Films of Avi Krum Kickstarter Front Page

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So this project not only got on the front page but it made about 30% more then it’s original target. This is the story of “The Films of Avi Krum”.

“The Films of Avi Krum” is a USC Thesis film. The Thesis film is the final film for a director at USC Film School. The synopsis for our film is: “In the mid 2000s, a shlubby post-grad tries to escape reality to Thailand. But his plane is hijacked by the North Koreans and brought to Pyongyang. And to survive he has to make propaganda films for Kim Jong-il.”

This film is a great project and packed with producing challenges. When I first heard about the project, it was in a state of flux and constantly changing it’s shooting date. Josh Eiserike had been holding onto the project as producer and Drew McClellen was also tied in as a producer. While working on Volcano Girl, Josh talked to me about the project and I ended up coming aboard. Then 1 month later we went into production and shot the film. This project was the toughest project I ever worked on because it had an insane level of ambition to it, the most of any project I’ve worked on at USC.

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The Kickstarter campaign would be classified as a “mid-project” Kickstarter campaign. As in we finished principle photography but we still had more shooting to do. We knew this. The plan was we’d shoot for 10 days and then we’d take the material we had and make a Kickstarter campaign around it.

This project has great Kickstarter DNA and great festival DNA. For a number of reasons. Firstly the subject matter is interesting and won’t be dated for a while. North Korea is going to be a mess for a long time and multiple times a year they’ll do something nuts or threaten war and get back into the news. Secondly the project has star power. I can’t get into specifics but Dan Rather has been officially announced to be is in this. Adam Hershman is our lead and he’s been in a number of interesting projects and he was perfect for the role. The film also has a lot of insider industry names that that be a delight for the real hardcore film buffs and a few surprises as well. Also it’s a multi-format film in that it’s digital, DV-Tape, stock footage, 16mm, animated and so forth. It’s a real visual mix that will make it pop out on screen. The current cut we have is getting great responses from Nick’s test screenings. The project has action, slapstick, political commentary, inside jokes, you name it. It’s a film that is really ambitious in what it wants to do.

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And all the things I mentioned above are very helpful to a good Kickstarter campaign. People will see the film’s dynamic visual palette, it’s recognizable stars like Dan Rather and Adam Herscham, its funny subject matter in North Korean propaganda films and level of ambition.

Nick Musurca spearheaded this Kickstarter campaign and was the artistic force behind it. However Josh and I were heavily involved with project and Nick sent us multiple versions of the campaign for our critique, advice and notes. The biggest thing for us was making sure Nick featured himself. It’s not just the project people are giving money to, it’s Nick as well. He didn’t do this at first. But we worked with him to make sure that Nick was featured in a way that helped people connect to him without being obnoxious.

But what made the project work and I can’t stress this enough, is that Nick kicked ass at it. Nick’s first cut of the trailer was rough, but its core was good and it ended up becoming great. Also Nick really went nuts with the information section under it. Take a look. It’s pretty sharp, funny and packed with cool stuff. Nick created a fake North Korean video game, played up the whole North Korean angle, you name it. The visuals of shooting on film popped for us, the paragraphs are well designed, and it’s entertaining.

And we were very clear about exactly what we needed. We outline the specifics of where the money is going. Nick even goes into the detail of where specifically the VFX is going to be used by showing before and after shots of the Pyong-Bo scenes. It’s very easy to understand what we need. That is why all these people who didn’t know us gave so much. We outlined where every cent was going. It’s hard to get trust from people you don’t know. But explaining to those potential donors specifically what you are doing with the money is an excellent way to build trust.

Well we launched it and a few days later we got on the front page. No super secret connection helped us. We didn’t know anybody. What happened was the Kickstarter staff saw the project and loved it. Let this be a note. QUALITY WORKS! You don’t always need to know people. And you don’t need to appeal to the lowest common denominator. If you make something that is sharp and good, people appreciate it and will support you. The day we got on front page, we were immediately fully funded. Check out the Kickstarter Editors picks now. They don’t always get extra funding from being featured. But our entire project was funded immediately.

We’re still in post for “The Films of Avi Krum” and it will soon be coming to a theater or laptop near you.

3. An Exchange (Formerly titled “Venus in Furs”)

Venus in Furs Kickster (renamed An Exchange)

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So I’ve been talking quite a bit. Let’s hear about what some other people think of the process.

For this project, I actually followed their campaign from its launch as an outsider. I ended up donating to it and then I was brought aboard as a Producer. I spoke with the Director Bryce Woodworth about his time running the campaign and some of his conceptual thoughts behind it.

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Bryce Woodworth

Stephen – Why did you run a Kickstarter campaign?
Bryce -I ran a Kickstarter campaign to help fund my Master’s thesis film at USC. I’d seen it be a useful tool for many other filmmakers including fellow students and decided to give it a shot, there was little to lose. But I had had no experience raising funds at that point, so the it was quite the learning experience. My project wasn’t one that was conducive to going viral, but I figured at best I’d be able to expose my project to a much larger audience, and at least provide a simple platform for collecting funds from friends and family.
Stephen – What was your strategy going in? The game plan so to speak.
Bryce – I spent a lot of time thinking about how to present my project on Kickstarter. I asked around and perused others projects looking for what worked and what didn’t.
-First, I wanted to keep a short, to-the-point, and sleek video. Kickstarter makes it clear that projects with videos do better than ones without, but when it comes to film projects it seemed important to have a good looking video to help prove that not only do you have a good story to shoot, but that you might be actually have the talent to produce the project properly. Further, I found myself not wanting to watch most videos past about 2 minutes. So I made a good looking (I think) and short (60 second) video.

-Second, I took a similar approach to the written description of the project. Many projects I came across seemed like you had to scroll for miles to finished reading about the project. I decided to keep it as short as possible, and easy to read (lots of headlines, bolding or italicizing important information, using lists, etc.)

-Lastly I wanted to keep the number of reward levels to a minimum. Kickstarter allows users to pledge any amount, so I didn’t see the need, like many other projects, to have 20+ rewards. I put other people’s rewards into a spreadsheet and decided the best price points were at $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, and $1,000. Obviously there is a clear pattern that I imagine you could continue if you had a project that required more funds. It also seemed important to offer your film at the $25 reward. At whatever price point you offer your film will likely be your most popular chosen reward, but you don’t want to insult your donors by having the price to high.

Deciding how much to ask for was difficult as well. I’d see a lot of friends ask for 100% of their budget and only get part of it. With Kickstarter you only get the money out if you raise your entire the entire amount. So these friend would have to kick in thousands of their own money to get the rest of the money out, but they would then end up losing around 7% of that money to transaction fees. So you don’t want to ask for too much, because you could lose money. But you don’t want to ask for too little, because if you hit your goal it may dissuade others from contributing to your project even if you have more time to raise money. I landed on about 50% of my budget for my goal, and hoped that I would get more. Meanwhile I would raise the rest of my money from larger donations from closer friends and family, as well as student loans.
An Exchange (Venus in Furs)

An Exchange (Venus in Furs)

Stephen – How long did it take you to make your video, why did you do that?
Bryce –  I put the whole Kickstarter project together in about a week, including time to get feedback from others and approval from the Kickstarter staff.
Stephen – You had all these cool things to offer, where did the inspiration come from?
Bryce – The lower price points were easier to come up with prizes for. But I struggled with the higher end ones. Lots of people were offering custom prizes that if I did, wouldn’t end up costing me much money, but would cost me a lot of time, which I simply wouldn’t have. So I tried to keep it easy for me, while still offering more to higher donors. So as you pay more, you might get an upgrade from DVD to BluRay, or to a signed copy. Then you might get a free download of the soundtrack (again, something I have to produce anyway). Then you might get a USC gear like a mug or a sweatshirt (which weren’t produced as part of my project, but would only take me a quick trip to campus to pick up and ship).
Stephen – Talk about how your producer(s) were involved in the process, directly and peripherally.
Bryce – John Nordlinger was originally interested in spearheading the funding campaign, but we eventually decided against that because the project was ultimately mine (in the sense that I wrote, directed and spent 3 years at USC culminating in this thesis), and I would be better at getting people interested at a personal level because of that. And you see that at the higher end films as well. It’s not Spike Lee’s or Zach Braff’s producer selling the project to donors, its the directors themselves. But my producers were there to help spread the word about the campaign as well as give feedback.
Stephen – If there is one thing you wished you could change about the process, what would it be?
Bryce – Although I reached my goal, it’s so easy to get the pledged money out if you don’t reach that goal by putting your own money in. I think Kickstarter might be well served to adopt Indiegogo’s options of taking the money out regardless of how much you raised, and simply charge an additional nominal fee if the goal wasn’t reached. It seems like it would be simple for non-monetary reward points to be issued as well. Say you want to support a project, but you have no money. Maybe if you share my project on your Facebook X number of times, or get Y number of people to donate to my project you could then get a copy of the movie, or another reward. Something like this would also help engagement in the Kickstarter community, which I think would be good.
Stephen – Ultimately, did it help you for the project?
Bryce – Kickstarter did help my project. Like I suspected, it didn’t go viral, but there were a few complete strangers that gave money, and a lot of people that were 2 or 3 degrees separated from me that would have otherwise not heard of the project. Further, I got a lot of old friends and co-workers from my past that I didn’t feel close enough to directly ask for money, but that would still send me money because they would see the project on Facebook, which I would update everyday and have my close friends and family advertise as well. The rest of the money came from directly asking people for money. I would probably send out 10 personal and individual emails/Facebook messages per day to people, asking for money (in a non-pushy way). That was the thing that had the biggest effect. You can’t be afraid to simply ask.
4. Bread and Butter
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So this project was a doozy. $35k is nothing to sneeze at. Looking back on what Bryce wrote, $35k might as well be asking for the moon.
I was also in the same position as Bryce’s project. They launched it, I spoke with Liz a few times personally offering support, I donated money and I supported them. And I too was also brought aboard soon after.
Liz Manashil
Liz was able to supply her how to guide for how she did it, let’s hear from her.
Stephen – Why did you run a Kickstarter campaign?
Liz – I ran a Kickstarter campaign because I had no idea how to get money. People were just starting to talk about crowdsourcing and crowdfunding and I actually got very nervous… almost two years ago…. that the trend would be over. We had our campaign even before we had our dates because I was so wary that donor fatigue would set in! Who knew that now…. two years later, people would still be passionate about Kickstarter. I did not have that keen foresight. So that fairly answers the timing in which we decided, and the idea that there was a trend around the corner for crowdfunded projects, but we mainly ran a campaign because we had no money and we didn’t think there was any other way to get money other than begging on the street. I kid you not, I looked into selling my eggs and I’m too short to do it.
Stephen – What was your strategy going in? The game plan so to speak.
Liz – I met with two people I deemed Kickstarter experts and asked them for advice. We had a calendar of things we would release throughout the campaign. I wrote up very silly mass emails…. constantly. Mainly I just was finding different ways to prove to people that we were desperate and that the money was very needed and for what I thought was a good cause. Our strategy was to beg and plead and beg and plead to as many people as possible. We did a 30 day campaign because that’s what the experts said to do. We launched on a weekday morning, because that’s what the experts said to do.
Stephen – How long did it take you to make your video, why did you do that?
Liz and her Kickstarter muppet!

Liz and her Kickstarter muppet!

Liz – Our video took quite a few weeks. We did a musical so we had to write the music (Robert Hill had to write the music and the lyrics), record to playback, get our location, actors, etc. We treated it like a short film. For us, we had heard a lot of backlash against people doing shoddy videos of just the director asking for money. We tried to turn it all into a fun video that people might share. We were lucky, they shared it! We ended up in a log of blogs and on Huffington Post.
Stephen – You had all these cool things to offer, where did the inspiration come from?
Liz – I think at the end of the day, you just don’t want your project to come off like you are a robot. I know that makes no sense but let me try to explain. We offered homemade cookies and mixtapes and Christopher Walken impressions as incentives because those things are fun and silly. They aren’t things that a robot would offer. A robot offers a typed up thank you letter. A robot offers only DVDs, streams and “thank you’s” in the credits. We wanted to offer things that were cheap but were things that we would want to get if we donated to a project. The cookies sold out in like the first hour. The mixtapes were incredibly popular.
Stephen – Talk about how your producer(s) were involved in the process, directly and peripherally.
Liz – At the time I only had one of my producers on board. She helped produce the shoot and she helped send the link out to friends and family. She is always invaluable, but I actually reached out and found some people who wanted to get into the Biz to help me post on forums, and reach out to the press. They were, in turn, given gigs on set, if they wanted them, when the movie shot.
Stephen – If there is one thing you wished you could change about the process, what would it be?
Liz – I wish I asked for more money! I say that now, but we probably raised the only amount we could. However, an indie film always needs more money…
Stephen – Ultimately, did it help you for the project?
Liz – We could not have made the movie without Kickstarter.
(Back to Stephen)
One of the things that ended up happening during the Bread and Butter campaign is that some of the rewards we’re designed to allow high levels donors to be in the film. Now, this is always a major risk on a few levels. First, there are certain legalities that must be handled. Two, there are union rules that must be respected. As in, if someone pays money to get speaking lines on a SAG Union shoot, then you might run into problems. Also, how do the payments work? If someone gives you money to be in the film, and they were in SAG, do you have to pay them to be on the film? The answer is yes to that last one by the way. Be very aware of who is giving money to be involved in the film, as there may be other elements that might hamstring that bond. And this applies to any sort of campaign. Whether you are raising money for special watches or giving money to the poor, you need to do some research for what your gifts ultimately tie you to. And whether there might be unintended consequences because of it.
For us, we ended up giving lines and roles to certain Kickstarter donors. One of the things we made sure to do was to protect ourselves. We signed a deal with these Kickstarter donors that would allow us to cut the scenes with them as we please. And in a worst case scenario, cut them out all together. But we had that option. Even professional actors get cut out of a film. Nothing will hurt your project more then getting tied to a Kickstarter donor who gets involved and ultimately hurts the project. For Bread and Butter, Liz made sure the campaign gifts were soundly designed to allow for people to be involved with the project but it also was written up were it allowed Liz to still make the best possible project. Remember your ABCs = Always Be Careful.
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Wrap Up
As you can see from the above, each of these Kickstarter campaigns revolved around a movie of some sort. All of them short films and the last one being a feature. What makes this unique is that short films are wedged into a special area. In that short films just don’t make money. It’s not like investing in the next great watch or the next great telephone. Also I would say .0001% of the time a short film will make some money by appearing on iTunes or something like that. But the vast majority of the time, it doesn’t make a single dollar. Also, short films have a terrible record of exposure. They end up mostly in small little film festival theaters and that’s if they’re lucky. The top 1% of all short films will get a few lucky breaks and end up in Sundance in a block with other short films or at some other film festival. Also almost all short films almost never have celebrities or “The Hollywood’ factor. There isn’t much that is sexy about them. They can be a struggle to put together. You have people who are just beginning as professionals or they’re a student. To raise money for a short film is one of the hardest things you can ever do.
Which is why the films that do the best have some sort of societal impact in what they try and do. For “Volcano Girl”, it was a woman who had super powers, directed by a woman. You rarely see that in the film industry. For “An Exchange”, it was about a gay politician who was destroying himself emotionally and physically. “Bread and Butter”, while a more commercially viable product as a feature, still touched on a lot of the same elements. It was a female driven story with a production that was dominated by women filmmakers. What I’m saying is people like to support progress. They like to be able to move things forward. Matt Damon is not a part of any of these projects. There isn’t a promise of some Hollywood party.
For the donors of these Kickstarter campaigns, it’s an opportunity for those who can’t to feel like they can. For those that are trapped at work, who don’t have time to contribute, who believe that they can make a positive impact. That is why people donate. And they believe in the filmmakers. Ashley, Bryce, Ian, Nick and Liz are all directors that have a passion for their vision and are real people at heart. They believe in what they’re doing, enough so to make the scary leap of asking people for their hard earned money.
So for you dreamers out there, who just need a few dollars to make your idea or cause come to life, it can be done.  The best Kickstarter campaigns have to come from a place of authenticity inside yourself, the skills to make your idea come to life and with a passion to do something different. No matter what’s it about, those core philosophies are what make your campaign a Kickstarter Success.
This blog entry was written by Stephen Gibler for informational purposes only, and does not constitute the entirety of the process for running a successful Kickstarter campaign. If you want to know the full details of the process you can email Stephen at Stephen@OriginCinematics.com for any additional questions.
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New Film Frontier: The Trillion Dollar Investment Ruling

Hey all,

So our good friend Colin Brown had recently wrote up an article on how the new JOBS Act ruling clears the way for a major new financing option for filmmakers. Here is the breakdown.

http://issuesandactions.hopeforfilm.com/2013/07/filmonomics-the-trillion-dollar-baby.html

So essentially, filmmakers have been forced to approach people directly as individuals when looking for financing. Also the limit to people who can invest in a film has always been 50, but now it’s been increased to 2000 as a recognition of how crowdsourcing is becoming a major element to raise money.

The real kicker are these three statistics.

1. 8.7 MILLION households are recognized as accredited investors

2. Each of them would contribute $2000 to to 2-3 projects per year

3. 898 BILLION was reported in regulatory D offerings in 2012. This is essentially yearly investment money

There is money in the banana stand. Find the right people, and you’ll be golden.

The Wealth Gap and Social Unrest

The Wealth Gap and Social Unrest

By Stephen Gibler

Since the Occupy Wall Street movement faded out of mainstream press reporting in 2012, the conversation about the US wealth gap has moved to the back as conversations regarding sequester cuts, drone strikes on US Citizens, and North Korean saber rattling have retaken the spotlight. Not surprising as the issue is exceedingly complex and the the Republicans have been successful in getting across their message of this being effectively wealth redistribution.

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However, what opponents of the wealth redistribution narrative have failed to do is effectively show how that wealth gap could negatively effect a country. And most importantly, how that wealth gap could lead to destructive consequences nationally.

For comparison’s sake, we need to look at other countries and their societies we would deem as free or not free and look at their income inequality levels. One prime example is China which is constantly decried as a violator of human rights and an oppressive communist state. Let’s look at China’s wealth gap.

Currently China’s income gap is actually pretty similar to ours.

Here is the Gini Coefficient that measures wealth gaps.

Modern USA Gini Coefficient Levels

In a Gini Coefficient scale, 0 is everyone has equal wealth, and 1 is one person holds all the wealth and history has shown both systems don’t work.

We are living in one of the most peaceful times in human history, a major reason being we are at our lowest levels of income disparity and wealth disparity every. Unfortunately the pendulum is swinging backward and especially has been in the USA since the 1970s.

Wealth Inequality in the United States Wikipedia

Back to the Gini CoEfficient. Social unrest in America is nothing new and has been a constant element because of the free republic nature of the country. However there are correlations between income inequality and social unrest.

However this is a statistical correlation between conflict and income gap. Anything .4 or over leads to social unrest. Look throughout history and countries that become dysfunctional are over the .4 this manifests itself as civil unrest, revolution, mass slaughter of resident populations, or war.

China’s CoEfficient is .474.

US China Income Gap

America’s CoEfficient is .49.

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We are currently primed for major social unrest. Movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party are representations of low level social unrest that is in direct response to this. They actually much closer in relation when you think of them as responses to a high level of power and influence vs. the people. The Tea Party targets an extremely powerful government while Occupy Wallstreet targets the corporate influence in that government. Essentially, they both are right, just half right. The relationship between the government and corporations, which have historically been a check on each other, have now become a symbiotic relationship.

Glass-Stegall Act breaking up big banks

The era of the government checking corporate influence is waning and now acts like Dodd-Frank Act are showing how powerful corporate lobbies have become in their influence of legislation and how they’re able to block serious regulation.

Daily Show explains Dodd-FrankAct

Add in the bank bailouts, lack of arrests due to the financial collapse, the ever increasing war on terror, and the amount of Americans feeling economic relative pressure, the amount of Americans feeling skeptical of the government is at an all-time high.

US Government at historic negativity levels

Between these factors of people’s mistrust on the government and industry to solve the problem, then they will turn to a third option to force them to fix the system. Themselves.

You the Filmmaker, and the Personal Life You Don’t Have Time For

The blog is back. After a busy semester where it has to stay in remission, I finally have some time to pursue the continued observation and analysis of the film industry.

But before we get back to hard data, seeing how the world is effecting the industry, and other such exploits, the first blog entry on my return back will be personal one, about the filmmaker’s personal life.

———-

I stumbled away from Sundance. There were a couple of memories that stood out to me. I’ll get to the bad first. The frigid cold, the sharing a bed with another film student guy I didn’t know, not having hot water in the shower, and no internet were the bad memories deeply lodged into my mind. It was a personal trial as much as pleasure.

The good. I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing the Fruitvale team just do incredible things, winning the Jury and Audience awards. Many of them were classmates of mine, 1-2 years ahead of me at USC. It was possible to walk out as a USC student and do great things. No pressure.

In my three years in Los Angeles and at USC, I have been working on films around the clock. My goal while there was to excel at production as a Producer. That would be my niche, knowing how the machine worked from top to bottom. Also I would learn and have strong relationships at USC with my professors and classmates, excel in the USC sphere as a person, and develop relationships with people outside the school such as in the law and business schools. And I largely accomplished those goals. I became President of the Graduate Council, USC’s First Look Producer of the Year, and I probably produced the most thesis films ever according to my mentor John Watson. I think that last part is debatable but I’m in the discussion. But as one buddy of mine who is already making things happen in the real world said, “No one cares what you did at USC”. I disagree as every accomplishment you do matters, especially when it is at USC. But after going to Sundance I also agree.

My classes at USC were finally finished. So the rocket is ready to launch. I have internships I have taken, people in the industry I can talk to, and I have a commercial company on the side and a few features in development. I feel good, and the doubts I have are nothing out of the ordinary. But none of that matters if my foundation in order.

Here is what I mean by this. Life is like a building and you need to have the right foundation and I’ve been working on the right angles, horizontals, and perpendiculars of that blueprint, so to speak. Getting things in order, working on my car, doing some training, getting my websites for me and my company up and running, getting the Caritas website Paul and I have been working on created to make some money on the side, watching movies people have hammered in to me to watch, reading books and scripts, doing some public speaking, joining a sports team to stay in shape, etc. etc. Things I have never been able to do because I never had the time.

But it’s not been easy. My drive to create and chase after my career has been pushed to the side to get everything in order. But I keep reminding myself that you can’t take meetings if your car breaks fail. You need to make sure you’re physically in great shape so you feel good at pitch meetings. You need to read to inform your writing. You have to lay all these into your foundations to be able to launch off. Short films, while creating a foundation of this own, don’t have all the answers.

I was having lunch with my buddies James Jou, Kyle Fredrick, and Scott Hardie and we were all talking about how hard it was to get our personal life in order. Kyle was working for a couple of older producers, James was watching four movies a day, Scott was about to fly to China to film a major part of his doc he was working on. They all felt that they had things they wanted to do to build themselves up character-wise and proficiency wise, but time was short and much of it was being pushed to the side. Except for James, who is watching four movies a day. Welcome to life in thesis for a USC film student.

A mentor and friend of mine, Producer Gail Katz, said to me I need to keep having life experiences. So I decided to Europe, Israel/Palestine for 42 days this summer. I even asked Brenda Goodman the same thing and her response was to not be worried about what you’re missing. If you’re good you’ll keep getting hired. So I went. And I learned something, but not what you think. While it was semi-great, it did help me at the very least gain legitimacy. Visiting Greece during their last election has made other people put more weight into my views. The same for Israel/Palestine. Even though I felt I learned a lot, I didn’t feel like I experienced up to my usual standards. However, I had experienced more then 99% of Americans and people around the world with some of these trips I had been taking. It’s not just learning a lot, it’s what you know in comparison to others and what comes with that. As someone who was out there, I gained that legitimacy. If you are a filmmaker and you read this, you know many people out there, whose power and statue come from the fact they have the legitimacy of something over others. They made more movies, or have certain experiences, or know something or even have the illusion of all those things. That legitimacy is gives you the ability to assert your influence and execute your goals as a filmmaker.

Also you have to learn how you carry yourself and how you treat people around you. Obviously we all know how this works we’re adults. But there is an advanced level of it that applies just to the film industry and how that should go be treated. To take time to read the literature of people who have been through this before and knows how it goes it a major part of this process. Too many of us just jump in without planning on how to jump in.

This is a touch rambling but I’m working off the rust as get back in action.

So in conclusion…take some time away from film. We tend to always be so focused on our work, but it’s everything that we do is part of our work.

So welcome back to my blog, I look forward to following up on some previous things I was looking to cover and how the film industry is evolving and existing in the world around us.

-S

The Pitch (Part 1 of a 4 part series) “Pitch Preparation”

Here are my notes from my Pitch Class today. An absolutely fantastic lecture on the elements of pitching from the very beginning all the way to the end. Every single point was covered and broken down in this. It’s worth it’s weight in gold.

These were ideas from the great Howard Rosenman and Gail Katz. So yes, look at their resumes and IMDBs. Solid gold.

I split them into a couple of different parts but take a read of these and I’ll give my thoughts later.

As always I apologize in advance for spelling or grammar trip-ups, these notes were take quickly.

——-

This is about how to pitch a feature film.
We’re going to discuss, the important of an outline and a treatment. You really have to know your story.

Basically pitching is storytelling. You have 10-15 minutes, maybe 20.

The most cardinal rule of pitching is less is more.

How to get ready for the pitch. How to get into the room. How do you get there and who do you call and how does it happen. They will go to agencies and agents will make the calls and set up the pitch. Or a manger. Or a lawyer. Or a producer. Somebody that is going to help you get into the room.

Them saying yes to getting into the room is 3 quarters of the battle. Sometimes a pitch that is heard will be a favor pitch. The agent calls in a favor to listen to a pitch. As a producer, there are a lot of mercy pitches. Sometimes things come out of those pitches.

Research the company to know what they are buying and what they have been making.

The first five minutes are the schmooze and you must use some way to get a way to get a connection.

The buyer will have have sometimes a number of pitches a day.

You have to research the room. With the Internet, you can find the info. A commonality. Same college. The same town. Present a connection and point of reference. Also know all the movies this person is working on or has worked on. Try to avoid criticizing and condemning anyone in Hollywood while you’re there. They don’t want to know your opinion or politics.

Many times they will have an idea of the pitch before you walk into the room.

You must memorize your pitch. It’s not a good idea not to. Get a partner to memorize a pitch. For Howard, it takes 6 months to perfect a pitch. He does it over and over till he can do it by sleeping. Don’t over memorize it. Try to be fluid. Make sure to have note cards with certain words highlighted so you can get back on track when you forget. Gail has to look at note cards. Howard has to look at note cards.

Make sure you have a pitch with some charisma. Or get a partner who does. Also make sure you have your outline handy.

How to dress? Know your audience. Very rarely do Hollywood execs wear suits. Agents always wear suits. Sometimes they wear suits. They won’t be wearing jeans. Be very near. Never wear a hat to a pitch. For dress, try to look more creative then businessy. Some guys like to wear nice clothes and tennis shoes. Try to look neat and a little better then the execs that you are pitching. The guys Gail pitches with are usually wearing jeans. Dark jeans. Dark nice tight jeans.

——

End of pitch preparation notes.

Hope these help and I will chat attend of the week my thoughts are on this specific section of them.

-S

Foreign Film Sales vs. Domestic. A brief study

“Foreign sales are up, domestic is down! We’re going international!”

– Everybody in Hollywood

Global BO rises 3%, domestic ticket sales drop 4% LA Times March 23rd

This article is going to be part of a series of articles analyzing the growing divide between foreign and domestic film industry.

Looking at these numbers, we see a trend that is both fascinating and unnerving, depending on how you look at it. For the industry executives at the top, staring in front of them is a potential cash flow that could dwarf even the highest of US domestic sales numbers. The US’s 200 million movie ticket buying adults vs. the several billion of them abroad. There is gold at the end of the rainbow, a mountain of it.

And this bull market has masked a hollowing out of the US/Canada market. The MPAA will tell you that domestic sales are up 6% from fives years ago. What they aren’t telling you is that domestic ticket sales are down 18% since 2002. It’s the dirty secret that only few talk about and no one is willing to face. 3D ticket sales have masked the reality that Americans are vanishing from the theaters and that growing divide could fundamentally change the types of films that will be produced.

Lets look at the foreign film world first. Looking logically at why these numbers could be this way, here are a couple of things to think about.

1. The digital era has completely opened he door to filmmakers to to make films that are unconstrained by any force other then cost. We’re talking CGI and VFX. We can create any
type of world, blow up things in any type of way, and be able to engage in an artistic style that would be unrealistic beforehand. Also the superhero era is a byproduct of this and has turned into a moneymaking juggernaut. It has the ability to give people the thrill ride they crave. The theme park roller coaster experience for only a couple of bucks.

2. Globalization. A byproduct of all these markets opening up to each other for foreign investment and distribution has also opened the door for films to be more easily disseminated. The removal of tariffs, the lacing of censorship laws, and the relaxing of laws limiting American film/TV distribution has paved a huge way for these films. They now don’t have to fight to enter a country and local companies are jumping in on the money making bonanza.

3. The Americanization of global youth culture. This one is more controversial but this ties into anecdotal evidence. When I visited Europe this summer, everyone could speak English. Almost every young Italian could talk to me.

Also, an emerging Russia and China and the election of Obama has really risen the favorability of America with younger members. Also the American led drive into the digital and Internet age has driven more and more people to be fluent in English to be able to get jobs and participate in this culture and that has allowed the American films as a byproduct to get more of an audience. The amount of people who speak English has a second language now outnumbers native English speakers 3-1. Our films are more and more finding an audience that understands the language and thus can fully engage in the story commercially.

But there is darkness behind the scenes. And in the next blog entry, we will analyze the growing descent of the American film industry. Or, maybe the evolving of it. Stay tuned.

Stephen Gibler
Producer, The Films of Avi Krum

IPad for the Producer/Writer (4 days in)

So I have joined the growing legions of Apple iPad users in purchasing an IPad. My model is a 64 gig iPad 2 that I bought through a friend and I got a great deal from him. Dropping $500-$800 for an iPad is just insane. And besides, we’ll soon reach a point where 3G is a part of the model and is free like it is for some of the Kindles. When that happens, watch out.

So 4 days in and I’m already suing this thing far more then I have used my laptop. Everything feels very connected and there is this great user-friendly flow between myself and it’s applications. I always felt Apple was creating a market with the iPad when in reality the market was already there, people just didn’t realize it. I was at meetings all day yesterday and instead of lugging around my carrying bag and all of it’s materials, I just took my iPad and I was good to go the entire day. I didn’t miss a thing. It actually called into question a lot of my daily travel packing. And put forth a philosophical question.

As a producer, our one of our main levels of value is the resources we can access. And that is why I have always like carrying around my shoulder strap case. I have Advil, canker sore medication, power charging cords, glasses, etc. etc.

So the idea of having a life without my materials is huge leap to take. So far, I have used it. Lot every day. Being a USC student and being on the move a lot, being able to fast documents and materials have been invaluable.

I know the storyboard app will be heavily used. So will pages, keynote, numbers, etc. I will have presentations non-stop and having materials that I can create, manage, and use on the fly is going to be golden. Showing my movies is going to be a feature that will absolutely be important for showing my work to future collaborators and employers. Also I like to argue, so having documents and materials backing up my arguments is already making me feel like a kid in a candy store.

So if you will excuse me, I’ll answer some emails, get some tasks done and watch an episode of 30 Rock. And I’ll post this blog post from it!

-S

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