How to Sell a Film Before it is Made

Beth Zarkhosh TV-Bay Magazine
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by Beth Zarkosh
Issue 93 - September 2014

Independent filmmakers can produce some of the most gripping, compelling and original cinematic works around, but without funding it’s a real struggle to piece together the requisite resources for such productions to get the backing that they deserve. So what’s the answer? Simple - sell the DVD before you’ve even filmed a single frame.

Prime examples of how indie fi lm makers have hit the big time have previously come in the form of ‘social realist’ directors such as Shane Meadows and Ken Loach, both of whom have gripped audiences with strong narrative and genre defi ning fi lmmaking. So it isn’t surprising many are trying to replicate this success and put their own stamp on the indie fi lm industry.

In the past few years the term ‘crowdsourcing’, & ‘crowdfunding’ may have baffl ed many, but to budding fi lmmakers it’s probably one of the most used terms bouncing around in conversation. Take sites such as IndieGogo and Kickstarter which enable fi lmmakers to whet the appetite of their prospective audience with teaser videos, plot synopsis or even just a rough biro-etched story board with the hope that imaginations will be captured, and wallets will be reached for. Such sites have proved to be an invaluable source for funding, promotion, and more importantly for reaching out to audiences and fan bases who desperately want to see a project become a success. Case in point, the fi lm version of Rob Thomas’ neo-noir TV series; Veronica Mars was made possible with a Kickstarter campaign which raised north of 5 million dollars in just short of a year.

Kickstarter - the leading crowdfunding site in the world - has amassed roughly 6.9 million ‘backers’ who have pledged towards a project. Its infl uence in the industry is becoming increasingly apparent, just this year a statistic emerged naming Kickstarter as the sole funding source for 10% of the fi lms screened at The Sundance Festival 2014 - quite something when you consider that the average budget for each submission to the festival is at the $750,000 mark.

Oscar nominated and 2011 Tribeca Film Festival short documentary winner Incident in New Baghdad also holds heritage to Kickstarter which gave fi lmmaker James Spione the freedom to tell the story of Ethan McCord an ex US Army Specialist and his experiences of the war in Iraq. Being the second Kickstarter funded project, this short documentary is living proof of what the backing of a credible project can do.

Iron Sky, a completely independent shoestring budget fi lm was taken under the wing of Finnish based Wreckamovie. com, went on to appear at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival and eventually saw a large scale cinema release in Finland and Germany. This is a true testament to what what a comparably small scale crowd sourcing website can achieve. Although the fi lm received mostly negative reviews, the process of creating a fi lm with the help of funding highlighted how important and groundbreaking making something from relatively nothing was achieved.

So how can you setup your own crowdsourcing campaign?

Firstly you need to fi nd a credible project that you believe in and you feel others will believe in too. With certain sites there can be up to a 5% fee charged if the project is successful, an important element to remember about the crowdsourcing process is that a target must be set and a target must be met in order for the project to get all of its funding. That means if your target is £5000 and only £4950 is met by pledgers unfortunately a project is deemed unsuccessful and all money will be given back to its original pledgers. These rules and regulations can be found on the crowdsourcing websites and do need to be abided by.

The pitch you give is vital to how you come across to your pledgers, a badly shot and poor quality video is not going to sit well with those whom you are seeking funding, so be sure to plan and prepare your pitch carefully. A campaign lasts approximately 60 days depending on the crowdsourcing site used, alongside this rewards for pledgers are usually offered to give back a little piece of what they are investing in to.

If crowdsourcing is something that you are planning on doing then tweet the team @ editorskeys or @tvbay, we’d love to hear about your ideas and we’re happy to offer advice and tips surrounding potential campaigns. Good luck!

Tags: iss093 | Kickstarter | crowdsourcing | Beth Zarkhosh
Contributing Author Beth Zarkhosh

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