Many filmmakers have felt the pain of failing to raise money for a short or feature film, and often give up on their ambition, but here’s why crowdfunding failure matters.
First of all, any film or creative project, no matter the genre, has to earn the creator a monetary return, otherwise the filmmaking itself is unaffordable. Beyond the money aspect, crowdfunding is the first step towards a market test to determine a film project’s credibility in the eyes of the viewers. If money can’t be raised through a crowdfunding campaign, then it could mean several things:
Firstly, failure to raise any money for a project could suggest that the presentation of it is not appealing to the audience being targeted. Secondly, it could mean that the audience isn’t big enough, or that the genre is so obscure that it’s not going to make a return, or there are only a select few that will back it. Thirdly, failure to get enough supporters could simply mean that the marketing isn’t strong enough, or the communication of the project hasn’t reached a wide enough net of potential backers and these are all valuable lessons to be applied to the next round.
Filmmakers today have to be able to make great art, but that in itself is not as important as being a greater marketer. Every indie film project being produced today either requires an initial investment or crowdfunding to support it. If people are not interested in the project, then the chances are, it will be very difficult to earn money from it or convince financiers to back it.
Crowdfunding is a great way to showcase the full potential of a project because audience engagement can be scaled once there is a proof of concept by further outside investment in marketing. Filmmakers don’t need to raise $100,000 at the very start to get the interest of production companies and financial backers. A short film with a big audience and exceptional support, even on a small budget can go a long way in helping indie filmmakers get to where they want to be.
Most of the successful crowdfunding projects are meticulously planned with a buildup and strong storytelling in the marketing including video trailers that capture the project and show it in a fun and unique way. In essence, filmmakers have to tell great stories in their marketing to be successful with their own film projects and it is the fastest way to attain progress. “Kung Fury” is a great example of a project that managed to capture the nostalgia of 80s action blended with martial arts. That short film had an established fan base before it was even conceived and it had a great production team producing eye catching content for its crowdfunding campaign, gaining media traction along the way. Unique projects that are well conceived, even in a short format can go a long way. Other filmmakers and creatives have managed to raise millions through crowdfunding, so the idea that only an investor or production company can make it happen is no longer valid.
Indie filmmakers need to understand how audiences perceive their art before it is made in this digital era. Audiences are fickle, and there is plenty of content out there. For a project to have real credibility, it has to have a solid marketing campaign and it has to build audience that cares before it is shot. Even failing to raise money for a film project is a superb way of understanding how people respond to it and there are many good lessons to be learned. Additional marketing and PR skills can always come in handy to further develop a film’s allure in the market and it is so important that filmmakers acquire these skills and work with others who have them. Every film we see at the cinema is a result of the marketing engine behind it. If people don’t know about a film, they will never discover it, and it will sit on the shelf.
Crowdfunding today is the gateway to getting attention, building a fan base, and proving to potential investors that it has what it takes to be a financial success. The process of raising awareness of a short or feature is also an important part of filmmaking today because without it, it is close to impossible to get a financial backer unless there is government support. However it is the greatest time in history to build a fan base for films from scratch, and that can lead to longterm career growth, where those fans come back time and time again to see new films from the creator.
Star Wars as a franchise is an example of how audiences come back time and time again for more because they fall in love with the films, but to get any kind of return on a creative project people need to hear about it first.