Running A Kickstarter or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Movie

Running A Kickstarter or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Movie

This is the fourth article in a series by filmmaker Brittany Nisco, where she's documenting the entire process of making her first independent feature film, Wandering Off. Here's the synopsis.

Wandering Off deals with family dynamics when faced with a crisis, specifically siblings who are still holding onto decades of tension. Their past continually creeps in while they try to understand not only what has happened to their parents, but who they are now and who they thought they would be. Their parents, on the other hand, are obliviously blissful… and nowhere to be found.

If you want to get caught up on the first three installments in the series, you can find them here:

  1. Starting Down the Road of Making Your First Feature Film

  2. The Super Important Logistics of Pre-Producing Your First Feature

  3. The Keys to Kickstarting Your Indie Film: Preparation, Hustle, & Heart

We had been following the timeline that we set starting March 22nd. Our Kickstarter was going live on May 2nd.  Everything between those 2 dates when unbelievably well. Then our Kickstarter launched.

It is true that once your Kickstarter launches it becomes your life. And we had it all planned out. Here’s how the month of May was supposed to go:

And here's how the month of May actually went:

May 2nd – Launch! We were all really excited about it. Spread it across all social media, our website, our personal social media, everywhere. Within the first hour we had $1,000. We felt like champs. By the end of the day we only had about $1500. I was immediately concerned. I figured we needed more press. I emailed every CT based TV station and press I could find contacts at.

May 3rd – I booked a TV appearance for the following week. We weren’t having the mass amounts of donations like expected and planned for. We reached out to various PR companies that were offering some free help. We were told that everything looked good, the rewards were good, the story was good. They assured us we would get picked up soon enough and the campaign would take off.

May 4th – May 9th – This was a lot of being angry, feeling let down, feeling like we’re going to make it, then toying with the idea of pulling the plug on the campaign. We had small amounts trickling in, but again, none of the amounts we should have had at that point. I kept thinking about that Kickstarter statistic that in order to be successful, you should get 20% of your funding within the first 3 days. We were just over 10%, 8 days in. My aunt had the idea of throwing a party at her house in a couple weeks to bring in more money. We created a Facebook event page that night.

May 11th – Connor and I woke up early and headed down to film a segment for CT Style, an ABC CT show that airs right after Good Morning America. They have a ton of viewers, great hosts, and were really excited about our project. We filmed our segment, got back in the car, and headed back to CT.

During the drive we got texts from our families and some friends saying the segment was great and they loved seeing us on TV. My phone’s email tone kept going off, so I was thinking that we were getting in lots of Kickstarter pledges, but no. (As a side note: getting excited about emails was a theme during this campaign. You loved when it was a Kickstarter pledge and hated it if it wasn’t.)

May 12th – Our local paper, The News Times, did a phone interview with me about the movie. I was excited to get some local press, thinking that thousands of people in the area read it, so this will get donations coming in for us. That night, John, Travis, and I went down to SAG headquarters to have a meeting about everything we needed to do in regards to working with SAG actors. The entire drive home was spent panicking how we were going to get enough money.

May 13th – We put out a YouTube video of our bloopers, in hopes that people would see a more fun side to us and want to contribute. The News Times article also came out that day on the front page. Again, no new pledges from any of the press. The good news was that we got contacted from a lady who wanted to volunteer her time to helping us with the movie. We were very excited to get her on board.

May 14th - I was interview by Long Way Up (an iTunes podcast), which came out this day. Friends and family were listening to it via iTunes and through the accompanying YouTube video. Again, no new Kickstarter pledges from that.

May 15th – In a panic I called an emergency crew meeting with everyone who lived local. We planned out things we needed to do in order to make our “Wandering In” Party a success, as we only had a week left to get people and silent auction items there. Everyone left the meeting with a belly full of pasta and marching orders for the following week.

May 16th – May 20th – All of us were private messaging people on Facebook (did you know you can only message up to 100 different people a day?) to ask for their support on our campaign. Yes, it’s totally bizarre to ask people for money, but after the first few hundred you kind of get used to it. We were also collecting silent auction items, getting people to our party, and shopping for food and drinks for it. During all this, we kept hearing “we don’t know why you aren’t hitting your goal. Everything you’re doing is great.” Some people even said above and beyond.

May 21st – Our “Wandering In” Party. We ended up with about 45 in attendance and made roughly $2500 that night. We had friends and family come from near and far. We talked about the movie all night. We had people give video testimonials about why the movie is important. It was incredible. That really restored all of our faith in our campaign.

May 22nd – We were barely at 15% funded and only 9 days to go. We had to make a decision soon.

May 23rd – May 26th – We messaged everyone that we knew who had donated to our Kickstarter and told them we would be restarting a new one.

May 27th – Pulled the plug on our Kickstarter. Immediately felt relief.

The important lesson I took away from this whole ordeal

During all of this, we were also casting actors, getting permits filed, starting the production schedule, planning another fundraiser, working on private donors and sponsorships, getting more press, etc. It has literally been nonstop.

We knew we had to re-launch at a lower price point. So we did on May 31st. The campaign ends on June 14th in the morning. Almost everyone who donated originally has re-donated again. We’ve gotten some new donors and are extremely less stressed. We’re also working on another fundraiser in a couple weeks to bring in more money. We’ve focused a lot of our attention on private and corporate donors.

Moral of the story: making a movie is hard. Kickstarter is harder. But you’ll persevere if you believe in what you’re doing. Become an advocate for yourself, your team, your movie, and others like you.
— Brittany Nisco

I said in my previous blog that Kickstarter was all about being introspective of your project, and that’s true. Throughout the entire first campaign we kept asking ourselves and each other “what are we doing wrong?” During this campaign we talk about “here’s what we’re doing right.” You have to believe in what you’re doing, otherwise we all would have thrown the towel in a long time ago.

Some people have told us “it’s not the right time.” Some told us “what you’re doing will make a difference.” People asked us if we made up Sundowner’s Syndrome (a real form of dementia that our movie deals with). Others have thanked us for bringing that issue to light. It’s safe to say you never knew what was going to happen during the entire month of May.

Now that we’re about two months away from principal photography, it’s starting to get into the real fun aspects of filmmaking. I’m loving going through the script and planning out my shots. My team is locking down everything they need to do. Everything has fallen into place relatively easily except for the funding, which I have found is the case with most independent movies.

Moral of the story: making a movie is hard. Kickstarter is harder. But you’ll persevere if you believe in what you’re doing. Become an advocate for yourself, your team, your movie, and others like you.

Talk soon.

If you enjoyed this article, you'll love Filmmaker Freedom Weekly. Each week, I share my latest writing, curated stories from around the web, a short film that I love, and a healthy dose of filmmaking inspiration.

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