All (or most) of the things they tell you about crowdfunding for a film is true. It's a lot more work than you imagine. It's an emotional rollercoaster. You will hit the dreaded mid-campaign lull. The more you prepare the better. Here are some of the other things we learned running our Jennifer, 42 Kickstarter campaign.
Having a kickoff event is a great way to give your campaign energy and momentum. While no one on our team had much experience in event-planning, we managed to put together a very special night for our campaign launch. We rented the very affordable UnionDocs, a documentary center in Williamsburg, which also has a bar, where we served food and drink. We invited about 100 of our friends and family, as well as several of the people who are featured in our documentary. We screened sample scenes from the film followed by a really intense q&a, and then we pushed the Kickstarter 'button' together. Aside from being a night to remember, it felt like both a rewarding end to all the work we had put in to get to this point (the years of investigation, research, filming, editing!) and the beginning of the next great chapter.
One of the most meaningful and enjoyable aspects of crowdfunding was being able to share our story and experiences in real time on social media, getting to talk with and reach so many people who care about this film. We got so much energy and felt so encouraged by our various groups on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and loved bringing everyone into the daily ups and downs and reporting on our progress. We continue to build and nurture our social media, and see it as a vital and necessary part of our Jennifer, 42 world.
We knew we would log mad screen-hours during the campaign, but didn't quite grasp that you cannot stop. You cannot stop talking to people and reaching out, or leave the campaign by itself for any amount of time...or contributions just dry up, fast. At first it felt like pestering, but we reminded ourselves that this was a once-in-a-lifetime ask, and in the end we had 408 backers come on board, many of whom our filmmaking team had no personal connections to. In other words, all that relentless communication reached outside our personal circles, to people who were compelled to give to the film for the film's sake, not only to support their friends. While we were so thrilled to see the names of friends and families, it was amazing when we started to see names no one knew, and from far flung places.
The mid-campaign lull is real. And scary. In retrospect, aside from the first 24 hours, when we enjoyed a surge of contributions from our launch event, we were in danger of failing the entire month. Kickstarter has all these tracking graphs and there is a lot of conventional wisdoms out there about how your campaign progress can predict your success or failure, and according to all those, we did not have a comfortable margin ever. And - if the mid-campaign lull was scary, the mid-campaign weekend lulls were even scarier. We did not know that people don't do Kickstarter on weekends. Everything died, no matter how much e-mail blasting, coaxing-by-text, or network-pleading we did. While it worried us sick at the time, it makes me secretly happy to think that maybe people are offline doing LIFE on weekends instead.
Our favorite part of running this crowdfunding campaign was that we got to build a community, creating and becoming a part of something bigger than ourselves and even bigger than our film. That sense of purpose and mission, gathering around a meaningful enterprise and accomplishing something together, lit a fire in all of us on the team, a fire we're carrying with us into the next chapter of this adventure.