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Take Note, Indie Filmmakers: Why Indiegogo Is at the Head of the Crowdfunding Class (Q & A)

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by Ryan Lattanzio
September 30, 2013 1:33 PM
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Thor Swift Indiegogo founders Eric Schell, Danae Ringelmann and Slava Rubin.

It was 2006 and in a kitchen in San Francisco, three people put their heads together.

Two years later, Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin and Eric Schell cofounded Indiegogo, launched at Sundance and the rest is history. Indiegogo is the original crowdfunder, an open platform that invites independent filmmakers, artists and dreamers of all kinds to get their ideas off the ground through fan support.

At a recent panel in Los Angeles, Marc Hofstatter of Indiegogo was joined by campaign producer Ray Brown ("The Bounce Back") to discuss the ins-and-outs of the company, and what makes a successful campaign -- in other words, sage wisdom for any indie filmmaker looking to crowdfund. Indiegogo also talked about a little something they call the Gogofactor, which increases your exposure if you're a smart, committed campaigner. Highlights below.

Crowdfunding has become a new normal for filmmakers who want an audience that's more than just a theater full of passive eyeballs. Instead, crowdfunding encourages a groundswell of fans to come out, and shell out, for a compelling campaign launched by someone they care about. But an Indiegogo campaign is more than tapping into a preexisting fan base -- it's also about looking under rocks for the right people.

Indiegogo launched before Kickstarter, its main competitor that has been successful for celebrities like Zach Braff ($3.1 million) and Spike Lee ($1.4 million) as well as Rob Thomas' "Veronica Mars" reboot ($5.7 million). What sets Indiegogo apart from Kickstarter and other crowdfunders? Indiegogo won't tell you if your project is good or not. Kickstarter is more selective, and it can be a risky, all-or-nothing wager. At Indiegogo, campaigners are offered a flexible funding option, which means that even if you don't meet your goal, you can still walk away with all the money you've earned. (Check out some notable Indiegogo-funded film projects with the San Francisco Film Society here.)

Actor/producer Shemar Moore went the flex funding route with his summer 2013 Indiegogo campaign. With his TV starrer "Criminal Minds" now in its ninth season, seasoned actor Moore was ready to step out of the small screen and into the big one with "The Bounce Back," a romantic comedy to be directed by Youssef Delara, and executive produced by and starring Moore. 

On June 11, Shemar Moore and his team, among them Ray Brown, launched a campaign that eventually netted over $638,000, well-exceeding the goal of $500,000. Even after the $500,000 goal was met, the money kept rolling in. Fans were invested in the project, and this was because Moore and his team kept them engaged every day of the 23-day-long fundraiser. The film will shoot this May.

On preparing to launch your campaign:

Indiegogo: You are taking a 24/7 job for the next 30 days, depending on how long your campaign is. Back in the day, when you wanted to fund a project, you had to travel, you had to knock on doors, make phone calls, look under rocks. But now what you're knocking on is thousands of doors.

You have to build buzz. You have to reach a crowd that can actually support you and will support you. We encourage a soft launch, which means that 24 hours before you make the main push, you launch your campaign, tell your family and friends, let them funnel in the funds so when you launch fully, people will see there is already money in the campaign. Once people start seeing 20 percent completion on a campaign, that's when strangers start donating to campaigns.

Ray Brown: Before you dive in and launch, figure out different ways to reach out to people to help. And when it does fall, how do you pick it back up? I put it up in a couple of days and just launched it without any preparation thinking that the social media traction Shemar Moore had was just going to drive it. But it didn't work that way. We had to get the fans to engage in a way where they created their own little community and talked to each other every day. You have to bring in other partners to keep it going. It's almost like launching a movie with a trailer, setting it up so that people know what is coming. He has a big fan base, but that wasn't enough.

More after the jump.

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