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The Mainstream Media's Coverage Of Crowdfunding Campaigns & *Unknown* Projects

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by Courtney
April 29, 2013 11:12 AM
9 Comments
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Crowd-Funding

Following up on last week's post about Zach Braff following in the footsteps of the Veronica Mars filmmakers, by launching a Kickstarter campaign for his next film, Wish I Was Here

The goal is set at $2 million, just like the Veronica Mars campaign. And also just like that campaign, Braff has already passed his $2 million goal, and still has 25 days to go in his 30-day campaign. So he's raised $2,180,977 in just 5 days. 

I watched this happen over the weekend, along with all the constant mainstream press coverage of the campaign, which only fed the interest in and contributions to it. And one of the things I kept thinking was, imagine if the mainstream press did the same thing for Kickstarter campaigns of projects by filmmakers who aren't already established, or who aren't already known nor have celebrity friends or lots of fans.

I'm not implying that the coverage of the campaign was solely responsible for its success. But I'd argue that it was a huge factor in its success. If Deadline, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, Huffington Post, ABC News, Rolling Stone, Yahoo, and so many others, all covered a Kickstarter campaign by an *unknown* filmmaker and did so as steadfastly as they did with the Veronica Mars and Zach Braff campaigns, I'd argue that they could play a major role in seeing that even much smaller films get financing.

It's a numbers game. The more people you reach, the more chances you have to receive contributions, and the more likely your project will be financed. And these major news outlets combined reach tens of millions of people worldwide on a daily basis, many of them being people with money to give (sometimes a lot; Braff's campaign, for example, has received many donations of over $1,000 each). The average filmmaker trying to raise money on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo doesn't reach anywhere near that number of people, nor are they all always reaching people with disposable income or savings. But still many are reaching their goals.

So I suppose my point is that, I can imagine these outlets all selecting even just 3 or 4 projects by *unknowns* each year, spread out on a quarterly basis, and covering them simultaneously, and seeing what happens. Obviously the strength of each project is important. But that can be easily decided on by looking at each pitch, what each filmmaker has done before, etc. Some kind of basic merit-based vetting system.

But I'd like to see the same kind of coverage happen for the struggling *unknown* independent filmmakers, and not only when it's a celebrity or a *known* project. The combined reach and influence of these mainstream media outlets can be difference makers.

Your thoughts?


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9 Comments

  • Charles Judson | April 29, 2013 9:23 PMReply

    It's not the coverage. It's the connections with fans and/or having a project/idea that resonates, that matter most.

    Video Game High School and Freddie Wong and his crew are examples of this. Wong built up an audience of over 5.1 million subscribers on Youtube. He was able to then turn that around and raise money for the first VGHS. The second season of VGHS raised money this February to the tune of $808,341 from 10,613 backers. Putting this in perspective, Veronica Mars raised $5,702,153 from 91,585, which appears that VGHS didn't accomplish as much. That is till you do a little math. VHGS raised $76 for every backer, while Mars raised $62.

    Wong and VGHS built a base they can rely on by creating content that base wants.

    Excluding Braff's project at the moment, there are 10 projects that have raised over $2 million on Kickstarter. Six video games, one game, two technology, one movie. Percentage wise, film & video and music have been the more consistent performers. Combined, film & video, music, and games account for over half the money raised on Kickstarter. Content is king and people are donating money for content they want to see, listen to, or play.

    For every Zach Braff, there are dozens of filmmakers creating content and trying to get funded. That's not even including the folks in the Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Food, Photography, Publishing, Technology and Theater categories also raising money at any given moment. It begs the question of how many Braff's would it take to overwhelm every other project on Kickstarter? How prolific would they have to be drown out every project? A dozen films a year? A hundred?

    Over 40,000 projects have been funded via Kickstarter since 2009. That's 10,000 successful campaigns per year. If you drill down, on average, 2,500 films are successfully "funded" every year (how many get made, how many do well, that's another story). How many have failed in 4 years? Over 14,000 film projects have. Over 3,000 of those received 0 funding. Nada. Zilch. Nothing. No one donated. Those filmmakers had to have known they had no buy-in. If they didn't understand they had a phantom fan base, they clearly don't need to be crowdsourcing (or making movies).

    It's about creating connections, nurturing those connections and when you have the support, making an ask that matches not just the size of those connections, but the level of passion those connections bring with them.

  • Akimbo | May 1, 2013 6:12 PM

    Thank you. You're already asking for a handout with a Kickstarter campaign, now the world suddenly owes you press, too? No. Bright ideas and/or people with proven track records excite people and EARN their media coverage. People aren't donating to campaigns just because they saw articles about them; they're donating because the actual project speaks to them.

  • VC | April 29, 2013 7:51 PMReply

    imagine if the mainstream press did the same thing for Kickstarter campaigns of projects by filmmakers who aren't already established.

    Imagine if the black press did it for unknown black filmmakers. just sayin

  • stephanie | April 29, 2013 3:55 PMReply

    Yeah, I definitely agree. These celebrities have a huge following and can simply post their campaigns on their facebook and twitter and gather huge funds. So, it would be nice to have big time magazines and other outlets share some of the publicity wealth to struggling indie filmmakers that don't have the same reach.

  • Akimbo | April 29, 2013 3:41 PMReply

    The reason Zach Braff and Veronica Mars made their money so fast is because they have large fan bases and proven creative track records, NOT because of the media coverage. The fan excitement came first and the blogs followed the story.

    Were you aware that Melissa Joan Hart started a Kickstarter campaign on April 11th, also seeking $2 million dollars? No? That's because she has no movie cred, history of quality projects*, or big fan base.

    Everything can't be the media's fault. It would be silly for them to pick out a random unknown project out of some sense of charity or "fairness." If an unknown creator makes something that speaks to audiences, it will catch fire. There are numerous Kickstarter and IndieGogo campaigns from complete unknowns that got the world buzzing and exceeded their goals BASED ON THE MERITS OF THEIR CAMPAIGNS.

    Let Issa Rae be a reminder: you create something people want to share and see, the media will come later. It's particularly funny that you propose "the media" pick out a few "unknown" projects a year when, for the third time, this site has reposted an article/campaign for Michole White's (who I love) film. It's space that could easily go to one of the many unknown artists begging to be featured on this site.

    *Granted Clarissa & Sabrina were childhood classics.

  • Key | April 29, 2013 2:11 PMReply

    I agree the more people that see you fundraiser the more that are likely to donate to the cause.

    Shameless plug:
    Sessions Season 2
    http://igg.me/at/SessionsWebSeries

  • Janet | April 29, 2013 2:08 PMReply

    If Kickstarter would tell those celebrities that even 1% of what they raise must go to a project by an unknown, I would feel better about it. Make it a win-win.
    Why not "send the elevator down" and give someone just as talented, but with zero juice/exposure a shot.

  • M. | April 29, 2013 3:35 PM

    All of this!!! Make them share the wealth. I'm going to send them a note. And part of me feels like celebrities shouldn't even use crowdfunding sites because, like...they're famous. But what do I know. *shrug* *goes back to storyboarding unfunded project*

  • FactChecker | April 29, 2013 12:31 PMReply

    Too bad we don't live in an ideal world or a meritocracy.

    Few people support anything unknown or unproven unless there's something in it for them. So unless someone who is already well known "crowns" someone who is unknown as being "the next big thing," you can forget about mainstream media outlets covering it. Not too mention, for journalists' it's a matter of credibility. At the end of the day all they have is their own reputation. ...Just ask John King and CNN about that one.

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