Noah J Nelson on Tuesday, May. 8th
Opinions expressed in Game of Buzz are those of the author alone.
Sean Mannion is a filmmaker living in New York City whom I’ve been following on Twitter, where he goes by the handle @unclesean for years now. A month ago Mannion launched a Kickstarter campaign for his sci-fi short Abel and Cain. Without a massive fan following, and with a modest goal of $3,500, Mannion’s campaign was always going to be one of those under the radar affairs.
That’s where the bulk of crowdfunding activity is, and in my eyes remains the true purpose of the movement. So I watched Mannion closely during his run, hoping that he’d be able to pull it off. I watched as the filmmaker worked the campaign grind every day, and on Monday Abel and Cain crossed the finish line, only to slip back below the line.
The project is back to fully funded status, but the experience has taught Mannion more that he expected to learn. I conducted the following email-based interview with him, which I’m posting in full for the benefit of would-be project leads and students of crowdfunding alike.
[Disclosure: I put my money where my mouth is and backed the project.]
TURNSTYLE: How much time a day did you spend plugging the campaign?
Sean Mannion: Oh boy. A friend asked me a similar question the other day. I didn’t really keep good track. I tried to maintain a balance. I want to say that I did about three to five hours a day on average. That’s not including the 24 hour tweetathon I did the first weekend of our campaign. I usually did at least an hour every morning and then the rest of the day it was jumping on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Kickstarter, and Email to push the project. It varied. Like I said, I tried to maintain some balance. The last thing I wanted to do was alienate anyone by talking too much, but also I know that you can’t get people interested in it if you’re not talking about it. On light days it probably all totaled three hours and on heavy days it might have been as much as 8, spread through the day. Maybe more.
TS: When you went in, did you know that was what you were going to do?
SM: Yeah, pretty much. I haven’t been studying Kickstarter and fundraising, necessarily, but I have been paying attention. I know there are sort of informal tiers of people with Kickstarter projects. There are people with well established broad fan bases, or with a project that speaks to a well established broad fan base, that are the rockstar 500%+ funded in a matter of a week people. There are people who’ve done their thing for a long time and have fans and connections and they are fully funded in about a week. Then, there are people like me who are just coming onto their scene and are pushing the entire time to reach and exceed their goal.
I’m not saying it’s easier or harder or any one of these (way oversimplified) tiers is better or worse but I think that’s a way to look at this and I know where I fit. I knew from the beginning that even if I garnered a lot of support from the start, and even if people really responded well to the project, I’d be pushing until the deadline.
TS: What were you expecting? Was this it?
SM: Pretty much this is what I was expecting. We’re funded before the deadline, which is better than I really expected. I believe in the project and I had hopes and dreams of reaching our goal early on in our campaign, but in my heart I knew that this was a 30 day commitment to constantly talking about the project and trying to prove its worth to the community. I got a considerably better response to the project than my worst fears but not quite as good as my secret hopes.
TS: What one thing that you did worked the best?
SM: I think that the best thing I did was network and to have at least one other person on the project who has a broader network than me. During this period I feel like I’ve really connected (mostly via Twitter) with a lot more people than I might have otherwise. I utilized my existing network and expanded on it. I knew that when it came to social networks I had the most presence on Twitter and so that became my main tool. I made every effort to expand my network during our fundraising in the most honest and natural ways I could. I pushed the project but I didn’t try to insert it into conversations that it wasn’t appropriate to.
I tried to maintain some semblance of my normal activity despite the fact I was caught up in the campaign. I think that’s what worked best. I reached out and the rest of the people on the project reached out. We leveraged our personal and professional networks. We reached our goal because of people that know us and care about us. People investing in people.
TS: Did anything fall flat on its face?
SM: I feel like our Kickstarter pitch video wasn’t the most convincing. That’s on me. I am not good at talking about myself or my own projects with a camera in front of me. Alex and Tara, our lead actors, are great and charming and their parts of the video I think are good. My part is flat and I think I don’t show enough enthusiasm to inspire enthusiasm in people to pledge. I think next time I’m going to need someone to really help get me pumped up for the pitch. It’s not that I wasn’t enthusiastic about the project but that I don’t show enthusiasm very well. It’s terrible for my wife on Christmas Day.
TS: Now, at the end, how does it feel?
SM: Well, it’s not quite the end, yet. I got a very clear reminder of that today. We’d been funded for about six hours and then someone changed their pledge and we dropped under 100% funded again. Once we hit 100% I let myself have about an hour of relief about an hour of thinking we’d made it and it was all smooth sailing, then I reminded myself that our goal was only ever just a minimum and we want to exceed that. The dip in funding made that very real and nearly gave me a heart attack. Luckily the dip wasn’t intentional, it was the result of Kickstarter’s system being a little confusing. We’re fully funded now but for any reason before our deadline we might dip again.
So, to hit 100% felt great. It was such a relief and really very encouraging and validating to receive all that support, but at the same time it’s not quite the end and as good as it feels, now we have to surpass it. There’s so much more we could do with just a few dollars more. Plus, there’s just buffering ourselves from any one backer’s need to reduce their pledge for any reason. So, the march continues until the deadline at 8:00AM May 11th. We keep at it and build on this level of success. Then, when we hit the deadline we take that success and we do what we can to make sure this project is worthy of the fantastic support we’ve received. So, I guess, in a roundabout way I’m saying: I don’t feel like it’s the end, I feel like this is just the beginning.
Abel and Cain will close funding Friday the 11th at 8AM, Eastern time.
Noah Nelson exists on Twitter as @areyouthatguy.