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NFFTY Alum Discuss Kickstarter

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Young independent filmmakers are a vulnerable marketing demographic. Passionate and naive they can fall into traps set by money hungry corporations and greedy businesses. A bright spot has popped up amongst this negative trend,, a website where anyone with a good idea and some people skills can find funding and support. Naturally this type of platform has been perfect for independent filmmakers but Kickstarter has helped many other types of artists and entrepreneurs as well. Comic book writers, musicians, and inventors have all found great success on the site.

One aspect of Kickstarter that separates it from similar Internet funding sites is that a project has a pledge goal and deadline set and if a project does not meet its goal, no money changes hands. This prevents a venture that needs $10,000 dollars from only receiving $5,000 and still being expected to make a $10,000 final project. Deadlines are made to prevent pages from being up for too long and also to motivate those viewing the page.  Corbin Billings, winner of a NFFTY ‘10 Audience Award, observed that his project, Bite Size, received most of its donations in the first and last weeks. When that deadline is approaching the community of Kickstarter really helps out- 94% of successful projects fundraise more than their original goal.

Rewards are an important asset to the success of your project, even for small donations. Every project has rewards for backers, it’s a requirement, but Kickstarter doesn’t specify its minimum for a reward. This could mean your project doesn’t offer a reward for anything less than $1,000, but that’s more likely to turn a backer away. Instead, Kickstarter recommends to offer rewards for lower scale donations since the majority of your money will come from donations ranging $20-$50. Offering a reward for a donation under $20 increases the chance of success for your project by 19%. Jenna Lyng, who had two shorts in NFFTY ‘10, recently raised enough money to produce a pilot for her original series, Burnside. Every donation for her project received a handwritten thank you note, even if it was just one dollar. These rewards can also be much more extravagant, such as an executive producer credit or personalized song.

The biggest advantage Kickstarter seems to give is that it’s all around easy. “Using Kickstarter was a dream,” was Corbin BIllings thought on the website and that seems to be the general consensus. Both Corbin and Jenna agreed they would use Kickstarter for future projects after their first experience. Jenna said, “Kickstarter can help anyone execute their vision, especially high school or college students who just need a little support.” Corbin, a USC alum, found out about Kickstarter from a college friend just before graduation this spring and Jenna, an Emerson alum, found out the same way. Kickstarter is only on its way up- already associated with online shopping giant, Amazon, it’s here to stay.

The science fiction show Firefly didn’t last very long on TV but developed a strong cult following, so much so that fans recently started talking about having an all day marathon in Seattle. The message board for this idea grew and eventually one fan created a Kickstarter page to organize renting a theater and providing refreshments. The project has 8 days left on its funding deadline as of writing, but has already reached more than 200% of its funding. Other projects have started with very modest goals and blown away their own expectations. One project, that creates a wristband to use the iPod nano as a touchscreen watch, has raised 6283% of its original goal and close to a million dollars.

Kickstarter is a growing platform utilized by innovators looking to connect with like-minded individuals. A readily available resource to student filmmakers, Kickstarter has already financed over 1,500 films and countless other ideas. Corbin Billings puts it best, “Kickstarter was easy, great…I would recommend it to anyone.” The only thing that comes into question is whether it is a sustainable, long-term source for funding films.

Jenna Lyng’s Kickstarter

Corbin Billings’s Kickstarter

Louis Weissman

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