Lucas McNelly on Friday, Oct. 26th
One thing nearly every filmmaker who’s successfully raised funds wonders is if (or when) they can go back for more. Films are expensive things and costs invariably show up that no one anticipated. It happens on micro budget indie films and it happens on $200M blockbusters. Only, a micro budget indie doesn’t have a studio covering the overages. They have a credit card, maybe. Or they can sell blood.
It’s only natural that they would go back to the crowdfunding well.
For the sake of this article, let’s assume a couple of things: 1) You need to wait a certain period of time before you go back to your audience. The longer the better. 2) If you wait long enough, you should be able to retain most of your original backers, or at least get them to consider it. Think of one of those health bar things in a video game. 3) You should have a pretty good idea of what did and did not work the first time around. 4) Generally, you’ll have a larger audience the second time around to work from.
Working under those assumptions, the second campaign should almost always be better than the first one. And, generally, should do better (or at least be easier). There’s probably a dozen examples of films that have done this successfully. But what if they don’t? What if it fails?
Exhibit A, Burn.
The first campaign for Burn launched on October 22, 2011, and ran through December 1st. It raised $119,547 of the $80,000 goal. I don’t need to tell you that’s pretty good. The average successful campaign gets around 115% of the goal. Very few get to 150%.
Let’s look at the other numbers.
The first thing you’ll probably notice is how the first Burn campaign was an outlier across-the-board. It got a massive amount of eyeballs, converted them at a horrible rate, and still went way over goal. Reverse-engineer that first campaign and you’d expect that many eyeballs to turn into over 4,000 backers and $400,000 dollars. You could make the argument that the first campaign underperformed by, well, a lot.
More likely, the player got very lucky and the next season they regress.
In our example, Burn got lucky in eyeballs. It got a TON of eyeballs, and that turned into enough money to hide a bunch of problems. It’s like a basketball player scoring 50 points, because he just shot the ball every time he touched it. He can keep scoring that many points if he keeps getting that many shots.
In the second Burn campaign, they aren’t taking as many shots. Also, they’ve somehow gotten less efficient. But how?
Here’s the first pitch video. It’s not great.
Basically, it’s a promo reel for the film. There’s no personal connection to the filmmakers. None. The footage looks good. Other than that, this is a terrible pitch video.
Here’s the second one.
Essentially, it’s the same thing. The trailer for the film. Equally terrible.
The first campaign had 8 of their 22 updates over the course of the campaign. The second one? Zero. Yes, zero. They’ve posted 1 update to the original campaign to tell people about the second one. And they did that before the second campaign launched, with no link. So, since the second campaign launched, they’ve posted zero updates across 2 campaigns. Maybe they’re blasting a separate email list, but whatever they’re doing isn’t working.
Contrast that with the 25 updates for the second campaign for Indie Game: The Movie. And, hey, look at that. They doubled their goal.
I attempted to contact the Burn filmmakers via Kickstarter’s email server and got no response. It looks like maybe they’ve abandoned the campaign.
The perks are actually better on the low end the second time around. There’s a DVD perk and a download perk, which stunningly weren’t available on the first campaign. So if you backed the first campaign, now you can actually see the movie. That should be a pretty simple up-sell.
But people aren’t going to flock to your campaign just because.
Here’s what I suspect happened.
In campaign number 1, they hit the halfway point of their goal on November 7th, which was day 17 of the campaign. On November 14th (Day 24), they were 73% funded. Sadly, Kicktraq wasn’t around back then, but we do know that on day 17 of the second campaign, Burn was at $16,851, or 13.5%. Today (Day 30), they’re at 17%.
On November 7th, 2011, Dennis Leary went on the CBS Morning Show to plug the film. So there’s your eyeballs.
You can fix a bad campaign with enough eyeballs and enough star power. It also helps if you stay engaged with people. But if you take away those eyeballs and you take away the star power and you take away the engagement, you have no chance. None at all.
Mediocre is mediocre.
Speaking of mediocre, David Fincher’s campaign for Goon….And speaking of baseball….Emily Hagins hit the goal for Grow Up, Tony Phillips….Nicole Elmer is raising funds for What’s the Use?….I don’t know if this is a good campaign, but the poster image is eye-catching, and that’s pretty important….This video is awesome.
Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He consults on Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn’t lived anywhere in a long time.