I spent the weekend at the London Screenwriters’ Festival. In previous years I’ve helped run the festival (including being Festival Producer in 2011) but this year my duties were light; just moderating sessions and drinking tea. This meant that I was fortunate enough to chat to many emerging and established screenwriters. A common theme that came up in conversation was opportunities for screenwriters to raise a little bit of money via crowd-funding and produce their own scripts. The festival’s creative director, Chris Jones, is a master in making everyone feel empowered to make their projects a reality. So I thought I would chip in and add some data to the dreams. I looked at Kickstarter, the largest and pre-eminent crowd-funding site, and I found…
- One in four projects on Kickstarter is a film
- 11,828 films have raised money on Kickstarter
- 17,881 films have failed, i.e. not reached their funding target
- The more Facebook friends you have, the better your campaign will do.
- Shorter is better – For a $10k project, a 30-day campaign will have a 35% chance of success whereas a 60-day campaign has 29%.
- A video increases your odds of success by two and half times
- Once your campaign reaches 40% of your goal, you have a 95% chance of raising your full target amount.
What Affects Your Chances of Kickstarter Success?
Every project is different so it’s impossible to give you a definitive list of things which guarantee crowdfunding glory. However, it is possible to look for patterns within the projects that are a success and those that aren’t. Here is what the data reveals on different variables across all Kickstarter campaigns (not just films):
- Longer campaigns fare worse than shorter ones – For an average $10,000 project, a 30-day project has a 35% chance of success, while a 60-day project has a 29% chance of success, all other things being the same.
- Having a video increases your odds of success two and half times – All else being equal, a project without a video only has a 15% chance of success while a project with video has a 37% chance of success. As filmmakers, this becomes more acute as your audience will want to see that you can deliver on your grand claims. A good example is the video Kenny Gee made for his IndieGoGo campaign to fund his short film ‘The Body’.
- Being a ‘featured’ project helps enormously – Projects that are ‘featured’ by Kickstarter have an 89% chance of being successful, compared to 30% without.
- Facebook friends count – For an average $10,000 project, if you have 10 Facebook friends, you have a 9% chance of succeeding. If you have 100 Facebook friends, it’s 20% and if you’re fortunate enough to have 1,000 Facebook friends then your chances of succeeding are 40%.
- It helps if you live in a ‘creative’ city. It’s no surprise to learn that film projects are most successful when the founder is based in Los Angeles, and the pattern holds for other fields, such as music projects being most popular in Nashville and technology projects in San Francisco. However, the correlation is deeper than just these iconic examples. When Professor Ethan Mollick looked at this issue he found that “the higher the proportion of creative individuals in a founder’s city, the higher the chance of success for that founder.” You can see his analysis in detail here.
- The more you ask for, the lower your chances of success. If all other factors are equal, projects under $10,000 have a 38% success rate, projects under $50,000 have an 18% success rate and projects under $100,000 have a 7% success rate.
Film & Video Projects on Kickstarter
The data above was for all projects on Kickstarter but let’s have a gander at the Film & Video category. 25% of the projects on Kickstarter are films and videos.
The average Film & Video project asks for $4,466 and 13% have raised more than $20,000.
Is It Possible To Predict Which Projects Will Succeed?
A typical successful Kickstarter project will receive large amount of money at the start, a slow trickle through the middle of the campaign and then another surge at the end. By using these typical patterns it’s possible to predict the odds of success of an active campaign based on the amount raised to date. See below for a chart showing the correlation. For example, if your funding goal is $100k or more (blue line), your odds at 60% funds raised are 78% that it will be successful. Kicktraq is a great site which can be used to track and analyse on-going campaigns.
Over and Under Raising
It appears that there is a big disparity between how much campaigns over or under raise. In short, if you succeed you tend to do so by a small margin, whereas those who fail, fail big.
- Of those projects which reached their funding goal, one in four raised raised less than 3% over their goal and half raised less than 111% of their goal.
- Of the projects which fail to reach their goals, only one in ten reached 30% of their funding goal and only 4% made it to 50% of their goal.
Some of the data from today’s post came directly from Kickstarter and some from external sources including AppStarter, Allywatch, StartupAdventures, Éccole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and Professor Ethan Mollick of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. There has been some debate about how much data Kickstarter publishes on projects which miss their target. Consequently, some researchers have resorted to scraping the Kickstarter site and using methods like searching for tweets featuring the word ‘kickstarter’ to locate and track all projects. I’m indebted to AppStarter and Professor Ethan Mollick of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for their hard work in this field. Their research also neatly illustrates how early missteps can lead to better research – AppStarter’s initial data was publicly criticised by Professor Mollick for statistical errors but instead of taking a defensive approach, AppStarter enlisted his help to re-analyse the data and produce more robust results. In all of this data I feel it important to repeat the statistician’s mantra – Correlation Is Not Causation. We can only look back over past campaigns and spot patterns, not produce certainties to guarantee success. Finally, Sheri Candler asked that my blog feature more kittens. Here’s something for you, Sheri.