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November 30, 2015

Film crowdfunding tips – What the data says you should do

Crowdfunding tips for filmmakers 2I’m continuing my investigation into crowdfunding and today I’m sharing some practical film crowdfunding tips. In previous articles I’ve looked at the number of projects, where they’re based, how much money they’re asking for and the day and time they’re launched. We’ve seen a few correlations with success, some predictable (projects which ask for less money do better) and some less so (projects which end on a Sunday fare poorest).

For this article, I thought I would use the data to give some specific film crowdfunding tips and nuggets of advice to help you create a successful film crowdfunding campaign. This is the result of a data-crunching research project into the 47,809 film crowdfunding campaigns launched on Kickstarter between its inception in April 2009 and October 2015. In summary…

  • 39% of Kickstarter film projects last 30 days (19% last under 30 days and 42% last over 30 days)
  • The projects with the highest success rates are 18 days long
  • The success rate for campaigns with a video is twice that of those without a video
  • The average length of Kickstarter videos is 3 minutes 20 seconds
  • Campaigns with videos between 3 to 4 minutes were the most successful, with a success rate of 51.9%
  • Campaigns by people who launched a project within a week of joining Kickstarter failed 74% of the time
  • Those who joined Kickstarter over a year before they launched a campaign had a success rate of 49%
  • Kickstarter film projects offer an average of 8.6 rewards
  • Those offering 30 rewards succeeded 63.9% of the time
  • On average, creators used 2,682 characters to describe their campaigns.

One of the best things about crowdfunding is that most of the major sites keep the campaigns online, even after the deadline is over. This means you can browse through old campaigns and learn what worked and what didn’t.

If you want to learn more about Crowdfunding then check out my new course ‘A Crash Course In Crowdfunding For Filmmakers‘. You can see the full syllabus and watch some free previews udemy.com/crowdfunding-for-filmmakers.

Ok, enough preamble – bring on the film crowdfunding tips!

1. Run a short campaign (unless you’re asking for over $100,000)

Most major film crowdfunding sites require you to set a campaign deadline. It varies by site…

  • On Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Pozible you can choose between 1 and 60 days
  • Ulule allow up to 90 days (as did Kickstarter until June 2011)
  • Seed and Spark allow you to pick 30, 45 or 60 days
  • Slated doesn’t force you to set a deadline but they recommend it.

19% of Kickstarter projects last under 30 days, 39% last exactly 30 days and 42% last over 30 days. A small number of projects tried 24 or 48 hour campaigns; successful ones include…

The projects with the highest success rates are 18 days long (67% of the 256 film projects lasting 18 days were successful), followed by those lasting 12 days (63%), 24 days (61.9%), 21 days (61.7%) and 19 days (61.4%).

film crowdfunding tips success by campaign length

Note: The big drop in the middle of the chart above represents projects that lasted exactly 30 days. The success rates for projects lasting 29, 30 and 31 days is 59%, 40% and 55% respectively.

Across all Kickstarter film campaigns, the success rate for projects under 30 days is quite high (57%), less so for those lasting exactly 30 days (40%) and worse still for those longer than 30 days (38%). However, this doesn’t take into account that most of the shorter campaigns are asking for less money. The average campaign for under 30 days is seeking $32,779, which rises to $61,223 for those of exactly 30 days and again to $75,480 for the longer campaigns. To factor this in, I subdivided the results into four groups.

As you can see, running a shorter campaign is correlated with a higher chance of success for all but the biggest projects.

film crowdfunding tips success by goal duration

2. Have a campaign video (that’s 2 – 5 minutes long)

All major crowdfunding sites allow creators to put a campaign video at the top of the main page. It is the best chance you have to introduce yourself, make your audience care and push them into becoming backers.

My personal favorite is by Kenny Gee’s Indiegogo campaign for his short film The Body, which you can see to the right.

These videos can take a lot of time, energy and money. Early crowdfunding campaigns tended to have very simple videos but over the years they have become increasingly sophisticated and professionally produced.

So is it worth investing in creating one? The data says ‘yes’.

The success rate for campaigns with a video is twice that of those without a video (20.8% with no video versus 42.5% with a video).

film crowdfunding tips projects with video

The average length of Kickstarter videos is 3 minutes 20 seconds, with a median of 2 minutes 37 seconds.

film crowdfunding tips video length

Campaigns with videos lasting between three and four minutes were the most successful, with a success rate of 51.9%. However, the success rate was pretty high for all campaigns with videos that were between two and five minutes long. Videos shorter than two minutes were successful 42.3% of the time and the success rate for those over five minutes was 36.9%.

film crowdfunding tips sccess by video length

3. Spend time learning the crowdfunding platform you’re using

Research works – the longer you spend learning the ins and outs of the crowdfunding platform you’re thinking of using, the better placed you are to run your campaign. How do I know this? Firstly, I’ve spent a long time over the past few months looking at film crowdfunding projects and you start to see the same mistakes time and again with projects that failed. So many of them show a lack of understanding about how their sites actually work. Secondly, the data tells us that the people who show up and immediately launch a Kickstarter project perform worse than those who have been on the site for a while.

The people who launched projects within a week of opening an account on Kickstarter had the lowest success rate, just 26%, whereas those who had been on the site for at least a year had a success rate of 49%.

film crowdfunding tips success by when joined

4. Offer more rewards

The basic idea of crowdfunding is that people pledge money to your film campaign in return for certain ‘things’ (called “rewards” on Kickstarter and “perks” on Indiegogo). These ‘things’ could be…

  • Physical, such as a DVD, t-shirt or poster
  • Virtual, such as a digital copy of the film, a downloadable game or a PDF of the script
  • Non-tangible, such as access to a behind-the-scenes community, a Skype call with the filmmakers or being killed by a zombie on-screen

Most Kickstarter film projects offer just a handful of rewards (8.6 on average).

film crowdfunding tips rewards offered

As projects get bigger, so too does the number of rewards. Projects seeking between $100k and $1 million offer an average of 23.7 rewards and those trying to raise over $1 million offer an average of 51 rewards.

film crowdfunding tips number rewards

95% of Kickstarter film projects offer under 17 rewards, and yet the data shows us that the more rewards you offer, the higher the success rate. Projects offering 20 rewards have a 59.9% success rate and those offering 30 rewards succeed 63.9% of the time, way above the overall average for Kickstarter film projects which is 42.6%.

film crowdfunding tips success by rewards

5. Tell us more about your campaign

Below the main video on your crowdfunding page you can put all manner of text, images, links and other embedded items to try and convince people to back your campaign. Kickstarter has a limit of 35,000 characters and Indiegogo doesn’t seem to have a limit (I tried to find the indiegogo limit by uploading an ever-increasing amount of text to a campaign description input box and I gave up before their system did!)

But how much do people actually write about their campaign? On average, creators used 2,682 character to describe their campaigns. For a sense of scale, this article contains 11,054 characters (not counting comments, sidebars, menus, etc). That’s right, I’ve written over four times what filmmakers normally write when asking the public for many $’000s.

The number of characters in successful campaigns has increased each year, from 2,395 in 2009 to 3,255 so far in 2015 (a 36% increase) whereas the count for failed projects has actually decreased by 1% over the same period (from 2,149 to 2,126).

film crowdfunding tips character description

Data and Methodology for these film crowdfunding tips

I looked at all film crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter launched between the start of Kickstarter in April 2009 (the first film project I have was launched on 29 April 2009) and 2nd October 2015. I excluded any projects still live when I collected the last of my data. My formula for calculating success rates was “successful campaigns / (successful campaigns + failed campaigns)“. This is very similar but not identical to how Kickstarter calculates success rates on their stats page.

All amounts mentioned are in US dollars. If the project was run in any other currency then the figures were converted into US dollars using the exchange rate on the date the project was launched.

To read more about my methodology and notes please read the Methodology section at the bottom of my first article in this series.

Needless to say, correlation is not causation. There could be many reasons why some of these correlations have occurred and there is no one single formula for automatic success.

Epilogue

I hope that these film crowdfunding tips are useful to filmmakers. From all the research I’ve done I’d say that the main error filmmakers make when launching a campaign is a lack of preparation. The don’t seem to factor in how long it will take, how much research they need to do and how much work it is overall. It’s not fun to work for months preparing for a campaign only then to spend another month asking everyone you’ve ever met for money, many times over. But then again, the money you raise doesn’t need to be repaid and you stay in control of your final film, so I think it’s a fair trade-off.

I’m sharing my research in a number of ways. Firstly, in these free blog articles (here’s last week’s and the week before) and also an online course. I took all the research I had, plus interviews with over 50 filmmakers to make ‘A Crash Course In Crowdfunding For Filmmakers‘. I have put a couple of the first lessons below and you can see the full syllabus (plus watch some free previews) at stephenfollows.com/course/crowdfunding-for-filmmakers.

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17 Responses

  1. Sebastian Klassman January 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

    Great data on film crowdfunding and tips that can help with campaigns. There are more niche platforms now available as well such as Seed & Spark. Rewards have always to me been one of the mysteries of film crowdfunding. I think they need to be structured well. How are you going to draw people in to support the project, especially if there is no following that existed previously. If assuming its a brand new film.

  2. Eugene Boyle February 29, 2016 at 2:54 pm #

    Thank you for this insightful article. I have been hesitant to try crowdfunding for any of our projects for fear of not reaching our goal and being embarrassed by a failed campaign. Your tips and observations have given me some additional courage.

  3. crowdfunding community May 14, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    Many thanks for this detailed post along with data about crowdfunding campaign & techniques, in search of the good post of crowdfunding tips, I landed on the page. Wondering, if we can re-blog this post on our blog.

    Recently, we launched a crowdfunding community where like minded people can meet, discuss and promote every kind of crowdfunding campaign to get backers and investors.

    • Stephen Follows May 16, 2016 at 8:15 am #

      Hi. I’m happy for you guys to share the link but I’m trying to keep duplicate copies of my content off the net as I would prefer if people read my work on this site.

  4. Amos July 20, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    Very informative. Thanks a lot. Launching my own Indiegogo campaign in a few days.

  5. T.C. March 16, 2017 at 3:33 pm #

    Great site, Stephen. Thank you!

    Can you speak to the issue of state sales tax on perks? I talked to 2 tax opinion experts at the California office of finance, and also to a CPA, as well as looked up various articles online over the course of a year or so — all of which addressed the fact that physical rewards/perks or even digital rewards/perks (such as digital downloads) will be subject to state sales tax (which apparently has to be filed on a rolling basis rather than year-end) — and the tax is not based on the perceived value of the perk received, rather it’s based on the donation level. So a mere t-shirt given for a $25 “donation” is taxes at the donation level, rather than the value of the t-shirt. They all told me that money given to a crowdfunding campaign ONLY qualifies as a true donation if nothing is received in return. The only exception they mentioned was having one’s name placed in the credits. Thanks Stephen.

    • Gigi Bannister July 30, 2018 at 7:47 pm #

      T.C> do you operate under a 501(c)(3) non profit? Or have one attached? Because that helps a lot. Ask your CPA the advantages.

  6. Shant Kiraz November 29, 2017 at 1:45 am #

    Excellent article, Stephen. This post served as inspiration as we put together our blog post. We also cited you 😉 https://www.studiobinder.com/blog/crowdfunding-short-film-funding/

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