Enemy of Man
On the 6th April the Enemy of Man Kickstarter campaign finished having just hit its target of $250K with 2 hours of the campaign remaining, it was a nail-biter. I was more invested than most campaigns I usually get behind. A year prior I had met with Steve Harvey the producer of Enemy of Man, and what followed ended up with Andrew Harmer, Liam Garvo, Martin Walker and myself running their Kickstarter campaign.
Steve Harvey's company SP Locations helped us out massively with all the location gear on 'The Fitzroy'. So when he asked our location manager Martin Walker if he could meet up for a chat to discuss a film he was thinking of using Kickstarter to raise finance for, it was the least we could do. I had no idea of what to expect, I knew Steve had worked on huge productions like the Batman and the Harry Potter films and he gave no suggestions as to what this production was before we met up. So when he pulled out his laptop and showed me the complete teaser trailer for Enemy of Man directed by Vincent Regan, to say I was blown away was an understatement. He went on to explain how they were looking to raise finance on Kickstarter with the rest of the finances raised via other means. He asked for any advice I may have on how to go about something like this, of which I happily shared my thoughts. Steve also asked if I knew of anyone who could help with the day to day running of the campaign and social media, as they were too busy to be as hands on as they would like and they weren't all that clued up on social media. At the time I couldn't think of anyone, and said I would have a think and come back to him. It was left there.
Impressive nature of the trailer really resonated. Usually these things looked cobbled together, this had a slickness to it you don't often see from Indie productions - it stuck with me. I discussed the project with Andrew and Liam from 'The Fitzroy' and we all agreed there was an oppotunity to get involved in something very exciting, potentially helping a film at another level all together. So we decided to put together a plan for how we would run the Kickstarter campaign if Enemy of Man were our film.
There were two major stumbling blocks. First of all - why? Why Kickstarter? Why should a film of this nature, with the stars it has attached for a globally recognised story need to turn to Kickstarter funding? There was a real danger that fans would feel it wasn't within the essence of what Kickstarter was about.
Secondly, there was the target. This is a multi million dollar feature film, and $1 million had been discussed as the possible target. Even if $1 million dollars was reached, this is only a portion of the funding and if the target was to be met we couldn't guarantee the film happening (though I don't think you can quite guarantee any film 100% will happen even if the budget is found, you get the point). Kickstarter campaigns like Veronica Mars, Wish I was here and the Newest Hottest Spike Lee Joint had targets in the millions and were partly able to meet them because they were able to offer rewards associated with the delivery of the final film as they were only looking for money on Kickstarter to begin with. We didn't feel feel this possible on Enemy of Man. It was obvious to us, the film would be a large scale production, so what were we to do - be colourful with the truth and say we had raised so many millions and now we just need another million to make the film happen? The community are too smart for that and would see through it in 5 minutes flat - as shown by Zach Braff funny enough, who I think could have gone on to reach a much higher target if he hadn't openly admitted that he had turned down financing to get the film funded on Kickstarter.
The best solution we had to both these problems was just to be open and honest about it. Yes this film has a commercial look and feel about it that you might think would be easy to finance, though funny enough its tricky to finance a Shakespeare movie without a proven audience (Kickstarter ended up being just that audience). Then to go on and focus the rewards for the film around the companion short film 'Instruments of Darkness' which was made at the same time as the trailer. These we could guarantee with some integrity.
Wheels in Motion
We still thought it important to offer the feature film as a reward, after all thats why the vast majority of people would be looking to back. So for all pledges of $15 or more we suggested not only do you get the script with notes, a copy of short film - as an early adopter we would also supply the finished feature film if and when it were to be finished. This we felt was very competitively priced for a Kickstarter film campaign.
The plan we proposed was sent to the Enemy of Man team. What followed was a series of meetings where we became more and more involved, to the point of no return and it was clear we would be the ones entrusted with running the Kickstarter campaign, the marketing of it and the social media. I should add, I've never had the intention of being a crowdfunding campaign runner or manager (or what ever its called), this was just an oppotunity that came up for a very exciting film that was very difficult to turn down.
There was one last major issue to deal with, the target. Now the figure of a million had been mentioned, as had doing the campaign in dollars or pounds. We soon came to the conclusion that doing it in dollars was the way to go, as this would be easier to break into the American market we so badly needed. (Ironically this decision would go on to cause a roughly 4-5 month delay in the start of the campaign, as it turned out launching a US campaign wasn't as easy as we had expected!)
The target figure was debated and went back and forth. Certain members of the team wanted to go for $1 million or $500K as they felt the film had potential to be as big as Veronica Mars, I never quite saw it that way. Veronica Mars had such a huge target audience that were keen to see a feature film made for show cancelled before its time. Enemy of Man has big name actors involved, though were tens of thousands of their fans desperate to see them in a Macbeth movie, we weren't so sure. There was also no pre-existing fanbase for the film as it had yet to be really promoted. To add to that, the campaign couldn't fail - if it had of done, it was sure to put an end to any chance of the film ever happening. So we proposed and agreed on a target figure of $250K, enough money to get the film into pre-production allowing the finance to be completed independently and a safer, realistic target given the stumbling blocks outlined.
I won't go into detail about the day to day running of the campaign (I'll perhaps save that for a future blog). Looking back at what happened with the campaign, I'm pleased with how it went and obviously delighted to see it hit its target, I am somewhat surprised it didn't seem to really catch alight until the final few days of the campaign - almost as if fans, like so many other projects, knew that was the time to get behind the project or else the Kickstarter would fail. There was a really steady flow of support throughout the 30 days, with plenty of people backing, sharing and talking about the campaign online - with lots of media and publications picking up the story. I guess I had half expected the campaign to go viral within the first 12 hours of launching it, thanks to the names involved and the trailer created - I had expected it to take on a life of its own. Upon reflection I wonder if that was due to the target. Was $250K really that exciting, when the big Kickstarter projects were making millions? Perhaps if the target was a $1million then it would have been a story in itself, something else for fans to get excited about and get there teeth stuck into. "Have you seen what these crazy guys at Enemy of Man are doing? And they need a Million Dollars to make it happen! #KickstartMacbeth"... Something like that at least. I guess we'll never know, as we weren't able to risk not hitting the target.
The Kickstarter Agency!?
In the end it was fascinating experience, it certainly had its challenges and it was at times essentially working on someone else's baby, though the process was rewarding and I'm glad I did it. Myself and the other guys involved in running it have since moved on to other projects. As pre-agreed, those creating the film are entrusted with the day to day running of everything related to the Kickstarter, marketing, creating the film and delivering all the rewards.
In the weeks post the campaign I wondered what it would be like to do crowdfunding campaign management as a business - running other people's campaigns. Could be mastered? Taking the initial campaign from conception right through to final delivery of rewards, developing the marketing and practical processing the steps involved - as there is definitely a gap in the market. I imagined creating an agency beginning with a small team that could plan and prepare everything that goes into running a Kickstarter campaign and running multiple campaigns at once. It would be a fun, dynamic and exciting place to work, where new things would be happening all the time and exciting pieces of content created. The service could be scalable, dependant on the campaign and the target. Over time it would then start to become something so much larger, where we could market and promote our own films. I thought what a brilliant idea, and I could even begin to slot the personnel in place to create the perfect team dynamic. There was just one problem, I fundamentally didn't believe in it!
RUN YOUR OWN CAMPAIGN
After Enemy of Man it was more clear in my head than ever - the best people to run a crowdfunding campaign are the very people who are looking to raise finance to get what ever it is they are doing off the ground. Ryan Koo from No Film School puts it much better than I ever could in this piece on 'Don't hire someone to run your Kickstarter campaign'. In the end who's going to care more about your campaign the person paid to run it, or the person who cares passionately about what they are trying to do? Who will put in the tough hours? Who will know more about the thing they are trying to raise funding for? Who will come across more genuine about why they need to hit the target?
That is why if you are looking to raise funding through Kickstarter, do it yourself! There is so much good information out there to research and people who will happily give you any advice you need (Even check out my previous tips!). If you put in the hard work, supporters will repay you. If you apply and commitment yourself, you'll get one hell of a kick out of it. After all, isn't trying to fulfil YOUR creative ambitions why Kickstarter was set up in the first place?
So now I'm following my own mantra, and I've turned down other requests to raise funding for other peoples campaigns and I'm now running a campaign for the next short film I'm producing called 'One Last Dance'. Its directed by Luke Losey, stars Jonathan Pryce with music by Orbital. I'm incredibly excited and enthused, as its a film I'll be producing - I'll be able to throw my passion into it in a way that was possibly lacking with 'Enemy of Man'. Check out the campaign here and let me know what you think: http://www.onelastdance.co.uk/ks
Do you agree or disagree with any of my thoughts shared? Have you hired someone to run a Kickstarter campaign or done it yourself? If so I'd love to who how you found the experience.