One of seventeen Kickstarter filmmakers at Sundance this past January, Kyle Henry is a Texas filmmaker and repeat Kickstarter creator. He teaches film production at Northwestern University and is currently running his fourth campaign for his feature anthology of Fourplay shorts (executive produced by Michael Stipe and Jim McKay). He was kind enough to step outside of his classroom and into ours to share his thoughts on how to run multiple Kickstarter projects.
I’ve gained some practical knowledge about how to conduct multiple successful Kickstarters for the same project. I call this process “repeating to win,” and it’s all about segmenting your project into stages, then fundraising for each stage instead of fundraising for the entire project. This is how I’ve funded all of my films over the last twenty years: using a combination of grants, investments, in-kind donations, and personal credit stitched together stage-by-stage until the project is completed.
For filmmakers, the stages for Kickstarter fundraisers are those inherent to the film making process: production (shooting), post-production (editing), finishing (color correction/sound mixing) and distribution (festivals/exhibition).
Overall best practices:
1) Use your own funds to shoot/edit a short killer video sample for each Kickstarter fundraiser.
2) Make your first fundraiser for production, but leave room open in your description to conduct other Kickstarters for other stages.
3) Make your first Kickstarter an achievable low amount with a short time duration. You’re building a wave of momentum and a fan base as much as you are raising funds, so don’t set yourself up for failure!
4) Clearly state in your Kickstarter’s written description and sample video WHY you think your project needs to exist in the world. What need is it fulfilling? Why is it important? Backers want to fund a good cause, so spell out the mission of your project so they know why what you are producing is worth funding!
For my current anthology-of-shorts feature film Fourplay, four short films about sexual intimacy, I had the luxury of potentially segmenting fundraising even further, into 16 parts, since the project is made up of four short films each with its own four stages.
I was able to shoot the first short, Fourplay: San Francisco, using my own resources, then I conducted our first Kickstarter for the finishing stage using a trailer. Our goal was low, I explicitly stated the project’s purpose, there was visible evidence of the film’s production value, and we were able to reach our target quickly from within our circle of friends.
Our next Kickstarter was for production of the second short in the series, Fourplay: Tampa. We used stills from a rehearsal workshop along with a director interview to edit a dynamic and compelling pitch to potential backers. Trying for a higher amount, we almost fell short, but were saved near the end with a few large donations. Best practice: if you’re to succeed with ambitious goals, extend beyond your base through publicity and virality!
Our third Kickstarter returned to a small, targeted goal, again for Fourplay: Tampa for its completion/distribution stage after the film was accepted to the Cannes Film Festivals’ Directors’ Fortnight section. We relied on Kickstarter only for a small part of the $10K necessary to pay for expenses to ensure success. The rest we raised from a special fundraising screening and through grants. Best practice: use a major event with a brand label (e.g. your film’s acceptance into Cannes) to instill confidence in backers that your project will see the light of day!
Finally, we’re conducting one last Kickstarter, in the amount of $10K, to distribute the final, compiled Fourplay anthology-of-shorts feature film. Because of the large goal, we extended our time period and (again) used an event to build a compelling narrative. This time it was Fourplay: Tampa’s screening at Sundance. In every interview we conducted, every piece of written material we handed out, every web-posting about the film, we made sure to include our Kickstarter link. During Q&A’s at the festival we explicitly solicited donations, using the festival as a public fundraising opportunity.
Best practices for final Kickstarter:
1) Save your biggest push for last to build upon the base of support gained through intermediate Kickstarters.
2) Find as many conduits as possible to your Kickstarter page BEYOND your base of friends and family supporters (e.g. web-sites, blogs, Kickstarter curated pages like Sundance’s page, et al)
3) Update backers often and specifically ask them to help extend your Kickstarter’s virality by forwarding your page link to friends via social media platforms.