A Filmmaker’s Guide to a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

A Filmmaker’s Guide to a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

From establishing your audience to delivering rewards

We live in an extremely exciting time. As technology rapidly advances, it continues to create an exponential number of opportunities for people to innovate and create new things. Kickstarter provides one of the coolest platforms to get in on upcoming technology, films, games, and a ton of other things.

As some of you might know, ActionVFX was originally birthed from a successful Kickstarter campaign in November of 2015 where 446 backers helped fund the project by 296%.

Now that some time has passed since our launch and the dust has settled (pun intended), I wanted to provide you guys with some main points that can make your campaign stand out from the rest. Statistically speaking, 67% of Campaigns on Kickstarter fail, so why didn’t we? Was it just dumb luck? Skill? Or maybe both? Let’s find out..

Reverse engineer your audience

Everything you’re doing, whether it’s starting a business, writing a book, or making a film, it’s important that you know your audience. The same goes with a Kickstarter. You are literally selling your idea, so you should know your audience so well that you can start thinking like them.

For example, before we ran our Kickstarter, we surveyed hundreds of VFX Artists (our prospective audience) to learn what we could do to improve on issues they were facing with current stock footage.

A preview of our survey results.
The keyword here is “they”. In the end, it’s all about your audience, so you need to cater to mankind’s selfish nature. Sure, you may be very passionate about your film, but once people get to your page, they’re really just asking “what’s in it for me?”

Start building your audience before the Kickstarter goes live

Wouldn’t it suck to launch a Kickstarter to the sound of crickets chirping? When we did our Kickstarter, we were fortunate enough to have been building our audience for 5 years, but what if you’re starting from scratch?  

If you’re currently thinking of starting a Kickstarter, but have 0 followers, the first thing to do is to set up a website and/or social media page for your project. Use this newly created online presence to start telling the world about your film. Start with your close friends and friends of the cast, and expand from there. If you’re already working on the film, this will be a good place to post regular updates and keep your followers informed. 

Once you decide when your campaign will go live, let everyone know so that they can start preparing and promoting!  

Create your page with purpose

Your page is the most crucial part of this campaign, so it only makes sense that it would be the hardest part to get right. When Rodolphe worked on our campaign, he had many sleepless nights and contemplated giving up…at least once every hour. While the main purpose of a campaign is obviously to raise money, your main goal should be to get your audience to care enough about the project to give you money. Below we will dive into some specific areas of your page that should be addressed.

Statistically speaking, your Film and Video campaign is twice as likely to succeed if you have... You guessed it. A video!

Your video is a great way to actually show your audience what your film is all about. Utilize your time to establish that you know what you’re doing, and that you will be able to deliver on your promises. If you have any behind the scenes footage, trailers, or artwork, be sure to include it in your video. Also try to keep it at 1-3 minutes (depending on the project), as to not bore the viewers. 

View our Kickstarter video below.

This is where you will have the chance to get into the details of why you’re here, what you’re doing, and why the audience should care. Also incorporate pictures, gifs, and graphics that can visually assist your story. This is also a great place to communicate what the funds you raise will be used for. The more specific you are, the more trustworthy you will seem to your audience, as it shows you’ve clearly done your research on the costs required to complete your project.

This is of course the most important part to your backers. Here is where they get to find out what they will get in return for their support. Craft your rewards around what they would be interested in getting. In the case of a film Kickstarter, they would really care the most about watching your film. So offering a digital downloadable version of the film would be more appealing to backers than a coffee mug with your logo, or something lame.

Keep the number of pledges under 10 variations. Adding more then that has the potential of confusing your audience, scaring them away from supporting you. Be sure the rewards are clearly listed, so each person will know exactly what they will receive. Confused people don’t buy. Remember that.

Leverage influencers to spread the word

Remember how we mentioned building an audience before launch? Well, that also includes getting in touch with different communities and people that can help drive traffic to your campaign page.

A few of our influencers during our campaign.
These influencers don’t exactly have to be “filmmaking” related. For example, Rocketjump’s Video Game High School gained a lot of traffic from some major video game websites and news outlets, since the VGHS storyline was relevant to their audience. 

Think of the major themes of your story. Who are the niche audiences that would be interested in your film? Working on a conspiracy theory documentary? Try contacting that ALIENS guy on the History Channel (not really, but you get the idea.) What about a faith-based film? Contact local churches or organizations that might be interested in helping you get the word out. 

Monitor feedback after launch

Keeping up with all of the questions submitted on the Kickstarter page can be pretty crazy, but it is the best way to secure the success of your campaign. Maybe you notice that nobody is interested in a certain pledge, or they are asking for an entirely different pledge. Pay attention to all of those details, so that you can make the appropriate changes when needed, before it’s too late.

A view of our progress from day 1 to day 30.
Stretch goals can be an awesome way to help spread the word of your campaign, as well as reward your existing backers for their support. I mean, who doesn’t like extra free stuff? You only need these extra rewards if your campaign exceeds your goal, so you don’t exactly have to plan for 5 extra rewards unless you see that things are headed in that direction. 

Making a movie is hard enough without fulfilling hundreds of pledges from your backers. Remember to keep your stretch goals realistic. Don’t get carried away with the fact that you just tripled your goal 5 days into your campaign, only to promise that all of your backers could attend the world premiere of your film. That would probably get pretty pricey. 

Follow through with your promises

Especially if your campaign takes off (which I hope it does!), it can be easy to push promises and crazy rewards. Be sure to stay within your abilities for delivering on these promises.
Things can always change. Maybe you need to make 400 more logo coffee mugs than you originally thought (really, don’t do coffee mugs..). Make sure that you have a backup plan for your backup plan, so that you can fulfill all of the rewards when they’re promised.

Hopefully these few points have helped you gain some more insight on the crowdfunding world of Kickstarter.  Have a campaign coming up? Let us know about it, we 'd love to check it out!

First time here? ActionVFX creates action stock-footage products for VFX and filmmaking, centered on user feedback. (We also have some great free stuff!)

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