Independent Films Have Received $100 Millon on Kickstarter So Far, Are We Just Getting Started?
Think about that for a second. Just a few years ago everyone was talking about how the bottom had fallen out of independent film funding. While that may be true to a certain extent, Kickstarter has completely changed the way smaller films are funded, and they've created a new golden age of film funding. Who knows if the funding on Kickstarter will ever dry up, but for now, it's one of the best places to go if you're trying to make a movie or web series. Check out some of the incredible statistics below:
Film & Video statistics (April 28, 2009 — January 1, 2013)
- Total pledged: $102.7 million
- Total collected: $85.7 million
- Total backers: 891,979
- Funded projects: 8,567
In the past three years, nearly 900,000 people have pledged their support to an independent filmmaker on Kickstarter, pledging more than $100 million to features, documentaries, shorts, webseries, and other film and video projects. Nearly $60 million has been pledged in the past 12 months alone.
To me, the really staggering number is the fact that almost 9,000 projects have been funded. Whether they have been successfully made yet or not, that means 9,000 different productions were created because they reached the crowd directly -- of which there were almost 900,000. We always talk about it being so difficult to compete with all of the different screens that most people are bombarded with, but clearly there is an audience out there somewhere, even if it's not as big as we'd like it to be.
Here are some of the highlights from the history of film on Kickstarter:
- At least 86 Kickstarter-funded films have been released theatrically, screening in more than 1,500 North American theaters according to Rentrak. Another 14 films have theatrical premieres slated for 2013.
- According to Rotten Tomatoes, three of the 20 best-reviewed films of 2012 are Kickstarter-funded (The Waiting Room, Brooklyn Castle, and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry). Another Kickstarter-funded film, Pariah, was among the best-reviewed of 2011.
- Two films have been nominated for Oscars in the past two years: Sun Come Up and Incident in New Baghdad. A third, Barber of Birmingham, launched a project after being Oscar-nominated. Three documentary features and two documentary shorts are currently shortlisted for Oscar nominations in 2013: The Waiting Room, Detropia, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Inocente, and Kings Point.
127 Kickstarter-funded projects have premiered or been official selections at Sundance, SXSW, and Tribeca, and many of these films have gone on to win awards at those same festivals. 16 Kickstarter films have been broadcast on a number of different networks, and 8 films were nominated for Independent Spirit Awards just this year.
Obviously the big winner has been documentaries, with narrative feature films not too far behind -- in accolades and in money. It might be worth thinking about why documentaries might be the most funded (even though there were about the same number of both docs and features), especially when we know that for the most part documentaries receive only a fraction of the budgets in Hollywood, and usually only receive a fraction of the revenue. It could have a lot to do with the fact that these movies have a built-in audience already. Whatever their subject, it might be easier convincing people to give money towards a project that is about something tangible and real. It also could have something to do with the way documentary filmmakers get themselves and their ideas out there. Making a doc is an uphill battle in all sorts of ways, and it may be that they can target a potential audience better than narrative filmmakers can.
Of course, if you look at it another way, narrative feature films still raised over $30 million dollars. That's nothing to scoff at. Another significant number is $60 million. That's how much has been pledged in the last year. If you're looking to make a film, and you want to fund on Kickstarter, it looks like things are only going to get better. Based on those numbers, it's not clear when we'll hit the ceiling -- if ever. As Kickstarter enters the mainstream, and opens up in more countries, it's going to become even more relevant, and likely reach a far wider audience. This is only going to help independent films going forward. More eyeballs means a better chance to hit your goal and make your movie. It also means more competition, but that's a fact of any industry that lowers the cost of participation.
We have more hurdles ahead, however. A lot of the money for these projects goes directly into production costs, and not necessarily towards helping these filmmakers make a living. That's the next big challenge, figuring out how a person can make a living in this industry outside of Hollywood (if that's even possible). It may be that independent film is destined to be strictly a hobby, and not as a way to sustain yourself. Only time will tell, but from the looks of it, we're just getting started.
What do you guys think? Have you funded anything on Kickstarter? If not, do you plan to in the future? What do you think is next for all of these funded movies -- will we figure out independent distribution or will most indies be relegated to passion projects that only a handful of people see?