Fundraising in a Box: Crowdsourcing Microgrants
March 14, 2011 @ 3:30pm, Austin Convention Center
Dianne Debicella, Fractured Atlas
Angela Tucker, Director, Asexuality: The Making Of A Movement
Danae Ringelmann, Founder, IndieGoGo
Jed Cohen, Founder, Rockethub
Where’s The Money? Finding the Right Funding for Your Film
March 15, 2011 @ 11am, Austin Convention Center
Bryan Poyser, Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund
Director, Lovers of Hate
Amada Cruz, United States Artists
Michael Shirley, National Endowment for the Humanities
Sara Dosa, San Francisco Film Society
“Finding The Right Funding” Moderator Bryan Poyser
Two panels at this year’s South By Southwest had two panels that dealt with two different ways of raising money for the low budget film. “Fundraising in a Box: Crowdsourcing Microgrants” and “Where’s The Money? Finding the Right Funding” dealt with raising money via crowdfunding and grant writing. Crowdfunding is a relatively new way to fund a film. Grants are often discussed as a funding options, but panels are rarely devoted to them.
“Fundraising In A Box” featured panels from diverse ends of the crowdfunding spectrum. Dianne Debicella is the Program Director for Fiscal Sponsorship at Fractured Atlas, a non-profit organization that provides discounted production insurance and fiscal sponsorship. Danae Ringelmann is the founder of IndieGoGo, a crowdfunding website. Jed Cohen, a former child actor, founded the crowdfunding website RocketHub in 2009. Angela Tucker is finishing a documentary on the asexuality movement and exceeded her goal of raising $10,000 on Kickstarter.
How and why people get involved in crowdfunding campaigns was discussed. “People involved in crowdfunding campaigns want to be part of something greater than themselves,” said Ringelmann. When pressed for advice about crowdfunding, Cohen dispelled the “Internet Angel”, the fantasy that there are people trolling the internet looking for a project to fund, and emphasized publicizing the fundraiser. Debicella discussed Fractured Atlas, the insurance options as well as the Fiscal Sponsorship program. Fractured Atlas is partnered with IndieGoGo, which means if you have a project funded by Fractured Atlas, you can link it to your IndieGoGo Fundraiser. Also discussed was the amount of money taken off the top of each crowdfunding website.
Tucker’s documentary was presented as an example of a project being successfully crowdfunded. The fundraising clip for Tucker’s documentary on Kickstarter was played during the panel. Tucker chose to raise money via Kickstarter, which is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding website (IndieGoGo and RocketHub allow you to keep the funds you raise even if you don’t meet the goal) because of their strong presence online, as well as the challenge of meeting the goal. Tucker exceeded her goal, raising $11,073 out of a goal of $10,000, and advised the audience about Kickstarter Campaigns: “If you don’t raise all of it, you don’t get any of it. It’s important to have in your head the person who can bail you out.”
Ringelmann pointed out that IndieGoGo has an emphasis on Customer Service, and all fundraisers are entitled to a free coaching call. RocketHub and IndieGoGo are international crowdfunding websites (The British documentary Sound It Out, which premiered at SXSW, was funded via crowdfunding at IndieGoGo); Kickstarter is US Projects only.
The following morning, Bryan Poyser hosted a panel devoted primarily to obtaining grants. Poyser is known in SXSW World as the director of Dear Pillow and Lovers of Hate, but his day job revolves around running the Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund, which funds films for Texas-based filmmakers. With Poyser was Amada Cruz, Program Director of United States Artists; Michael Shirley, Senior Program Officer in the Division of Public Programs for the National Endowment of the Humanities; and Sara Dosa, the Grants and Residencies Coordinator at the San Francisco Film Society.
“Where’s The Funding?” Panelists
l-r: Amada Cruz, Michael Shirley, and Sara Dosa
Cruz discussed the mission behind United States Artists, and linked to USA Projects, US Artists’ crowdfunding website.
Michael Shirley went into detail about the production grants that the National Endowment for the Humanities offers:
- Development Grants is money that allows the filmmaker to do research and consultation for their production. Grants range from $40-75K.
Production Grants are grants that fund the production of the film. Grant money ranges from $100K-$800K. A detailed treatment is required for submission, as well as a 15-20 page essay that details the humanities aspect of the project. All applicants must come through a 501(c)(3) organization.
Sara Dosa talked about the grants offered through The San Francisco Film Society. Contrary to what their organization’s name suggests, applicants do not, in some cases, need to live in the San Francisco Area to apply. Among the grants the SFFS offers are:
- SFFS Filmmaking Grants “support films that through plot, character, theme, or setting significantly explore human and civil rights, antidiscrimination, gender and sexual identity and other issues of our time.” Applicants (key creatives) must live in the Bay Area, and uplift the Bay Area film community in the economic or professional way.
The Hearst Screenwriting Grant is given to a midcareer screenwriter who has written at least one screenplay. Applicants do not have to live in the Bay Area to apply, nor do they have to be previously produced, though priority is given to produced writers. Applicants must submit ten pages of their screenplay, but Dosa emphasized that the first ten pages aren’t always the best.
The panelists discussed the common mistakes made during the grant writing process. According to Shirley, the common mistakes he sees are unclear proposals, and people who don’t thoroughly research the organizations whose funds they are seeking. Shirley said that you should know your funder’s mission and goals before applying. Dosa said the biographies in the applications need to specifically about the people involved- no “character bios” (biographies of characters). Write in third person, speak to your film experience, then biographical details.
In closing, Poyser stressed the urgency of giving to organizations that fund filmmakers: “If you want more culture, you have to put your money where your mouth is. Funders have less and less money to spend. The Texas Commission of the Arts, which supports [The Austin Film Society] and a bunch of other organizations of all different stripes across the country are getting cutbacks from the state. They’re going to need your support and your help. If you are a filmmaker, you almost have a moral imperative to support these organizations.”