Here's the quickest way I know to finance a short film.
No Kickstarter - we'll cover a different platform.
No story (initially).
AND the only fee you might see (3%) is a credit card fee if your sponsor uses a credit card and the customary 5% fee you'd see on a crowdfunding site, but we'll cover all of that.
Otherwise, it's your team and the funding you need for your short film.
Oh, and you can do it in less than 3 weeks if you're a bootstrapper.
In the spirit of all the great 90's kids' shows, let's raise $1,000 for your short film!
This is a given, right? It's so overlooked though.
But Jake the film guy, I don’t pray. In fact, I’m outta here. I don’t care for this religious crap.
No worries amigos, you’re welcome here any time. Everything I share here is for my fellow microbudget filmmakers, and if you’re a believer too, that’s cool. If not, no worries. Jesus was the kind of guy who loved hanging out with people, regardless of their background. I want to be like that, and this journey of learning how to create a TV show? Well, it’s all here for you to learn from, whether the journey be good, bad, and/or ugly. My faith colors everything I do, and anyone is welcome here regardless of their faith. No Bible-thumping, no altar calls, just a guy who wants to see non-cheesy stories of hope reach billions of people — and his microbudget filmmaking blog. That’s what you can expect here.
Okay, back to the post.
I have to remind myself, even when blogging that I can invite my King to guide my words and give me His creativity.
Do the same before your next shoot.
2. Find a cause
Lost in the sauce for what story to tell?
Me too (even right now as I write this post). That's why this is step 2.
For example, I can remember this moment super clearly.
I know guys that openly struggle with a porn addiction. I also know there are guys that won't admit they struggle with a porn addiction. Last June, this really weighed on my heart.
I was driving to the gym one blustery Vegas summer day, and the idea was shared with me: why not do something about porn addiction through film?
I didn't even ask - the idea was dumped in my lap.
Note: God's always speaking to you. Carve out time every day (treat it like a business appointment) to listen. Nothing else - just listen.
I'm getting better about this quiet time with the Almighty, and it's time you have to fight for, just like quality time with your spouse and your kids.
Now, if you have a Godly cause, then go for it (cf the parable of the talents). Don't wait around for a bolt of lightning. Ask for guidance, and make steps if the Holy Spirit doesn't tap the brakes.
2.5 Land a gig
The idea is simple. Find a client with a problem. SOLVE their problem with a buttkicking video that’d make William Wallace proud. Charge more than a grand, and if you need help figuring out what exactly to charge, start with this post or use my calculator.
Then after your costs in creating the video, take that dough and make your short film. Or… raise funds. Which we talk about… now.
3. Shoot a quick explainer video
Mine was about 3-4 minutes long - keep yours shorter. 1 minute is good, but I challenge you to be creative: shoot for 30 seconds. I also talk about WHY you should aim for this in the post on raising $8,567 for your short film, and in detail below this image:
On Facebook, most people get through about 20% of one of my videos, and the same is probably true of you and your videos if you dig into the analytics.
Don't waste your viewer's time or yours.
I'm serious. You need to dig into your analytics on Facebook (or YouTube or Vimeo) and really soak that up.
Most people will not finish a short video online. Period. Keep ads and other promotional videos under 30 seconds where possible (i.e. online).
Theaters show full-length movies.
Televisions run 30 and 60-minute programs.
Churches like 1-to-2-minute videos.
Your phone, tablet and computer are used for quick bursts of information.
I will always harp on this. You have to understand your audience online.
For a stranger to you or your idea, a 30-second commercial is a block of time they've been programmed to since the 60's or thereabout when TV ads scaled back to 30 seconds from 60 seconds.
That hasn't changed much, and your online user knows it.
If you're promoting something, do what the big boys (Coca Cola, Apple, any car company, etc.) do - get it out in 30 seconds tops.
Note: YouTube may have better retention rates than Facebook simply because YouTube is home to only one thing unlike Facebook which wants to be a one-stop-shop for life.
4. Start an Indiegogo campaign
This post used to say "Tilt" campaign, as pictured above. These guys were great. They didn't keep any of the money if you were raising it for a short film.
And to say thanks, they would even send you a pair of sunglasses when it was all said and done.
That alone was worth using Tilt for (I lost mine - sad panda).
RIP Tilt (formerly tilt.com). You're still around, but with the Airbnb takeover, you're... not the same. :(
Honestly, if you have a big audience and a big budget, try Kickstarter. For most of us microbudget filmmakers, we have little to no audience, so I don't advise using them.
For a $1,000 budget, that's as much as $100 that you could lose just to processing fees instead of $30.
That's $70 you could spend on advertising and reach 7,000 views on Facebook.
7,000 views could mean 1,400 people hear they are loved, valued, and there is a God who is head-over-heels crazy about them. Or 7,000 views could mean 70 new email signups. Or 500 new page likes.
See what a difference platforms make?
So you do what everyone does in the business world - add on the fees and let people know for Pete's sake. Be transparent! Break down where each dollar is going.
Step 1: settle on a platform. I recommend Indiegogo because of their flexible funding which allows you to keep what you raise, even if you don't meet your goal.
Step 2: Add 10% to what you want to raise.
This is an overestimate as most merchants (Visa, Paypal, etc.) are all pretty competitive and charge 2.9% + .30 per transaction (USD) these days (2018). The exact math behind this approach (i.e. accounting for the per transaction fee of thirty cents) involves a scarier looking formula than the basic one I'll have you crank out right now, and beyond being ugly, it's unnecessary.
For the sake of illustration, let's say you do need to raise an even $1,000.
It's not enough to say, "I'm going to add 10% and I'm done!"
If you take 10% of $1,000 and add it back to the grand, you have $1,100. But if you plan on losing 10% of your total funds to fees and charges, then netting 90% of your $1,100 is $1,100 - $110 = $990. No bueno muchacho.
Rather, you need $1,000 to be 90% of what you need to raise.
Middle school math wasn't entirely useless after all amigos: $1,000 divided by 90% gives you $1,111.11.
Recap: Regardless of your goal, divide it by 90% or 0.90 and that new number is your real goal. If you reach it, you'll have enough for your film after fees.
5. Video message your closest friends and family members
This part takes time. Intentionality is key.
Facebook messaging 20 people the same message is spammy, and your friends and family know the difference and will wonder why you as a friend spammed them.
I used to do this. Guess how many people responded? ...Exactly.
Be genuine. Set aside time for each person with a custom message. This is where most people quit, get lame, and become chumps (as my Video Fruit’s Bryan Harris says).
Now, you're not a chump. In fact, God values you unlike anyone else does on His green earth.
I quote Bryan because unfortunately, in these situations, people do get lazy. DON'T. Do the work.
If this step scares the daylights out of you, don't worry, I've got a sample you can reference below to get started.
Direct people with ONE link only to your crowdfunding landing page and let it do the heavy lifting.
DON'T do what I used to do and bombard people with multiple call-to-actions. Remember the Lion Tamer principle.
6. Publicly thank them on social media
You can't keep telling people about your campaign. It's spammy. Here's a great example of a guy who spammed several filmmaker boards on Facebook.
Don't do this.
First of all, you will never get 100% market penetration. Second of all, would you walk into a party and make that same announcement as soon as you walked in?
Instead, show behind-the-scenes screenshots. VLOG about the campaign. Thank people on social media. Ask questions. Solicit input and opinions about possible color grades.
This is indirect advertisement of the campaign. Be indirect.
Being direct is okay, but when that's all you do, that's when people write you off, blacklist your emails, and stop inviting you over for Superbowl Sunday.
Build the newsletter. We failed back in December of 2015 when we launched a project called EML to first build the Bold Nation newsletter, and it showed.
That should be your biggest focus - not likes on Facebook.
Don't do this either. It's wasted energy.
But why? I love Facebook and it's great for...
Facebook engagement rates for brands, companies, churches, etc. are awful unless you put paid advertising behind your posts (even then there are no guarantees).
Yep. Organic traffic for your Facebook (page) posts are awful (again, not a personal account).
You can use social media to thank your donors, share updates, encourage others, and create links to your blog posts, videos, etc.
But don't treat any social media platform as a sub for a newsletter. Rookie mistake # 1 made by yours truly.
7. Start pre-production
Congrats! You made it.
If you're fully funded, then write your story. Or find one to match your topic.
Pairing up with a talented writer is a good move, and it's one I will eventually use with the next (Spirit-led) short film, feature film, or mini-series.
I committed back in Feb of 2016 to shoot the next film with God's direction and input. Whether that took me down a Darren Wilson-esque trail or a meticulous battle plan, I decided to trust Him. Powers & Principalities, my series-to-be, I believe is a step in the right direction.
I'm tired of working for me and thinking I know better, so going forward, the Almighty is the Admiral of this ship.
For you, think of this step like you're testing the market for a new business product (story) before you spend loads of cash on inventory (the finished film).
That is, if your cause is Spirit-filled, if it's validated by backers, then cobble the story together and start pre-production.
DO NOT do it the other way around unless told to.
8. Send hand-written thank-you notes to your backers
Even if it's a 5-dollar pledge, send them a hand-written thank you note.
I learned this from the greatest school teacher slash marketer to have ever walked the other side of the Mighty Missipp: Ron Clark.
He propelled his small-town, underfunded secondary math class to the White House, a spot on Oprah, and a national platform in a matter of a year or two, if not months.
All because he was persistent (he made the asks), and he lead of group of youngsters to be thankful for even the little things, even $5 donations to better their school.
He runs his academy in my hometown of Atlanta. These guys are bold, and I love what they do for education.
Hey, I was a math teacher, don'tcha know?
BONUS: To help you get started and get off the couch, here's what I'm going to do for you.
I'm going to give you a peek at a low-res video I would create for each person; take a gander and make your own custom video for each friend and family member you reach out to.
If you can't ask them for help, how will you ask strangers?
I've also got a swipe file for you if you're running out of ideas on what to shoot. It's a list of topics, themes, causes, and more that are begging for quality, faith-inspired stories that are authentic, well-produced, and absolutely NOT CHEESY.
Original: March 11, 2016; updated June 12, 2017 and July 10, 2017, Oct 27, 2018
Jesse (episode 71 forthcoming) asked -
What projects attract you the most?
And what project has been your favorite in the past?
1. I love a quality story with great characters (Back To The Future, Tombstone, Les Mis (1998), Braveheart, etc.).
I absolutely love The Foremost and would love to be a part of that kind of experience if it too preaches the Good News (those guys are great, and I was fortunate to chat with their leader Peter Craig sometime last year in 2015 - carve out 44 minutes and pray for more films like this one).
Down the road, when Church Films expands, we will have original programming, just like Netflix or Amazon, and there are ideas in the works.
Note: If you have original material that's yours, keep us in mind as we gain the critical mass to license quality (not cheesy, ham-fisted propaganda) faith-inspired stories.
2. The best project to date hasn't been shot yet - sorry for the copout answer Jesse.
If you have q's about anything, send 'em!