The Kickstarter Blog

Featured Creator: Rich Burlew, creator of Order of the Stick

  1. Guest Post: Kyle Henry on a Whole Lotta Fourplay

    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.

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    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. 

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    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.  

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    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!

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    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.

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  2. Projects in the News

    Every week, we round up some of the stories about projects that made the press. We're happy to see them out there in the real world, and excited to share their progress with you! Read on.

     

    Mike Snider of USA Today featured the meteoric rise of Tim Schafer's Double Fine Adventure: "Fans — alerted to the project on Twitter and Facebook — pledged more than $1 million in less than 24 hours toward Double Fine Productions' new point-and-click adventure game. The rapid response to Double Fine's appeal could serve notice to the video game industry, which routinely green-lights blockbusters budgeted at $20 million and up." (In addition, there was a veritable landslide of stories stemming from Double Fine's success from around the web, including: CNET, Destructoid, Gamasutra, Gamezebo, GigaOm, IGN, Joystiq, Kotaku, PC World, Popular Science, Read Write Web, TechCrunch, VentureBeat and The Verge!)

    Representing the 1990s, Fernandez styled as the canine companion to Steve Jobs.
    Representing the 1990s, Fernandez styled as the canine companion to Steve Jobs.

    Noemi de la Torre of ABC News shared finished portraits from the Canine Chronicles project: "'Canine Chronicles' is an imaginative retelling of important historical moments throughout the 20th century. Photographer Winnie Au profiled 10 dogs and their unique contributions to history. Each dog was adorably clothed in fashion appropriate to their decade." (Disclosure: our very own community director, Cindy Au, is a collaborator on this project!)

    Clay Masters of NPR's "Weekend Edition" interviewed Omaha's singer-songwriter turned KSR project creator, Simon Joyner about his project to self-release a double album: "In the early 1990s, Beck listed Omaha, Neb., songwriter Simon Joyner in a personal top-10 list for Rolling Stone magazine. Famed British DJ John Peel, known for making careers for playing just one of a band's songs, played Joyner's fourth album in its entirety. The endorsements boosted Joyner's career. Tim McMahan, a music critic who has covered the Omaha scene since the 1990s, says Joyner was among the first to show what the city could do."

    Hélène Goupil of the San Francisco Chronicle caught up with Akin Bilgic, who was behind last year's SF Mirrors Project: "The full-time student and freelance computer graphics artist raised more than $3,000 last Spring through a Kickstarter campaign and asked donors to send one-sentence messages to be written on the mirrors. If the donors wanted, their names would follow their message. He received hundreds of submissions. He then contacted TAP Plastics in SOMA and ordered 100 3-by 1.5-ft acrylic mirrors."

    A snapshot from Shumway's Happy Valley project.
    A snapshot from Shumway's Happy Valley project.

    Nicholas Hegel McClelland Time's "Lightbox" blog spotlighted Brian Shumway's currently funding Happy Valley project: "For the last 10 years, photographer Brian Shumway has been doing his best to turn this time-honored adage on its head, returning to his native Utah, a place known as 'Happy Valley' to create a visual and emotional exploration of his own childhood and adolescence by photographing his siblings and their children. Happy Valley is a nickname given by residents to Utah Valley in the Wasatch Mountains, a large area south of Salt Lake City that includes Orem and Provo. Nearly 600,000 people live in the valley, more than 80 percent of whom belong to the Latter-Day Saints Church (also know as Mormon), making it one of the most homogeneous communities in the United States."

    Jesse Landberg of Backstage Magazine featured Joe Lueben's short film project, Sweetness: "Santa's creation tore through the audition room in its own right, winning over a passionate creative team that instantly knew it had at last found its Arianna. 'From the moment she started, what stuck out about Veraalba was that she really took it to heart. The way she delivered her lines was more out of her body than her mouth. It was exactly what we were looking for,' says Lueben. Santa says that her character in "Sweetness" is "exorcised" and learns to find forgiveness through dance. 'The language of movement can be very powerful,' she says. 'It's very important for me to always continue training in dance, because it really helps my acting. If I know what I'm doing with my body, I know what I'm doing with my words.'"

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