01 April 2019

Crowdfunding 201: Best Friends Forever

A long time ago, I wrote a column for Turnstyle News (a project of yr.media) called "Crowdfunding 201" that aimed to dig deeper into what did and did not work in crowdfunding. Turnstyle News is no longer a thing, so I'm re-posting the articles here, mostly so they aren't lost.

Like almost everything else in my life over the last couple of years, this is an article that starts on Twitter.

Some backstory: more or less accidentally, I’ve gotten a reputation of someone who knows a lot about crowdfunding. It wasn’t planned, but when you spend enough time in the space and run a couple of successful campaigns, suddenly people start asking you for advice. And now, to pay the rent, I’ve started consulting on crowdfunding campaigns, mostly because people started offering to pay me for my advice.

It doesn’t make any sense to me either.

I say that partially as an introduction and partially as a disclaimer. If I’m writing about a project I’m working on, I’ll let you know.

But back to that tweet. One of the things I say to people over and over again is that one of the most important things about your perks is that you have to give people the impression that you’ve put some thought into them, and one of the best ways to do that is to come up with a creative perk that could only really apply to your campaign. Doing a documentary about coffee? Send people personalized bags of coffee. Making a film in a small town? Put your backers in that town. Stuff like that. But it’s not just perks. It’s gimmicks. It’s pitch videos. It’s updates. Nothing turns people off faster than a crowdfunding campaign that’s so obviously by the numbers. Part of your goal is to get people to connect with your project. What’s special about it? Why should people give you money over the dozens of other campaigns running at the same time?

That’s the genesis of this column. We’re going to take a look at some specific things that current campaigns are doing and how that both relates to their campaign and moves the interaction with their audience forward. Hopefully we’ll shed some light on some deserving artists in the process.


Disclosure time: I worked on this film. As in, the actual production of the film. I was the Best Boy Electric.

First up is a project with a big hurdle to climb. Brea Grant (Heroes, Friday Night Lights, Dexter, etc.) is funding the post-production of her directorial debut Best Friends Forever, an apocalyptic road trip movie that filmed this past fall way out in West Texas. The film is female-centric all around, with women serving as lead actors, director, writers, producers, director of photography, and a litany of roles down the chain. It was also shot in Super 16mm, making it one of the more unique indie film productions around (see the $500 perk level). There’s girl power all over the campaign, but I want to focus on something else.

There’s two videos in this campaign that are kind of perfect examples of what people can do to get people behind their cause. First, the emotional one, from producer Stacey Storey:

Kickstarter for Best Friends Forever from Stacey Storey on Vimeo.

You’ll notice a couple of things, but the chief two are the emotion that’s clearly involved here, but also the fact that the video was shot on the last day of production, when it was all fresh and before everyone scattered to the wind. It’s a real moment, the kind of thing that people sometimes try and keep hidden, but plays well in this environment.

And then there’s this one, which is just fun:

1-2-3--go! from Stacey Storey on Vimeo.

This is their goal video for $15,000. It does a couple of things for the campaign. First, it’s fun. It’s something shareable, which is especially helpful when you’ve got a public figure as the face of your campaign (see also: Brea’s Reddit Q&A). It makes you as an audience member want to be part of the group that’s flash-mobbing a library. You want to join the team. There’s a built-in fan base here that should theoretically respond very well. But it’s also applicable to the project. Brea’s character in the film is a librarian (hence the library), and the song is a song from the movie. Not some dance track they found, but something that ties in to the actual project. And I know that sounds simple, but you’d be surprised just how many videos for campaigns fail to do something as simple as using music they have permission to use.

It’s kind of a perfect video for this campaign. But it’s made even better when played in contrast with the first one. It’s a ying/yang approach.

And it’s not just those two videos. As of right now (around 4p.m. EDT on Wednesday), they’ve posted 39 updates, most of them with video. That’s a lot. They’re reaching out and putting in the work, but they’re still roughly $20,000 from their goal with five days to go (as of right now).

You missed your window to flash-mob a library, but you can still join the team. They’re doing karaoke for the $50,000 goal. I, for one, can’t wait to see what they’ve got planned for the end.