Author Archives: Scott W. Smith

Kickstarter 101

There really isn’t such a thing as independent filmmaking. You’re always dependent on someone or something. Heck, even before there were Hollywood studios to be independent from, Thomas Edison, was dependent on his team of people  making the cameras and films that launched the film business in the first place.

But what is usually meant by independent filmmaking today is some kind of alternative to big Hollywood studios. A low-budget indie film like Blair Witch Project was dependent on finding financial backers before the cast and crew could go looking for the witch.

Of course, that was back in the 90s. I bet if the Blair Witch team was making a film today they’d be launching a Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter was started itself in 2009 as an alternative way to raise money for various creative projects. Some call it source funding. Here’s how Kickstarter’s website explains exactly what they do:

Kickstarter is the largest funding platform for creative projects in the world. Every week, tens of thousands of amazing people pledge millions of dollars to projects from the worlds of music, film, art, technology, design, food, publishing and other creative fields.

A new form of commerce and patronage. This is not about investment or lending. Project creators keep 100% ownership and control over their work. Instead, they offer products and experiences that are unique to each project.

All or nothing funding. On Kickstarter, a project must reach its funding goal before time runs out or no money changes hands. Why? It protects everyone involved. Creators aren’t expected to develop their project without necessary funds, and it allows anyone to test concepts without risk.

Each and every project is the independent creation of someone like you. Projects are big and small, serious and whimsical, traditional and experimental. They’re inspiring, entertaining and unbelievably diverse. We hope you agree… Welcome to Kickstarter!

To date they have help successfully raise funds for over 10,000 projects. This week I launched my first Kickstater project and I’ll walk you through the my 10 step process to show you how the process works and about how much time it took me to launch.

Step 1) First I watched a filmmaker & friend Edd Blott raise $9,000. for a music video project last year.
Step 2) It took about a year of pondering if it was the right route for me to take in order to turn my  blog ( Screenwriting from Iowa…and Other Unlikely Places ) into a book, and to edit the material written over three years down to a 65,000 word manuscript.
Step 3) Motivated by hearing story after story being funded by Kickstarter, I kept moving forward exploring costs to self-publish the book and came up with a base number just over $3,000. to cover basic things like cover art work, copy editing, layout, and a limited run.
Step 4) Earlier this month when I posted my 1,000th post I decided it was now or never and went to http://www.kickstarter.com and began the process.
Step 5) I clicked on “Start your project” and began the process of setting up a profile and reading their guidelines. You do have to be at least 18 years old, be a permanent US resident with a social security or EIN number, a bank account, and an state issued ID like a driver’s license.)  Then I submitted my project.
Stop 6) After a short wait my project was approved by Kickstarter I them began the process of creating my project.
Step 7) While I spend the time over a week, it probably took me a whole day of explaining my project, visiting the projects of others to see how they presented their projects. My first set back was realizing you are greatly encouraged to make a video. Though I am a video producer, I knew that was going to take some time to plan and produce.
Step  8)  You also need to come up with incentives for people to give to you creative projects and the dollar amounts you want to make available to people. I landed on $1, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $1,000. (They say the most common price point is $25.) For the $100. amount, I contacted a local artist friend of my, Gary Kelley, who happens to be in the Society of Illustrator’s Hall of Fame and asked him if he’d sign some posters he did for a project we worked on together. He agreed.
Step 9) If and when the money is collected it will be deposited into your checking account. I’d recommend setting up a seperate account for this so you don’t have to use routing information from your personal checking account.
Step 10) The last step I needed to do was make the video and that took a full day last weekend with Josh McCabe assisting for half a day and Jon Van Allen tweaking lights for half an hour before running out of town to work on an HBO documentary. (Yes, it helps to have a production friend or two for the video part.) Once the video was done (not perfect, but done) I decided to hit the launch button and I did that Monday July 25, 2011.

So that’s basically the ten steps of Kickstarter 101. Like anything it takes time and effort, and the next time around I could probably launch a project in a day. The key to to bite of little chunks at a time. Believe in your project, and believe that somehow others will believe in your project as well.

I posted on Facebook that I had launching my Kickstarter project and in the first seven hours I had a total of $00.00 pledged. I wanted to delete my Kickstarter launch and save myself the embarrassment o failure. But by the end of day one there were two backs. By the end of the second day it there was $400 pledged which was encouraging.

My deadline to raise the money is August 30, 2011. If the total amount is not raised than I get nothing.

If you like to see my project (or be a part of helping the book get published) click here.

If you’re an entrepreneurial filmmaker you’ll find plenty of company on Kickstarter. And seeing others successfully raise money for their films on Kickstarter should inspire you in your own quest.

Scott W. Smith