Crowdfunding 201: Making Your Campaign An Event

on Thursday, May. 10th

One of the top minds in independent film is Jon Reiss, author of the highly-influential book Think Outside the Box Office. I won’t get too detailed about Jon’s work, but one of his key philosophies involves turning your film into an event. So instead of having your film run for a week in a theater, you have it run for one day and you pour all your efforts into making that one day as cool as possible. It gives people a reason to go see your film, instead of the more passive traditional approach.

It’s a good philosophy with a strong record, so the question then becomes: how can we translate that to different parts of the process? Specifically, can we turn a Kickstarter campaign into an event?

There’s obvious applications of this. You can have a kickoff party locally and use that to fuel the first couple of days of the campaign. Or you could do something similar at the end. But that’s inherently limited to where you live and, more importantly, where your audience lives.

Or you can try and build your event around something else.

Selene Hollow by Damian Dydyn

Full Disclosure: This is a client, but hopefully you’ll see why I picked this one.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Hartford to speak on a panel and hung out with Damian Dydyn, a filmmaker I’ve known for a little while. He had hired me to work on the campaign for his web series Selene Hollow and we figured this would be a more efficient way to do things than trading emails.

So let’s walk through the process of coming up with an event for Selene Hollow.

Selene Hollow is a web series about a spot on the map that more or less doesn’t exist, but where all sorts of weird things happen. Like, for example, the Zombie Apocalypse. Zombies are a great starting point for an original perk. There’s a built-in narrative that doesn’t require any explanation on your part. People are well aware of what zombies do. You don’t need to bring them up to speed.

So what we decided to do was at the lowest backer level give people a digital pass that protects people from the Zombie Apocalypse. Backers can print it out and when the zombies show up, it’ll function as a security pass. It’s a gimmick, but it’s a fun gimmick. In a perfect world, they’d send you a kit with a button and a magnet and whatever, but for a campaign working on a very tight budget, this does the trick. And, they could still create that pretty easily. The zombie pass features a QR code that they can have point to a website like and either re-direct straight to the main page, or they can use that page to send their backers to special content. Like, say, early access to the episodes, or behind-the-scenes stuff, or a creator Q&A. It could be anything, really. All they have to do is tell people to scan their QR codes. It costs them nothing and is incredibly flexible. All told, it’s a pretty solid base level perk that, properly executed, accomplishes a lot of different things.

But what’s the point of surviving the Zombie Apocalypse if none of your loved ones survive it with you?

One of the things crowdfunding campaigns all struggle with is how to maintain interest in the middle section of the campaign. Our data suggests that most of the money raised comes in the first three days and last three days of the campaign, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the other 20 or so days of your campaign. You need that time to build toward the final push, and anything you can do to grab eyeballs during that stretch is something you want to explore. Plus, it’s not like the money you raise on day 15 doesn’t count the same as the money you raise on day 30.

We started brainstorming and pretty quickly realized that Mother’s Day was in the middle of our projected lull. And that’s a no-brainer: save your Mom from the Zombie Apocalypse.

Basically, during a time period, a backer reward is doubled. It adds some urgency to the campaign apart from the final deadline and, depending on execution, can add a lot of value. It’s also a pitch that’s easy to give: Don’t Eat My Mom. It works well on social media and should draw more eyeballs than your standard “Please give us money” pitch. Then it’s up to the rest of the campaign to turn those eyeballs into backers.

And your mom might get a kick out of it, depending on how weird she is.

Will it work? Stay tuned.

Extra Credit

Impasse, which we profiled two weeks ago, hit their goal. Depending on when you read this, there might be a few hours left in the campaign….Actor turned director Matthew Lillard (you know, the guy from Scream) has launched a campaign to self-distribute his punk rock film Fat Kid Rules The World (which won an Audience Award at SXSW) on the Vans Warped Tour and beyond. If you’re a Pearl Jam fan, there’s a couple of cool perks….Noah did a nice writeup on The Canyons and brought up a great point on Twitter. They’re not raising their full budget (one assumes), so the margins on their perks are less important. The campaign will function more as an audience builder than a pure project funder. It’s an important distinction to keep in mind while watching the campaign.

Lucas McNelly is the filmmaker behind A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, UP COUNTRY, BLANC DE BLANC, and GRAVIDA. He runs Kickstarter campaigns for a living. He hasn’t lived anywhere in a long time.


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