Louis Holder – Why Crowdfunding is the way forward for independent film.

Why did you decide to crowdfund?

I’m a massive fan of crowdfunding and I think it should be an integral part of every independent film campaign in that you’re actively promoting your film by means of crowdfunding.

I think we wanted it to be integral right from the get-go in publicizing people’s sharing of independent films because at the end of the day this is supporting it. People who donate are actively saying ‘I support indie film therefore this production should go ahead as a trademark of that.’ This film is actually really trying to, y’know, scream to filmmakers that anything is possible even on a limited set of resources.

Crowdfunding is a very easy thing to get right, but also a very easy thing to get wrong.

I’ve done different campaigns of different levels of success. It’s kind of chartered by the amount of money raised per production. Every production is different. But on a case-by-case basis I think that the core essence of every successful campaign is the marketing and the people power and conversations behind it. If you can get people talking about it, if people can share it and like it.

I find that likes and shares are actually not really representative of trends and hash-tagging though. Facebook and Twitter have all sorts of algorithms that have repositioned things depending on favouritism and where territories are. It’s just kind of sneaky stuff, that basically in theory, the more people that use a hashtag thread the higher and stronger it should appear in search engines. But that’s actually not the case. It’s all about who you’re targeting. It’s better to target smaller groups of people who you definitely think will support the project. And if they’ve got a good network of people – you kind of target the people with good networks rather than targeting lots of people. You’re creating these sort of troops so maybe 20 people who are great and then each of them can target like 10 or 20 people. You’ve got an umbrella effect of conversation. That’s the best way to do it and that is becoming an emerging thing that I think some filmmakers are realising.

Where does the money go?

The money goes straight into production funds, in the expenditure categories. That constitutes location expenses, location permits so we could shoot in the places that we did, travel for our cast and crew, food for them, as well as making sure they’re looked after and can get where they need to get to. Production logistics, let’s say that’s the umbrella term.

Also parts of it going towards marketing and distribution as well in terms of our film festival submission fees.

With independent films the whole games changing, all the time, everything.

With the rise of video on demand as you know with Netflix, Amazon, instant video is really changing the game. Especially for independent films which we’re seeing more of on Netflix than ever before, as it now has a production army of its own.

But yeah, I mean, Hollywood still likes to crush independent films but there’s always going to be an audience.

Is money hard to source?

Considering the current climate in the kind of Brexit climate, everyone’s a bit doomy and gloomy and I think people are quite conservative in this country, y’know, about their money… although people are very generous on the whole I like to think that’s the consensus that I’ve gathered. Actually, even if you get ten or 20 quid you should be exceptionally happy and you should treat that person like an absolute god. They’re parting with their money and obviously if you’re donating something on IndieGoGo that’s an investment that doesn’t need to be guaranteed or anything. So you’re doing that out of free goodwill not expecting anything in return.

Do you feel there are any risks with some crowdfunding sites?

The problem with Kickstarter which I think is a kind of minus point to filmmakers is that it’s an all or nothing campaign builder so essentially, if you don’t raise all the funds that you need to raise then it kind of gets binned off.  Whereas with IndieGoGo you kind of keep what you earn, so even if you don’t earn the full 100% on your campaign timeline then you do go ahead with the production. I think this is great because otherwise imagine if you spent ages waiting for these funds to get raised and you’re like 98% there and you don’t reach it you don’t any of that which is immensely sad. I think although Kickstarter has a bit more publicity I think we’re now seeing IndieGoGo is a force to be reckoned with.

There’s also another crowdfunding platform which has just emerged actually, it was founded last August and it’s called Live Tree. It’s ‘inspired’ crowdfunding in that the people who share the campaign will also earn a bit of commission and you can also set a percentage of what you earn as well and send it to charity. There’s a list of charities on the site, it’s a limited selection at the moment but it’s a very state of the art crowdfunding platform which not many people know of yet, but will be very soon.

Would you crowdfund for your films again?

I would definitely do crowdfunding again, I think it’s a great thing. The thing you’ve got to be careful of, unless you can kind of prepare for this for the future looking down the line, is reusing wells of favours. Obviously everyone relies on friends and family and if you’re just one person crowdfunding each time or being the helm of that you should at least have people to help. If you want to set it up and facilitate it that’s great but in terms of actually getting that support yourself and directing and everything; there’s only so many times you can do it before it kind of generally weakens or plateaux out. So always be mindful of who you’re talking to and essentially that people who are donating get the best out of what they’re donating to.

You’ve got to prove you’ve got a good track record of success so they’ll donate again. You show them if it’s an independent film, you show it’s a really good film, it’s stylish, it’s a gritty drama with a bit of black humour to it, that’s a kind of trademark of proper British independent film and people will think wow this is really great, it’s really quirky.

Do you think there’s a strategy to crowdfunding to get better success?

It’s essentially you make the campaign page and sort of plan it from there. So firstly, you should plan all the elements that make a good campaign, you should review successful campaigns that have already made their funds and replicate it but make it unique to your production. I think the uniqueness is both in the campaign and also in the story of the film as well, so make sure the story of the film is unique.

The more unique the more genre defying the better, because then you can make your campaign more genre defying and unique.

You can break those stereotypes of ‘let’s make a video and some perks with a stylised text’. Now that’s all well and good but you’ll typically only get mediocre success with that because it’s a good campaign.  It’s an independent production and people want to fund things – there’s never a shortage of donators but the thing which is quite interesting about making your campaign original is that it’s got to be original. It’s got to have faces, the people in your campaign videos are really important as they’ve got to sell. It sounds a bit superficial but they have got to be good looking people. I find that with good looking people people actually donate to them more. It’s also all about the delivery so make sure the script is unique too.

Promo videos keep the campaigns alive in terms of the updates that are sent weekly or biweekly depending on how rigorous your campaign is and how big it is. I think however big your production is should be reflected in the actual social media and that depends on how frequent you post things.

A lot of filmmakers use incentives to help in getting people to donate, do you think there’s a way to make this work without spending too much?

Now the thing with incentives is you have to make sure they’re unique. However, there is a typical formula for that, there is the typical shoutout format, postcards, credits on the film or on IMDB. There are different combos and different levels and you should make sure that levels are representative as well. The key thing to incentives is always put in incentives things that don’t actually cost money to produce unless they’re whopping big amounts, we’re talking hundreds or thousands here. So no mass t-shirt production or anything like that just kind of put in online, digital things which no one else could get really, and things which are unique and at the same time that doesn’t mean it’s a big headache for you.

Do you think the use of social media in your campaign is important?

I think that’s the kind of most important thing to keep in mind, all the campaigns that are social media are constant in terms of promo because promo never dies. When the film gets going and people are responding to it and sending feedback we can retweet and actually have a one-to-one relationship with people. So at the premier for instance, we’ll have four people manning the twitter and signing their tweets with initials and it’s just a nice way of developing a personal connection. Then if someone replies to a tweet and a conversation develops then it makes it more personal. It’s a bit of effort on our part but not really in the grand scheme of things because Twitter is a free thing it’s just about thoughtfulness and that goes a long way and will actually do you good even if the film is not very good. Even if the film is great.

Which platform was best for your campaign?

I think Facebook was best definitely. The Facebook groups scheme especially because that meant we could target filmmaking groups and people who were just passionate about independent film.

Any final words?

Two P’s – make the campaign as personal as possible. It’s absolutely key you want to relate to the person as much as possible, even chucking a mention that’ll help you develop a one-to-one relationship with that that can be great.

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