How to Kickstarter Your Dreams

As a Sundance alumnus, I received an email back in January about a new Sundance-Kickstarter intiative that my lab project is eligible for.

If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter before or aren’t quite sure how it works, some of the basics are covered here. I’ve been following the site for some time now, mystified by the insane success stories like the TikTok Nano Watch that raised nearly a million dollars or the Diaspora social network that exceeded their funding goals by 2000%.

Encouraged by those projects I’ve been offering my help to fellow filmmakers in creating a funding campaign tailored to their project and funding needs.

About a month ago I finally found someone brave enough to take my advice: Sasha Collington, a fellow Binger FilmLab alumnus. She decided to try a Kickstarter campaign to finance her next short film Lunch Date:

I originally planned to write this post as a way to help her get the word out about her campaign. But then she reached her funding goal of $2,100 in less than 48 hours! Since that initial success, Kickstarter featured the project on their homepage which helped skyrocket funding to $5,600!

So instead I’ve decided to write this up as a short case-study to encourage you to try the funding resource yourself and some tips on designing a strong campaign.

I attribute her Kickstarter success to the following reasons:

  1. Even though she is an emerging filmmaker, she has a track record as a storyteller.
  2. The project has a strong team of crew members she’ll be working with whose bio/work she highlights.
  3. A unique pitch video that gives you a sense of the film’s tone and author’s humor in a way that a written description can’t.
  4. A unique set of rewards tailored again for the film’s tone and irony. Some of these rewards, like ebooks, actually extend the story-world of the short film in a crossmedia manner (check my earlier post on crossmedia).
  5. Adequate amount of time for the funding requested.
  6. The campaign was advertised to potential patrons in email-waves: first to her family & friends, and then to her larger network of Facebook contacts as well as those of her fellow crew members.
  7. Original campaign goal wasn’t too greedy, rather the bare minimum that she needs to get the film made. And she honestly spelled out how the money will be spent.
  8. Most importantly, she’s viewing this as one step towards building an audience of patrons who might want to support future projects.
Again, take a look at her page, you might find her example useful and there’s still 3 days to pledge if you’d like to be a part of this unique gem (campaign ended: she raised $5,871!).

Got Ideas? Need $$$?

For those of you familiar with ‘crowdsourcing‘ there’s a great site, INDIEGOGO, that allows you to pitch your projects/ideas and raise funds from everyday internet users willing to contribute what they can to your film.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Well here’s a link to some of the success stories to judge for yourself if this resource might helpful for your future projects (check out the short films):

also, here’s some FAQ from the site:

What is IndieGoGo?

IndieGoGo is a collaborative way to fund ideas.  Anyone with a project – creative, cause or entrepreneurial – can raise money, offer perks and keep 100% ownership of their idea.

Who can use IndieGoGo?

Anyone can use IndieGoGo.  If you’re a musician, writer, filmmaker, game or application developer, designer, inventor, non-profit, charity, or even entrepreneur, you can use IndieGoGo to raise money from your fans and customers.

Is signing-up free?


How much does fundraising cost?

IndieGoGo is free to signup and a majority of the core actions and tools are free to use (i.e. post, contribute, share, campaign analytics, discover, and comments).  IndieGoGo charges a 9% marketplace fee on funds raised.  Projects are also responsible for 3rd-party payment processing and international wire fees.  However, if you reach your goal, IndieGoGo pays you a 5% cash bonus on every dollar raised.

My project is not based in the U.S.  Can I still use IndieGoGo to crowdfund?

Yes!  IndieGoGo is in over 100 countries and counting.  As long as your project has a bank account somewhere in the world, you can use IndieGoGo.

I am not based in the U.S.  Can I still contribute to projects on IndieGoGo?

For sure!  All you need is a working Visa or MasterCard.

My project has already been completed.  How do I use IndieGoGo now?

You can raise money to cover distribution, marketing or other expenses needed to continue fueling your project.  Or if you want to build demand for your project’s output (like DVDs, books, merchandise, games or other items) you can use IndieGoGo to pre-sell those items too.

Narratives of Military Choices –

Fascinating way of depicting the complexity and alternate future outcomes of the Afghan conflict –

I’d say enjoy it, but it’s kind of depressing actually –

‘The Afghan Conflict – A Map of Possible Scenarios is the attempt of a summary of the most popular possible scenarios around the afghan conflict, according to a pullout or stay of the Allied troops. And is based on interviews with journalists, politicians and political foundations.’ [via The Afghan Conflict site] –

How to Build a Buzz Machine for Filmmakers –


Going through the computer and found this old article I wrote on marketing for filmmakers.

You can either download it as a PDF, or read it here –

Enjoy –

‘How to Build a Buzz-Machine for Filmmakers’

A Book Review of ‘Creating Customer Evangelists’

Independent filmmakers are entrepreneurs that must do everything they can do to get their work in front of a paying audience. Whether you like it or not, you are a brand and your film is a product. The more you can think like a business, while retaining your artistic vision, the closer you’ll be to being a self-reliant filmmaker. My aim for writing this summary is to help you cross the chasm you may feel as an artist trying to read up on the latest marketing literature. These books weren’t intended for your type of products or your industry. But many of their lessons still apply. You can either buy your marketing, your ‘buzz machine’, through PR and fancy ads, or you can build it, one customer at a time.  Its been proven in recent years that word-of-mouth is the great equalizer that can compensate for low-budget marketing and distribution. In my opinion one of the best books written on understanding, initiating and nurturing word-of-mouth is Creating Customer Evangelists by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. My aim is that by the end of this article you will learn the basics of how to generate and sustain word-of-mouth. I will also leave you with some ideas on how to build a ‘buzz machine’ made up of your own paying audience who are eager to spread the word out about your work.

The pillars of McConnell and Huba’s ‘business theology’ is presented in a case-study approach that deciphers why and how eight companies, like the Dallas Mavericks and Krispy Kreme, are thriving so well. The authors found that the common denominator in these companies’ success stories is their customers. These customers are not only loyal, they are fans, they are evangelists who:

  • recommend the brand to their friends and even strangers
  • believe in the brand
  • are eager to give back constructive feedback
  • have made a strong emotional connection to the company and its products

The authors have coined six pillars that are common in any company that sparks such fervor. These companies:

  1. Continuously gather customer feedback – ‘Customer plus-delta’
  2. Make it a point to share knowledge freely – ‘Napsterize knowledge’
  3. Expertly build word-of-mouth networks – ‘Build the buzz’
  4. Encourage communities of customers to meet and share – ‘Create community’
  5. Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite – ‘Make bite-size chunks’
  6. Focus on making the world, or your industry, better – ‘Create a cause’

You can nurture these traits from the very start of your film’s preproduction. The prerequisite is that they be done honestly and consistently otherwise you will simply sabotage yourself and your brand. For the filmmaker, I’d like to translate these pillars into potential actions and tools that they can use throughout film production well into the next project. These are only suggestions, I’m sure you can come up with more effective ideas:




‘Customer plus-delta’ Continuously gather customer feedback
  • Make it easy for people to contact you.
  • Don’t be afraid of honest feedback, encourage people who have seen or purchased your film to leave an online review.
  • Twitter is great at tracking comments and if you’re open enough you’re bound to get back some useful feedback
‘Napsterize knowledge’ Make it a point to share knowledge freely
  • Give your audience a behind-the-scenes tour of your film while in production.
  • Teach them tricks of the trade (e.g. basics of editing, etc.) for free.
‘Build the buzz’ Expertly build word-of-mouth networks
  • Determine for yourself through trial and error the best way to build the buzz about your work. Is it through social networking sites? Or is it through casting call events that are so unique they get reviewed by the local paper?
  • Give fans who register for your blog or subscribe to your podcast special benefits (e.g. discounted DVDs, invitation to chat-room events).
‘Create community’ Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
  • The easy thing to do is setup a twitter hashtag where fans can discuss your film and related topics.
  • When you do have a following, why not let the audience have a stake in your next project by allowing them to vote on certain production issues (e.g. title of film, DVD menu layout, etc.)
‘Make bite-size chunks’ Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite
  • Don’t wait until your film’s completion to show your audience bits and pieces of what you’re working on. Allow them a free pass into all phases of production, with pictures, sounds, and video.
  • Give away scenes of your film to YouTube or Vimeo.
  • Give the audience different ways of viewing your content (e.g. streaming, iPad, etc.)
‘Create a cause’ Focus on making the world or your industry, better
  • What is your goal as a filmmaker? To make funnier films? Shed light on a problem in society? Make sure everyone knows what you’re about.
  • A portion of DVD royalties could go to a charity
  • You could invite your audience to a special eBay listing where you auction off film props for a charity.
  • Why not teach a free filmmaking workshop while spreading the word about your film?



Need your help! – New Crossmedia Presentation coming up

I’m putting together a new crossmedia presentation for this blog (and possibly for school) in the next couple of days.

What I want to try to do is explain crossmedia in more down-to-earth terms because the impression I’m getting from talking to a few colleagues is that they feel it’s technically difficult to implement or not relevant to how they want to tell stories.

The reality is that almost all of us tell our most personal and intimate stories through crossmedia everyday – I’ll explain what I mean in the presentation.

What I plan on doing is taking some case-studies from industries other than the film sector because I think it’ll make the presentation more original and discussion hopefully more fruitful. And, some of the richest examples of crossmedia in action have come from products other than film.

So . . . if you’re reading this and want a specific question answered or have a case-study you think might be useful for me to use please leave your comments below –

Talk to you soon –

‘New Technologies & Opportunities’ Presentation –

This is a presentation I recently did on ‘New Technologies and Opportunities for Filmmakers in the Middle East’.

It offered me an opportunity to explore some new possibilities of storytelling with tools like PC tablets and dSLR cameras that I’d like to use for my own filmmaking in the coming months. If you’re interested in things like crossmedia, the iPad, and independent distribution then I think you’ll enjoy this.

One of the themes of this presentation is the idea that we as filmmakers need to provide our stories or messages in various forms to our audience.

With that in mind, you have TWO WAYS of enjoying this presentation depending on your preference:

FIRST OPTION, you can download a PDF of the slides and written narration.

SECOND OPTION is to simply read the post below, where I’ve embed the slides and some delicious videos and useful hyperlinks.

Enjoy . . . and tell me what you think:


New Technologies & Opportunities
for Filmmakers in the Middle East

1. Introduction:

In order for us to use new technologies we have be ready to conquer a learning curve and the feeling of being disorientated.  Despite this, as filmmakers we must embrace the new opportunities these developments provide.

We will be talking specifically about the Middle Eastern region but much of what I’ll say is applicable to most of the world especially if you live in an underdeveloped region and you’re trying to communicate a story for your local and global audience.

This short presentation isn’t meant to be a sermon – rather the beginning of a conversation. I really want to hear your opinions about how we as filmmakers can leverage technology.

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Berlinale Highlight #4 – ‘Crossmedia Storytelling’

WARNING – this is a fairly dense post –

But I think any storyteller out there, whether you’re a filmmaker or not, will benefit immensely by following some of the links and possibilities mentioned.


During the Talent Campus there were three separate panels devoted to the topic of Crossmedia Storytelling. Personally, these sessions alone were reason enough to hop on a plane to Berlin for the Campus – hopefully you’ll see why.

Let’s first start with a description of each of the three events taken directly from the program:

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