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A one-man consulting machine, John T. Trigonis has worked with numerous filmmakers worldwide to create compelling crowdfunding campaigns that not only reach, but also exceed their goals. An independent filmmaker and successful crowdfunder himself, Trigonis has literally written the book on Crowdfunding for Filmmakers, and now puts his skills to greater use with Indiegogo as the funding platform's specialist for film and video campaigns.

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The Elements of Style for Crowdfunding Filmmakers by John T. Trigonis

A crowdfunding campaign for an independent film should strive to be an extension of the indie film you’re looking to produce.

That means we should take the time and dress up our campaigns for success in their Sunday bests, so to speak, and here are a few style tips for setting up a dynamic campaign that sells itself with style and class.

  • Design around your story

…and not the other way around. I still see a lot of campaigns simply slapping images of varying sizes onto a campaign page and calling it design. You wouldn’t just slap on a button down shirt and go to an über formal gathering all grunged out, would you? Button up your images and other assets with the finer details, like the filmmakers behind What Lola Wants did with their recent Indiegogo success.

  • Make your look modern

…unless you’re making a period piece. Then, make it period. There’s something to be said for vintage clothing –– I mean, that’s all I wear these days –– but a crowdfunding campaign should keep up with the trends of the time. That might mean something as simple as CAPITALIZING all of the incentives in your perks or rewards column so they stand out at a quick glance, or a tad more complex like adding an anchor text to your campaign’s HTML code so your audience in France can read all about your film campaign in their own language.

  • Keep your beard trimmed

…and although this sounds like advice for a hipster, it’s pertinent to crowdfunding an indie film. We’re filmmakers for a reason, so chances are we don’t like to read that much text. Well, our audiences are the same, so be sure that you use as little black text on white background as you can, but still get the message across of what you’re film is about, who’s attached, and why you’re crowdfunding in the first place.

  • Be sure to stand out in a crowd

…so that people can easily spot you anywhere they turn. I stand out at every event I attend by wearing a blazer and a hat. With a campaign, this pertains most to social media, so make sure we can find you on Twitter and Facebook easily. If your platform of choice has a section for easily showcasing where else they can find your campaign, the way Indiegogo does, then make sure you connect your social media to them. If not, work it into the campaign text.

  • Don’t skimp on the accessories

Just how a proper pocket square or a simple pin can complete even a purposefully unkempt appearance, a proper pie chart detailing what you’ll do with the funds raised is a must have accessory in crowdfunding today. It’s easy to find a standard pie chart and fill in some details, but something standard in a campaign alive with style will only serve to dim that campaign’s shine. Get creative with your pie charts the way these filmmakers did for their horror film Found Footage 3-D.

  • Always wear the hat

…and never let the hat wear you. In crowdfunding an indie film, this means you should be proud to wear your campaign anywhere you go and be free to talk about how awesome it is with confidence. This way, when you show someone at a cocktail party your campaign page from your smart phone, or give them a campaign card so they can check it out later, all the smooth talk you’ll be spilling won’t be all hype. It’ll be an impression, and first impressions are everything.

 

Want to hear more from John T. Trigonis? Check out his tweets for some top tips for filmmakers!

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Crowdfunding tips, crowdfinding

Crowdfunding comes with its own set of myths and legends…

Some of the legends are the obvious ones: Veronica Mars, Video Game High School seasons 1 – 3Gosnell the MovieBut there’s only one myth that still exists about crowdfunding that always proves disheartening. The myth goes something like this: If I launch my crowdfunding campaign, random people are going to fund my indie film.

Unfortunately, this just isn’t the case.

I’ve written many times that crowdfunding begins with us, the filmmakers. But before the crowdfunding starts, there exists another, more important but less finely honed aspect of online fundraising for independent film that can lead us to the kinds of success stories that these myths are based on. 

I call it crowdfinding.

Now some of you may think I meant to type “crowdfunding” with a “U” instead of an “I” but if you placed a bet on that assumption, you’d be paying up. Crowdfinding, as I define it, is the stage that comes before the crowdfunding. It’s when we go out and find out whom our community is made up of and whom our audiences are.

And it doesn’t stop with just finding them. We then have to engage and interact with them on a higher level that is more meaningful that a quick retweet of an article they posted on Twitter. This is the time to chat with them about the things we have in common; the time to get to know these folks; ask them questions about who they are and what they’re up to; and it’s a time to open ourselves up to answering their questions about who we are, too.

It’s a time to get witty with our replies and have fun with the things we say and share on social media.

In short, this is the time to be ourselves –– our 100% authentic selves.

Because it’s in you whom those folks will ultimately invest their time, attention, and money once you move from crowdfinding to crowdfunding. And you’ll find that it’s much easier to triumph over your fundraising goal once you’ve put in the preliminary legwork of building real relationships with both your community and the particular audience for your indie film. And they are not necessarily one and the same, but that’s a topic for another blog post. 

Just take a look at all the crowdfunding legends –– the Don Cheadles, Spike Lees, and Wong Fus of the world –– they all identified and interacted with their respective crowds years before they ever had the notion of inviting them to take an active part in creating more of what those audiences want to see. Don did it by making a name for himself as an actor; Spike did it by making a splash with Do the Right Thing and continuing to make films that his audience wants to see; and the guys at Wong Fu Productions spent years creating YouTube content before inviting their 2.3M subscribers on the journey to create their first feature-length film.

And before we play the “but they’re celebrities” card, let’s debunk that myth too. The only difference between these folks and us is that they’re raising funds from the crowd on a grander scale than our standard $10,000 – $50,000 “truly indie” film campaigns, and the reason is simple: they’ve already done their crowdfinding and have built lasting relationships with their fans, and this is something we can all accomplish, too –– by focusing our time, energy, and genuine efforts at really getting to know who the people are who want to watch our films and make every interaction we have with them count for something deeper than a single crowdfunding transaction. 

Do this, and we’ll always be able to count on them to never “get lost” once we find them.    

 

Want to hear more from John T. Trigonis? Check out his tweets for some top tips for filmmakers!

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Get “Going” with Facebook Events When Crowdfunding Your Indie Film

It’s no secret that Facebook has made it extremely difficult for filmmakers and other creatives to connect with their audiences from their Facebook pages by limiting our reach to only 10% per post.

Facebook’s remedy proves quite pricey – “boosting” our posts. But unless you’re prepared to spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on boosted posts, you still won’t be anywhere near reaching 100% of the audience you originally and organically earned.

My alternative? Set up a Facebook event for your crowdfunding campaign instead of doing your online fundraising through your film’s Facebook page. You have most of the same features in an event as you do in a page, such as the ability to post updates, photos and videos to all your invitees, but they come without the costs now associated with pages.

For now, at least…

Setting up a Facebook event for your indie film’s crowdfunding campaign isn’t as simple as plugging in some info and inviting your friends. As with anything related to marketing and crowdfunding, you need to make sure your event stands out from the others out there.

Here are a few things to consider when setting one up:

  • Name: Come up with a snazzy title that will make people not want to miss out, as if this was an actual, physical event. The name of your film simply won’t do.
  • Details: Keep details short and sweet on your event page, and word it in such a way that your invitees will want to visit your crowdfunding campaign for the full details about your film project, and will also be able to fund it, while they’re there.
  • Where: This one is very important. This is where your crowdfunding campaign’s short link should go, to make it very easy for everyone to click and go to it so they can go fund it.
  • When: This one’s simple –– set this to the duration of your campaign, much the way it’s set on the campaign page itself.
  • Privacy: You can make your event “Public” or set it to “Open Invite.” In that case, anyone you invite can also invite others, and this can be an extremely valuable feature if you can get those initial invitees spreading the word about your campaign to their friends.

Now, just as important as setting up your event properly is making sure to keep the event alive and thriving with updates about your campaign, which will go out to all those who are marked as “going” to the event.

Perhaps the only difficulty here is that there probably won’t be any giveaways, dancing, and free booze on offer. But what you can offer up is a deeper connection to the campaign and to the film, the same way we used to do with a Facebook page, and with Facebook constantly mucking things up for filmmakers and crowdfunders alike, and until Google Plus levels up a notch as a viable social network, we need to constantly be on the lookout for new ways of engaging our friends and fan base as possible by having a place to congregate in a virtual setting.

And what better way than inviting them to the main “event” to stay up and party with us?

John T. Trigonis, Indiegogo, Crowdfunding, Indie Films,

One of my best friends recently gave me an old photograph from our university years in the late 1990s, back when I studied creative writing during the day and rocked out in a few bands by moonlight.

Looking at this particular photo of me strumming my guitar for a local Jersey City band, I remembered how much hard work went into packing the floor of that venue in Hoboken, NJ for that particular gig. How many flyers I had to hand out to random folks and how many times I had to remind friends and family to be sure to show up and support us.

And the folks who showed up were mostly our friends and family, with a few people we didn’t know personally.

This got me thinking about crowdfunding for indie film, and how it’s really no different that a band of musicians getting ready to promote a their next gig. We need to start with our innermost circle –– family, friends, and in the case of independent film, diehard supporters of your previous work –– and get them 100% on board with us before any random people will listen to our stories enough to help us pay for the making of those stories.

It all goes back to the concept of an empty restaurant. No one wants to eat at a place that doesn’t have at least a few folks inside enjoying a warm meal. And no restaurant wants to hear the inevitable question that surfaces from being devoid of customers: “Are you guys still open?” (This all in spite of the neon sign outside advertising “Open 24 Hours.”)

That’s why savvy restaurateurs make sure to seat their first customers by the windows, to make sure all of us outside see those happy diners digging in. And similarly, in crowdfunding, we want to see others putting their dollars into the pot before we do.

Back to the indie music scene: When the band members promote, they do so to their friends and family first because they will be the first ones to attend their shows until the band’s music out further into the world. With validation from this inner circle, we can then begin to reach our outer networks.

That said, when you crowdfund your next indie film, be sure to get your family and friends on board first with a soft launch (and you can read all about how to do that properly here), so that when random people stumble onto your campaign, it doesn’t look like a dead diner, but rather a bustling five-star restaurant that might just become the talk of the crowd with a lil’ help for our friends.

 

Want to hear more from John T. Trigonis? Check out his tweets for some top tips for filmmakers!

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Social Bridgework: Creating a Solid Foundation Before Crowdfunding Your Indie Film

Much the way you shouldn’t go about crowdfunding any project by yourself, you really shouldn’t expect to reach a substantial goal of, say, $50,000 or more without doing the proper preliminary work, and one of the most important, yet highly overlooked aspects of this legwork is building your audience first.

Sure, you can and will establish a community while you’re crowdfunding your indie film, but you’ll need a core fan base first, made of folks who’ve been on your side for months or maybe years, and who will be among the first ones to contribute to your film campaign. This way, in those first few days of your launch people will see your campaign is not an empty diner, but a bustling five-star restaurant with a steady flow of funding that potential contributors will take notice of immediately.

The unfortunate truth is that most filmmakers don’t do this because it takes a lot of time. Prior to the launch of the Indiegogo campaign for my short film Cerise, I spent nine months mapping out the social landscapes of Facebook and Twitter. After I cut through the weeds of people I was following who weren’t Tweeting anything relevant to my field, I began searching hashtags like #filmmakers and #indiefilm, and that’s when I stumbled onto the infrastructure of an entire universe made up of individuals who shared my interests in obscure directors and the independent arts. Before long I was conversing with them on a regular basis. I started sharing posts about film topics we all enjoyed, and I was even getting retweeted more frequently. New folks soon followed. A community had been born.

And then I discovered crowdfunding. That’s right –– I had no idea what the end result would be when I signed up for a Twitter account. I joined the ranks of this 140-character-at-a-time army because I genuinely wanted to connect with others and talk about indie movies and filmmaking.

Today, however, far too many creatives sign up as project owners instead of people simply because they’re about to launch a crowdfunding campaign, and this is easily recognizable: If you’re following 1,000 people and only 50 are following you, you’re not socializing for the right reasons. On Facebook, too –– if you’ve got 500 friends but only engage with the same fifteen close ones, you’re not engaging for the right reasons, and it’ll reflect in how much funding you ultimately raise.

So in crowdfunding, be patient and build your crowd before you try and fund your film project. The best way to do this is to sign up for Twitter and Facebook and give yourself three to six months to just Tweet, chat, post interesting links, and build solid social bridges without worrying about where they might lead to. Trust me, you’ll be amazed by all the places you’ll go.

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CrowdReign, John Trigonis, Crowdfunding How To,

Oftentimes, soft launching an indie film campaign can prove one of the smartest crowdfunding tactics you can do, especially when trying to chase after that all-important “love money” – money from family, friends and supporters of your prior work – before your campaign officially launches.

What’s the difference between a soft and official launch? Starting in reverse, an official launch is the day you send out your first email to your contact list, your first Tweet and Facebook update about your film project. A soft launch is a more intimate launch before the launch that’s targeted at getting family, friends, extended relatives, and past supporters on board as the first contributors to your campaign.

Here’s how a proper soft launch should run:

In a brief email personalized for these closest of family members, friends, and supporters, explain to them that you’re about to launch a crowdfunding campaign, and that

  • You are thankful for all the support they’ve given you over the years
  • You would love for them to be among your first supporters, and
  • You will be launching on a specific date.

Notice something strange? There was absolutely no mention of “money,” “funding,” or “contributions” in this initial outreach. The focus here is simply to let them know that you’re going to run a campaign and that you’d like their support at the get-go. Period.

Then, after at least three days to one week, send them a follow-up email, this one with the focus racked on the how they can support, which is to contribute, and be sure to

• set hard deadline for them to contribute by (usually three days),
• reiterate how important it is to you that they be one of your first contributors, and
• ask them to spread the word about your campaign after they’ve contributed.

Notice something equally as strange? Yes, this entire email revolves around support, but financial and social, not financial or social. You wouldn’t want to leave them at their leisure to choose to either fund your project or spread the word – you should invite them to do both.

As you read in my “Four Factors for Factoring Down Your Crowdfunding Goal,” a solid indie film campaign raises 30% of its goal from this host committee within the first two to three days of soft launching. This way, when you “officially” launch and actively promote your campaign, those who visit will see you’ve already got a good chunk of funding and support, which builds credibility and shows the crowd that your film project just may be worth putting their faith and their funds into.

 

Want to hear more from John T. Trigonis? Check out his tweets for some top tips for filmmakers!

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Crowdreign by John T. Trigonis, crowdfunding tips for indie filmmakers

‘Easy on the Perks: Quality Over Quantity in Crowdfunding an Indie Film’, a must-read for first time crowdfunders!

It’s no secret that most people prefer quality to quantity.

Yes, you can buy six different T-shirts from your neighborhood Walmart at $10 a piece, all of which won’t last you more than a couple years, or you can spend $100 on a single T-shirt from that you’ll love to wear and that will last you longer than you’d ever expect because it’s made in America from the finest wool, locally sourced and all that goodness.

That’s quality over quantity.

With crowdfunding for an independent film, most people understand that when they contribute their hard-earned money to a crowdfunding campaign, their money will be put toward something bigger than the perks they’re getting in return as a thank-you. But this doesn’t mean as crowdfunders we should skimp on the quality of those rewards by tipping the scale of each level with lots of superfluous stuff or loading our campaigns with the maximum amount of perks allowed by any given platform.

In crowdfunding, more is not necessarily better.

While most contributors fund people and projects, there are those who are in it for they get in return and will look at the specific perks you’re offering and weigh the quality of what they’re getting against what those items are actually worth. For instance, we all know that a digital download of a feature-length movie is probably not worth more than $15, but we’ll pay it because we know that our $15 will be used to help make that movie happen. But a digital download priced at $25 or a DVD for $100? Suddenly, we become frugal shoppers because we know that’s just too much money to spend for those items.

So here are a few things to consider with regard to perks, their values, and their pricing:

$25 is too high to start

Start with a $5 social media shout out at the very least. You don’t want to make people believe that there’s a minimum amount of $25 for them to be a part of your project.

People still like their physical copies

Until Blu-rays and DVDs go the way of the dodo, you still need to offer these as perks. People (and I’m one of them) love to have physical copies and will pay extra to have them, too. But price them accordingly: Short film DVD/BD: $20 tops; Feature-length physicals can go for as much as $50, but you’re best bet it to make DVDs $25 and BDs $50.

Offer perks that can also serve as promotional materials

I tell all the Indiegogo campaigners I work with to offer a customized Facebook cover photo so that the funder can proudly show that they’ve supported the project. If their name is on it, as in “Thank you, John T. Trigonis, for #JoiningTheBeat,” you just may have a funder for life! And offer this up cheaply –– around $5 or $10 to start –– so that all of your funders have a chance to show off their support.

Think about your overhead

I got nailed with a $400 bill when I crowdfunded my short film Cerise, plus shipping and handling charges, so I am very passionate about this next point: When coming up with your physical perks (T-shirts, printed posters, etc.), always think about how much they’ll cost you to make at five units and at 500 units, and don’t forget to figure in the shipping costs, both domestic and international. Nowadays, most crowdfunders ask that contributors pay the shipping costs or will work those amounts into the perk price for domestic shipping and ask for additional amounts for international shipping.

Go “3-D!” or go home

In my very popular “Three Ps for a Successful Indie Film Campaign,” I introduced three different levels of indie film crowdfunding perks: “standard definition,” “Hi-Def,” and “3-D!” That said, as crowdfunding campaigns evolve, my ultimate advice becomes more and more relevant: Go 3-D! or go home. There are hundreds, if not thousands of indie film campaigns out there all giving away T-shirts, digital downloads, and Skype sessions with directors, and even these once HD perks are become status quo.

Our campaigns need to stand out more than ever before. Chances are the more creative, envelope-pushing, and engaging our perks are, the more people may also see the kind of quality we’ll be serving up in the films we’re looking to make.

With their help, of course.

 

Want to hear more from John T. Trigonis? Check out his tweets for some top tips for filmmakers!

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In Crowdfunding, Making Waves Isn’t All About the Money: CrowdReign - John Trigonis blog

In Crowdfunding, Making Waves Isn’t All About the Money, lots of indie filmmakers looking to crowdfund their films place far too much emphasis on the amount raised instead of rack focusing on other key aspects that make for a successful campaign.

Sure, numbers like $150,000 and $3M are impressive, but success shouldn’t solely be measured by the amount of funds raised in a crowdfunding campaign, and especially not by whether or not that campaign hits its goal.

Why, you ask? Well, the key thing to keep in mind is that many campaigns don’t hit their targets simply because they set them way too high. (If you read my first post from last month, you’ll never set too high a goal again.) That said, your campaign could still make some major waves in the indie film and crowdfunding industries because successful crowdfunding is about so much more than just the money we raise.

Here’s a quick trio of other benefits of running a campaign on Indiegogo:

Proof of concept. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker, chances are you have three to five projects that you could work on, but you’re not sure which to focus your time on first. Crowdfund it on Indiegogo; then, after setting up your campaign and running it like a rock star, if the film hits its goal, then you know the audience wants to see you make this film. If for some reason it doesn’t hit its goal, you can then scratch that project off your list (or push it to the back) and try crowdfunding another. One of your projects should resonate with the crowd, and when it does, that’s the one you should focus your full attention on.

Industry validation. Let’s say you run an Indiegogo campaign and secure $20,000 out of your $50,000 goal. You all of a sudden have some additional clout to work with –– a bunch of folks who believe in you and the film and who went one step further than a Facebook “Like” for it. Armed with this newfound value, plus a sensible business plan and a well-balanced breakfast, you can approach traditional investors with confidence and pitch them on the film and the fact that it already has an audience of x number of contributors who voted with their dollars.

Engagement with your audience. I saved the most important one for last because at the end of the day crowdfunding must put the crowd first, funding second. Engage your crowd, and the funding you want will surely come. And this engagement starts long before your campaign starts and doesn’t end when you get your full or partial funding. Engagement means creating and sustaining a dialog with your fan base, and a crowdfunding campaign only seeks to strengthen that bond.

Here’s the low down: There’s no such thing as an unsuccessful crowdfunding campaign unless we fail to take any new knowledge away from the experience and apply it to our subsequent ones to make those campaigns stronger. If we make a splash with the crowd, then the waves they help us produce will carry our film projects to even greater distances than money alone.

Want to hear more from John T. Trigonis? Check out his tweets for some top tips for filmmakers!

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Four Factors for Factoring Down Your Indie Film’s Crowdfunding Goal

Indiegogo Film and Video Campaign Specialist, John Trigonis, has teamed up with IndieReign to talk Crowdfunding! Four Factors for Factoring Down Your Indie Film’s Crowdfunding Goal is the first monthly article from his ‘CrowdReign’ series. Check out his expert level advice below…

 

One of the most difficult things in crowdfunding for filmmakers is choosing the proper target amount for your campaign. Sure, we’re quick to say we’re gonna raise $100,000 for our feature-length films because certain celebrities are setting those standards, but we need to keep in mind the importance of setting realistic goals, ones we can surely commit to bull’s-eyeing.

So here to help are four quick things every filmmaker should take into consideration to make a more informed decision:

1. Network

Size matters. But more than size, engagement matters most, and how long your network has been engaged with you and the kinds of content you’re keen to post on social media. What’s more impressive than 1,500 “Likes” on your film’s Facebook page? How about a post that garners 100+ “Likes”? That’s 100 people paying attention who may ultimately help pay for the making of your film.

2. Time

For how long are you going to run your campaign? A month? Forty-five days? Longer? Campaign duration impacts how much funding you can raise. In choosing the right length, ask yourself this question: how much time can I put into running this campaign? It’s written in my book Crowdfunding for Filmmakers that crowdfunding is a full-time job. If you only have twenty hours per week to give to your campaign, keep it short. Two hours a day? Keep it shorter, and your goal lower so you can hit it quicker.

3. Team

Sure, you can raise funds by yourself, but statistics confirm that by having a team by your side, you’ll raise more money. If you have a larger team, you can raise larger amounts of money, since each team member may have his or her own network to tap into. Also, having a diverse team with specific skills you can put to use during the campaign boosts your chances of raising larger amounts of funding.

4. Creativity

With more crowdfunding campaigns launching every day, it’s become more important than ever to get creative with your campaigning, to craft experiences rather than run-of-the-mill fundraisers. The more creative you can get with various elements of your campaign like perks, for instance, the more noteworthy your campaign will be. Be different and push the envelope on what can be done through crowdfunding. Your audience is watching, but it’s also watching every other campaign, too. How will yours rank?

One final bit of advice

I recommend most Indiegogo campaigners to “shoot low and aim high” when choosing a goal. You want $50,000 from a modest initial network with 10 hours a week to crowdfund with a team of three on a campaign that’s a step or two above “standard definition”? Shoot for $25,000 and hit that goal in half the time. Then aim high for a $50,000 stretch goal. Set your goal at $50,000 instead, hitting only half of that seems a little less than successful. Surpass your $25,000 goal, however, and you become king of the crowd.

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