One Million People Have Supported Documentary Film on Kickstarter

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Thousands of documentary filmmakers have turned to Kickstarter over the last seven years to galvanize communities, engage audiences, and make beautiful films. More than one million people from around the world have now supported their work. Today we’re shining a spotlight on some of the amazing things that couldn’t have happened without the help of this impassioned community:

  • One million people have collectively backed more than 12,000 documentary film projects — and more than 5,000 of those projects have been successfully funded.
  • Documentaries are now backed more than 600 times every day. In Kickstarter’s first year, they were backed just 18 times a day.
  • To date, $120 million has been pledged to documentary film on Kickstarter.
  • Of the one million people who have supported documentary film on Kickstarter, more than 460,000 of them have backed projects in other creative categories as well.

Kickstarter-funded documentaries have been honored on the world’s biggest stages, from Tribeca, Sundance, and Cannes to Sheffield, Slamdance, and TIFF. To call out just a few: Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry won the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Sean and Andrea Fine’s Inocente took home the Oscar for Best Documentary Short. Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 played Sundance and Cannes in the same year. And Brian Golden Davis’s The Million Dollar Duck won both the Jury and Audience Awards at Slamdance earlier this year. There are dozens more outstanding documentaries you can watch right now.

Sean and Andrea Fine with subject Inocente Izucar win the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for Inocente in 2013.
Sean and Andrea Fine with subject Inocente Izucar win the Oscar for Best Documentary Short for Inocente in 2013.

The spectrum of docs on Kickstarter tell powerful and poignant stories that educate, entertain, heal, move the masses, and inspire change. Here are some notable trends we’ve seen emerge in documentary film:

Female Filmmakers Telling Important Stories

Bustle recently proclaimed, “Thanks to platforms like Kickstarter, people can help fund projects by female directors and prove there is a place for movies made by women.” Dawn Porter’s Trapped and Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s After Tiller both explore reproductive rights. Amanda Micheli’s Haveababy chronicles the struggles of infertility. Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Call Me Kuchu tackles LGBT oppression. And Shaleece Haas’ Real Boy examines transgender rights through one teenager and musician’s transition from female to male. Each has been brought to life by a vibrant backer community committed to amplifying urgent stories. 

Amanda Micheli’s Haveababy
Amanda Micheli’s Haveababy

Literary Giants

Book lovers support their literary heroes and back films that delve into their life stories. From Joan Didion and Kurt Vonnegut to farmer-activist Wendell Berry and groundbreaking science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin, we've seen biopics that spotlight some of the world’s most celebrated authors find tremendous support from the community of documentary fans on Kickstarter.

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time
Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time

Powerful Female Biopics

The inspiring stories and legacies of high-profile female pioneers have been honored on Kickstarter. They include documentaries on Dr. Maya Angelou, New York party queen and LGBT activist Susanne Bartsch, teenage Olympian boxer Claressa “T-Rex” Shields, and previously undiscovered photographer Vivian Maier (nominated for an Oscar in 2015). Recent documentaries center around stories of brave women doing extraordinary things. Breast cancer survivor Paulette Leaphart’s 1,000-mile march is at the heart of the upcoming Scar Story, and Naomi Kutin, profiled in Supergirl, is an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl and record-holding power lifter.

Galvanizing Communities, Making Change

Director Jehane Noujaim’s emotionally and politically charged The Square spotlighted revolutionary young Egyptians amid the chaos of Cairo’s Arab Spring, and went on to earn an Oscar nomination. Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution showcased the significance of The Black Panther movement, played major festivals, enjoyed a theatrical release, and aired on PBS earlier this year. Josh Fox raised more than $100,000 to bring his environmental film, How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change, to 100 cities. David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Thank You for Playing centers around the parents who designed the emotional video game That Dragon, Cancer as a response to their young son’s struggle with the disease. The Kickstarter campaign raised funds for an impactful community tour and led to additional screenings set by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.


Jehane Noujaim's The Square
Jehane Noujaim's The Square
Cultural Icons 

The three most-funded documentaries on Kickstarter are all biopics chronicling the lives of iconic creatives with passionate followers: a musician, a scientist, and a sci-fi legend. Alex Winter’s Who the F*@% Is Frank Zappa? was funded thanks to 8,688 Zappa fans who pledged more than $1.12 million. It surpassed the previous documentary record holder, the Bill Nye Film, which raised $859,000 from 16,850 backers. And right behind Nye is Adam Nimoy’s moving tribute to his father, Leonard, For the Love of Spock, which raised $662,000 from 9,439 backers.

Alex Winter’s Who the F*@% is Frank Zappa
Alex Winter’s Who the F*@% is Frank Zappa

The one million of you who have supported documentary film on Kickstarter have empowered new generations of diverse, talented storytellers to turn the spotlight on thousands of important and inspired stories from around the globe. Now more than ever, it’s essential to keep developing these new voices and supporting the stories they’re working to bring to life. Thanks for being such a huge part of this community.

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