Just a couple hours left people, we can do this!!
Okay, maybe we can't.
At this point we are forced to accept the fact that we will not reach our goal. That's a bummer. We did everything we knew to do in a crazy 30 days in order to generate enough influence to achieve a successful campaign. But not reaching our goal does not mean all was a loss.
Aside from a few people who just wanted to up their backer count we've been lucky to have over 60 amazing people get behind our project. Some of you did so unconditionally and we recognize that. We noticed every single one of you and if we didn't already say thanks it's because you already know how much you mean to us. Others did so because you were pursuaded by the material and our pitch. And for that, we thank you for your confidence.
Something Lost, Something GainedCurrently 'Gnorml' is still in development and we do still have the interest of investors. It's a crazy game of dialing in the right ingredients to package the film and eventually it will all fall into place.
1. Fake It 'Til You Make It
It goes without saying that your project needs a video, but just any video won't do. As much as KickStarter is a place to launch new projects, it's not a place to launch loosly conceived and poorly planned projects. Of course your project has gone through many hours of planning and there's a perfect roadmap in your head. We can relate. But, if you can't demonstrate that, it will be an uphill battle trying to convince people "it's gonna be great." Such is the case for many film projects in the development stage, and thus was the same for us as well.
If at all possible you must consider that the majority of people want to be emotionally impacted by your material, not just told that they will be. Use whatever you have to tell the story and connect them. No trailer? Use rough scenes, test shots, concept stills, your storyboards, or whatever media you can create to connect the backers to your end product. Fake it if you have to, but touch an emotion or fail.
What we would have done differently: Absent the visuals, we put the focus initially on us as likeable filmmakers who were about to take you on a fun ride. We should have spent more time upfront on collecting and shooting concept images to arrange into an anamatic trailer, placing the focus on the film - and finding that emotion.
2. Connect with the Greater Good
The KickStarter community is a community of people who at their core want to participate in and promote the greater good. Sure they want edgy products and first-in on new films. But mostly they want to know their backing is going to something they will feel good about. You must demonstrate how your project is not just a clever idea, but also has far-reaching benefits. This may seem tough to achieve with a narrative film, but we think the successful campaigns have taken well known talent, popular genres, or compelling combinations of both and leveraged existing fans who want to see the new project. You want them to be able to tell their friends they just backed something that they know their friends will appreciate and respond positively to.
What would we have done differently: We should not have confused our story beats with our marketing. We should have led with the pitch about a strong leading female character with HIV (versus saving it for "a reveal" as we do in the story). And, therefore we should have gone after the audience that would directly relate to that.
3. Avoid the Blind Side
Although we were already in development and even preproduction on our film, we were not in preproduction for a KickStarter campaign. Therefore, when we decided to launch our campaign we believed that the fun of the campign would be building the audience through social media, creating compelling updates, etc. Basically we were about to blind side all of our contacts and potential fans with a project from out of nowhere. No so good.
Before you launch a campaign you need to check your existing clout. Have you already got a large audience following your project? Do you have 1000 or more Facebook friends? Has your film got a website, blog, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest site already up and putting out original content to attract fans? Well, if not then why wait until you've started the ticking clock in order to create all that? Instead do that first. Build as much clout as possible first. And then go a step further and get a feel from your following on how they will respond to a campaign. Do this by publishing polls about actor choices or maybe alternate story beats. If you aren't getting responses... red flag.
One final note on this. Social media is designed for individuals to be a personal practice, maybe even a habit, that integrates into ones personal life. This should be strongly considered when launching multiple business oriented social media personas, as such interactions will consume an enormous amount of time above and beyond your normal activities. A marketing push is very much like rolling a boulder up a hill. If you slack off you slide back and have to push all over again to regain your previous level of engagement.
What would we have done differently: Established all of our potential outlets for followers and interest prior to launching the campaign. And then not launched until we had good follower interactions happening.
4. Friends and Family are not "the Crowd"
Of course we expect our Moms to back us. And our best friends are probably both backing us and also helping us post updates. So they are all "engaged." But, they are not the crowd that your crowd-funding campaign must reach. Your project must go beyond being a clever idea that your friends are happy to "help you with." It must instead reach a level where it can stand on it's own, without you, and be of compelling interest to complete strangers. Sure you need to have 1000 friends on Facebook to even consider getting anywhere. But that's more because you need your friends to share the project more than you need for them to back it.
"Friends spread the word, fans spread the wealth." ;)
I believe the statistic for most common backer contribution is $25. Now consider that only about less than 5% of your direct connections will actually back your project. Multiply 5% of your friends by $25 and if that's not your target... you've got some sharing to do.
What would we have done differently: Well, some of our team have over 1000 Facebook friends. Others (me) have only a little more than 100. So considering the fact that it would have been difficult to effectively engage with 900 new people immediately prior to launching our campaign, I would have looked more closely at expanding our development team to include members who could reach a broader audience.
Good luck to you on your next great project launch. We'll be watching... while we continue on, rolling our own boulders.
Rob Lewis & Mark Skelton