The recent passage of the JOBS act may be the shot in the arm the indie film business needs to reignite the lackluster funding in recent years. What's exciting is that it's opening up the crowdfunding market past your typical cadre of friends and family who are making a donation to Kickstarter or Indiegogo without any expectation of return.
Maria Bozzi, Director of Education at Film Independent, noted "The JOBS Act could help filmmakers get the interest of other individuals, unrelated to the subject matter or filmmaker, who might want to dip their toes in the waters of filmmaking by investing in projects that promise them a piece of the pie in the form of equity."
So what can the aspiring indie filmmaker do in anticipation of attracting these new investors? The online crowdfunding world is a big, noisy place and it's not always easy to make a splash. It requires something that Hollywood's traditional development process doesn't -- followers. Fortunately you get to keep your fan base from project to project, kind of like rolling over your own digital 401k of people who like you. And like your 401K, it's never too early to start building it.
"I believe that thus far," Bozzi continued, "the crowdfunding successes can be attributed to filmmakers who have either identified a core audience with a strong interest on the subject of their film and have capitalized on that existing interest; or to filmmakers who have reached out to their friends and families who want to support their filmmaking careers."
I've met a number of filmmakers and writers who resist an online presence on Facebook, Twitter or blogging claiming that no one should be interested in what they ate for breakfast. No, we're not. But, firstly, you don't have to tweet what you ate for breakfast and, secondly, if you can't be interesting for free, then why would people find you interesting for two hours at the cost of $14 a ticket? Fans are a metric that these new online equity investors can understand.
"You have to give people a piece of yourself before they'll want to buy the whole package," said Erika Cervantes started who started Comediva, a comedy site showcasing original video and editorial content aimed at women. "If you build a fanbase, that package will be all the more valuable. More people will want to work with you, because you clearly know how to market yourself."
"Crowdsourcing sites have made it easier for many filmmakers to green light themselves without having to wait for 'permission' from the gatekeepers," noted Bozzi. "Many projects have raised funds in the six-figure range, which have either fully funded their projects or helped with their distribution efforts."
"Prior to making Awkward Embraces," said creator of the webseries Jessica Mills, "I felt as though I were waiting for someone to give me permission to do what I loved to do. Taking my work and my fate in my own hands has been a great feeling, and I've loved every minute of it. I don't plan on stopping any time soon.
"It's important that anyone who is planning on creating an online presence, (a blog, web series, etc.) to make sure they are informed about how the online communities work. There is an important etiquette to social media, online communities and blog commenting. There are numerous blogs and articles out there they can find and read to teach them the basics. There is a danger of becoming a nuisance, if you don't really know how to interact with people and take part in the community, rather than spending all your time pushing your own stuff."
Bozzie further explained:
"Film Independent Fellow, Ruben Fleisher, director of Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less and the forthcoming The Gangster Squad is a good example of a filmmaker who jumped early on to create his website and post short films, music videos, and spec commercials that showed his distinctive style and strong voice, and drew the attention of producers and studio executives. Of course, the goal of all filmmakers is not necessarily to get a studio deal, but I still think Ruben is a great example of someone who used the web wisely to build their career.
Building a fan base early on could help get investors on board and recruit exhibitors to show your film. If you can show you already have an audience, these stakeholders might feel more comfortable working with you. I think that what is key is that filmmakers keep control of how their material is getting out there."
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