Crowd Financing: The Saviour Of Short Film?

Here’s an exploration of how young filmmakers are turning to the web to translate their concepts into capital, by means of a case study.

Lucy Tcherniak, a very talented friend of mine, has spent the last 18 months working on ‘Dominic’, her Psycho-Noir short film set in an English gentlemen’s club in the 1950s. How cool does that sound?!

The project is nearing completion, and word on the street is it’s going to be a corker. Judging by early imagery, I’m sure it’ll be a cult hit on the online video and awards scene.

A still from the short film 'Dominic' - release date TBC
A still from the short film 'Dominic' - release date TBC

However, the film hit a snag that prevents it reaching completion, thanks to a cock-up pertaining to securing music rights. Here’s a note from the film’s director on the piece of music in question:

The film has an entirely original score apart from a vital track which is played on the radio in the very first scene – Vera Lynn’s ‘It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow’. This was in the script from the beginning and sets the tone for the film. The £600 fee for the publishing rights for the track were originally in Partizan’s budget. Though unfortunately, because Partizan had to go way over budget during the shoot they can’t stump up any more cash for it now.

So, how does this director plan to solve the issue, release the movie, and see her name in lights? She’s turned the funding issue over to us: the crowd. Lucy has created a profile and project page on IndieGoGo, one of several very cool new crowd funding services that makes it easy to get support and feel good about giving it, this one seemingly focused on media production.

Alternative services include:

  • KickStarter –  currently the largest crowd funding service in the world, with renown from projects like Diaspora, voyURL and Eyewriter.
  • RocketHub – which crazily splits it’s site into ‘creatives’ and ‘fuelers’, which in my view makes it feel like less of a collaborative effort.
  • CatWalkGenius – invites visitors to “make history by investing in the first ever public-funded fashion collection” in return for profit and perks.
  • Profounder – which is the more overtly business-focused site, where entrepreneurship and managing your investors takes precedence.
  • Fans Next Door – a new site focused on the creative arts, with a wide mix of typically very small art and music projects.

So how do you make your project stand out? In Lucy’s case, she’s bundled her plea for funding along with her film’s plot and pre-release stills, followed by details of her problem:

Dominic is a man who lost everything the day the love of his life killed himself. Years on, he is so consumed with grief that he has become victim to his own dangerous imagination.

The track is Vera Lynn’s ‘It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow’, which plays on the radio during the suicide scene. The melancholy but hopeful lyrics of ‘It’s a Lovely Day Tomorrow’ bring a wonderful dark irony to start of the film, as Will attempts to write his suicide note, then picks up the radio and climbs into the bath; Vera Lynn’s cheery tone fizzling into silence.

This high profile short film starring Daniel Caltagirone (The Pianist, The Beach) and produced by Partizan Films (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) is in its final stages. The only thing left is to pay for publishing rights for the vital piece of music used in the first scene of the film.

Pretty compelling, no? But this alone isn’t going to open too many wallets (sorry Lucy!). What investors are really after is a return on investment: a share, a slice of the action, a reward, notoriety or plain old ego-massage.

The various perks for investing in the short film 'Dominic'

So IndieGoGo allows it’s hopefuls to offer sweeteners to the deal (image right). It was the promise of premiere tickets and a Limited Edition DVD that nudged me towards a $100 donation (that and the need for some fresh blog content 😉 ).

With all this give and take however, it does beg the question: what is IndieGoGo’s business model? Where is their slice of action?

I suspect services like these skim a percentage of total funding, so really what they’re after are for investees to use their services to attract big bids, meaning a greater profit for the facilitator. The other route to profit is to take on more small projects. The clever bit is that growth seems entirely driven by the entrepreneurship of it’s users: their traffic driving is done for them through friend-to-friend referrals and through the PR-ability of the projects they host.

These sites seem a perfect storm, where the investee, the investor, and the platform owner have their needs met. With such potential for mutual reward, I’d be interested to see whether these sites take on an eBay-like ecology, where mutual gain through the system becomes so commonplace that near-all smalltime entrepreneurship starts out as a project page online.

It’s certainly a trend in the film industry, where right now there are 5,319 listed film projects on IndieGoGo alone. I’ve seen some projects where for funding of, say, $10,000 you’ll be credited as an Executive Producer! This is a major shift in film production, reducing barriers to entry all the way down to the level of one’s own ability to self-promote.

For anyone interested in donating to this cause, here’s the link.
Maybe I’ll see you at the premiere.

Published by

Tom Saunter

I like to think about the media, technology, pop-culture & the future. When not blogging, I tweet @freedimensional & work @MediaComUK. Feel free to visit my Personal Bio to learn more about me.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a fan of this emerging new system…Just seems healthy and rewards truly creative and original filmmakers/screenwriters – something that can rarely be said any more with the current climate & constant barrage of gutter-tripe being produced by major studios and money mad c*nts these days.

    You like a synopsis. You invest. You’re credited.

    The artist benefits. The art as a medium of expression lives on.

    The rise of sites such as IndieGogo seem to me like the natural partner for new exhibition sites:
    http://www.futureshorts.com/
    http://www.film4.com/videos/film4-shorts

    However it seems the issue of music/artist’s rights will remain ever present, especially in the current fickle world of file sharing and the like…Rightly so, I guess.

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