Indie film funding is going through a real evolution and revolution right now what with crowdfunding being available on sites like IndieGoGo and Kickstarter. While all the hyper marketing about it shows that there’s been some success (at least for some well-known names), not enough attention is placed on what happens after there’s been a successful campaign. One of the key things that compels people to donate money is the incentives or rewards promised to donators. Some filmmakers are finding it a challenge to live up to those particular obligations.
Take for example the film “Life Itself”, a biopic about the late film critic Roger Ebert that was partially crowdfunded recently. The Chicago Tribune did a piece about the director and producer of the film, Steve James, and how he promised various rewards to those who donated. In the profile, he reflects on how much pressure he was under trying to provide those promised incentives to the donors.
It was a bit of an insightful look into the reality of how crowdfunding works and how much of a mountain of responsibility it creates in fulfilling promises. If you’re planning similar crowdfunding for your indie film, what kind of incentives should you really offer so you don’t become overburdened when it’s time to give back?
At the Very Least: Give Name Credit in the Movie
Doing this alone may not be enough to get big bucks rolling in, though it’s a promise that can be easily kept. It’s also a meaningful incentive because donators will know their name will be in the end credits forever. Then again, others may not find it appealing enough to give away their hard-earned cash. They may expect much more, or at least something tangible.
Autographed Copies of a DVD or Other Prizes
In the case of “Life Itself” above, Martin Scorsese (as one of the investors), promised to sign copies of his DVDs in exchange for people donating money. When you have a famous name attached to your film, this can help in getting more people interested. However, if you’re not known at all, it shouldn’t be considered unless you have some media buzz and potential of being a household name down the road.
Inviting Someone to the Premiere and/or Dinner
This incentive usually gets added at the top tier level. Because most indie films don’t even make their funding quota, perhaps you should consider this as an option for lesser donations. It doesn’t require anything other than letting the person in to the theater with a free ticket. You could also buy them dinner afterward, which would likely cost less than the donation they gave.
Other, Creative Incentives
Why not think outside the usual incentives above and try something different? Steve James of “Life Itself” above agreed to critique screenplays for those who donated the highest amount. While this might take too much of your time, it’s worth considering if you have industry clout.
Also consider offering a cameo in the film if you haven’t yet taken it before the cameras. Most people love seeing themselves in a movie more than anything. Along with a free copy of the DVD, you may have the most powerful combination for rewards.
Conversely, one thing that can add more confidence in donating is showing proof of distribution and the potential of gaining an audience. No one will want to give money to an indie film that shows no chance of even being seen. While it may not be possible to assure distribution right away, try doing some marketing beforehand to show you already have an established audience interested in the film.