How to Run a Kickstarter Film Project: Getting Started

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In this series, Kickstarter’s Film team answers some of the most common questions asked by Film creators interested in running a campaign. Read on to learn everything you need to know to get started, from how Kickstarter's taxes and fees work to how long you should set aside for planning.

Browse our other guides on building your campaign, managing your live campaign, and post-campaign life.

Thunder Road, directed by Jim Cummings
Thunder Road, directed by Jim Cummings
 

First things first: How do Kickstarter fees and taxes work?

Fees: If your Film project succeeds, Kickstarter receives 5 percent of the amount raised. Our payment processor, Stripe, also receives 3–5 percent for processing fees. Learn more about our fees based on your location here.

Taxes: You gotta pay ’em. Read our guide to Kickstarter and taxes.

How long should I spend preparing my campaign before launching?

This depends on where you’re starting from. If you’re starting from scratch, we typically recommend six to eight weeks to prepare your Film campaign and outreach strategy for launch.

Preparation includes (but is not limited to): 

  • Writing your project description 
  • Making your video 
  • Developing your rewards 
  • Deciding on a funding goal and campaign length 
  • Assembling a database of contacts 
  • Setting up social media channels 
  • Writing a communications plan for the duration of the campaign

If you’ve already completed some of this prep, then you might be able to launch in as little as two to three weeks.

Do I need a website or social media presence before launching?

The best practice is yes, because social media can be one of the best ways to inform the largest number of people about your project.

However, we don’t recommend creating social media accounts for your film on the same day you launch your campaign. If you’re able to start your accounts in advance and take some time to build up your audience, then do. If you already have personal social media accounts, you can use those. In either case, if there are existing Facebook groups that directly engage with the ideas your film addresses, then join them.

When it comes to platforms, follow your heart. If you feel most comfortable in the ephemeral abyss of Twitter, tweet! If you only like Instagram, do that. You’re going to be at your best when you are most you. And if you hate it all, you aren’t alone—but you should find someone who gets you, gets your project, and can navigate those channels on your behalf. 

 Who will back my campaign?

The majority of the backings for your project will likely come from your extended network—i.e., people you know and people they know. We’ve seen that around 76 percent of a Film project’s funding comes from the creator’s own network.

That said, certain projects lend themselves more easily to support from internet strangers, particularly projects that speak to specific communities with niche interests or that have an existing fanbase. For example, this documentary about Bill Nye connected with his existing fans and invited them to be a part of making the film possible. The short film O Holy Ghost featured and was produced by actor Ben Whishaw, which helped it reach a large audience of his fans.

If your film falls outside that rubric, don’t fret. Many films are multidimensional and intertwine a number of themes and ideas. Untie those themes, find the communities that are most dedicated to exploring and supporting those ideas, and speak to them directly. Check out the project video and description for the short horror film The Three Men You Meet at Night for a good example of how to break down the ideas and themes a film explores.

The Rat, directed by Carlen May-Mann
The Rat, directed by Carlen May-Mann

The best way to reach backers is to consider your audience before you even build out your campaign. 

Most importantly:

  • Figure out who your audience is, where they live online (where on the internet they spend their time, who they interact with, what they read and listen to, what they comment on), and how you can best reach them. 
  • Collect all of your contacts—friends, family, coworkers, collaborators—in one spreadsheet or database. 
  • Consider how you’ll share your project with your audience once your campaign is live—by email? In person? On social media? On which platform?—and how you’ll tailor your messages to each segment of your audience and each platform.

Check out this video from our former colleague, filmmaker Dan Schoenbrun. It’s got tons of invaluable advice on developing your audience.

Do you have any recommendations for folks who can help me plan or run my campaign?

Yes—we’ve compiled a list of vetted consultants spanning all categories.

If you happen to be a consultant and aren’t on this list, or if you’d like to learn how to be a consultant, please email us at film@kickstarter.com with your details and outline your experience.

Sometimes what you need isn’t necessarily a very experienced (and possibly expensive) consultant but an extra pair of extra-smart hands on deck. Consider hiring someone for a few hours per week who is better at the things you’re not so good at. If, say, writing newsletters isn’t your calling, or if you feel hopeless on social media, try finding someone with those specific skills to craft those messages for you.

What is a fiscal sponsor, and should I get one?

A fiscal sponsor is a nonprofit organization that can offer its legal and tax-exempt status to Kickstarter projects related to its mission. By using a fiscal sponsor, granting organizations and private donors can get the benefits of donating to a 501(c)(3) nonprofit—like tax deductions—while sparing you the hassle of becoming a nonprofit yourself. Additionally, the fiscal sponsor manages the project’s money and reports to funders and tax agencies.

If you’re using a fiscal sponsor for your Kickstarter project, the money you raise will be transferred directly to the fiscal sponsor’s bank account at the end of your campaign (if it’s successful). It will then be regranted to you by your fiscal sponsor, minus their fee, which is usually between 9 and 15 percent.

If you think your backers will be more likely to support your project if their pledges are tax deductible, then finding a fiscal sponsor might be a good idea. However, bear in mind that you will be subject to additional fees: When you’re calculating your budget and funding goal, you’ll need to add your fiscal sponsor’s fees to Kickstarter’s 5 percent fee and our payment processor’s fees.

Lastly, if you’re planning to use a fiscal sponsor for your Kickstarter project, you must secure them prior to launching your campaign. You’ll enter their bank details instead of your own as the destination for your funds when you’re building your campaign. Your project’s bank account information can’t be changed once it goes live, so you’ll have to have this arrangement locked in before you launch.

Read this article from No Film School for more information about fiscal sponsorship.

Now that you’ve put some thought into planning your campaign, it’s time to build it on Kickstarter. Read our guide to building your campaign.

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