February 4, 2014

Lessons Learned from the 15 Story Beats of My CENTS Kickstarter

For over three weeks, I have been fully immersed in one of the best adventures of my filmmaking career: the Kickstarter campaign for my first feature film, CENTS. Running this Kickstarter has been a full-time job with so many unexpected twists and turns, you wonder who exactly is writing this script. One of the best parts about running a Kickstarter campaign is reconnecting with old friends and finding out that they will not only back your project, but they will pick you up with their words of encouragement. I have really enjoyed answering all of their questions about the film and the Kickstarter in particular. So I wanted to take this moment to share with you, the NFS audience, what I have learned so far from the 15 story beats of my CENTS Kickstarter.

1. This Kickstarter began over 2 years ago.

I discovered Kickstarter in October 2011. I had decided that after many years of writing, I finally had a script worth making as my first feature film. The next step was figuring out how to finance the film. Back in 1999-2001, I went to graduate school to get my MBA specifically to understand the film business. When the day came to make my first feature film, I wanted to know how to tackle the business side of film financing. As such, I was familiar with traditional methods of film financing, having written business plans in the past. But I realized the film financing landscape had changed dramatically over the years, and I need to find out how independent films were currently getting financed.

Very quickly, I discovered Kickstarter, which I started to research thoroughly. Through my research, I found Ryan Koo's campaign for MANCHILD (after it was finished, alas) and subsequently No Film School. I soon realized that I didn’t have the social media reach to launch a Kickstarter campaign. Additionally, I had more work to do on my script. As I rewrote my script, I made a conscious effort to expand both my social media network as well as my personal connections in the various circles of my life and community.

In December 2011, I noticed Ryan was looking for new NFS writers. I applied, doubtful that he would hire someone to write about screenwriting, my main passion, because of the site's main focus on digital cinematography. To my surprise, Ryan was interested in my writing and potential contributions to the site. He asked me to be patient as he trained two new writers who would mainly cover cameras (Joe Marine and E.M. Taboada), then he wanted to bring on additional writers to cover other areas of filmmaking. Thankfully, Ryan hired me in May 2012 to join NFS to write about screenwriting.

Writing for and interacting with the NFS community about the craft of screenwriting has made me a better screenwriter. I really enjoy finding lessons from professional screenwriters and sharing them with the NFS community.

2. I discovered the true value of Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing approach when I backed my first campaign in 2012.

The first Kickstarter I backed was a local Albuquerque feature film project called DEAD BILLY with a goal of $30,000. I joined the campaign right from its launch and studied the campaign closely. I also got very active, sending out emails to personal contacts and posting the Kickstarter link and updates on my Facebook page repeatedly.

In the final week of the campaign, DEAD BILLY still had over $12,000 to raise. I thought it would be impossible, but I personally re-doubled my efforts to spread the word along with several other backers. I doubled my pledge. Then, I watched in amazement as they raised almost $10,000 of their $30,000 goal in the final 24 hours.

This was the first time I really understood the power of the crowd to lift up a Kickstarter campaign at the very end of its run. I also realized why Kickstarter's all-or-nothing model is so important. Since that campaign, I have backed 14 Kickstarter campaigns and 9 Indiegogo campaigns. For every Kickstarter campaign for a film with a goal of $10,000 or more that I have backed, all but one have succeeded. For every Indiegogo campaign for film with a goal of $10,000 or more that I have backed, none have reached their goals. Kickstarter's all-or-nothing policy gives backers an incentive to work together with a campaign to push it past its goal in the final days and hours.

3. I spent 2 years researching Kickstarter best practices for film projects.

Right away, I knew that my campaign goal would be constrained by my social media reach. $100,000 was not a feasible goal. $30,000 was certainly possible given my network and based on my knowledge of and participation in other Kickstarters, but I didn't think $30,000 would contribute enough to the financing goals for CENTS. After much research and discussion with my producing partner, Ella Sitkin, we settled on $60,000 -- certainly a stretch, but also a goal that would be a considerable portion of our total budget for the film.

To discover exactly how Kickstarter campaigns for films with similar fundraising goals succeeded, I culled through successful projects using the search tools on Kickspy, then used a bit.ly+ link hack and Google Image search technique I learned from the Hacking Kickstarter post on Tim Ferriss' Four-Hour Workweek blog. If you take the short link URL for any Kickstarter campaign (the one for CENTS is kck.st/1aidgq3) and add a '+' at the end of the URL, you will see statistics from bit.ly showing you which sites referred people to the Kickstarter campaign.

I soon discovered that most successful Kickstarter campaigns for films with goals of more than $10,000 surged in traffic in their final 48-72 hours. In other words, the crowd realized the campaign wasn't reaching its goal and decided to do something about it. I also learned that the greatest sources of hits on a Kickstarter short link are direct emails, followed by Facebook, then Twitter, then other websites that featured the project.

Sometimes, crazy s#!t happens with Kickstarter campaigns.

Every once in a while, I would discover an outlier. For example, the recent campaign for Me + You had only raised $14,972 of its $75,000 goal from 187 backers by the end of day 38 of its 40-day campaign. By the end of its campaign two days later, Me + You had successfully raised $77,195 from 2,154 backers. What happened in those last 48 hours?

Using Google Image search with Me + You's main Kickstarter image, I discovered that Upworthy posted the pitch video for Me + You with approximately 36 hours left in the campaign. Upworthy's reach on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit sent Me + You into the stratosphere in those final hours.

Your personal networks, online and offline, are your best Kickstarter assets.

I also learned that not very many websites focus on film Kickstarters in a meaningful way these days. Unless it was 2013 and you were Veronica Mars, Zach Braff or Spike Lee. Otherwise, film campaigns on Kickstarter are not news. Kickstarters for new, cool products generate much more buzz and web traffic from a wide variety of sites (e.g. Pebble Watch and Ouya game console). This means your own personal network, both online and offline, are much more important to the success of your film's Kickstarter than posts on websites. Unless you get picked up by Upworthy, Buzzfeed, or some other viral generator for reasons most likely out of your control.

That said, you should still seek out websites with a connection to your story's content (in our case, sites that focus on girls, STEM - science, technology, engineering, mathematics - bullying and independent films) to see if you can be featured as a filmmaker with a compelling story. Just don't expect high volumes of backers to flock to your Kickstarter campaign as a result.

Rewards are important, but the price of reward levels is even more important.

We created reward levels for CENTS using the rewards of successful campaigns as our initial guides. We then figured out three things that would make our rewards unique.

  1. All of our rewards are multiples of 2 to tie into our story's math theme. Most campaigns have rewards for $5, $10, $25, $50, $100 and so on. Our reward levels catch backers' attention with their progression: $1 (2^0), then jumping to $8 (2^3), $16 (2^4), $32 (2^5), and so on until we reach $1,024 (2^10). Someone who was going to pledge $5 will likely pledge $8, $10 will likely pledge $16, $25 will likely pledge $32, $50 will likely pledge $64, and $100 will likely pledge $128. Those extra dollars matter. Also, at the end of the campaign, we hope backers at the lower levels will consider doubling their pledges, which will fit exactly into our reward level structure. The leaps from $8 to $16 and $16 to $32 aren't that great, but they will make the difference in the end.
  2. We offer a digital download of the finished film for $8, less than what we have seen on any other campaign. I can't say for sure if this is the lowest reward level to offer a digital download of a finished film, but most don't seem to offer it for anything less than $10 and usually higher. Digital downloads of well-known films retail between $10 and $15 on iTunes and Amazon. If a backer is willing to pledge to CENTS before we make it, we think that backer deserves a pre-order discount of at least 20%. Hence, we came up with the $8 digital download reward. You can see from the chart below that this is our most popular reward level to date.
  3. We offer help with your math homework starting at $256 (2^8). We thought this would be funny to add to our rewards, because of our story's focus on math and something nobody else would offer in association with a film. What is even better is we actually mean it. Ella teaches math at the University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College. She can actually help you (or your kid or someone else's kid) with math homework.

4. We shot our teaser several months before launching our Kickstarter.

We needed to build our audience specifically for CENTS before launching our Kickstarter. The teaser gave us a way to engage audiences very directly with a short video and guide them to our newly launched website. The website enabled us to establish our Facebook and Twitter presences, as well as start our email list. The teaser would also become a valuable source of material for our Kickstarter pitch video and stills for our series of future Kickstarter-related posts on our website and Facebook.

Our post on NFS about the CENTS teaser provoked an engaging dialogue with a wide range of opinions, from supportive to very critical – all of which were very useful to read and digest. The NFS post also helped push our video views up substantially on Vimeo and get us noticed well beyond our initial core audience.

5. We told our audience several months in advance that our Kickstarter was coming.

In October 2013, we told our core audience over two months in advance that we were launching our Kickstarter. Initially, we said we were launching in December, but we later decided the timing wouldn’t work because of the holidays and our personal schedules.

We needed our biggest supporters to be prepared to pledge and spread the word from day one. I personally emailed my closest contacts well in advance of our Kickstarter launch to keep them up-to-date on our Kickstarter plans and how we hoped they would help spread the word once we launched.

6. We shot our pitch video in November, two months before our January launch.

I knew I would need time to edit our Kickstarter pitch video and get feedback. Our CENTS editor was busy on other projects, so I had to edit the pitch video myself. I’m not editor. I’m competent, but far from an expert, so I needed extra time to work with our material to put together a quality pitch video. This extra time was valuable because I was able to create multiple iterations, constantly cutting it down to make it shorter and clearer.

The first cut was approximately 4:30. The second cut was around 3:45. Successive cuts and trims got the final pitch video down to 3:14. Personally, I wish it was even shorter -- between 2:00 and 2:30 would be ideal -- but I couldn't find a way to make it tighter. That is why I need an editor for my feature film.

The time between shooting the video and launching the Kickstarter allowed me to incorporate the Kickstarter widget animation created by Joke & Biagio for their Dying to Do Letterman Kickstarter that Ryan also used to great effect in his Kickstarter pitch video. Joke & Biagio kindly made the After Effects and Photoshop files available for free and made a video on how to use them. Since their campaign is long over and their documentary is now available, be sure to buy Dying to Do Letterman as a way to say thank you for using the files (like I just did).

7. We worked on our Kickstarter page for a full month.

After studying multiple campaigns, we figured out what we liked and didn’t like about other Kickstarter pages. We wanted to tell our story, but we didn’t want to bog readers down with too many details. We also wanted backers to understand the basics of Kickstarter and how the money would ultimately be used. You will still need to educate the vast majority of your backers who will be first-time Kickstarter backers when they join your campaign. You may be an expert on how Kickstarter works, but most of your backers are newbies.

We sent a preview of our campaign to our closest friends and advisors to get feedback and hear their questions. We then made edits based on relevant feedback to improve the page prior to our launch.

8. We got our Kickstarter campaign approved 3 full weeks before launch.

We figured the holidays might mean Kickstarter may not be fully staffed to review projects. Therefore, we worked to finish our pitch video and create our Kickstarter page well before our launch date. We submitted our project at 7:05 am MT (9:05 am ET) on Wed. Dec. 18. We received approval by 2:18 pm MT (4:18 pm ET) that same day. We were surprised by the fast turnaround. I'm not sure if this was typical, or just Kickstarter staff staying on top of project submissions before the winter holidays. I hope this quick turnaround is the standard for Kickstarter.

We could still edit our page and rewards before launch even after we were approved. Throughout the campaign, Kickstarter project creators can edit everything on their page with the exception of reward levels that backers have already chosen. New reward levels may be added during a campaign.

Also, there is no rush to launch your project once it is approved, so we definitely recommend getting approval well in advance of your scheduled launch date in case you run into any issues with Kickstarter during the approval process.

9. We emailed our close contacts again once a week for a few weeks just prior to launch to get them ready and excited.

We knew we had to hit the ground running when we launched our Kickstarter. 31 days is an optimal amount of time to run a Kickstarter campaign (they recommend 30 days or less), but it’s obviously not much time to raise $60,000. We needed to get out of the gate with a strong start so new backers would be interested in our campaign when they saw substantial dollars pledged in the first few days.

10. We took a mental break over the holidays just before our launch.

Kickstarter is a full-time job, so I knew I needed to clear my head before we launched. I spent time with my family and enjoyed the kids’ winter holiday break before moving full steam ahead. My producing partner Ella did the same.

11. We launched on Thu. Jan. 9 and chose our exact end date and time of Sat. Feb. 8 at 9 pm MT (11p ET, 10p CT, 8p PT).

We wanted our campaign to last 31 days as a tie-in to our film’s plot. We also wanted to control when the campaign would end. Kickstarter now lets you choose the exact date and time when you want to finish your campaign.

We opted for a Saturday in the hopes that people would be able to spend the final hours of the campaign emailing, posting on Facebook, tweeting, texting, and calling friends when they were not at work.

We picked 9 pm to give us the majority of the day here in Albuquerque without getting too late as to miss people. Activity on our Kickstarter tends to die down around 9 pm MT each day, so this assumption seems to have proven itself to be true. This also kept the finish date of Sat. Feb. 8 consistent across US time zones.

We pre-wrote and saved individual and personalized emails to all of our core contacts prior to launch. As soon as we were live, we sent out those individual emails in rapid succession to get the ball rolling.

12. We discovered we were a Staff Pick and an Indiewire Project of the Day.

We have no idea exactly how Kickstarter decides Staff Picks, other than what they say on their website: they review all of the campaigns as they go live and make their picks. We believe all of our time spent on our pitch video and Kickstarter page certainly went a long way to getting the Staff Pick designation. Being a Staff Pick also boosted our campaign in Kickstarter’s Discover and Search sections during our first few days.

CENTS Kickstarter 8th most popular Film+Video

On Day One of the campaign, we also submitted to Indiewire’s Project of the Day, and we only discovered that we were Project of the Day on January 14 after a backer who found us on Indiewire told us! The exposure on Indiewire certainly helped, but didn’t exactly translate into pledges.

13. I published my NFS post about the 1 thing I’m doing this year to become a better screenwriter and introduced the Kickstarter campaign to NFS readers.

My focus at NFS is screenwriting. I keep personal posts to a minimum, but they typically generate the highest traffic of any of my NFS posts. My post on the 1 thing I'm doing this year to become a better screenwriter by making my first feature film drew a lot of attention -- mostly positive, but some certainly negative. Moreover, the post was viewed over 10,000 times.

From that post, we can see on our Kickstarter dashboard that we received 7 backers for a total of $72. Our embedded widget has generated $47 from 4 backers, some of whom could be from NFS. Aside from Kickstarter and Facebook, that NFS post was our most viewed piece of publicity during our campaign so far, and a gracious estimate shows that we received 11 backers from over 10,000 views of that NFS post, or approximately 0.1% of readers of that post pledged.

I point this out because it is important for anyone who is considering a Kickstarter campaign to understand that your best resources are your direct contacts via email, Facebook and Kickstarter itself. You can see this in a current breakdown of all of our backers from our Kickstarter dashboard below.

You can see that Kickstarter generates a lot of backers for our campaign. This is another reason to use Kickstarter as your crowdfunding platform. As the leading crowdfunding website, Kickstarter is constantly getting new people to sign up for its site, referring backers to similar projects and emailing backers information about recently launched projects. As I write this, 29% of our pledges have come from Kickstarter referrals.

Pledges Kickstarter vs external referrers

Now, this number is a bit skewed because at live events, we have sat next to people with our iPads and computers, and gone directly to Kickstarter to help them make their pledges. Still, from the referrer breakdown above, you can see that backers who are complete strangers have used Kickstarter to find and pledge to our campaign.

You may also notice next to the pie chart above that our average pledge is close to $100. This is considerably higher than Kickstarter's overall average of $70. We expect this average pledge to decline in the final hours of the campaign as more and more backers we don't know personally join the campaign at the lower dollar amounts. However, we're humbled that our current backers are generous enough with their pledges to bring this average up considerably higher than the norm.

14. We’re working overtime to motivate our backers to email friends, post to Facebook, tweet, text, and call anyone they know that shares our passion to make a film about girls, math, bullying and “drama”.

Tweets from celebrities and thought leaders certainly draw attention to a Kickstarter campaign. We have had retweets from Danica McKellar (Winnie Cooper from "The Wonder Years" who has a degree in mathematics, a theorem with her name on it, and several bestselling books for girls about math) and Rosalind Wiseman (bestselling author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, the basis of Tina Fey's Mean Girls). We are continuing to reach out to celebrities and well-known leaders among girls and women, STEM, and bullying to spread the word further.

Danica McKellar tweet

Rosalind Wiseman retweet

We are sending a steady stream of related stories to our Facebook and Twitter followers in addition to updates on our campaign’s progress. We vary our images on Facebook, using a variety of stills from our teaser along with the Kickstarter short link to avoid constantly posting the embedded Kickstarter link on Facebook.

CENTS Facebook feed

We send out thank you’s and shout-outs via Facebook for every ten backers we receive. We send personal thank you messages via Kickstarter to every single backer, usually within minutes of receiving their pledge to let them know how much it really means to us. We also ask them directly to email their friends and share the campaign on Facebook and Twitter

We are asking our backers and Facebook followers to get involved by sending photos telling us why they are making CENTS.

Erin Flynn Dowie - I'm Making CENTS

We have interviewed one of our earliest supporters and Kickstarter backer Noramay Cadena, an MIT graduate and co-founder of Latinas in STEM, to share her amazing and inspiring story with our audience.

We are emailing our personal contacts on a regular basis to get them to pledge and to encourage others to do the same. We always keep our messages positive, but we also impress the urgency of our deadline upon our audience.

15. You, the crowd, get to write the ending to our Kickstarter story.

The beauty of Kickstarter is the success of a campaign ultimately lies in the hands of the crowd. We share our passion for our film CENTS with you, and hope that you not only pledge, but bring your friends along for the ride, too.

It’s crazy to think how far $1 per view of this post would go. I’m a realist, so I know that won’t happen. But if you have found value in this post or any of my previous NFS posts since I started writing for the site in May 2012, I hope you will at least consider a pledge. Every dollar counts. Digital downloads start at $8.

You can write the end of this story. You can make CENTS.

Thank you for reading this post and all of my previous posts about screenwriting on this amazing site for filmmakers worldwide.

[UPDATE: Read all about the exciting conclusion to our CENTS Kickstarter campaign in the follow-up post, The 15th Story Beat: More Lessons Learned from the Finale of My CENTS Kickstarter]

Link: CENTS Kickstarter

Your Comment

50 Comments

The takeaway is if you get a full time (and maybe a part time) job, you can save up the money to fund your Kickstarter project in the same amount of time it takes to successfully run a Kickstarter project.

February 4, 2014 at 9:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Angelo

Doing the math :) - You would have to save $576.9230769230769 a week to reach $60,000 in 2 years. Thats a pretty healthy savings commitment.

February 4, 2014 at 10:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Roy

If you're willing to problem solve and research as much as Boone did on this, between having a full time job and doing freelance work like videography, that's not a stretch. Or just save part of the money to make the film, make part of it, and use that to get donations or investors to make the rest.

Kickstarter's great, but detailing a campaign like this borders on parody of infomercials that boast of easy to use devices that in reality take a dozen steps to operate and maintain. If this serves as an example of how someone else may want to fund their movie, maybe it will work for them. I'm almost more making a comment on how I wish Boone had just mentioned how Rube Goldberg-ian his plan was and show some self-awareness in his article.

This just highlights even more why, if you're going to spend so much time and money creating this audience (and Boone most assuredly had to spend a lot of money to build his audience and support himself for two years), it's not unreasonable to come up with the total amount yourself if it's a plausible number, like $60,000 is. That doesn't mean save it all yourself, but work to make part of the film and get the rest that way. Because at least that's a process that will actually move the production forward. There was a chance his Kickstarter campaign could fail and he'd get nothing after two years.

February 4, 2014 at 10:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Angelo

Hey Angelo,

Thanks for taking the time to read the post and comment. For the record, I am putting my own money into the film. You can see that on our Kickstarter page and in our pitch video. I wouldn't ask anyone to pledge to Kickstarter if I wasn't putting money in the project myself.

So you're right. Filmmakers should save up their money and invest in their own projects. I believe this strongly.

Over the years, I have made many friends and contacts who have offered to help me make my first film, but they are in no position to invest in a film. Kickstarter is a way for them to contribute.

Kickstarter also builds our audience, succeed or fail. We are spreading the message that we are making a film about strong yet flawed girls, math, bullying and "drama". We know there are people out there who want to see that film. Some of those people would be willing to contribute the cost of a movie ticket (actually less) to see a movie like this come into the world.

In addition to writing screenplays, working on film projects, and raising two kids, I contribute to NFS. It pays a little bit, too. That goes into our film as well.

I wanted to share as much data as possible about our Kickstarter because virtually no one gets to look behind the scenes on an ongoing project to understand what it looks like if they have never run a Kickstarter campaign before. I imagine a lot of NFS readers are curious, especially if they are considering running a Kickstarter campaign themselves in the future. I hope this data and my experiences offer them some guidance - one of my ways of paying it forward.

Crowdfunding has become a vehicle for independent filmmakers like you and me to reach out to our audiences and ask if they will help us make our movies. They can certainly say no. We hope they say yes.

In return, we will make the best movie possible to engage them, entertain them, provoke them, move them, and inspire them. We'll also give them that movie to own forever for only $8.

Because it's not my movie. It's their movie.

Thanks for reading and contributing to the discussion here on NFS.

February 4, 2014 at 10:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

You got it, and I wasn't really commenting on why you, for your project, should or shouldn't have used Kickstarter. I may sound harsh, but I'm just as blunt with myself, so it's not the case that I was trying to say what you should have done. I recognize how good a tool a Kickstarter campaign can be to build an audience for a film. It worked for you, so it did its purpose and then some.

I was really making a comment on your article and not your project itself. Your article may be very useful for someone who makes a Kickstarter campaign, and it's possible that I'll make one someday. I just would have liked to have seen you point out some of the alternatives. That doesn't even mean you necessarily should have. It's your article, so if that's not your point of view, you don't need to say it.

For instance, with the money and time it takes to build an audience on Kickstarter, you could get a job or two, do freelance work, put videos on YouTube regularly, and build an audience/business connections/network that way. That process can be just as time consuming as yours, but I would have like to seen it pointed out that it's a good way to make a movie when I think Kickstarter gets somewhat of a misplaced emphasis among filmmakers.

February 4, 2014 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Angelo

Very true, Angelo. Hopefully, all filmmakers and regular NFS readers will take away the lesson that you have to build your audience. You can't wait for someone else to do it for you because they won't. Creating videos for YouTube and Vimeo to build your audience is a great idea, and definitely an alternative worth considering and pursuing.

There's no single path. But every path will require a lot of time and hard work.

Thanks again for reading and contributing.

February 4, 2014 at 10:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Not meaning to be a jerk to you Angelo, but this article is exactly the kind of information young filmmakers need access to... probably one of the most useful articles I've seen for filmmakers ever... because this is info you can't get out of a $16 book from Focal Press or from one of twenty blogs that basically inadvertently post the same things in truncated form from those books. As many people point out all the time, even beyond the money, Kickstarter is probably most valuable for building awareness & an audience-- which in this age of affordable production gear and good VOD self-distro options, is really the biggest obstacle for filmmakers, mostly because it's usually something we're not innately good at. Detailed, useful, and written from firsthand experience... great article Christopher.

February 5, 2014 at 5:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thanks, Jaan. Really appreciate the kind words, and glad you found the article useful.

February 5, 2014 at 11:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Unless things have changed since I ran my campaign, I noticed that weekends were always dead as dead. Fridays were fine but Saturday and Sunday would be brutally slow.

I think you'll hit your goal on the Friday before.

Also, I notice you came away with many of the "huh" moments I did. Many things I thought would lead to pledges didn't and things I thought wouldn't do anything brought them in. Also, being Staff Pick probably helps a lot. I received $4,957 in pledges from Kickstarter itself. You can probably double that if my project was a Staff Pick.

Onward and upward man!

February 4, 2014 at 10:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thank, Jack. You're right, weekends can be slow. I find that after 9 pm MT (I'm in Albuquerque), traffic dies down. This week will be different, I'm sure.

We're ending on Saturday - usually a slow day - in the hopes that friends and backers will take to Facebook, Twitter and email without worrying about a boss looking over their shoulders.

February 4, 2014 at 10:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

In case anyone is curious, I ran the one campaign that Christopher backed with a goal of over $10,000 which failed. You can see it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jackm/4-of-a-kind-a-crime-thriller-...

February 4, 2014 at 10:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thanks for sharing, Jack. I certainly wasn't going to point it out. You also ran an inspiring campaign that I was proud to back and support via NFS: http://nofilmschool.com/2012/07/ticking-clock-screenwriter-launches-kick...

February 4, 2014 at 10:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Jack, did you end up finding another way to fund your project? I'm always curious what alternatives people come up with if their crowdfunding campaigns fail.

February 4, 2014 at 11:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ella

The script ended up being optioned by a producer. Unfortunately, the investor they had lined up turned out to be a flake and the script is back in limbo.

I've had some success with other projects though.

February 4, 2014 at 4:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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There is some really useful info right here, I guess I'd have expected that the exposure through NFS would have earned you more backers, I guess page-views alone won't do it...

February 4, 2014 at 10:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Raul

Hey Raul,

Like all posts on NFS, the main goal is to share knowledge and experiences to help all of us as filmmakers. I really never expected too many backers. Readers may not believe that, but I honestly want to share what I have learned because I learn so much from NFS. That is reason I write for the site. If readers choose to back the project, that's gravy.

Hopefully, my Kickstarter experiences will help the next person. And the next one, and the next one...

February 4, 2014 at 10:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Enjoyed the article and all the info it contained. I have a friend/client who has a dream of making a narrative film. He wants me to do the production work and seriously he has no idea the complexity and effort that it would take to do his film. His idea and story are sound but that's about it. He calls me the other day and wants to do a kickstarter video and can i come over next week. I think i will send him this article instead.

BTW I read NFS most everyday and decided to back this film. Biggest reason is i have a 15 year old daughter who just last night showed me her A that she got on an a Math test. I looked at the all the problems she worked out in her neat and concise handwriting. I was so impressed, as I flunked Freshman Algebra and never looked back!

Good Luck Christopher

February 4, 2014 at 12:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Roy

Thanks, Roy. I'm glad you read NFS everyday and hopefully get some good insights here.

Also, thanks for backing the project. It's great to hear that you made a personal connection with the material through your experiences with your daughter. That's why we're making this movie, and that's really why people ultimately want to support the film - they connect with the story and the passion behind telling the story.

February 4, 2014 at 1:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

you forgot Step 16 - post this write up on NFS with 4 days remaining ;)

February 4, 2014 at 11:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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sean

Honestly though, if you or I were him, this is EXACTLY what we'd do haha. It's hard not to be jealous of being able to use NFS as a platform to raise money, but in all fairness he did provide some excellent content here. Really good insights into kickstarter campaigns as they relate to indie narrative film. That applies directly to me, and I learned quite a bit.

February 4, 2014 at 12:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kaleb

Hey Sean,

Good point :)

I wasn't planning on writing this post, but our editor-at-large Joe asked me to do it when I originally posted about making my first feature film to become a better screenwriter. I decided I would only write it if I could figure out a way to tie it back to storytelling and share good information with the NFS audience to help us all learned.

Over the course of the campaign, I have had a number of friends and backers ask specific details on how everything works on Kickstarter, and I realized you rarely get to see the data behind the scenes if you're not running a Kickstarter campaign. And almost never during a live campaign.

I know I appreciate the data, so I figured many readers would, too. Regardless what happens with the campaign, this data will be on NFS well after the fact, and hopefully will give insights and spark new ideas for future crowdfunding campaigns.

Step 16 may actually be: Write a post-mortem. Let's hope Step 15 leads to a happy ending.

February 4, 2014 at 1:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

to be clear, I was just poking fun. Lots of excellent information. Thanks for the writeup!

February 4, 2014 at 3:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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sean

I figured. But I took the opportunity to elaborate anyway. You gave me a good opening :)

February 4, 2014 at 3:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Great insight! Thanks for writing this post and for making it freely available.

February 4, 2014 at 11:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thanks, Adriano, for reading it, sharing your thoughts, and making a pledge. Much appreciated.

February 4, 2014 at 3:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Done.
Can't wait to watch the film.
Good luck! Good article!

February 4, 2014 at 2:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thanks, Vincent. I appreciate your words and your pledge.

February 4, 2014 at 3:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Hey man, really inspiring stuff. Saw the teaser and as a physics teacher and aspiring film maker I totally loved it. So I was one of the 10000 readers who backed it.

Anyway, I will double my amount and try to convince others. Really hope you make it!

February 4, 2014 at 3:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thanks, Gerbert. I really appreciate the pledge, the increase and your efforts to tell friends. It's great when the story connects with someone like you and you join our project to make it your own. We'll make our goal with the help of backers like you.

February 4, 2014 at 6:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Chris, Peter Hoffman's got nothing on you.

February 5, 2014 at 1:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

Hey DLD,

Sadly, I plead ignorance to your reference. Even Google couldn't help me make sense of it. Perhaps if you enlighten me, I'll get a clue :)

Kickstarter brain.

February 5, 2014 at 1:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Peter Hoffman was the brains behind the Carolco Pictures. He basically shifted the fund raising and all the profits offshore like the Caymans while keeping the costs of production in the US. That kept the company afloat a long time ... until the Feds became interested. Carolco and Hofflman soon settled but then promptly went down. The Showgirls did not help. They were pretty big players in the 1980's with Rambo and the Terminator franchises.

February 5, 2014 at 7:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

To elaborate - and this is kind of an MBA/BBA geek talk - the financial arrangements of that era were a little different than they are now,. Cannon Films (Golan-Globus era) are alleged to have pioneered the following scheme. It pre-sold the foreign distribution rights with an attached name like Stallone. The amount thereby obtained was used to pay for the star and the production of the film. That made the film virtually at a break-even point right at its release. Anything the film made in the US was pure profit. To ensure that a major international (action) star was on board, he was paid obscene fees, often as much as the rest of the production. Hoffman, IIRC, took this a step further by keeping the foreign investment and thus the film profits entirely in the offshore companies. That made Carolco far more flexible on finances than a major studio that had to satisfy own shareholders. Plus, large fees paid for top stars drove salaries up for everyone. At some point, competition began to use their political muscle to get to Carolco. A few missteps along the way was enough to send it belly up.

February 5, 2014 at 10:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

Great Post..Working on my Film Now...NFS Is always Making Great Post for Indie Filmmakers..Thanks for What All you Guys Do...When I get My Oscar..I will be Sure To Thank you guys....

February 5, 2014 at 6:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thanks, Jairus. We look forward to your NFS shout-out from the red carpet.

February 5, 2014 at 12:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

What I liked about this post is you (delicately) pointing out that Kickstarter/Indiegogo is really a polite way of asking people you know, and their friends, to donate you money :-)
We used to do that in the days before these things, but it cost us a ton in beer.

I get asked about KS and whether its worth doing about once a week - I can now point them here, as well as my standard advice of "how many people do you know that would give you $100 if you asked them nicely?"

Personally I only donate to the least commercial projects/most purely artistic I come across. I 'give' around $2/3k a year to people I only meet/hear of via KS/Indiegogo - I look at it as an art tax/giving back.

February 5, 2014 at 11:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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marklondon

Thanks for adding to the conversation, Mark. And thanks for pledging to several campaigns every year that speak to you. That makes such a big difference.

You are absolutely right. Crowdfunding is definitely about asking friends and family to contribute dollars to your project. They are the core that get your campaign off the ground. The success of the Kickstarter platform then enables you, the filmmaker, to reach out to people that you didn't even know who connect with your story, your campaign, your backers and ask them to pledge, too.

Certainly, I and my producing partner Ella know the core of our backers. Kickstarter has then helped us go beyond 2 and 3 degrees of separation to find people 4, 5, and 6 degrees of separation away. Those backers may only give $1, $8 or $16. But those pledges add up in the end.

And occasionally, a complete stranger drops a sizable pledge into the campaign. We don't know who they are or how they found us. But we certainly appreciate them. And we never would have found them without launching our campaign.

Thanks again for your insightful comment and for contributing to the conversation.

February 5, 2014 at 1:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Interesting that the majority of your backers are men. Women not connecting with the story or less on kick starter to begin with?

I asked three dozen girls at University of Washington about your project and everyone said you could tell and make this story for under $10,000. And everyone of these girls thought your breakdown of costs was sketchy. Had you told women you would be renting gear from lensrentals.com I think they would be more open to helping.

Just trying to help. I do appreciate your transparency (exception of costs) with how this project is progressing. I would be willing - as would dozen's of girls at my college - to purchase an eBook about all these findings after the project is over.

February 5, 2014 at 1:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Greg P.

Hey Greg,

I haven't sat down to do an analysis of my backers based on gender yet. What you can't see on our backer list is how much people pledge - which I can't divulge for privacy reasons - but I can tell you that our largest backers are far and away women. It's not even close.

As for your sampling of 3 dozen women at UW and their collective agreement that this film could be made for under $10,000 without seeing the script or our production breakdown, I guess we'll have to disagree amicably.

Regarding the eBook suggestion, that's a great idea. However, I don't want to profit off what I have learned from Kickstarter. I'd rather pay it forward by sharing it here on NFS. So I'll do my best to share additional data and lessons learned when our campaign finishes. And you and your friends at UW and the rest of NFS readers can read it for free.

Because that's what NFS is about.

Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

February 5, 2014 at 1:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Greg, who are these nitwits who think you can make a feature film where cast and crew (including children) are PAID and FED and INSURED and SAFE for 10k? No offense, all your comment really proves is that the women you spoke to have no clue.

February 5, 2014 at 1:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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jj

No offense taken.

It's his audience that believes what I wrote... not me.

February 5, 2014 at 1:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Greg P.

Hey jj,

I appreciate you coming to my defense, but easy with the name-calling :)

Films can certainly cost only $10K, but you correctly point out that you can't make a feature for $10K and pay for crew, cast, equipment rentals, insurance, food, locations, sets, wardrobe, and many other budget items for only $10K.

It's also hard for cast and crew to make a living working on features with $10K budgets. We're trying to provide real wages for our cast and crew because they are going to work hard to help us make a great film. Together.

Thanks for adding to the conversation. In spite of the name calling :)

February 5, 2014 at 1:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

Agreed. Now why didn't you break this down on your kickstarter page clearly?... sadly we live in an age of "my cousin can shoot your wedding for $100." And if the project fails, and I hope it won't, this will be the primary reason.

February 5, 2014 at 1:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Greg P.

You have to find a balance on a Kickstarter page of the right amount of information and too much information. People will only read so much, if they read anything at all.

Thankfully, Kickstarter gives visitors ways to reach out to campaign creators to ask questions about the campaign. Or in my case, about screenwriting, like someone just did 30 minutes ago, to which I happily replied.

Honestly, if the campaign fails, and I don't think it will either, this won't be the primary reason. The primary reason will be we didn't do everything we possibly could to motivate the crowd to help us reach our goal. That's it.

February 5, 2014 at 2:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Christopher Boone
Writer
Writer/Director

It can be boiled down to two simple things:

1: you tried too hard... Had too many nifty references, explanations and good deeds this movie would do. Was I doing charity here or going to see a fictional movie.

2: From the teaser combined with no1, I really didnt want to see this movie made. It really didnt get anything gong in me.

Ask yourself this: why do people flock to see crappy Michael Bay movies instead of your fine little movie?

February 5, 2014 at 4:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Torben Greve

I failed at crowdfunding, so I just funded my stuff myself through my dayjob pay and savings. You can't pay anyone 'cause labor is the most costly thing, but everyone's a trooper, wants to be involved 'cause we're going places. It shouldn't cost that much to make a short, for example. Each episode for my TV show is generally around $1000 to $3000 at 22 minutes each average. And we stay non-union, so yeah, no name actors but hey, I'm sure I'm slowly making them become named actors someday with my TV deals ;-) http://blip.tv/dayzerotv

February 6, 2014 at 8:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Cal

Well done you did it!

February 9, 2014 at 4:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Greg Egan

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February 10, 2014 at 2:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thank you for this very informative post. I'm planning my campaign & gained some valuable insights.

February 15, 2014 at 8:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Michael

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July 16, 2014 at 3:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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