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Crowdfunding Inspiring Documentary Films

By  Kim Kandler  •  November 25, 2020  
kim kandler - change the word with inspiring documentaries with films for future

You’ve probably asked yourself where will I get the money to crowdfunding films? Likely not from Hollywood because they might prefer making superhero films based on comics. And my topics might also be too deep for TV which is mainly interested in rating.

The solution is crowdfunding. Money for producing a film comes from many people. Each contributes a small amount in exchange for a reward. For example: VIP tickets to premiere, production credits, merchandise with film branding, limited edition film copy in Blu-ray, free VOD streaming.

In addition, Hollywood and TV content is not accessible freely by everybody. Hollywood can’t simply put their movies on Youtube, else they won’t earn back the hundreds of millions of dollars invested to make these films. It either requires buying a cinema admission, a streaming or cable TV subscription. Therefore, many films distributed this way cannot reach a truly global audience.

Crowdfunding helps me get the budget I need for the production of my films from people like you who care about changing the world. And because so many people contribute a small amount, it’s a democratic way of funding films. It gives you a voice which content to produce. I even plan an app where you could suggest film ideas and then upvote films for production.

Crowdfunding films gives the audience a voice in what films are being produced, allow for riskier, more socially relevant, more innovative, less profit-oriented independent films with smaller and under-served target audiences that can’t be found in mainstream cinema and TV.

Depending on the film and on the sophistication of the rewards offered, my estimate for the production costs of a documentary is typically around $50,000 to $300,000 for the whole project.

Which films have used crowdfunding?

In the USA, filmmakers use crowdfunding to produce films that could not get funding elsewhere. According to news aggregated on Wikipedia, the three recent major projects in the „film“ category were:

Critical Role

  • Critical Role raised a total of $11,385,449 from 88,887 backers in April 2019 to make an animated TV show based on their Twitch live-streamed Dungeons & Dragons game. The campaign exceeded the $750,000 goal and broke the Kickstarter record for most money raised for projects in the “film” category.

Mystery Science Theater 3000

  • Mystery Science Theater 3000 raised a total of $5,764,229 from 48,270 backers in December 2015 to create fourteen episodes of the new series, including a holiday special.

Veronica Mars

  • Veronica Mars raised a total of $5,702,153 from 91,585 backers in March 2013 to create a film set nine years after the end of the TV show. In the campaign’s first 12 hours of existence, it became the fastest Kickstarter campaign to reach both $1 million and $2 million and it held on to the record of highest in the “film” category until Mystery Science Theater 3000 beat it in 2015.

Gosnell Movie

  • Gosnell Movie (2014). After being rejected by Kickstarter, the Gosnell Movie team turned to Indiegogo to launch its crowdfunding campaign. The film has documentary style and follows the infamous doctor, who became one of the most prolific serial killer in American History.

The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint

  • The Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint (2013). Spike Lee launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter for the film and raised $1,418,910 from 6,421 backers. The film is about human beings who are addicted to blood. Mr. Lee added that “it is not a vampire film! Vampires can’t go to the Fort Green projects in daytime.”

“I’m an Indie Filmmaker and I will always be an Indie Filmmaker. Indie Filmmakers are always in search of financing because their work, their vision sometimes does not coincide with Studio Pictures. But I do put my own money in my films.“ —Spike Lee.

Additional Examples

Code 8, Iron Sky, Kung Fury, Star Trek: Renegades.

Except for Spike Lee, I noticed that most teams raise money for films that are sequels. They already seem to have a fan-like following. I think that documentary filmmakers didn’t use crowdfunding a lot. Because these films typically aren’t sequels and can’t quickly draw on an existing fan base.

On the other hand, documentaries don’t need such a large budget as fiction films. Documentary filmmakers don’t need to pay for actors, for studio sets and special effects and for extensive film equipment in production and post-production.

This is why it’s less expensive to make documentaries. Therefore, successful campaigns can be made with only a few thousand contributors.

So, how does it work?

Personally, I like to structure crowdfunding campaigns in two steps. First, I announce the making of a film and ask visitors if they are interested in hearing more about the film. This helps me understand how many persons are actually interested in contributing which amount for a specific project.

I then prepare all the information material for those who want to contribute. This includes a more detailed description of the film, its message and impact. It includes a video pitch of 2-3 minutes with the team and it might include a trailer.

Then the campaign goes live on a crowdfunding platform. Depending on the film and the audience, I might go for either Indiegogo, Kickstarter or Seed & Spark.

My film project then receives a dedicated page on the platform I chose. The live page has all relevant information about the film. It shows which rewards are offered for which contributions. Contributions can be as low as $10 for more simple rewards, and as high as, for example, $500 for sophisticated rewards like VIP tickets to premiere screening.

You choose the reward/contribution combination. Then, you pay the amount to the crowdfunding platform. It then continues to inform you about the progress of the project. Once the film is finished, my team ships the rewards to the contributors.

Film crowdfunding is different from a donation. A donation is charity where you don’t expect to get something in return. Crowdfunding a film is more like buying a cinema ticket in advance. The difference is that contributors, depending on their level of contribution, also have influence on the making of the film and stay more involved.

Join the Journey

Let’s do this journey together and make the world a place with more love, equality, prosperity, and justice — film by film. Let’s make films that change the world.

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