Thomas Mai is a film producer and sales agent, turned crowdfunding pioneer. He is currently running Mission: Pozible for the crowdfunding enterprise Pozible. He describes his job as helping "filmmakers connect with their audience before, during and after they have made a film." He has been involved with eleven crowdfunding exercises.
The following article first appeared in Truly Free Film last October.
Filmmakers: You Are Being Lied To
Filmmakers, you’ve been lied to. Film school has taught you to pitch the WHAT about your project — WHAT is the story, WHAT is the cast, WHAT are the target group for the film etc — but the WHAT is not the most important element when it comes to crowdfunding. The WHY is! You see it comes down to your likability on camera. ‘But I’m cool and I’m a great filmmaker’ I hear you say. While that’s good for you, that’s not why people want to engage with your crowdfunding campaign.
More people will support something that is important to them, something that matters to them. Whether you are doing a drama, a comedy, a sci-fi project, or a documentary on environmental changes, more people will support you if you tell them WHY it matters that you make the film and therefore WHY it matters to them. You have to smitten your audience and become an ambassador for your own film.
Having run eleven crowdfunding campaigns, I can tell you this from my own experience — People don’t support WHAT you do, people support WHY you do it.
In crowdfunding you’re communicating directly with your audience. Meaning all the old pitching rules go out the window. For the past 100 years pitching for films has been business to business (B2B), meaning that you were speaking to a person or entity that represents the business side of the film making whether that be the distributor, investor, TV station or sales agent. These gatekeepers were integral as they were the ones that would make the film available to your audience. With crowdfunding though, you’re pitching directly to the audience, the consumer. It is a Business to Consumer model (B2C) with your audience wanting to know the WHY. The better you communicate the WHY the better the conversion rate from people watching your crowdfunding trailer to people funding your film.
Which is why I always say YOU should be in the trailer. Not only because you are unique, but because your take on the WHY is what makes your film stand out. Which brings me back to my point that the more “likable” you are in your crowdfunding trailer the better your chances are of raising money.
Think about this for a second, would you ever give money to someone you don’t like or don’t trust? Add passion, humour and the WHY in your crowdfunding trailer and you are off to a great start. Isn’t it better that you can have a direct relationship with your audience to help get your film made? If you had told Charlie Chaplin that there is a free tool where you can get millions of people to hear your message for free and then ask them to all contribute and send you money, he would have signed up in a second. Instead Chaplin had to fight tough battles with the studios and start United Artists.
Yes crowdfunding is a great way to raise money, but if you forget about the money for a second then you will find that crowdfunding is a great way to build early awareness, marketing and most importantly an audience. If you are successful at crowdfunding you will no longer only represent a vision, script and a budget, but you will also get to represent your audience and that is where the real value is in today’s film industry.
There are three questions that you need to answer in your crowdfunding trailer:
1. Why is your project important?
2. Why should people care?
3. Why should people give you money?
If you can’t answer these questions, you are not ready to start a crowdfunding campaign, in my opinion. Start with the WHY and it will be easier for you to build an audience, awareness, early marketing and crowdfunding.