GUIDE: How to Successfully Crowdfund Your Short Film

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Select a suitable platform like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Seed & Spark to crowdfund a short film effectively. Build a detailed campaign outlining your budget and project needs. Produce a compelling video to showcase your film’s concept and engage potential backers. Offer enticing rewards at various pledge levels. Promote your campaign daily across your networks to maximize funding.

Crowdfunding is the collective funding of a project or idea by regular people like you who believe in it enough to invest their own money.

Project creators set up a campaign with a funding goal for their project, and anyone interested can contribute as much or as little as they want.

Here are the steps you must take to create a successful crowdfunding campaign.

Step 1: Choose Your Platform

crowdfund your short film

Your first task is to find the platform most suited to creative projects.

Differentiating between 20 different platforms can be a headache, so I’ll save you time and list the top three choices for funding a short film, in no particular order:

1. Kickstarter: The All-Or-Nothing Platform

Kickstarter is by far the most well-known of the crowdfunding campaigns and the go-to platform for all things crowdfunding.

Founded in 2009, Kickstarter overwhelmingly attracts creative projects, so films fit right into its standard fare.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing model. Because of this, it’s essential to have your budget as exact as you can manage to avoid potentially missing your target by accidentally overinflating your budget.

All or nothing might sound daunting, but the finality of the deadline can be a great motivator to get backers to chip in to help you cross your goal, especially if you’re close to making it but not quite there.

The last 48 hours are important.

My short film, Poser, raised about 80% of our funding over 28 days.

With 48 hours to go, the contributions came pouring in, giving us about 24% and hitting the goal by the last few hours of the campaign.

I attribute this push to the fact that most backers didn’t want to see us lose 80% of our funding when we were so close to making it, and that’s a benefit of the psychological pressure of an all-or-nothing model.

The last 48 hours of a campaign usually see an influx of contributions as most backers realize it’s their last chance to give something to put a project over the top.

Kickstarter Fees

Kickstarter’s fees are pretty common by crowdfunding standards:

5% of total funds raised in addition to 3% + $0.20 per contribution as a “payment processing fee.”

Unsuccessful campaigns are not charged any fees.

2. Indiegogo: Flexible Funding Campaigns

Another hub for mostly creative projects, Indiegogo has a bit more flexibility regarding its campaigns than Kickstarter.

In addition to offering fixed-goal campaigns like Kickstarter, Indiegogo also has a flexible funding campaign.

With flexible funding, any amount raised goes to your project, even if you don’t hit your goal.

This might be good for projects with a general budget goal or are getting made no matter what and could use the financial boost to alleviate the stress on the creators.

Remember, though, that one of the drawbacks of flex funding is that the psychological edge is lost on backers.

Some might be less willing to take you to 100%. But 80% means 80%, whereas, in a fixed campaign, 80% means zero.

IndieGoGo Fees

Indiegogo’s fees are as follows:

Fixed and flexible funding campaigns are charged 5% of total funds and 3% + $0.30 per contribution processing fee.

Like Kickstarter, unsuccessful fixed funding campaigns are not charged fees.

As you can see, the fees are nearly identical between the two platforms.

If fixed funding appeals to you, I’d go with Kickstarter over Indiegogo due to the brand recognition and the likelihood that your campaign finds its way in front of more eyes.

3. Seed & Spark: Fixed and Flexible Hybrid Model

Seed & Spark is exclusively geared towards filmmakers. So, as far as the target audience, you can’t get better than this.

S&S also requires that only 80% of your funding be secured to get the money pledged by your backers, so it’s a sort of interesting hybrid cross between all-or-nothing and flexible funding.

Its benefits don’t stop at crowdfunding, either.

S&S also bills itself as a place to discover and educate new filmmakers.

They boast that focusing entirely on film, short films, web series, and other moving picture media helps them give special attention to each campaign.

They provide free educational services and give you tips on your campaign before it’s greenlit.

Additionally, they have a streaming service and distribution options for filmmakers.

You can deal with them to stream your film on their service and get paid for every minute watched (you split the proceeds 50/50).

This is open to everyone, not just campaigns that have crowdfunded with them, and you can submit your film through their site for evaluation.

They require that films have 500 followers on their site or other social media before being eligible for distribution.

Seed & Spark Fees

Like everyone else, Seed & Spark also has fees, though they offer backers the chance to offset some of the fees in their pledge.

According to S&S, generally, 2/3 of backers agree to do so, effectively lowering your fee on successfully raised funds to 2%.

However, this is speculative, so let’s talk hard numbers:

The platform fee on successful campaigns is 5% of funds raised and 2.9% + $0.30 of each pledge.

Step 2: Be as Detailed as Possible

clapper and camera

Now, you must present your project to all the potential backers.

Think of this as a persuasive argument.

To get people behind you and support you, you need to convince them. The best way to do this is by giving them as much information as possible.

Discuss why your film is important. Entice them with the story.

What are you trying to say?

Why should this film be made?

Let your passion seep through.

Just because it’s a short film on a low budget doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. Often, it’s quite the contrary.

Break down everything you need your backers’ help to achieve: what camera, sound, and lighting equipment are necessary, what locations are needed, transportation, any specialized crew, etc.

Talk about any potential challenges you foresee and how to deal with them.

The more you open up your plans, the more backers feel like they’re an integral part of your project and the more likely they’ll contribute.

Step 3: Show, Don’t Tell

Avoid the talking head video in your project when you can. Sitting in a room talking about your project is all good, but it’s not attractive or catchy.

What’s left to read about on your project page if you say it all in your video?

Filmmaking is about ‘show, don’t tell.’ Don’t tell backers what type of movie you want to make. Show them!

Make a proof-of-concept video, something in the same vein as your film. Set the same mood and tone you’re going for.

Don’t worry if you don’t have your exact cast or locations yet. You’re trying to elicit the same vibe of the film, not the exact plot and setting.

Read more on location scouting.

This will help backers form a real idea of what you’re aiming for in their heads and make them more likely to contribute if they like it.

Don’t tell backers what type of movie you want to make. Show them!

While crowdfunding my previous short film, Human Instincts, my crew and I shot a short teaser with our main actor.

The teaser occurred a day before the events that would eventually transpire in the short film. We designed it to reveal small bits about our protagonist and to hopefully get potential backers interested in what happened next.

It took a day, less than $100, and we ended up with something very moody and cool to help viewers understand what type of short we wanted to make.

Plus, when all’s said and done, you’ll have two pieces of media created rather than one, and that’s good for bonus content on any DVDs or Blu-rays you’ll be pressing to send to backers, depending on your reward tiers.

Step 3: Perks for Your Backers

crowdfunding money bag

Successful crowdfunding campaigns rarely get by on the altruism of their backers. It’s a transaction, not charity. Backers are paying in advance for a product you’re promising.

It’s up to you to create perks at different reward tiers appropriate for the amount of money a backer has pledged.

This means striking a balance between a satisfactory perk that doesn’t cost too much to fulfill. But as a general rule, the more you give, the more you get.

Ask yourself some important questions before finalizing your perks:

  • Do you have to pay to make these perks in part or full?
  • How much will it cost to make a bulk of them?
  • Are they digital products, or will you have to pay for shipping?
  • If you are shipping, are you willing to go international?
  • How much of your budget might eventually go towards perk fulfillment?

The more you give, the more you get.

For short films, the reward will be a copy of the film in some shape or form for most backers, but you can’t stop there. That’s just one tier.

My perk structure is as follows:

  • Tier 1: Credit in the film and a shout-out on the film’s social media pages.
  • Tier 2: Digital copy of the film upon completion.
  • Tier 3: Upon completion, Blu-Ray, DVD, or physical film copy.
  • Tier 4: Physical copy with special features: interviews, behind-the-scenes, table reads, Q&As, etc.
  • Tier 5: Film poster and physical copy.
  • Tier 6: Personalized interaction with the film; name a character, have your photo appear, be an extra, etc.
  • Tier 7: Executive producer credit, invite to the cast/crew premiere.

This is by no means the tier structure you have to follow; this is just an example of what I’ve done in the past that has worked for me and doesn’t break the bank.

Step 4: Share As You’ve Never Shared Before

Once you go live, you’ll want to spread the word like a tidal wave.

Share the campaign on every social media page you have.

Ask your friends to share it with theirs. Word of mouth is what keeps campaigns kicking.

You’ll hopefully accrue a nice bump in the first two days as your most enthusiastic backers jump in to support you. If you’re lucky, you can cover 15-20% in the first 48 hours.

After this initial honeymoon period, settle in for some hard work. You’ll have to consistently remind people of your campaign and the progress it’s making.

Word of mouth is what keeps campaigns kicking.

Share every day and stay on top of people who said they’d contribute but haven’t yet or those you think might but need an extra push.

Identify people likely to back you and message them directly.

People find it harder to ignore being directly engaged versus a passive shared post to an entire group.

You might feel uncomfortable with this part, and it can feel like you’re skirting the line with mooching, but if you want to meet your goal, you can’t take a passive role and hope for the best.

Also, keep an eye out for opportunities to share your campaign with influencers online.

People who deal with filmmaking or film-related topics might be willing to share your campaign with their followers, giving you a nice boost and some credibility to post about on your project page.

Step 5: Consistently Update

Crowdfunding is a full-time job, but it’s not just about roping in new backers.

Don’t forget about the backers that are already behind you!

Post regular updates to your page as the campaign wears on, letting backers know where you’re in pre-production, casting, and location scouting.

Make it known that the project is progressing, and try to be as interactive and transparent as possible.

You know all the ins and outs of your film, but most backers are taking a financial chance on you.

Put yourself in their shoes.

Imagine backing a project and getting radio silence the next whole month. You’d forgive them for thinking you went dark with the money and absconded to Cancun.

Show your backers you’re hard at work making this film happen because now, like you, they’re invested in its success.

Good Luck!

With the notes above, you should have all you need to make informed decisions and get well on your way to crowdfunding your first short film!

Keep your head about you and stay active the entire duration, and you should do just fine.

If you have any other questions or crowdfunding tips of your own, please leave a comment below!


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  • Nikola Stojković

    Nikola Stojković is a writer and filmmaker based out of Chicago. His short films have screened at festivals across the USA. When not shooting, he enjoys writing film reviews and playing his accordion, Fortunata.

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