To Crowdfund or Not To Crowdfund? Is That The Question?

money pile

Some people swear by Crowdfunding. Some people vehemently oppose it. Some people think it should be left for the ‘little person’ to utilize and benefit from while other’s think it is okay that celebrities utilize crowdfunding too. Some people favor securing finances the more conventional route by private means or investment opportunity.

Personally, I think we should get our movies and projects made by whatever legitimate means available! There is not one right way nor one best way. There different ways and we can use any.

At the end of the day, the point of all discussion on financing IS TO GET OUR PROJECTS MADE.  However we legally finance these projects the point is to make a movie, TV show, web series or some other form of content. The end product IS our goal.

Times are changing it is true. It is obvious. Times always change.

The process of change seems to run like this: We attempt things and we don’t know if they will work when we try first try them. We never know this when taking the first groundbreaking steps. When we discover a method that works we use it then others come along later and copy the process, or use the process to get similar results.

When we find a way that works we repeat it over and over again until it doesn’t work. Okay, it is true, some people keep trying to do the same thing over again even when it has stopped working.

When things begin to slow down or stop working we usually scramble to find new methods to make things work. Sometimes we are successful right away. Sometimes there may be a gap or a lag as  the ‘new way’ isn’t completely settled yet.  Ultimately, a new method is found that works.  This process repeats. This is how things change, innovate and evolve.

We we find a way of doing things and stick with it until it is replaced by a better way of doing things. Hopefully.

None of this occurs in isolation as there may be a number of successful approaches co-existing at any one time, and a number falling out of favor as well. This is great news because it means there are a variety of ways to move forward at any given moment. We are not limited by what we can attempt, utilize or accomplish.

Whether we are aware of these different approaches makes a big difference in what we may be able to do. If we don’t know about a method, or how it works, it is obvious we can’t benefit from it until we do. What we are willing to do, or what we are not willing to try, makes a big difference too. Some people think things too difficult so they don’t bother. They may miss out because they just don’t want to effort too much.

When Edison invented the light bulb after 1000’s of tries you would think that people would have heralded him and sung his praises. Wouldn’t you?

What an incredible invention! Yet, many people from the public to some civic leaders did not want to use it. They thought it was too costly, perhaps unreliable, and there was always gas or the candle. to burn. I would think every one would have jumped on the band wagon the instant, instant on and off electric light became available. Not so.

There are many inventions similarly resisted, but I will leave it to you if interested, to do your own research.

We can search through history only to discover that ‘experts’ frequently resisted innovation. It was not just the public. The leading scientific and political and philosophical minds weren’t prepared to have their paradigm shifted. They were not ready to accept whatever new means and methods came their way. From Copernicus and Galileo to today’s experts resistance prior to acceptance is usually the norm.

Take science for example: “WHAT???!!!???” , what you say “…does this all have to do with filmmaking???” Hang in there you will see.

One or more scientists come up with a theory. Then they legitimately test it, hopefully legitimately.  And, yes hopefully, they actually test it too.

Assuming that, hopefully, they test it by well constructed means to insure that the theory addresses (and the test addresses) what they purport it does.

The real scientist actually attempt to disprove the theory. If they are unable to disprove the theory, through many tests and much effort, only then do they accept it. Then they publish their findings for peer review where it may be well received or not, lauded or criticized. It may even be suppressed because it goes against the main philosophy of the publisher, or the funding agencies. Consider that for a second.  Politics and profits exist much in the scientific community too.

Once the theory is advanced it is accepted by some and rejected others including many ‘authorities’.Some people find it difficult to change their thinking to accommodate new information, often, experts the most.

Eventually, the new theory is accepted and replaces the older theories. Those who are really smart understand that we do not have the actual, accurate, final answer about anything.  We do not have the truth. We only have theories for how things work We have best guesses based on study.

Those best guesses are just that, the best that we currently have at the moment.  If we come up with a better, more accurate description or a  more reliable interpretation of what we are theorizing about then we put forth a new theory. In theory if the new one holds up then we embrace it, loosely. Pun intended.

If we are wise people we move forward in our new thinking and approaches. It does not mean we were dead wrong in the past. We had a theory that we thought summed things up as nicely as possible. When new data came along we were able to update our thinking.

What I have described is how science is supposed to work. Supposed to.

Researchers come up with a theory and legitimately test it. If it is replicable by them and others and researchers collectively are unable to disprove it the theory gets advanced. Researchers legitimately report findings and publishers legitimately publish the findings. The new theory is continually utilized.  Eventually, the new theory gets gradual acceptance on grander scale.  Ultimately it replaces the old theory. This one is then replaced when a better theory becomes available.

Good science uses rigorous, honest methods and accurate reporting  to update our views of what is going on. We should not believe in science any more than anything else, it is fallible even while some of its proponents act as if it is not.

We use the best to get results. What we used in the past, even if incomplete and inaccurate still got us results. Hopefully, the new understanding and methods will bring us better results too. If not, we adapt and make the necessary changes.

It is kind of like replacing a worn out pair of shoes. The old shoes served you well but now there are newer better ones.

Times change.  Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures.

The world today calls for intelligent, novel approaches and tried and true means and methods in many areas.

Now back to filmmaking. The same applies to filmmaking and any of its phases. Whether it is financing, development, production and production tools and methods, sales and acquisition, distribution and marketing tried and true methods are challenged, resisted, and replaced when outdated. Proponents for change herald the new while others are proponents for the tried and true.

Some people fight for the rules others fight to break them. Neither is inherently true. There is no gospel here.

I believe there is room enough for all. There are means for everyone at various levels of professional involvement. Some people, experts at what they do will resist new changes because they are successful at what they do. They are great at what they have accomplished, they have gotten results so they may have an opinion against the next new wave heading our way.  OR they could embrace it. Either way we just need to keep in mind that it is only their opinion.

It is an opinion based on successes so we should listen to and respect their opinions because there can be  a lot of valuable things to learn from them. What they did served them well. It worked. We always want learn about what has worked don’t we?

What we should not do is give up, or not try, because someone has a contrary opinion. People prove others wrong all the time, without gloating. Another person may push ahead, in spite of considerable resistance or opposition, and break through and be wildly successful.

So listen, take advice and suggestions! Study what worked in the past and what works currently. Gather facts. Seek wise counsel. Do your homework, do the research and then implement what you consider the best way to get what you want.

Be smart, be wise and be willing to make it work. It just might! If it doesn’t, at least you tried and you didn’t give up.  Be like Thomas Edison! If it doesn’t work, BE LIKE EDISION. adjust what you need to, incorporate what you have learned and move forward again. Keep going you can do it! Never give up just be flexible in your plans and efforts.

So what does any of this have to do with  crowdfunding?

Okay, okay I am getting there.

I hope that the goal, for most filmmakers, is to create a project that is incredibly good. I hope you want to make an AWESOME movie!!!

If not, please don’t make one.  Do anything else instead. Please!!! If your goal isn’t to be the best there is then don’t bother us with you what come up with. Who wants to see a mediocre movie? My guess, none of us. Still, mediocre movies abound.

If you aren’t out to capture the imagination of your audience and entertain them, if you don’t want to take them on the best ride of their lives, then what on earth are you doing this for?

Your goal must be to make the most incredible movie you can make with the resources you have available. You need to show  a marvelous story, exceptionally well cast & performed. You need to tell it extremely well. Then you need it well marketed and publicized.

I left out an important point in this process. You want to get it SOLD. Most likely it will sell IF and WHEN you deliver a great movie.

BUT if it does get picked up for distribution you still need to publicize and market your product. For you to have any possible commercial, financial, critical success your movie has to make it out there to the widest possible audience, or to the most dedicated niche audience.

I hope that the purpose of your creation IS to entertain first and foremost. I hope the reason you made it IS to sell. I hope that  you want it to profit.

I hope YOUR purpose IS to put people to work and pay them living wages and elevate everyone’s career standing. That is my hope if you wish to be a professional filmmaker. If you only make films as a hobby then you may have different financial and marketing criteria but I still hope your goal is to be the best and impact your audience and deliver the goods.

Okay, so not everyone else has those goals. That is obvious. Some do and some just want to make a movie. Not everyone is a professional but not everyone claims to be. Still, there is room for anyone to do whatever they wish. There are those features that become part of the larger industry and business and there are countless others out there floating around.

In the professional market there is an established means of acquiring product. The acquisition process  changes too at different times.

Acquisition and sales are subject to stodgy bean counters saying ‘no’, ‘pass’ or ‘are you kidding me NEVER!!!’ just as there is a gatekeeping process in getting projects green lit in this business. A simple view of the process is from idea to script, from reader to producer, from producer to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, to development, pre-pro, production, post, sales & acquisition, to audience by  PR and marketing.  Now days this process includes social networking from as early on as possible.

Our movie business includes those who pass on nearly everything out of fear to the  wild eyed mavericks who love to pick up some rare, obscure, marvelous little gem and catapult it into financial, perhaps critical success.

Keep in mind that while you may be a nobody right now – you are a always a nobody to the big fish until you become a somebody in their minds. The power brokers are busy brokering power they haven’t got time for those that don’t have any. Profits have power.

These power brokers won’t give you a second thought any given day. BUT  IF your project breaks through due to social media, or a maverick picks it up for distribution, promotes it and it is a hit,  or you act in a break out movie THEN, ONLY THEN, BUT RIGHT THEN these powers will be very happy to  exploit anything and everything about you to make another buck. They will exploit your success all the way to the bank. Riches will come hurtling towards you. You will have arrived. People will know your name. (At least for 15 minutes). This is capitalism after all. This is show biz!

So your little crowdfunded no pay movie could be picked up and launched into a successful career path. It is not at all likely, it is not the norm, but it DOES happen. The same can be said of a independent low budget, traditionally funded project.

A lot of money can be spent to go nowhere or SURPRISE someone liked it and launched it.  ‘Overnight’ success stories are rare but remember we live and work in ‘the dream factory’. We seek success in Hollywood where dreams can come true.

We think that if we just get it made, if we can only get it to the right person,  then we will be discovered and we will be on Easy Street ever after.

IT COULD happen like that!!!  Just don’t count on it. Do diligence instead. Work it, do what it takes. Make an incredible movie and nothing less.

SO yes, live the dream!!!

Make great movies and get them to an audience. Write good scripts, produce and direct the best scripts you are able to. Be picky, for goodness sake, please be picky. Think of your audience when deciding things. I am not stating this is your only consideration but you should at least consider your audience when making a movie or show. What do they like, want and are buying? Some useful questions and there are many more.

There is room for all different kinds of movie making approaches, various styles, and genres.  This is wonderful. The door is wide open for us as filmmakers. It may be true that anything goes.

Remember, Hollywood rewards those who do a good job by exploiting them. This industry is more readily interested in filmmakers and talents whole already have found  a cult like following. Why? Because it is easier to exploit and less expensive when one has a ready made platform to market to.

If you already have a large audience that enjoys your work and wants the next offering from you that is awesome! That makes crowdfunding potentially easier and it makes it more likely that the Hollywood powers may be interested. Having as vast a network and dedicated a fan base as possible is certainly something we all need to develop as storytellers.  Think long and hard about developing this.” Rex Sikes

(Disclaimer: I do not purport to be an expert in crowdfunding or traditional means of financing. No am I able to dispense legal advice. Filmmakers are best served by finding a qualified entertainment attorney to work with and guide them in these areas. I bring up the topic to share a viewpoint and to encourage thinking and discussion).

We will continue this discussion on crowdfunding in the next blog Part 2.

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